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Cannabis Legalization in Canada: Three Years On

Canada Destroyed Over 3 Million Pounds of Unsold Cannabis Since 2018
Written by Joseph Mcqueen

Although the world is showing definite progress, full cannabis legalization within a nation is an overall rarity. Georgia, the Netherlands, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay and 18 states in the US, make up the majority of places that have decided to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis.

Many countries have legalized medical cannabis, but the next step of allowing for recreational use is often a step too far for most nations. Therefore, when Canada took that step in 2018, many people were excited to see how things would change in the country. However, the year is now 2021, and three years have passed. Has the country changed? Has cannabis become easily accessible? Or is Canada in a stagnant position? Let’s find out. 

Since Canada legalized cannabis a few years ago, the entire world has had their eyes on our neighbors up north, and it has been an interesting thus far. To learn more about global cannabis regulation, make sure to subscribe to The Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter, your top source for all things cannabis-related including exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products! Save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10THCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!

Cannabis Legalization 

Cannabis legalization is never just as simple as yes or no. The cannabis plant is a complex beast, made up of 100 cannabinoids, and countries have varying laws depending on which cannabinoid is in question. That is where things begin to become complicated. Whilst CBD is legal in the majority of countries around the world, THC is not. This is, most obviously, because CBD is not a psychoactive substance, but THC is. THC is responsible for the well-known ‘high’ that people associate with cannabis. The easiest way to judge a country’s cannabis policy is to look into its views on medical cannabis (used for medicinal purposes) vs its view on recreational cannabis (use for enjoyment).


Medicinal cannabis is cannabis that is used to treat both mental and physical conditions. Both THC and CBD have been found to assist with various health problems. These include: 

  • Chronic pain 
  • Cancer symptoms
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tourettes
  • Epilepsy
  • Insomnia 
  • Concentration

Medical cannabis is usually the first one to be legalized in a country, as government’s find it hard to disprove how many people’s conditions have been improved by the wonders of cannabis. The evidence is often a slap in the face to any anti-drug governments; it’s impossible to ignore. 


On the other hand, recreational cannabis is a tougher subject. Legalizing any drug for the sole purpose of allowing people to use it for fun is always something that governments find hard to do. It requires an overall trust in the population and solid knowledge of drugs. However, some would argue that any use of cannabis is, in a way, medication. Halcyon Organics states:

“I encourage all “recreational” cannabis users to reevaluate their use.  If there is a prescription or over-the-counter drug designed to treat something that cannabis helps you with, that’s medical use.  If they sell something at GNC or Vitamin World that cannabis helps you with, that’s medical use.  You may not use these other medications because you already know that cannabis is a superior treatment, you just didn’t realize it.

However, most countries do not have this view. That is why the legalization of recreational cannabis is a lot rarer than medicinal. But for those countries that have legalized both uses of cannabis, does it always lead to better conditions? Are the people who need cannabis any closer to getting it after their country has fully legalized cannabis? Let’s take a look at some of the problems that can arise in nations that say yes to marijuana.

Problems That Arise


When cannabis is legalized, the price is always majorly important. Usually those in need of cannabis will have had to get their medication from street dealers and the dark web before legalization has taken place. Therefore, it’s important that when cannabis is legalized, the companies are able to match or even beat the prices of those other sources. If not, it will be extremely difficult for those who are unable to afford the cost of prescriptions. They may be forced to return to their previous sources and risk being prosecuted and fined. In Amsterdam, the prices stay low due to the heavy competition between coffee shops. There are over 160 establishments that sell cannabis in the capital of the Netherlands, which means a lot of healthy competition and, in result, cheap weed. 


Accessibility is another issue that rises once cannabis has been legalized. How easy is it to get a hold of? Some countries require a huge amount of evidence from a doctor before being able to retrieve medical cannabis. This is difficult if health providers have not done proper research into cannabis as a medicine, and which illnesses require it. In addition, if there aren’t many cannabis shops or dispensaries within a city, it can be difficult for someone to purchase cannabis. Especially if they are unable to travel. This is, again, when street dealers and the dark web become an easier option. 

Cannabis In Canada

On the 17th October 2018, Canada legalized cannabis in all areas for adults 18 and over. This made Canada only the second country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. The first was Uruguay in 2013. Under the Cannabis Act of 2018, the sale and production of cannabis products became legal by territorial retailers and federally licensed sellers of cannabis for medical purposes. 

What’s Legal?

In Canada it’s legal to purchase cannabis from specific establishments, it’s legal to consume cannabis and it’s legal to grow up to 4 cannabis plants at home. You’re able to sell cannabis only if you’re licensed by Health Canada. Medical cannabis is also legal and prescribed if authorized by a healthcare provider. 

What’s Illegal?

Selling cannabis without a license is illegal and dealt with strictly. In addition, driving high is of course illegal. The police force in Canada are especially trained in identifying high drivers. 

Why did Canada Legalize Cannabis?

Canada decided to legalize cannabis as a national experiemnet. They wanted to see if by legalizing cannabis, they would be able to regulate and own the problems that surround the drug. So why did they want to fully legalize cannabis?


One reason was to conquer inequality.

“Legalization, the government vowed, would address the inequalities in a criminal justice system where marijuana and hashish penalties and prosecutions — and the lifelong burdens they impose — had fallen disproportionately on marginalized communities, particularly Black Canadians and Indigenous people.”

They hoped that by legalizing cannabis, strict penalties on minority groups would diminish and as such not have long-term effects on their lives. 


The Canadian government also hoped that by legalizing cannabis, it would become more accessible to those who desperately need it. They hoped this would also then avoid people being prosecuted or fined when using cannabis as medication.

Youth Cannabis Consumption

Another issue that Canada was facing was the amount of young people consuming cannabis. They wanted to regulate cannabis and the legal age of consumption in order to stop youngsters from purchasing it. 


Finally, Canada wanted to benefit from the taxation on cannabis sales. The Netherlands are widely known to make around 400 million euros from cannabis sales in coffeeshops. This money can be used to put back into the economy.

How’s It Going Three Years Later?

So, the question is, after three years how is Canada’s cannabis experiment going? Have their aims been achieved or is it still too early to tell? 

Well, in regards to inequality, cannabis legalization has slightly dealt with this. National prosecutions were at 26,000 in 2018, and have now dropped significantly to 46 only. It’s still illegal to possess over 30 grams of cannabis in Canada. This has, evidently, also benefited those who were most likely to be prosecuted: minority groups. However, an important statistic to remember is that within the new cannabis industry, 84% of directors and executives are white males. So the cannabis industry in Canada is hardly diverse itself. 

Has cannabis become more accessible? Well, there are over 2000 cannabis stores in Canada, and this number is definitely rising. In addition:

“According to the government’s most recent survey, 27 per cent of participants reported having used marijuana in the past year — an increase from 22 per cent in the first cannabis survey conducted in 2017” 

Plus, the prices of legal cannabis is definitely going down. In 2020, the average price of a gram in Canada was around $11 a gram, whereas in 2021 it’s now around $9 a gram. This shows an obvious decrease and that the industry is benefitting from healthy competition between retailers.

Are Canada’s youth being deterred from cannabis consumption? Well, the truth is that it’s hard to fully find this out at this point in time. But, there’s no doubt that cannabis shops are far more strict on age checks than street dealers are. Shop owners could risk losing their licenses if they aren’t. Therefore, it’s unlikely that cannabis is being sold to underage children legally. However, it’s hard to tell if this is still happening illegally. 

And finally, what about taxation? Well, in 2020, Canada made $2.6 billion from cannabis sales. This is a 120% increase from 2019. This statistic alone proves that cannabis taxation is working within the reasonably new Canadian cannabis industry. 

What do you think? 

So, there you have it, Canada three years after they legalized cannabis. Do you think their country has improved, or could they be doing more to truly benefit from legal cannabis? The truth is, Canada set the standards for cannabis legalization round the world in 2018, let’s hope they can continue that. 

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.