The new Liberal government of Canada has promised to act quickly to legalise cannabis for general use, which would make Canada the first G-20 country to end cannabis prohibition on a national level.
For police forces across Canada, the month of August is harvest time.
Officers slip on their coveralls, grab thick gardening gloves, shoulder machetes and begin the annual ritual of chopping down cannabis plants hidden in cornfields, remote mountain valleys and forest clearings.
If the grower is unlucky enough to be caught red-handed, he is cuffed and taken off to court. Each police unit hits two or three of these hidden cannabis plantations, with the confiscated pot taken to incinerators. The destruction of cannabis plants goes on for about two weeks, and then it's back to normal police work.
Has this war on cannabis worked?
"No, it hasn't," said Clive Weighill, chief of the Saskatoon police force, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and a veteran of the August raids.
Weighill is among those in favour of the plans to legalise cannabis.
"We are looking to the United States and the Colorado experience, the Washington experience, and we hope to learn from that."
The opposition Conservative Party strongly opposes legalisation, claiming it will make cannabis "more easily available to youth".
But faced with a large Liberal majority supported by the socialist New Democratic Party, the Conservatives are powerless to stop legalisation.
The Liberals point out that more than 600,000 Canadians have criminal records for simple possession of cannabis, and the number continues to grow. They say it is a needless destruction of lives.
Each year, the federal government spends as much as CA$500 million (NZ$557 million) on drug enforcement and prosecution, according to the auditor general. About CA$50 million go to raiding cannabis plantations. These figures do not include the money spent by provincial and municipal authorities.
Yet a large number of people still use cannabis. For about a decade, studies have shown that past-year use among Canadians age 15 to 24 is the highest in the developed world, with a recent study putting the rate at 24.6 per cent. For adults 25 and over, the figure drops to 8 per cent.
"Our system is badly, badly flawed," said Eugene Oscapella, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and longtime advocate for legalisation.
"I keep asking myself a question that I have been asking for 30 years: Could we have done a worse job if we tried? Could we have found a way to create more dysfunction than we managed to create?"
The Canadian Center on Substance Abuse, a federally-funded research organisation, has already cautioned against rushing into legalisation.
After a fact-finding mission to Colorado and Washington, their experts' answer was to "go slow".
"We have to be clear on what our goal is, why are we doing this," Rebecca Jesseman, a specialist in performance mechanisms at the centre, said.
"Are we looking to promote public health? Are we looking to reduce youth access? Are we looking to cut out the black market? What is the primary goal, because that will also help us shape regulations, monitor our progress towards that goal and monitor our success."
She added that the center believes the dominant concern should be public health.
One of the more important lessons from Colorado was that the state appears to have lacked a sense of clear purpose and finds itself unable to control a growing industry that is clearly targeting young people, she said.
"They are selling cannabis as candy," she said, referring to products laced with THC (the main psychoactive element in cannabis) sold under brand names such as Cherry Kush Lollipops, Ganja Joy, Keef Kat and Bubble Gum.
She noted that in the absence of regulations, companies will push the envelope to make a profit.
"You have established new corporate and consumer interests, and it's very hard then to roll that back," she said.
- The Washington Post