‘In any other country there would be a lot of bribery’
On Oct. 17, recreational cannabis will become legal in Canada. This is the story of how we got here and what will happen next, as recounted by 15 government and industry insiders who have watched the vast social and economic project take shape. Interviews by The National Post’s Vanmala Subramaniam, Geoff Zochodne and Jake Edmiston have been condensed for clarity
THE ROAD TO ROYAL ASSENT
The legalization of recreational cannabis was a conspicuous and controversial part of Justin Trudeau’s campaign platform during the 2015 election, and once in office, he wasted little time in tasking former Toronto police chief Bill Blair with making the promise a legislative reality. But putting an end to nearly a century of pot prohibition, and coming up with a regulatory framework to govern the drug, was no simple matter. Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act, was introduced on April 13, 2017, and ultimately passed in June of this year, but not before a tense final vote in the Senate threatened to delay legalization indefinitely.
Bill Blair, Liberal MP I retire and I’m approached by Justin Trudeau who comes and speaks to me. We met in Scarborough. He and I went and sat alone in a restaurant and talked for nearly three hours. We talked about a lot of different things but among the things we talked about was cannabis policy and that strict regulatory approach as opposed to an ineffective criminal sanction. We found, very quickly, common ground. About a month after we formed government, he reached out to me and asked if I would serve as parliamentary secretary — to be the point person on this file.
Vic Neufeld, CEO of Aphria When you read the pulse of Prime Minister Trudeau and his platforms, it was only a matter of time before recreational weed would come to the forefront. Medical was a great beginning. It’s the DNA of Aphria. It was only a matter of time for rec. The unknown back then was to what sort of degree it would be on a national basis. Would it be online only, would it be brick and mortar, would the provinces have full control over their respective jurisdictions? A lot of unknowns. Back then it was very sketchy and there was no clarity. Today we know where every province is going.
Bill Blair That was actually a pretty exciting time, because we were learning a lot. I also became aware of how complicated this was. We were creating a new commodities industry in Canada. There isn’t really any model for how you create an industry like that, and so I reached out to the business schools, I went to other similar industries to ask them about their experience with regulation.
Tony Dean, Senator I’m a policy guy by background. This was a historically important piece of legislation that touched on social policy, justice policy, health policy, inter-governmental relations. It’s kind of a policy wonk’s dream, right? It was big and complex and meaty.