From crime to health to business, Canada's decision to legalize marijuana is a grand progressive experiment that promises to answer a host of questions
When Canopy Growth opened its first cannabis factory in an old chocolate plant near Ottawa four years ago, it did so predicting a bright future. Canada had already legalized medical marijuana, and Canopy predicted full legalization for recreational use to be next.
What the company hadn't predicted, however, was the sudden flood of foreign visitors. Politicians and police authorities from Jamaica, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece and Australia have all come knocking, as well as doctors from New Zealand, Brazil and Chile, along with groups of corporate investors and bankers – so many that Canopy now sometimes splits up the groups according to their birthdays.
"We knew we'd have to give a lot of tours, so we just cut a window into the wall," said the company spokesman, Jordan Sinclair. "We put windows in all of the doors."
Canada will be thrust even more directly under the international microscope on Thursday, when a vote in the Senate is expected to ratify Bill C-45, effectively making Canada the first G20 nation to legalize recreational marijuana.
"It's going to be a bit of a science fiction experience for a while," said Benedikt Fischer, an expert on substance use at Toronto's biggest psychiatric hospital. "It's unique in the world, because it's happening for the first time in a wealthy country. It's not like in the US, where there are these state experiments. Most people kind of ignore Uruguay. And so the world is really looking at this."
Governments, researchers and business leaders around the world all have their own reasons for keeping tabs. Legalization could affect Canada's crime patterns, health and countless other factors – but exactly how, no one yet knows.
Each Canadian province plans to roll out its newly legalized market in a slightly different way, creating about a dozen mini-laboratories within one massive test case.