Canada is reportedly set to legalize recreational marijuana

Posted at 8:15 PM, Mar 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-27 20:15:31-04

A member of the Italian Military’s Cannabis Project Team enters a marijuana growing room. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

By Ese Olumhense

Legal status will reportedly go into effect by July 1, 2018

Recreational marijuana will soon be legal nationwide in Canada, a recent report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) stated.

The new legislation — which is in line with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge to legalize and regulate marijuana and with the November recommendations of a federally appointed task force on the drug — is expected to be introduced the week of April 10, the Sunday report said.

Under the proposed plan, the country’s federal government will oversee supply and licensing, while provinces would reportedly have the right to decide how marijuana will be distributed and sold, as well its prices. Canada’s minimum age for sale will be set at 18, but provincial governments can set higher limits.

Canadians hoping to grow their own plants will also be able to own four plants per household.

Though legalization looms, ‘current laws apply’

Trudeau’s controversial plan for legalization made him extremely popular with younger voters in Canada’s 2015 federal election. Forty-five percent of Canadians aged 18 to 25 voted for Trudeau and his Liberal Party; in that demographic, it was the highest share cast for any other party in the race, a survey showed.

“Young people affected the last election in a way they haven’t in the past,” David Coletto, who runs the company that conducted the survey, told The Huffington Post Canada in 2016. “We see much higher evidence of a higher turnout among those under 34, and, really for the first time since 1997, young people coalesced around one option.”

Despite Trudeau’s promises, the law did not change overnight. A federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation was convened in December 2015, and underwent a year of “extensive public consultations and expert advice” in its development of marijuana policy. The finished report, published in December 2016, had more than 80 recommendations on age and access restrictions, marijuana marketing, and safety and distribution guidelines.

Though legalization appears likely, Trudeau recently warned that “current laws apply,” and marijuana should not be assumed cleared for recreational use just yet. Sunday’s report comes weeks after police in some Canadian cities raided dispensaries, charging five with possession and trafficking.

What could the U.S. learn from Canada?

Just south of the Canadian border, in the United States, the conversation around recreational marijuana is quite different. Though it’s legal in seven states — California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, and Maine — cannabis is still a Schedule I drug. That doesn’t seem like it will change any time soon.

Though Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said (to the relief of marijuana enthusiasts everywhere) that he will respect the Obama-era memo allowing states to implement their own rules around marijuana use and enforcement, he personally remains vehemently opposed to marijuana use — which he recently deemed “a life-wrecking dependency” that is “slightly less awful than heroin.” (In 2015, the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency disagreed, saying heroin was “clearly” more dangerous than marijuana.)

Judging from the task force’s report, Canada’s recreational marijuana policy will probably bear close resemblance to policies passed in some U.S. states, like Colorado, the first in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana.

Colorado policy establishes age limits, like Canada’s likely will, but the state established its age limit at 21. Regulations as to how many storefronts selling marijuana in a particular location exist in Colorado, and Canada’s proposal will probably include them as well. Retail sales are also regulated as they would be in Canada, though in Colorado they’re regulated by the state and not by the federal government.

U.S. lawmakers might want to consider Canada’s countrywide legalization drive. If it’s successful — as in Colorado, which made $53 million after its first year of legalization it might be worth adopting in America. Canada’s model could show the United States how best to implement marijuana legalization at the federal level.