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The first legal 4/20: How far have we come since legalization?

Last Updated Apr 20, 2019 at 1:24 pm EDT

A woman exhales while smoking a joint during the annual 420 marijuana rally on Parliament hill on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 in Ottawa. An editorial in the latest Canadian Medical Association Journal says the Trudeau government's plan to legalize marijuana will put young people at risk by setting 18 as the benchmark minimum age for buying pot. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

VANCOUVER – Six months after Canada made cannabis legal, pot smokers will be out in full force celebrating the very first legal 4/20. Other than the obvious part about weed being legal, how far have we come since Oct. 17?

Has there been a notable change in the stigma known as “reefer madness”? Is there still a ways to go? For some, legalization has been a massive step in the right direction.

“It will mean something to some people to be able to purchase something on 4/20 legally for the first time,” said Ryan Kaye, VP of Operations at FOUR20 Premium Market. Kaye says he’s absolutely seen a shift in how people view pot and those who smoke it.

READ MORE: Legalization sparks curiosity in people who haven’t used pot in years or ever

“Certainly there’s been more dinner table conversations and cocktail parties conversations–you know, cannabis weddings are becoming a bigger thing. It’s just more open between families, friends, discussions. A lot of people have ‘come out of the closet’ as they say and felt more comfortable expressing that they’re a cannabis user. There’s definitely been some strides made there.”

While progress has been made, Kaye says there are a couple of sticking points that the “long and winding” pot journey has stalled on. One of those points for Kaye is edibles, which aren’t set to be legal until this coming October.

“One interesting part that’s sort of been overlooked is the relation of the oils to the edibles,” said Kaye.

“Certainly the future of this product is less on the smoking side and more on the smokeless side… Edibles won’t be legal until October but the edibles are made from the oils and the oils are legal! We’ve got these oils now that are essentially legal oils and you just had to add the oils [to the food] and to the baking yourself.”

Kaye is interested in how the edibles market will develop as popularity in options that don’t have to be smoked–like oil capsules and tinctures– is growing.

Cannabis ‘not truly legal in Canada’: advocate

Another question mark hovers over pot pardons.

“There are people are feeling that we’ve got a good start but we’ve got a ways to go. There are still some questions of should criminal charges from previous infractions still be valid or should they be removed? For some people [4/20] has become about continuing they view as the fight to complete the legalization process and add that retroactive element.”

Well-known pot activist Jodie Emery has been particularly vocal about this issue.

“The government of Canada has worked very hard to demonize and not normalize cannabis,” said Jodie Emery.

READ MORE: Tax and licensing issues standing in the way of Indigenous cannabis entrepreneurs

“There’s still a tremendous stigma. All across Canada, hundreds of millions of tax dollars are being spent creating new crackdown unit and new marijuana law enforcement squads. Legalization was supposed to legalize the massive peaceful industry and culture that already exists… Everything that was illegal before is still illegal now.”

Emery says prohibitions on free speech and cannabis promotions, new cannabis offenses, increasing prices of pot, and diminishing access to true medical marijuana are huge issues with the current legislation.

READ MORE: Use of roadside saliva tests for cannabis impairment remain in question

“People are still losing their jobs, having their kids taken away, losing their travel opportunities, and being evicted from their homes–and that happens all the time in Canada still. Until those things end, until we have civil liberties being protected, cannabis is not truly legal in Canada.”

She predicts another few years of legalization to look as it has for the first six months. “The next few years because there are many legal challenges underway, but it takes time for these things to get through the court system.”

She adds in the meantime, there will still be a group of a marginalized people that may end up turning to harder drugs while waiting for better access to legal or medical pot.

-with files from Ryan RunningRabbit