If all the political turmoil in America has you seriously thinking about moving to Canada, well you just got another reason. No, it’s not their vast reserves of maple syrup or the oddly mesmerizing sport (or “sport”) of curling. It’s because Canada has finally legalized marijuana! It was a slow—but inevitable—process that has finally come to pass. Let’s take a look at how it happened, and what the passage of this law means for America.
The History of Weed in Canada
Canada outlawed weed in 1923 when it was added to the list of banned narcotics. This was largely symbolic since marijuana was not widely used at the time. In fact, marijuana wasn’t used widely until the 1960’s. Before that, arrests for marijuana use or possession only accounted for 2% of total drug arrests.
That number saw a dramatic increase during the 1960’s since—as most of you know—that was the decade of hippies, free love, psychedelia, and other mainstream defying trends. The rise of this counter-culture also saw a rise in the number of marijuana arrests. This lead to an increase in the maximum penalty for drug convictions, from 14 years to life in prison. The number of weed users in Canada began to stabilize during the 1980’s, but saw a huge uptick in the following decade. It has been increasing ever since, which is one of the reasons for the push for legalization.
Canada’s Journey to Legalization
The road to weed legalization started with the legalization of medical marijuana. The legalization of medicinal weed started with a provision in Canada’s CDSA (Controlled Drugs and Substances Act). Section 56 of the CDSA states that there are exemptions if possession of a drug is in the public interest or has medical value. This lead to the MMAR (Marihuana Medical Access Regulations) in 2001. It allowed qualifying patients to grow their own marijuana, purchase it from a licensed producer, or buy it from Health Canada.
The costs of the MMAR proved to be too much for Health Canada, plus there were concerns that home grown marijuana was subject to fires and/or robberies. This lead to the MMAR being replaced by the MMPR (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) in 2013. It no longer allowed patients to grow their own weed and Health Canada no longer had to supply and distribute marijuana. Patients now obtained their weed from government licensed producers overseen by Health Canada.
The Path to Decriminalization
There were attempts to decriminalize marijuana in 2003 and 2004, but both attempts failed to pass. It was not until the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 that marijuana legalization began to gain traction. One of his campaign platforms was the complete legalization of marijuana, and shortly after his election, the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation was created to study the issue.
In April 2017, a bill called the Cannabis Act was introduced to the Canadian Parliament. This bill permits the legal use and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes with certain limitations. In addition, provinces are allowed to set up their own rules regarding the use of weed. The bill was passed by the House of Commons in November 2017, and on June 19, 2018, it cleared the final hurdle of the Senate to allow the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.
What Weed Legalization Means for Canada
Canada is just the second country to legalize weed nationwide, the other one being Uruguay. However, Canada is the first G7 and G20 country to do so. The implications for the country are huge, but the results won’t be known until the law goes into effect on October 17, 2018. Some observers are speculating that Canada could bring in $675 million Canadian dollars per year in taxes because of legal weed.
This could also lead to a reduction in organized crime activities related to the distribution of marijuana, which is one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s reasons for pushing weed legalization. This also means that Canada is technically in violation of three UN treaties, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. How Canada plans to address the fact they are violating international laws is still unknown.
What Canada’s Marijuana Legalization Means for America
This will surely put more pressure on the US to enact its own legalization proceedings. Currently, only a few states have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, while quite a few more have legalized medical marijuana. The fact that one of America’s closest neighbors, with a broadly similar culture, just legalized recreational weed could be the catalyst that progressive American politicians need to get their marijuana reforms taken more seriously.
Another possible repercussion is that consumers could spend money on weed in Canada, money that could—and probably should—go to American businesses, potentially diverting billions of dollars in revenue. The main obstacle to any changes in American marijuana laws is the current government. Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a staunch anti-marijuana advocate, while President Donald Trump’s increasingly frosty relation with Prime Minister Trudeau could make the former reluctant to follow in the latter’s footsteps.
What is the Future of Weed Legalization in America?
Regardless of the current administration’s thoughts on the matter, wide scale national legalization seems inevitable. Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational weed, and while there are always going to be stubborn holdouts, that number is sure to increase.
It may increase to the point where America has de facto recreational legalization, even if it is still prohibited on the federal level. People may soon be able to smoke their joints, vape their weed and extracts, and enjoy their marijuana edibles in peace across most of America. The tide is turning and it would be a wise choice for the nations to go with it than try to swim against it.