Next week, Canada will make history. On October 17, 2018, our country will become the first industrialized nation in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. But, in reality, history is still in the making and the journey has just begun. With legalization comes a newfound social responsibility and we have a huge task ahead of us to ensure the transition is successful.
The path to legalization has been difficult and convoluted and we owe this achievement to those that have been part of the grassroots movement to effect change and end prohibition. They paved the path forward and their voices are an important part of the new regime.
Cannabis companies are now the stewards of public trust and the industry must be willing to play by the rules and help make the transition easier for Canadians through education and example. The public needs to believe that health and safety remain first and foremost if the industry is going to thrive in the post-legalization era. People need to trust that the entrepreneurs who are the face of the new regime are acting in the best interest of communities.
It will take time to get it right – legalization is a process that will evolve over time. The regulatory regimes are complex and confusing to some, and there are a multitude of opinions about what should have been done, could have been done and needs to be done.
Change can be awkward and a lot of people are still adjusting to the idea, especially when it comes to new production facilities and retail stores in their neighbourhoods. We need to build bridges locally through high levels of collaboration and cooperation, and continue to have frank and honest discussions about what is working and what needs to be changed.
There are still a lot of people who are not comfortable with legalization and continue to push their elected officials to pass more restrictive rules and legislation. There are naysayers who are waiting for a reason to say – ‘I told you so. Legalization was a bad idea’. Instead, let’s give them a reason to change their mindset.
Let’s continue to educate the public about the benefits of cannabis and legalization, while correcting the misinformation that chips away at the accomplishments. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and play an active role in designing an industry that creates positive change in communities. Let’s champion progress on sustainability and technological innovation, while encouraging respectful business practices.
We’re undergoing a historic shift locally, but Canada is also playing an important role on the international stage. Our country can become a model for others to emulate and has the opportunity to be known around the world as the country who pioneers groundbreaking research into the health benefits of cannabis. But, we have work to do if we’re going to get there. And, it’s only through education and leading by example that we will truly be successful at implementing a legalized cannabis regime.