The Canadian Senate voted to legalize recreational marijuana by nearly a two-to-one margin on Tuesday, making it the first major economy to end prohibition of pot. Canadians of legal age (18 years for most provinces and 19-plus is select others) can possess an ounce of weed in public and up to four plants at home. Retail sales are expected to begin in 8 to 12 weeks.
So what does this mean for the U.S.?
The fact that a G7 country just legalized an illicit substance (and also bucked international
treaties that bar legalization – the same ones the U.S. participates in) signals significant change in policy towards cannabis from a global perspective. Canada’s adoption of the cannabis industry legitimizes the idea in way the world has not seen yet.
U.S. lawmakers continue to grapple with how to reconcile inconsistencies with federal law and the states that have legalized in the U.S. Keeping an eye on our northern neighbor and how Canada has propelled the industry forward will be an influential aspect to ending prohibition on the national level in the states.
U.S. politicians may be swayed by both the criminal and economic elements of what federal legalization could mean. Decriminalizing marijuana frees up police resources to deal with more serious crimes, and the prospect of a western United States and British Columbia cannabis market and “cannabis tourism” has excited politicians and economists alike. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that.”
Currently in the U.S. there are over 40 bills that have been introduced to advance legislation and policy addressing the cannabis industry. By far the most promising is the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which surgically deschedules cannabis in states that have enacted programs. It is the most politically realistic and effective in accomplishing the biggest problems facing the cannabis industry, including establishing a level playing field for banking and tax.
Newsweek, a recent Gallup poll found that a majority of Democrats have supported legalizing the drug since around 2009. As of October 2017, 72 percent of Democrats, along with 67 percent of Independents and 51 percent of Republicans said they would support marijuana legalization. Advocates are hopeful to effect change by 2020. Did you know Greenspoon Marder recently acquired The Liaison Group, a premier Federal advocacy firm dedicated solely to the cannabis industry? Together we are dedicated to serving the legal and regulatory needs of the cannabis sector across the nation, and we aim to protect and grow the industry on a federal and state level. Find out more at www.theliaisongroup.com.