Recreational Cannabis Laws in the Canadian Provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta and British Columbia: A Living Laboratory for Examining Mechanisms of Policy Diffusion

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Train, Andrew
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University of Guelph

Since the inception of Canada’s recreational cannabis laws, every province has drafted a corresponding legislative framework. Which aspects of these provincial cannabis laws — namely policy goals, instruments and settings—diffused from the federal government, and which did not? This paper employs a qualitative analysis of material from the federal government and the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta and British Columbia to answer this question. The mechanisms by which policy diffused were coercion, learning and replication, with competition and imitation being absent entirely. The research demonstrates that different forms of diffusion have increased the likelihood for policy myopia becoming a source of policy failure given the over-reliance on replication of alcohol and tobacco policies. It recommends that any other jurisdictions considering the development of recreational cannabis policy (1) not impose a restrictive timeline for policy initiation, and (2) not overly rely on policy learning through replication of analogous legislative fields.

Public Policy, Policy Diffusion, Federalism, Cannabis Law, Canadian Governance, Provincial Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Policy Learning, Coercion, Coercive Diffusion, Provincial Cannabis Law, Canada's Cannabis Policy, Recreational Cannabis Policy, Social Learning Framework, Policy Goals, Policy Instruments, Policy Settings, Policy Failure, Policy Myopia, Policy Replication, Constitutional Law, Public Administration, Political Theory, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Cannabis Legalization, Policymaking