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Regional differences in cannabis regs will help policy makers learn from legalization

While the federal government is establishing regulations to regulate the production of cannabis and cannabis products (dried cannabis, cannabis oils, etc), the provinces have the opportunity to handle how they want to address distribution and bricks and mortar sales.

What this means for Canada is an opportunity for different provinces and regions to try out different models, and this will allow for a better understanding of what does and doesn’t work for Canada, or for specific regions.

Just like alcohol and tobacco, different provinces and territories will have different rules for who can buy cannabis and where and how they can buy it. A province could even opt out of legalization altogether, meaning residents in that province would only be able to buy from a federally-managed online system. Some provinces may choose to manage distribution and sales through a crown corporation similar to Ontario’s LCBO, while others may opt for a mixed system of government distribution and private stores, similar to British Columbia.

The results of this nuanced approach will mean more useful information down the road as the government tracks the progress of legalization and how well it lives up to the goals of limiting and restricting access and even curtailing use, especially among Canadian youth.

Currently, we can only speculate which approach to retail sales protects the public the most effectively. Only over time, after experimenting with these models, will researchers be able to assess the pros and cons of each nuanced approach.

There is value in a streamlined approach across Canada as to how legal cannabis is managed and regulated, but allowing provinces, territories and even municipalities the room to create systems that suit the needs of their population will, over time, provide the data needed to gain a clearer picture of which of these approaches are the most effective not only for Canada, but for all the jurisdictions looking to—and learning from—Canada’s approach to legalization.


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