Of course, when something that was previously illegal becomes legal, there are going to be a bunch of governmental restrictions, rules, and legislation put in place to “police” the usage and sales. So naturally, when Canada was looking for someone to lead up the “ministry of weed” who else would they turn to but the former Toronto police chief, Bill Blair. After having served as the police chief for over ten years, and spending most of his life as a police officer – following in the footsteps of his father – 64-year-old Blair is the first Minister for the purposes of the Cannabis Act. However, this role is not his official title as Blair is already serving as the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction. These new powers will be lumped in with his current role as determined by the Privy Council Order from Canadian Parliament.
This move comes with much trepidation from weed consumers in Canada due to Blair’s former role in the police force before becoming the chief; that role being as an undercover drug cop. To many Canadians, his position was not a secret as he became the face of the Liberal controlled government’s marijuana legalization for years. This is also not Blair’s first political office he has held within Parliament. He also previously held the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.
As stated, but Blair has lived quite a life outside of the police force and government work. In 1987, he starred in what can only be described as the redheaded stepchild of Robocop and Halloween where a robocop-esque machine is built and – due to human error – the robot goes on a killing rampage. While Blair is not the star, he is featured in many scenes. This made me think about how Blair is similar to America’s own Ronald Reagan – a “B” movie actor long before he took the stage as President.
As an American, my most significant concern hearing that a cop was now in charge of the rules and restrictions regarding weed – based on my knowledge of American cops and marijuana – was fear that harsher restrictions and a campaign to strip weed’s legalization status were on the horizon. However, Blair’s politics directly contradict my view of the relationship between the police and pot. While Blair was a drug cop, he has gone on record to say that pot possession convictions are often too harsh and not a fair and equal punishment based on the crime. Due to this view, Blair and his team – in efforts with the federal government – are working to expedite marijuana possession conviction pardons. While these offenses will not be scrubbed from criminal records, the likelihood that one would face prison time had decreased exponentially. Knowing that it seems like everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.
When looking at the Cannabis Act specifically, there are still several significant conditions and penalties: the largest being a potential 14-year prison sentence for those who sell weed illegally or sell to minors. So much like tobacco or alcohol, you must be of age to purchase or partake in the substance. Not only that, but Canadians are also already being punished at the border merely for being associated with pot. The Financial Post revealed in an expose that a cannabis investor had been issued a lifetime ban from the United States after customs officials at the U.S.-Canada border when they learned he was attending a cannabis conference in Las Vegas. To them, because his business did not operate a location on U.S. soil, he had no business traveling to the U.S. to attend a conference on a subject matter that was illegal in the U.S. Because of this, many in this industry who operate out of Canada are rethinking traveling across the border for any reason, as if they are asked about their business, they may be denied access.
Though Blair has previously stated that he didn’t expect much to change at the borders – at least on the Canadian side of things – now that this new legalization has taken hold, many Canadians have been warned that if you don’t want any trouble, then don’t go around asking for it. And it may not be too smart to show up at the border looking like Cheech and Chong – as hilarious as that might sound for a viral video. However, Blair has also said that is meeting with weed investors, producers, and political figures to make the best-informed decisions for the public and for Canada.
Frankly, seeing all of this as an American, all I can do is look on with envy. While this situation could have been the end of legalization, it actually seems to be that Blair is not working to sabotage the industry, but to help it grow in a way that is beneficial for consumers, for the government, and for those who have to police those who abuse weed’s new status. As I say with most things: America, takes the example from Canada! As with most things in the public sector, Canada seems to have the right idea. Now does this mean that mistakes won’t be made? Absolutely not! But this is a learning experience for all, and with growth and mutual respect, I have faith that this office will not just help itself but help the people of Canada even more.