As our northern neighbors move to legalize recreational marijuana, the maple leaf merges with the marijuana leaf. O Canada! Welcome to the club…the cannabis club.
Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, recently introduced legislation that will make Canada only the second nation in the world to fully legalize recreational weed (Uruguay is the first).
According to the New York Times, Bill Blair – a lawmaker in charge of the legislation – went on record to say,
“Criminal prohibition has failed to protect our kids and our communities.”
That was a factor in legislation, legislation that hopes to make cannabis available for consumer purchase by mid-2018.
The plan goes something like this. The Canadian federal government will regulate and license growers and give each province the power to decide how drugs will be sold within their individual boundaries. Other things on the docket include: development of a breathalyzer-like test that helps determine when drivers are under the influence of pot, diplomatic attention to conflicting drug treaties with other countries, and research involving the long-term health effects of marijuana on users under the age of twenty-five.
America versus Canada
The United States isn’t close to legalizing on a national level (particularly now with the party poopers in DC); rather, states’ rights have seized center stage. One by one, states are legalizing:
We’re up to eight, 42 to go
Canada didn’t require each province to get in line; pot will be legal all over the nation, removing the need of citizens to carefully monitor which province they’re actually in. This is similar to what they did with medical legislation back in 1999.
Their law differs from US law in other ways too. For one thing, any consumer who is 18 or over will be able to purchase pot (in the US, you must be 21). Provinces reserve the right, however, to increase age limits.
The amount a consumer is able to purchase or carry is similar to the US; about an ounce at a time. Households will also be allowed to grow a maximum of four marijuana plants. In the US, this varies by state and by your location within that state (in Colorado, residents can grow up to six plants, but only three of those plants can be mature).
Similar to the US, going outside of regulations is a serious crime.
Anyone in Canada caught growing, importing, exporting, or selling marijuana outside of legitimate and licensed entities risks their freedom
There’s not an exact number yet on how high marijuana will be taxed, but it’s fair to prepare for a hefty levy. Tobacco is already heavily taxed. Per Investopedia, cigarettes are taxed at rates between 63 to 79 percent. By comparison, cigarettes in New York are taxed at around 38 percent.
Still, Canada will have to tread carefully on this issue: when they began taxing cigarettes, people didn’t stop smoking as intended; instead, they started to illegally import cigarettes from the US. A too-high tax rate on weed could result in something similar.
The Stores Already Open
Despite a not-yet-legal status, a handful of pot shops already exist. They sprouted after Trudeau took office and made it clear – from the start – that legalizing pot was in his plans. These shops are supplied by illegal growers and largely ignored by the police. But that’s likely to change.
The New York Times reports that Ontario’s attorney general is already seeking a forfeiture order that allows the government to confiscate the 600,000 Canadian dollars in cash taken from the Toronto airport. The cash was on an employee of one of the illegal shops (I too often travel with 600,000 dollars in cash….and, by “600,000 dollars,” I mean, “6 dollars.”).
This is a sign of things on the horizon: now that weed is becoming legal, every pot shop will be expected to play by the rules of government regulations.
Canada’s System, Summed Up
CNN summed up Canada’s plans with a list of five things worth knowing. These include:
The Canadian government will regulate all aspects of the marijuana industry – production, distribution, and sale. They will also collect licensing fees and sales tax. The federal government will provide blue prints while it’ll be up to the provinces to dive into the details.
Adults can possess up to 30 grams of marijuana in public; they can purchase from licensed dealers or receive marijuana through the mail (Move over Pony Express; it’s time for the Pineapple Express)
Anyone under 18 (and possibly higher) won’t be able to purchase marijuana and authorities will work to regulate it in a manner similar to alcohol. They admit this doesn’t guarantee it won’t fall into the hands of children, but it reduces the odds.
Legalization will also increase the punishment for selling marijuana to minors; people caught selling to kids will face up to fourteen years in prison.
The law that legalizes recreational use will also create saliva tests that can be administered to drivers suspected of being high. As discussed in other articles, proving that someone is actively high is difficult – if Canada can do it, more power to them.
While citizens will be able to carry marijuana from province to province (while being subject to potentially differing laws), they won’t be allowed to bring it over the border. In short, any Canadian hoping to bring marijuana into North Dakota for a rocking good time, better think again.
Bottom of Form
Canada is taking a cue from other parts of the globe and welcoming the ganja with open, if not heavily regulated, arms. While many of us hope that the US will follow suit, state legalization is at least a start: someday, marijuana will be legal in all fifty states while remaining illegal nationally.
It was, perhaps, only a matter of time before the Canucks did this. They see the reversal of prohibition as an obvious step. Legalization of cannabis? Cana-duh.