8 Ways We Treat Weed Differently From Alcohol
Last October, we started putting cannabis in a category kind of, sort of similar to alcohol.
But through a series of cultural and legal accidents — or just lawmakers of different generations making decisions in different decades — we treat them differently in any number of ways. Nearly always, they involve being stricter about cannabis, though it’s arguably the safer of the two.
Some provinces allow parents to share small amounts of alcohol with teens under supervision.
Last summer, the Senate debated putting a similar provision into the federal Cannabis Act.
“Parents have a responsibility to parent their children, and they should be able to teach their teens appropriate use of cannabis without fear of criminal penalty,” Independent Sen. Wanda Bernard told a Senate committee. “It would be sharing of a legal substance, not an illicit substance. I would see it as being similar to sharing a glass of wine in one’s home.”
The amendment was defeated so, at least on paper, a parent who shares a joint with their teenager a day before their 18th birthday risks a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
Would that actually happen in the real world? We’d rather not find out.
Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em?
Canada is, in general, far more restrictive with cannabis than alcohol.
Public consumption, however, is an exception in some provinces. Ontario’s PC government ditched laws made by its Liberal predecessor and allowed pot smoking wherever tobacco smoking is allowed. That means that you can’t have a glass of wine in a park, but lighting up the biggest, fattest joint you can roll is perfectly fine.
Ordering pot in a restaurant (or consumption space)
There’s no provision, so far, for consumption lounges, or the equivalent of a licensed establishment that sells cannabis. (There are a few that work on a bring-your-own-weed basis — one in Toronto was allowed after detailed scrutiny of the legal definition of a patio.)
The more difficult problem may be restrictions on not cannabis as such but smoking or vaping in indoor spaces.
Edibles would get around the smoking-related issues, but they take a long time to kick in, as much as an hour and a half. That means a lot of waiting around.
When cannabis beverages made with water-soluble THC (which gives quick feedback) are introduced, there will be new questions. They’ll include forms of de-alcoholized wine and beer with THC added.
In principle, it should be possible (once the law catches up) to order a bottle of wine with dinner at a restaurant that has no alcohol but 10 milligrams of THC. But we’re not there yet.
How old is old enough?
When can you start (legally) consuming? Mostly, at 19, which is mostly the same age you can start legally drinking. The exceptions are Manitoba, where the drinking age is 18 and the cannabis age is 19, and Quebec, where the drinking age is 18 and the cannabis age will soon be 21. In Alberta, it’s 18 for both.
(For generations, Ottawa teens have gone to Hull to buy alcohol legally. Once Quebec raises its cannabis age, we have the prospect of young adults from Quebec going the other way to Ottawa to buy legal weed.)
Cannabis containers: hard to design, hard to open, hard to recycle
The containers have to have a matte finish, opaque or translucent and be child-resistant (and there is a whole separate set of rules for what that means). The rules go so far as to forbid certain kinds of ink. (The child-resistance rules are one reason pot containers can be so hard to recycle.)
Bottles of alcohol, on the other hand, are often sealed with a simple screw cap, though they can contain enough alcohol to send a child to hospital.
Worrying about the U.S. border
Canadian governments aren’t the only ones interested in Canadians’ cannabis consumption.
There have only been a tiny handful of Canadians banned at the U.S. border for cannabis-related reasons since legalization, and they had to do with either prohibition-era possession convictions or connections to the federally illegal U.S. cannabis industry.
However, U.S. federal law bans “abusers” of drugs banned in the United States, including marijuana, from entering the country. “Abuse” refers to any level of use, regardless of the legality where it took place.