Today marks the official date that Canada legalizes cannabis for recreational use. America’s northern neighbor is the first G7 nation to legalize cannabis country-wide and could prove a valuable example on the US’ own road to legalization.
Canada’s legalization has been in the works since 2015 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised he would bring legalization to the country. Since then, the move has been met with substantial opposition, both from within and outside Canada. Both Russia and the United Nations have expressed concern about Canada’s legalization, with the UN International Narcotics Control Board citing the potential repercussions Canadian legalization could have on other UN member nations.
“INCB is very concerned about the public health situation in Canada which will result from the Government’s decision to legalize the non-medical use of cannabis,” said INCB President Viroj Sumyai. “We also call upon the Government of Canada to consider the repercussions of its policy on other Member States.”
Canadians Are Still Confused
While Canada will be legalizing marijuana across the entire country (the equivalent of what federal legalization would look like in the United States), individual provinces retain the right to set their own rules and regulations on how legalization will look within their borders. As a result, a vast number of Canadians are confused as to what legalization will actually look like where they live.
Where Canadians will be able to purchase legal recreational cannabis will differ depending on the province in which they live. In some areas of the country, legal recreational weed will only be available at government-run dispensaries, similar to the way in which liquor is distributed in parts of the country. In other parts, cannabis will be available at private, licensed retailers only. Some provinces will have a mixture of the two, making cannabis more readily available.
For existing dispensaries currently operating in Canada, the future will, once again, depend on the province the dispensary is located in. British Columbia, for example, will be allowing illegal dispensaries to apply to become legal private retailers. Elsewhere in the country, government stores will become the only legal option. Quebec plans to open 12 government-owned and run dispensaries today where the traditional ‘budtender’ will be a government employee armed with information on all things cannabis-related.
As of today, Canadians will be allowed to possess 30 grams of cannabis, however, public consumption laws will be dictated by each individual province. Various neighborhoods, landlords, and hotels across the nation have already taken measures to ensure cannabis is prohibited in their areas. Most Canadians will be able to grow up to four plants at home, however, Quebec and Manitoba have implemented a complete ban on homegrown cannabis. Canadians could also face a $1,000 fine for driving under the influence of marijuana as well as possible jail time.
What Does Canadian Legalization Mean For The US?
As one of the US’ closest neighbors, Canada’s move to legalize cannabis will undoubtedly have some repercussions. Most immediately, US border services have noted that Canadians admitting to cannabis use may be refused at the US-Canada border, however, it remains unclear whether or not border agents will ask Canadians about their cannabis use on a routine basis.
Americans looking to benefit from legal weed in Canada should be warned. Although weed may now be legal north of the border, anyone found transporting cannabis from Canada into the US could be arrested, even if they are entering a legal US state. Borders and airports remain federal territory, and with US federal legalization yet to be implemented in the United States, these areas remain a no-go for cannabis use and transportation.
Nevertheless, Canadian legalization is likely to have an impact on US policy further down the line.. Many have referred to cannabis legalization in Canada as a ‘social experiment’ and there will likely be various growing pains associated with legalizing weed recreationally. Depending on how Canada addresses these issues, it may serve as a valuable example for the United States, where federal cannabis legalization remains a hot topic. Marijuana is currently medically legal in 31 US states and recreationally legal in 9 states in addition to the District of Columbia. However, cannabis has been federally illegal in the United States since 1937 when the Marihuana Tax Act was introduced, prohibiting the plant. Successful nationwide legalization so close to home could provide government entities with the example they need to consider federal legalization in the future.
For now, at least, Americans can celebrate Canadian cannabis legalization in spirit, provided they live in a legal US state, of course.
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