I am Dr. Daniel Bear, and I've been working in drugs policy in one capacity or another since 2003. I started with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, moved to the American Civil Liberties Union, and then got my PhD in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. I'm a Professor, Criminal Justice, at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario.

I've written about cannabis in academic journals30067-1/abstract), Op/Eds, and in reports for non-profits.

I'm here to answer your questions about cannabis, cannabis legalization, and if you're so inclined, a bit of harm reduction.

Proof: Twitter

I'll be at my desk from 11:45 - 2:00pm Toronto time, and I'd really like to avoid grading papers, so ask away!

EDIT: I'm still here, and will stick around a while longer. Will edit this when I step away. Great questions so far!

EDIT 2: Thanks to everyone for the great questions. I've gotta run. You can always find me on Twitter @ProfDanBear if you have more questions. Cheers.

Comments: 91 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

redheadsoldier9 karma

Do any of the new cannabis policies distinguish between THC and CBD products?

ProfDanBear12 karma

All the products being sold have to have clear labeling indicating the amount of THC and CBD. They are basically all lumped together under this legislation, for now.

Ledbetter25 karma

What was the number one concern from political leaders in Canada about legalizing?

ProfDanBear12 karma

I think there were genuine concerns about not inadvertently introducing a new drug in to the society that would cause problems, but that concern is based on a notion that cannabis isn’t already in our society. Canadians who wanted to consume cannabis before today were probably doing so for the most part, though one survey showed about 47% of Canadians who never used cannabis would try it if legalized.

I think politicians did not want to promote access to young people as the research evidence showing harms from cannabis is clearest for young people who consume a lot. Mostly though, I think like many liberal politicians from Clinton to Obama to Trudeau, they were concerned about being labelled ‘soft on crime’. As an example, Mr. Trudeau appointed Bill Blair, the former Toronto Police Chief turned MP, to lead the legalization effort. That gave it a bit of political cover it wouldn’t have if he’d hired Bernie to take a leave from the US Senate and run the process for Canada. Though… that would have been pretty amazing to watch.

Ledbetter21 karma

So were measures taken to limit youth exposure after legalization or was the same idea that if they are going to smoke they already smoke the thought

ProfDanBear9 karma

This has been a tricky area. We know that making cannabis harder to access is part of the reason that young people are consuming it less frequently in Canada, with a massive drop in those numbers since 2009. But how do you achieve this in a legal system. Ideally, you push people away from consuming until their early 20's, but most users are using before then, and if you exclude from legal market they'll just help sustain the black market, and then the whole system is in jeopardy. The compromise was to align cannabis consumption ages with alcohol ages. This is 19 in most provinces, 18 in Alberta and Quebec. But at the same time, Health Canada, (our Ministry of Health) is putting a lot of money in to public education efforts targeted at young people. They've moved away from the ineffective abstinence based messaging, and are taking a harm reduction approach to some extent. We'll see how it works, but youth consumption hasn't been too much of a problem in our areas that have legalized, and needs to be weighed against all the other effects to judge the impact.

aidanpryde984 karma

My lord. A country acting like an adult. What a concept.

ProfDanBear2 karma

Miracles do happen.

dodogenocide4 karma

How long do you expect it will take for the USA to take its head out of its butt and fully legalize pot too?

ProfDanBear17 karma

If you'd have asked me that on January 20th 2009 I would have said, 'less than four years'. Now... it seems unlikely in this administration, and I would be concerned that any Dem who wins in 2020 would have done so by cobbling together a coalition that includes a lot of moderates who don't care for President Trump, and would therefore be unlikely to support what is seen as a pretty left-wing move in the minds of many. That said, polling is continuously moving in the right direction for it to happen, and the number of states with legalization is growing each year. So..... ten years? Maybe. US support for legalization would help dismantle the UN drug control treaties that are currently being held in place to the detriment of many countries. Also, I'm not a political scientist, so I might be totally wrong about the 2020 election and the ensuing momentum.

dodogenocide2 karma

Thanks for the answer. I think you are right, and I’m not looking forward to waiting that long. Oh well I guess

ProfDanBear6 karma

Take action my friend! Vote, call your reps in state and federal offices. To many of them this issue is a joke, and they need to be helped in to a position where they can see the damage this prohibition system is causing. They need to see their constituents support progressive action. This is a liberal and a conservative issue.

I don't know what is going to happen in Canada now that we've legalized. We may have some problems arise, we may not, but at least we're turning away from addressing those problems with the criminal justice system. Good luck!

Bretc2114 karma

Do you expect that legalization will kill the medical growers? Or will the prices and quality the larger shops have not be comparable to the home grown stuff, what are the prices over there like right now?

ProfDanBear4 karma

Prices were sitting at about $8.25 a gram last I looked at the data, with an estimate of national legal prices of $8.98. From a cursory glance online prices seem about there or a bit higher. Hopefully prices will fall a bit, but if that happens I wouldn't be surprised to see new taxation or minimum pricing pushed. Canada has taken a public health approach, and that means trying to find the sweet spot where you're not encouraging use, but you're not putting prices so high that you drive people to the black market.

Licensed Producers all report to Health Canada as the regulatory body. The issue isn't that they'll go out of business (they stockpiled 66,000kg of buds and 32,000L of oil ahead of legalization, to sell for recreational purposes) but that there will be a shortage for medical patients. Growers will be fine, it is the patients I'm worried about.

evenios4 karma

are you high right now?

ProfDanBear14 karma

Only on caffeine and life.

TouristsOfNiagara2 karma

Got a light?

ProfDanBear3 karma

Sorry. Also, amazing username.

Pongochute2 karma

Are you looking for a new job?

ProfDanBear5 karma

No. I’ve got a great job here at Humber, and just started a new research project about how people make decisions about whether or not and how to use cannabis. Why though? You offering? It is really weird seeing people jump in to the private sector. Can't say I didn't think about it.

FURLONGS1232 karma

Hey Dan, been following amidst all the cannabis legalisation stuff and enjoyed your blog for LSE on success of emerging American evidence. (I am also an LSE alumni!). I was wondering if you had any data or sources regarding the size of the black market post-legalisation in the US states?

ProfDanBear6 karma

I got your DM earlier and was about to reply ;). In short, not at hand. I did read a piece a while back that I'm struggling to find again. It identified that the black market in Colorado was still flourishing, but doing so because it was supplying neighbouring US states. The seed to sale tracking system, wide access to retail stores, and competitive prices have seemed to really impact the black market in legalized states like Colorado, but I don't have data on their current size.

For those interested, here's the blog post they refer to.

Big_Babousa2 karma

Hi! I am from Uruguay.

In my country it took months after being legalized until it was available to buy and only in some drugstores.

I wonder how much time until you will be able to buy cannabis and how is it going to be distributed?

ProfDanBear2 karma

Buenas tardes amigo! Uruguay had significant interference from the US authorities who decided to threaten Uruguayan banks if they handled cannabis related money. That significantly impacted the process.

We're able to buy cannabis today, and it is distributed differently depending on where you live. While Uruguay used pharmacies for the retail locations, this isn't really happening in Canada. Some of our stores are privately owned cannabis only retail shops, and some are government owned stores. The big difference here is that you don't have to sign up to a government 'cannabis list' in order to go in an purchase your cannabis.

albaniax1 karma

Uruguay had significant interference from the US authorities who decided to threaten Uruguayan banks if they handled cannabis related money

WTF U.S.?

ProfDanBear1 karma

Exactly.

timothybrooks72 karma

Since cannabis stays in your system longer than say alcohol, if an employee was hurt on the job and drug tested and came back dirty how would you know if he was high or sober?

ProfDanBear1 karma

While you can detect THC in the blood, it does decrease over time. The problem is that when illegal, the question is often whether there is anything in the blood or not. Part of the way to approach this in a legalized context is with a per se approach. This means you set a level, and below that level you're ok, and above it you're impaired that could change how the situation is viewed by an insurance company. Its not great as different people metabolize cannabis differently, and heavy users will test higher for longer, but it is one way to come up with an answer.

alKaszL2 karma

Hey Daniel, fellow Ontarian here. I was wondering why I am not seeing any vape products, or oils that are smokable on the stores here. I see there are drops and sprays for oral use, but nothing that I can vape/smoke. Do you know what the reason for this is? Thanks.

ProfDanBear3 karma

Good question. I don't think those are covered as edibles? Honestly didn't think to look at that yet. Thanks for the heads up.

alKaszL1 karma

I found it interesting that edibles aren't available yet, but the oral sprays/drops are. The effects are similar to edibles from my experience, though a bit more faster acting since it is absorbed into the bloodstream by putting it under the tongue. Not sure why there are different rules for the methods of consumption, other than perhaps that edibles could be seen as marketing towards children like the decisions around flavoured tobacco.

ProfDanBear2 karma

Oral drops and sprays are usually just psychoactive ingredient and oil. Edibles are more complex, harder to dose, and (as you mentioned) potentially marketable in a way that a dropper isn't. I thought we'd probably get the whole package at once when the process started, but it has been clear for a while that edibles aren't coming until at least July.

xSwifftx2 karma

With mixed signals being sent by the federal and provincial governments as to what laws apply on Indigenous lands, do you see a constitutional challenge brewing? and if so what do you think the likelihood of success might be?

ProfDanBear3 karma

Yeah, this is gonna be tricky. I'm not a lawyer, so am hesitant to comment on the likelihood of success, but I hope that indigenous groups are able to assert the freedom to control cannabis as they see fit. Right now we're in the acute stage of cannabis legalization; everything is new, the courts have yet do come down on a lot of the issues that need to be resolved, and so there is a lot up in the air.

Sashnik1 karma

Is it possible to legalize weed in such country as Russia and what should we do? President Putin a couple years ago said "weed is as dangerous as abou other drug so it will never be legalized"

ProfDanBear1 karma

Russia is one of the strongest advocates for maintaining prohibition at international level. I seriously doubt it'll happen any time soon. Sorry.

Boogiebodyplayer1 karma

Hello! Is marijuana sales still mostly controlled by Hells Angel's ?

ProfDanBear5 karma

It's tough to say. I haven't been looking in to that information recently. This was always the question that came up for the illegal dispensaries operating in major cities across Canada recently; where'd you get your inventory?

Sbeaudette1 karma

How come there are no THC/CBD edibles options available? Will there ever be available in the future?

ProfDanBear2 karma

This initial round of legislation did not cover edibles. It's anticipated that they'll have the regs ready for edibles around July next year. The issue was deemed too complicated, and they didn't want to slow down the process.

WarlordBeagle1 karma

Are you going to carefully collect data about the effect of this policy change to see whether it has an overall positive effect on whatever?

ProfDanBear1 karma

Indeed! I'm not currently doing large scale data collection, but Statistics Canada is, as are other researchers! The data are going to be amazing to analyze. Super exciting times, especially because Statistics Canada's cannabis data used to be pretty weak, and now we're seeing them really make a strong effort to do more robust data collection.

albaniax1 karma

What is a TL:TR of any known effects/studies on other cannabinoids besides THC and CBD?

ProfDanBear1 karma

Not really my area so I can't answer that. All I can say is that I suspect you're going to see a lot more about that issue emerge as we move forward. So much time was spent on THC because people were focused on the psychoactive elements, but this is a very complex plant and I can't wait to see what the guys and gals in the lab find out!

Jim1051 karma

Have you ever gone to a dispensary in the state of Washington or Colorado to see how they handle marijuana?

What examples will you use, and what will you do differently?

ProfDanBear1 karma

I have not been to either of those states to see their dispensary system in operation. I think we'll take a more regulated approach, with much more strict advertising, packaging, and location rules than any US state.

sebbabravo1 karma

Do you think this will have a positive or negative effect on Canadian society? And do you think this will lead to more countries legalizing eventually? Now that its legal in Canada it gives me hope that it will eventually become legal where i live, Norway.

ProfDanBear3 karma

I don't think it'll have a negative effect overall. I'm sure we'll face some challenges, but I think the net outcome will be positive. At the very least several billion dollars a year will go to legal businesses that pay taxes and hire legal employees, and not to the black market. I strongly suspect the percentage of people consuming cannabis will stay fairly similar, but we'll need to evaluate the data in the coming years and evaluate what we're seeing.

Dr_Falkov1 karma

Why is it that pot is illegal in so many other nations? I see nothing immoral about it. It's just a plant with many useful applications.

ProfDanBear3 karma

There's a long history, but you can largely blame the US and their efforts to bring other countries on board with their approach to drugs. They went after cannabis for a few reasons, but generally we can attribute it to manufacturing concerns (hemp beating out other products) and racism (cannabis was smoked by 'others').

Dr_Falkov1 karma

Wasn't it under Nixon that much of this happened?

ProfDanBear2 karma

This all started around the first world war, so well before Nixon. But Nixon was the one who turned up the heat dramatically. He specifically launched what we know as the modern drug war as a way to target the populations he thought didn't care for him. It was some truly evil stuff on his part.

warrior20121 karma

Hey Daniel,

I am from Ontario and I was wondering if you had any knowledge on why legal weed is available for sale in-store in every province except Ontario? In Ontario the only legal place to buy weed is from the Ontario Cannabis Store.

This online store does not offer very good options. With weed, you want to be able to see the strains up close and smell them. That is why being able to go to a store and meet with a bud-tender who is going to know what is best for your personal situation. On this website all it does is splits you into three categories, indica, sativa, and hybrid. It shows you medical looking packages for each product instead of the bud itself. There is no options for edibles or extracts.

I will give them that they do provide a lot of great knowledge about weed and the products themselves.

ProfDanBear3 karma

The Wynne government (Liberal) proposed to open brick and mortar stores in a similar style to the Liqour Control Board of Ontario (LCOB). These would be government run, and all the profit would be put directly in to the provincial budget. Currently the LCBO returns about $2B to Ontario each year in this type of model. The OCS was due to have about 40 stores open for legalization day, with about 120 in total over the next year. This was not going to be enough, but would have been the start.

When Doug Ford was elected he scrapped that plan. As a Conservative, it is not surprising he favored a more market friendly approach. This pleased current (illegal) dispensary owners, and those who wanted to get in to the business. The government is still the wholesaler for the province, and runs the only legal online source for cannabis, but isn't in the retail game any more. The problem is that Mr. Ford made this decision too close to legalization to get new regulations, licensing, and other pieces in place. So we'll have to wait until April for physical stores. In the mean time online is the only legal option. Personally, I would have kept a mix. Get the OCS stores open right away, and eventually allow private retail and cannabis social clubs to exist alongside. But hey, I'm not Premier.

warrior20121 karma

Are all the stores in other provinces government run like the LCBO in Ontario, or do they run like some of the legal states where anyone can own and run a legal store with the right certifications?

I completely agree with you that there should be a mix. There are people who want to discretely order their weed online and have it delivered to their house. Then on the flip side there are those that want to go in to a store to see and smell the products before taking them home. I guess we will just have to wait till April for that then.

Thanks for the quick response!

ProfDanBear2 karma

Trina Fraser is a cannabis lawyer, and has been keeping an up to date chart on how provinces are handling cannabis. As you can see, most all provinces have the government monopoly on the wholesale side of things. They are the middleman between growers and retailers. The growers and processors are all regulated at the federal level. Once we get to retail it all gets a little crazy. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and others are basically taking their government monopoly model for alcohol retail and expanding it. Others are going the private route. BC will have both public and private. This seems kinda crazy, but provincial authority over retail and other issues had to happen due to the constitutional requirements. It isn't unusual either; it in many ways mirrors the Tobacco Act. Feds control production rules, provinces get to dictate how it gets sold.

unclepickle21 karma

What are the strongest arguments against cannabis right now?

Are there any unbiased long term, large scale studies that describe how it affects the brain?

ProfDanBear7 karma

Strongest arguments are about youth consumption and driving. For youth, there's good research that says use, particularly if heavy, can have an impact and we're not sure if that impact reverses after use ceases. Individuals with underlying issues of psychosis may find cannabis use exacerbates that, though some of those same individuals will use cannabis to self medicate, so that is really a mixed bag. The impact on young people shouldn't take away from the need to legalize cannabis. Young people are already using, and though the rates are falling, it seems this happens when you make cannabis harder to access. Legalization does just that. No dealer on the street checks ID.

Driving in the second area. Bill C46 set a limit of 2ng/mL in the blood in what is known as a per se limit. This is the same way we have set up drunk driving laws. But cannabis doesn't respond in the body the same way alcohol does. A heavy user might have 2ng/mL many days after abstaining from cannabis, and experience deficits in driving skills far short of what a tired driver might experience. Other users may be unsafe to drive at 2ng/mL. What we've seen from the research is that drivers impaired by cannabis are not like drunk drivers. On cannabis, drivers tend to do okay at routine tasks. They stay in the lane, don't speed, and are aware of their impairment. But when it comes time for them to react to a new situation or an emergency, they perform very poorly. I always thought this clip from The Big Lebowski was a great example of the problem of driving high. He can handle basic stuff fine, but when that roach drops in to his pants it all goes to pot....

Xx_Squall_xX1 karma

What are some of your favorite sources of news or information pertaining to the cannabis industry? I would like to be better informed on what is happening. Thanks!

ProfDanBear1 karma

Twitter is key here. From academics to advocates and everyone in between. Of note, Solomon Israel, Tom Angell, Dan Sutton, John Collins (at LSE), and Damon Barrett. Those aren't industry (well Dan Sutton is) but they have a lot of good info on drugs policy. If you go on my twitter page you'll find plenty more.

tmpfie1 karma

When would you predict all of America becoming legalized?

ProfDanBear3 karma

Answered this more fully from another user, but not any time soon. States will lead us forward on this. I'm gonna let Justice Brandeis handle this one. "state[s] may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

tmpfie2 karma

Do you believe it is more big pharmacy lobbying against legalization, or do you believe it is the majority of people?

ProfDanBear3 karma

I have to think big pharma would love a share of the potential profits. The stigma is a big part of why cannabis is still illegal in most US states, and that comes from the masses.

bacarolle1 karma

Hi Daniel -- there are a lot of jokes about how a society where weed is legalized will reduce violent crime, since cannabis tends to chill people out compared with alcohol. I'm not sure if I agree that marijuana goes hand-in-hand with peace n' love, but do you know if there are any studies that have been done to look into the effects cannabis usage and/or legalization has on violent crime and any other societal issues?

ProfDanBear13 karma

Great question! Yes, violent crime rates have dropped in places where we have legalized cannabis. This is due, it seems from the research, to the disruption of the black market. I agree that cannabis itself isn't going to make people more chill and then lead to less crime, but I will share this; I spent a year alongside police officers in the UK, going to the calls for help, walking the beats, and everything short of putting the cuffs on someone, and I don't recall a single incident where someone using cannabis was acting violently or causing a problem. We went to so many alcohol fueled domestic fights, bar fights, gang fights, etc. Take that for what it's worth.

SequesterMe1 karma

What's the amount of benefit to the economy that the reduction of money spent on prison, people not working because of incarceration, lower employment wages because of a prior conviction, and the corresponding increase in additional people working?

Edit: And the reduced crime.

ProfDanBear3 karma

That my friend is a PhD thesis amount of work to answer. Figure $70k a year for incarceration, but few possession offences result in incarceration unless there are other offences. The big money saver will be police time. 48,000 Canadians were arrested last year for cannabis. 80% of those were for possession. That is a lot of police time (figure five hours per arrest, x2 if two officers involved) that we could harness.