The United States’ friendly neighbor to the north is set to make continental history by legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana. Canada will be the first country in North America to enact these measures and in the world, only second to Uruguay. But the process hasn’t come without it’s difficulties.
“There’s no exact date, but if you do the math, you’ll see it won’t be July 2018,” Canadian Health Minister Ginette Petipas Taylor told CBC News earlier this month. “Cannabis legalization is not about a date, it’s about a process… We want this process done as seamlessly as possible.”
In the U.S., 26 states and the District of Columbia have some type of legalized marijuana legislation, including eight states that allow for recreational sales and consumption. There are, however, several important differences between the marijuana markets in the states versus the Canadian system.
What’s the Difference Between the United States and Canada Regarding Marijuana Legalization?
- Cannabis remains illegal in the U.S. as far as the federal government is concerned, which makes it difficult for retailers to deposit their profits in federally insured banks
- Once their system is enacted, cannabis retailers will have the Canadian government’s stamp of approval, making it possible to operate without the fear of a crackdown on pot sales like retailers in the U.S. potentially face
- In Canada, marijuana consumers shop and purchase products exclusively online as opposed to the U.S. where most states have a mix of brick and mortar shops, as well as online and delivery services
- The national marijuana market in Canada is estimated to generate $2.3 to $4.5 billion by 2021, similar to statewide profit estimates for California alone
What is the Timeline for Legalizing Cannabis in Canada?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government hoped the Cannabis Act, which enjoys wide public support, would be operational by July 2018, but ran into some legislative roadblocks setup by Tories, Canada’s conservative political party.
“Conservative senators are worried the legislation will endanger youth, increase smoking rates, complicate the work of police officers, lead to a backlog of court cases for possession offenses and do little to curb black market sales of the drug,” writes CBC News reporter John Paul Tasker.
Similar to marijuana advocates in the U.S., supporters of Canada’s move to legalize pot point to a long-time failed war on drugs that’s done little to zero to stop profits from ending up in the hands of organized crime.
Countries that have decriminalized or legalized drugs, essentially easing the stigma associated with drug addiction and dependency, find that its much easier to setup and implement treatment programs that help people.
While states in the U.S. continue to push forward with legalization, even at the risk of law enforcement raids ordered by the federal government, political parties in Canada have finally come to a compromise, agreeing on enactment by or before June 7, 2018.
“This should give stakeholders, governments, businesses, law enforcement agencies and other Canadians a timeline for how and when the bill will be dealt with by the Upper Chamber,” Senator Peter Harder told CBC News.
The lead-time allows the government to make the necessary changes to its criminal code, study the country’s international obligations created by legalization, including enforcement policies at Canada’s borders.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Tony Dean, laid out in precise terms not only why he brought the legislation forward, but why he’s pleased that Canada is leading the North American charge to legalize marijuana. “I think it’s broadly recognized that criminalizing cannabis has been a failure,” Dean said.
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