2018 Beyond the Headlines: A growing industry after Canada legalizes recreational marijuana
Updated 12:28, 31-Dec-2018
By Dan Williams
Editor's note: As the year winds down, "The Link" brings you a special series we're calling "2018 - Beyond the Headlines" in which we look at some of the year's biggest stories, which may have been buried a little under reports of trade wars, conflicts, exits, and elections.
New Zealand may become the next country to legalize recreational marijuana. The country will hold a referendum on the matter in 2020. In October, Canada became just the second country to take that step.
The town of Smiths Falls, about an hour's drive from Ottawa, was left devastated a decade ago, when a Hershey's chocolate factory closed its doors throwing more than 500 people out of work.
But it is now enjoying an unexpected resurgence, all because of cannabis.
The chocolate factory has been converted into the headquarters for Canopy Growth Corporation. 
The logo of Canopy Growth Corporation. /CGTN Photo

The logo of Canopy Growth Corporation. /CGTN Photo

In just a few years, thanks to the legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis use in Canada, the workforce has grown to almost 1,000.
Jordan Sinclair from Canopy Growth Corporation said: "They were looking for a community that would allow them to grow massive amounts of cannabis. In 2013, we really had to make the sales pitch of coming here, taking over this flagship building and using it to grow narcotics."
A room in the factory, known as the vault, underlines just how big the cannabis business has become in Canada. Inside it is around 120 million dollars' worth of cannabis products. That equates to around six months of sales for the company.
Constellation Brands, a U.S. liquor and beer company, recently invested 3.8 billion U.S. dollars into the company. 
A staff worker poses with marijuana plants at Canopy Growth Corporation. /CGTN Photo

A staff worker poses with marijuana plants at Canopy Growth Corporation. /CGTN Photo

Next year, the company hopes to sell marijuana-infused foods and drinks. But concerns remain over the negative aspects of cannabis, with fears legalization will promote usage.
Canada's Psychiatric Association is among those stressing that cannabis can increase the risk of developing a primary psychotic disorder and compound other mental health issues such as depression.
But Canada's Center for Addiction and Mental Health believes marijuana's benefits far outweigh its negatives.
Robert Mann, a senior scientist from the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research said: "Canada's cannabis policy was not effective and was problematic in terms of it not really achieving any kind of health-related goals and not really controlling cannabis use. So if we are interested in controlling the negative effects of harmful use, the tobacco model which is a public health model seems to be working better than prohibition."
A small marijuana plant. /CGTN Photo

A small marijuana plant. /CGTN Photo

The center is also focusing on other social concerns, not least the impact cannabis has on driving.
Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. He believes that whatever the concern over cannabis, the existing laws simply weren't working.
"It has devastating health impacts because people are being criminalized for some serious problems that they might have, instead of helping them with the issues that led them to their drug use, we are criminalizing them which makes them worse off."
Canada became just the second country to legalize cannabis after Uruguay. It is estimated the market is worth around five billion U.S. dollars. Like a giant social experiment, the world will be watching the impact of Canada's decision very closely.