The bong, er, gong, sounded early Wednesday morning for the nationwide sale of marijuana in Canada, only the second country in the world to legalize the drug and the first major world economy to allow adult use and sales.
The move from vote to sale was just four months, a relatively lightning-fast period that many in Massachusetts look at and say, “Huh?” Nearly two years after voters approved recreational marijuana in the Bay State, there still hasn’t been a single joint sold for non-medical use while our neighbors to the north get to inhale to their hearts’ content.
While it’s fair to ask “how come,” the answer is more complex than it seems behind the smoke. First and foremost, it is now legal to buy, sell, and smoke everywhere in Canada, not just in certain provinces. That makes sales, cultivation, and transportation much simpler and less restrictive than having a hodgepodge of regulations from state to state with prohibition in between the borders. In addition, there are no banking obstacles like there are in the United States because of federal laws here, making investing and transactions a whole lot more uniform.
But Canada also is going into this new era with its own patchwork of laws. The age to legally buy and use marijuana varies by province, some setting it at 18, others at 19, and the new government has vowed to make it a uniform age of 21. There are also restrictions on how marijuana can be sold and used. Right now, edibles are not allowed and stores can only sell leaf, buds, and oils for smoking.
There’s also the jumble of who is selling the product, with some provincial governments stepping into the retail business. About half the country’s 10 provinces will have privately owned and operated retail stores while the government will be the dealer in the remainder. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, will not have any stores until next April, forcing people there to order it online from a government-operated site. In the vast northwest province of British Columbia, there will be just one privately run store, making online sales the only alternative. Or a quick trip to Washington or Alaska.
Like Massachusetts and most other states south of the northern border, social consumption sites (aka, pot bars) will not be permitted just yet and, like tobacco smoke, the public places to imbibe will be limited. Hotels and apartment landlords across the country are forbidding the use of marijuana, making it tough for renters, homeless, and visitors to indulge.
There is also a concern about supply, the same problem that cropped up in Nevada and California following a quick rollout and one that some observers see as a potential glitch once retail sales are allowed here in Massachusetts. Like other places that legalized adult use, Canada has had a thriving medical marijuana business for years, legalizing it in 2001. Some of that product will flow to the legal market but prohibiting edibles for recreational use for now is one way the government has ensured a steady inventory for medical patients.
The biggest spur for Canadian lawmakers to legalize cannabis was to eradicate the black market and they did it by minimizing the taxes. A gram is expected to sell for about $5.25 (roughly $4 in American currency) and the 2.3 percent tax for regulatory control is baked in with provinces and local governments allowed to levy excise and sales tax. That price is still expected to be lower than illicit pot, which goes about $10 a gram, and incentivize police to crack down to keep the tax revenues flowing.
But above all else, Canada has created a new business and a new economy with an expected $5 billion adult use market. Investors are throwing money at cannabis companies and positioning the country’s producers to be at the forefront when this generation’s prohibition ends.
“It’s like Seagram’s back when Prohibition was in place and just about to end,” Deborah Weinstein, a lawyer in Ottawa who handled one marijuana company’s move [stock symbol WEED on the Toronto Stock Exchange], told the New York Times. “But it’s more than that. This has never been an industry.”
The big three on Beacon Hill indicate they plan to take another shot at health care reform in the upcoming legislative session. (State House News)
MassLive offers a timeline of scandals at the state’s environmental agencies.
State Treasurer Deb Goldberg announces a new initiative to put $50 in a 529 education fund account for every child born or adopted in Massachusetts beginning in 2020. (State House News) But the unfortunate selection of #SeedMAbaby as the promotional hashtag has spawned plenty of social media snark and derision.
A defiant Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia declared his innocence and intention to remain in his post during a defensive press conference in which he touted the app at the center of his federal fraud indictment as being a real product. Several hours later during a contentious meeting in which one resident said she has begun the recall effort against the mayor, the City Council tabled three motions aimed at ousting Correia from office. (Herald News)
The Worcester Business Journal offers the skinny on the city’s negotiations to land the Pawtucket Red Sox via emails sent by city officials.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will roll out a set of plans today to plan for rising sea levels. (Boston Globe)
Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter hailed a “bold, new time” for the city as he appointed three women of color to high-ranking posts, including as head of the Personnel Department which was at the center of a $4 million judgment in a racial discrimination suit. (The Enterprise)
The Braintree Town Council has postponed taking action on a proposal to raise wages for Town Hall employees under the council’s jurisdiction. (Patriot Ledger)
At least four suspects in the disappearance and presumed murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi have ties with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, making it hard to believe the killing was unsanctioned and that he had no knowledge of it. (New York Times)
A Herald editorial says the president “sets the wrong tone” by referring to adult film actress Stormy Daniels as “horseface.”
Defending her decision to release results of a DNA test, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she did so to counter continuous attacks from President Trump and her two reelection challengers. (Boston Globe) Warren comes under fire from a Cherokee genealogist for her handling of the situation. (Boston Herald) Joe Battenfeld says Warren may have given a little lift to her Republican challenger, Geoff Diehl. (Boston Herald)
Citing his greater experience, former Berkshire County district attorney candidate Judith Knight backs Paul Caccaviello over Andrea Harrington for the DA’s job. Knight and Caccaviello lost to Harrington in the Democratic primary, but Caccaviello is now mounting a write-in campaign for the job. (Berkshire Eagle)
US Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, in an uphill battle to retain her seat against a Republican challenger, was forced to apologize for an ad about sexual abuse that included names of women who said they did not authorize their names being used or were not victims at all. (New York Times)
Gov. Charlie Baker, in a meeting with editors and reporters at the Standard-Times, said he wants to put more money into infrastructure and technology to support the fishing industry and suggested working with vocational schools to provide opportunities in the industry.
A large Massachusetts union representing health care workers, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, says it will stay neutral on the ballot question that would mandate minimum nurse staffing ratios. (Boston Globe)
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi headlines a fundraiser for Third Congressional District Democratic nominee Lori Trahan, who nonetheless has not committed to voting to keep the Californian as head of the party’s House caucus. (Boston Globe)
Columbia Gas reverses course, now saying it won’t reclaim temporary heat sources (pellet stoves, for example) installed while the gas system is down. (Eagle-Tribune)
Today’s installment of the Globe series on Aaron Hernandez says the “Patriot Way” was to airbrush the troubled NFL receiver out of the picture the minute he was arrested on murder charges.
Boston plans to build or renovate a dozen schools — and will phase out stand-alone middle schools. (Boston Globe)
With interim superintendent Laura Perille bowing out of consideration for the permanent post, the Boston Public Schools should focus on doing the replacement search right, says a Globe editorial.
The Worcester school department says it will not allow students without the proper immunizations to attend school. That’s always been the practice, but enforcement has been haphazard in the past. (Telegram & Gazette)
Fewer students are prepared for higher education as a new study of test results shows college-readiness, especially in math, at a 14-year low. (Wall Street Journal)
Starting in 2020, every child born or adopted in Massachusetts may become eligible for a $50 grant to start a college savings account. (Boston Herald)
Despite a growing number of alternative treatment locations, unnecessary emergency room visits still account for a third of all visits. (CommonWealth)
State health officials confirm there are two known cases of a rare polio-like virus, which has popped up in other states, and which there is no vaccine and they are investigating at least four others. (WCVB)
A key MBTA official says the agency will consider variable fare pricing, with higher fares for longer rides or traveling at peak times. (Boston Globe)
Andy Metzger offers a graphic-comic take on (Gov.) Charlie and the M(B)TA. (Dig Boston)
Attorney General Maura Healey, who was unsuccessful in shutting down competitive electricity resellers, sues another one for using bait-and-switch tactics to overcharge 100,000 Massachusetts residents. (Boston Globe)
The state has created a new commission to study ocean acidification to try to avoid a recurrence of what happened in the Pacific northwest a decade ago when highly acidic seawater wiped out 70 to 80 percent of the region’s oyster larvae and decimated the shellfish industry there. (Cape Cod Times)