Garland Nixon, co-host of Radio Sputnik's Fault Lines, joined hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon of Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary from Toronto to discuss how Canada's legalization of marijuana could drive out the local mom-and-pop dispensaries that currently exist.
"I went to some of the dispensaries," Nixon told Radio Sputnik, describing his experiences in Ontario's capital.
"I went to some of the areas where [cannabis dispensaries already exist]. Interestingly, [many of the people in the areas] don't see much difference [following the legalization]. They say, as far as they're concerned, the enforcement was [already] pretty relaxed, at least in Toronto [even though] it was not technically legal," Nixon added.
The push toward full legalization began when while on the campaign trail in 2015, now-Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau promised to overhaul "ineffective" weed laws dating to 1923, adding the initiative would help ease the war on drugs while earning the federal government roughly $400 million in taxes each year.
According to Nixon, dispensaries sanctioned by the federal government will launch a year from now, although private dispensaries already exist "right out in the open."
"These stores are owned by average people. A lot of people are afraid that this legalization will crack down on the mom-and-pop owners and the only way you can get it [marijuana] is from big pharma," Nixon explained.
Nixon also noted that many of the smaller dispensaries already operating in Toronto are actually owned by people of color.
"I don't know if [that's] the result of the diversity here, but it has been a country where people of color who are middle and working class have been able to take advantage of this industry and make a living," Nixon explained.
"Will big pharma find a way to come in here and pass the laws so that they can kick on these people out? The discussion in the mainstream news is ‘How can [Canada] get more tax dollars out of [legalization] and how can the big private equity firms get money from it?'" Nixon continued. He also noted that the main opposition to marijuana legalization in Canada came from the "upper, elite class."
"The working class and the middle class were all either in favor or ambivalent about it," Nixon told Radio Sputnik. "The opposition was coming from a small group at the top."
In the US, nine states have already legalized marijuana for recreational use and 30 states allow it for medicinal purposes. However, according to Nixon, legalization in the US is not a "one size fits all" kind of matter, especially because various states have already taken different approaches.
"For instance, you can go to the District of Columbia where it's legal, but where there is no legal system for selling or buying. Then you go to states like California where if you go into a dispensary, if you have a medical card, you pay 15 percent tax; if you don't have a medical card, you pay 37 percent tax. How do we legalize? Is it a neoliberal liberalization that takes the power away from the little person and gives it to the big guy?" Nixon asked. He also expressed concern that the US Supreme Court could stand in the way of cannabis legalization.
"With the [conservative] Supreme Court that we have now, I have great trepidation when it comes to cannabis laws."
But elsewhere in the world, this may be the beginning of a trend. "I think we're now talking about an international domino effect — which country will fall next? If you're a poor country and this new industry opens, it will be an opportunity to bring your country to a better economic standard. [This is] how export laws change," Nixon noted.