After legalizing the consumption of cannabis, Canada is set to show the world how the move will benefit its economy, says an association for cannabis businesses. But there are different voices in the country.
Estimates suggest that Canadians will spend about 8 billion to 10 billion Canadian dollars (6.1 billion to 7.7 billion U.S. dollars) on cannabis products in the first year of legalization alone, said Ian Dawkins, president of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada.
"We're talking about a lot of money, a lot of economic activities that are about to become taxable or regulated," he told Xinhua in an interview. "It's a huge shift and it's a huge explosion of business and opportunity and excitement."
The Canadian government fully legalized the recreational consumption of cannabis on Oct. 17 after nearly a century of prohibition and several years of a patchwork medicinal cannabis program.
The federal government, based in Ottawa, left it up to individual Canadian provinces and territories to develop regulation frameworks over where and how cannabis could be sold.
The world will be watching Canada, and at the same time, other countries are likely to play catch up as they witness the benefits of taxation and research programs focused on the drug, Dawkins said.
"Canada is going to be seen as a leader and is going to have a lot to share with people," he added.
The Canadian government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party, said the "old approach" to banning cannabis and prosecuting users did not work.
Adults, as young as 18, can now legally buy up to 30 grams of dried cannabis from authorized retailers. Possession of small amounts of cannabis is no longer a criminal offense.
The government said legalizing cannabis will prevent the drug from being used as a cash crop for criminal organizations and street gangs.
Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer, the leader of Canada's opposition Conservative Party, has not promised to keep cannabis legal if elected in the 2019 vote.
"The Conservative Party will do our due diligence, examine the consequences of this decision, and we'll examine the reality on the ground," Scheer told the CTV network last week.
"I think that we are creating the next big tobacco industry of our time and I think in a hundred years, we're going to say what were we thinking," said SAM President Kevin A. Sabet, who opposes the legalization.
"We think this is a really bad move," he told Xinhua.
Sabet said increased cannabis use could raise the risk of traffic and transport disasters, while creating complications over cannabis use in the workplace.
"I would not be surprised if this is a temporary policy," he said, adding that the new law puts profits ahead of public health concerns.