Mike Hager examines some of the potential problems and challenges for provinces in the federal government’s plan to legalize marijuana by July, 2018.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Question to Explore:

  • What are some of the challenges provincial governments face as the federal government moves to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018?

New Terminology:

Contentious, cannabis, prohibition, criminology, dispensaries, black market

Materials Needed:

Globe article

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The federal government recently tabled legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by July 1, 2018. Although the government’s legalization policy has long been known, by setting a firm date it has created a timeline that many provinces may have trouble meeting because they will determine several key provisions concerning implementation. Similar to the way alcohol is controlled, provinces may choose to have it sold through provincial liquor stores or via private businesses; they may raise the minimum age for purchasing and consuming marijuana to 19, 20 or higher (the federal government has set a “floor” at 18); they will also determine the price buyers will pay.

Students who are 17 or older may be allowed to purchase legal marijuana next year in some provinces. They, and younger students who may soon be of age themselves, can benefit from a lesson focused on the complex problems of legalization from a provincial perspective. Following a class discussion, they will work in groups to examine the issues outlined in the attached article and brainstorm their own suggestions to resolve these, relative to their own province.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Engage students in a short discussion to determine what they may already know about coming legalization of marijuana. Among the key points:

  • It will be legalized, as planned, by July 1, 2018;
  • it will be controlled, much as the sale of alcohol is controlled;
  • it will allow for individuals to grow up to four of their own plants, for their own use.

Review your province’s regulations on alcohol sales and consumption related to minimum age for consumption and the ways that alcohol is distributed (through government-run outlets or via private sales, or both).

Organize students into groups and provide them with copies of the attached article, along with the work sheet, below. They are to report orally to class when the group work is finished.

Work Sheet

Ask for volunteers in your group to read the article aloud, while the rest of the group members take notes of the key issues. When the readers are finished, answer the following questions, based on what you’ve read:

  • How does the fact that marijuana will be legalized next year create problems for police and courts between now and then?
    • List some of the potential problems.
    • Brainstorm a few possible solutions to these problems, if possible, and list them here
  • What are some arguments for and against selling marijuana via liquor store outlets in provinces? Do the same for private business sales.
    • List some of the problems with each of the two distribution types, above.
    • Brainstorm some ideas about how you think marijuana should be distributed.
  • What is the legal age for buying alcoholic beverages in your province?
    • Do you think the same restrictions should apply to the sale of marijuana? Why or why not?
    • What age would you recommend? Give reasons.
  • What might happen if some mayors of cities or provincial legislators refuse to allow the legal sale of marijuana in their jurisdictions?
    • List some possible repercussions of one province’s choice not to legalize cannabis, while others do.
    • Why might there be a constitutional challenge by provinces who refuse to enact the legislation?
    • Why might a constitutional challenge to legalization fail?
  • Although it is not dealt with in the article, what issues do you see that might arise related to edible forms of marijuana? List them.
    • How might these issues be resolved, in the opinion of your group?
  • The tabled legislation states that individuals will be allowed to grow as many as four plants per household. What kinds of problems might this create for:
    • Police
    • Legal manufacturers and distributors of marijuana
    • Do you think the number of plants is too low, too high, or about right? Give reasons.
  • Which would be easier to do, grow your own marijuana or produce your own alcohol?
    • How might your answer to this create a problem for commercial producers of marijuana, if at all?
  • What is your group’s opinion on legalization in general?
    • Do you favour it? Are you against it? Give reasons for your answers.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students present their work orally to class, followed by a general discussion.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can list some of the challenges provinces face in dealing with the federal government’s plans to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students follow media reports on the ongoing path to legalization, and the ways problems are resolved, or not, by the provinces.