Last Tuesday, the Canadian Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in all 13 provinces of Canada. This move has been a long time coming – since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election in 2015.
If there was any doubt about the popularity of the new law, Shopify.com saw 100 orders per minute on Canadian websites for Legalization Day.
The first G7 nation to legalize cannabis, Canada has a federal Cannabis Act that provides a broad skeleton for the regulation of marijuana, but each of the 13 provinces and territories set their own rules such as where marijuana will be sold and where it can be consumed. Not all of these rules have been announced yet and because they conflict from one part of the country to the other, many Canadians are left confused.
In part, Trudeau ran his election campaign on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, arguing that legalization would keep marijuana out of the hands of underage users and reduce crime. Those theories can now be put to the test. Canada is the first major economy to fully legalize cannabis. As such, other nations considering the same path will be keeping a close eye on the results.
Canada first legalized medical cannabis in 2001, making the legalization of recreational marijuana a 17-year endeavor. The first state to legalize medical marijuana was California in 1996 – more than 20 years ago. So, is it time for the U.S. to take the next step and legalize recreational marijuana? Many states seem to think so – nine states plus Washington D.C. have already legalized recreational use and Michigan and North Dakota have ballot measures this November.
Despite the trend towards legalizing recreational use in the states, the Department of Justice does not appear willing to make any official change to the federal laws. Yet, cannabis reform legislation has been introduced in the Senate and President Trump has stated he supports the legislation, which would simply exempt state-legal cannabis activity from the Controlled Substances Act. But it would be a start.
It would also protect banks that work with legal cannabis businesses which would perhaps finally give cannabis businesses a legitimate way to finance operations. Senator Chuck Schumer also introduced a bill earlier this year to remove marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances.
We will certainly continue to monitor the changing attitudes and legislative treatment of medical and recreational use cannabis. Following this recent bit of northern exposure from Canada, the continuing thaw of attitudes toward decriminalizing cannabis could be here to stay in the states as well.
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