Canada moved another step closer to ending its prohibition of marijuana on Thursday when the Senate approved legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Bill C-45 will now head back to the House of Commons, which has already approved a previous version.
Once approved in the House, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is expected to move quickly to implement the legislation, with legal adult sales beginning as soon as August. Canada will be just the second country — and the first G7 nation — to legalize marijuana for adults at the national level. The first was Uruguay, where legislation was signed into law in December 2013 and a limited number of pharmacies began selling marijuana to adults in July 2017.
“Canada is demonstrating extraordinary leadership on marijuana policy,” said Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It is setting an example not only for the U.S., where reform is already progressing at the federal level, but for countries around the world where there has been little to no debate on the subject.”
The Canadian legislation creates an overarching national regulatory framework and enables each province to establish its own system of licensing and regulating marijuana businesses. Adults will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, and all products will be sold in plain packaging with clearly marked labels. Home cultivation is allowed at the federal level, but it can be banned at the provincial level.
“This legislation will allow adults in Canada to start purchasing marijuana safely and legally from licensed businesses rather than tracking it down through illegal and potentially dangerous channels,” Tvert said. “Products will be tested, packaged, and labeled to ensure they are not contaminated and that consumers know what they’re getting. This newly regulated market will also create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue.”
Nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older, and eight of those laws include systems for regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
“Marijuana prohibition is a failed U.S. policy experiment that was replicated by countries around the world,” Tvert said. “It has caused far more problems than it has solved, and governments would be wise to follow Canada’s example by revisiting their marijuana policies and exploring alternatives.”
A new marijuana policy went into effect this Monday in Switzerland. The new law, passed by parliament last year, allows adults caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana to pay a $110 fine to avoid legal proceedings. Growing, consuming, and selling marijuana are all still against Swiss law, but the new policy shows signs that Switzerland may go the way of other European countries that are more tolerant of marijuana use. An estimated 500,000 of Switzerland’s eight million residents use marijuana occasionally. This new policy could save many occasional users from harsh legal penalties.
To learn more about marijuana policy abroad, visit our international policy page.
Update to Bruce's post yesterday about the British government's effort to increase penalties for small marijuana violations over the objections of its scientific advisors: In what was really an expected formality, the House of Lords approved the move.
As Bruce pointed out, with its relatively good track record of science-based marijuana policy, it's difficult to imagine why Britain would suddenly want to ape our politically and ideologically driven approach. After all, superstition and zealotry are entrenched realities of failed U.S. marijuana policy making. But what's Britain's excuse?