Marijuana prohibition is history in Canada. Last night, after months of negotiations, Parliament approved a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults. After one formality — Royal Assent — Canada will become the second nation to end marijuana prohibition and the first G7 country to do so.
Regulations vary by province, but most set age limits at 18 or 19 to match the legal age for alcohol and tobacco in Canada. Once the law takes effect, adults can possess up to 30 grams and grow up to four plants in their homes. Read more about this historic legislation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is expected to move quickly to implement the new policy, and retail marijuana stores will soon be opening just north of our border.
And that is all the more reason for our Congress to enact the STATES Act, which would allow American states to decide their own marijuana laws without federal interference.
This is an important day to acknowledge. After decades of harm caused by marijuana prohibition laws, nations around the world are beginning to come to their senses. Canadians should be proud that their country is leading the way among major governments.
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.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has publicly supported ending prohibition in that country, is becoming something of a trailblazer when it comes to world leaders' positions on marijuana policy.
Washington Post reports:
Speaking Wednesday at an economic conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made one of the more buttoned-down, straight-edged arguments for marijuana legalization I've heard in recent years. It's worth quoting at length so I've done that below:
Look, our approach on legalizing marijuana is not about creating a boutique industry or bringing in tax revenue, it’s based on two very simple principles:
The first one is, young people have easier access to cannabis now, in Canada, than they do in just about any other countries in the world. [Of] 29 different countries studied by the U.N., Canada was number one in terms of underage access to marijuana. And whatever you might think or studies seen about cannabis being less harmful than alcohol or even cigarettes, the fact is it is bad for the developing brain and we need to make sure that it’s harder for underage Canadians to access marijuana. And that will happen under a controlled and regulated regime.
The other piece of it is there are billions upon billions of dollars flowing into the pockets of organized crime, street gangs and gun-runners, because of the illicit marijuana trade, and if we can get that out of the criminal elements and into a more regulated fashion we will reduce the amount of criminal activity that’s profiting from those, and that has offshoots into so many other criminal activities. So those are my focuses on that.
I have no doubt that Canadians and entrepreneurs will be tremendously innovative in finding ways to create positive economic benefits from the legalization and control of marijuana, but our focus is on protecting kids and protecting our streets.
Trudeau made these remarks in response to a conference participant who said that "Canada could be to cannabis as France is to wine." These enthusiastic predictions about the burgeoning marijuana industry — billions of dollars in revenue and taxes, thousands of jobs created -- should be familiar to anyone who's followed efforts to legalize pot here in the United States.
But Trudeau's argument for legalization is concerned less with creating benefits, and more with reducing harms. He starts from the same place that many legalization opponents start from — concern for the safety of children.
Continuing its support for sensible marijuana policies, The New York Times published an editorial Thursday asking Congress and the president to support a bill, introduced this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would allow states to determine their own marijuana laws.
Support for making marijuana legal is increasing around the world, and that is a good thing. Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing the drug by giving four plaintiffs the right to grow cannabis for personal use.
In Canada, the newly sworn in prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he intends to change the law so people can use the drug recreationally; medicinal use is already legal in that country. And in the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, recently introduced a bill that would let states decide if they want to make the drug legal without worrying about violating federal law.
Laws banning the growing, distribution and possession of marijuana have caused tremendous damage to society, with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws. Yet research shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and can be used to treat medical conditions like chronic pain.
What’s needed now is responsible leadership from President Obama and Congress. They ought to seriously consider the kind of legislation Mr. Sanders has proposed.
On Monday, the Liberal Party in Canada won the national elections by wide margins, promising an impending shift in a number of policy areas, including marijuana. Newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that the Canadian government would quickly begin the process of making marijuana legal for adults.
USA Today reports:
Trudeau promised that under his leadership Canada would create a system to tax, regulate and sell marijuana, along with stiff penalties for anyone giving pot to children or caught driving while stoned. The Liberal Party's cannabis legalization statement echoes the language used by many U.S. legalization advocates.
"Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug," the party's position statement says. "To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana."
This development could have a serious impact on marijuana policy in the United States.
On top of that, Mexico's Supreme Court will hold a hearing on October 28 to determine whether federal policies banning the possession and cultivation of marijuana are unconstitutional. Soon, the United States may be the only large nation on the North American continent to carry on the failed policies of marijuana prohibition.