In October 2018, Canada will become only the second nation in the world to fully legalize marijuana. Uruguay, a relatively small nation with a population of just 3.44 million people, was the first in 2014. There is a feeling that it’s a bit ‘different’ with Canada. First of all, our northern neighbor is a far larger nation in terms of population (over 37 million) and area (almost 60 times the area of Uruguay).
Then there is the small matter of Canada being a G-20 country, and of course, America’s neighbor. In June 2018, the Canadian Senate voted to legalize marijuana by an almost two-to-one margin. If you are aged 18+ (19+ in specific Canadian provinces), you will legally be allowed to grow four plants at home and possess up to an ounce of weed in public.
When is the Big Day?
Legalization will take effect on October 17, 2018. Although Canada and America have many differences, they both have a situation where states and provinces don’t necessarily follow federal law. As you know, weed is federally illegal, but is legal in 30 states plus D.C. for either medicinal or recreational purposes.
In Canada, Quebec and Manitoba are keeping the ban on home cultivation. If you are a Canadian travelling to the U.S., DO NOT tell a border agent that you use cannabis! As it is federally illegal in America, you could be banned from entering the country permanently.
It is also a fact that there are varied, and sometimes confusing, laws depending on where you live in Canada. For example, residents of Alberta are not allowed to smoke weed in cars. In Nova Scotia, you can only smoke it in areas where tobacco smoke is allowed. In Manitoba, you can buy weed online or at private retail stores. New Brunswick residents can avail of government retail stores, while those who live in Nunavut must wait until at least 2019 to purchase weed because there are no official outlets as of yet.
At the time of writing, there are many issues still to be discussed about marijuana use in Canada. For example, some provinces have yet to decide whether you can cultivate at home or where you can use it. There are certainly going to be border issues, and at present, there is no chance of individuals in prison for marijuana-related offenses receiving amnesty. Despite all of this, and the certainty of teething problems, legalization in Canada could open up the global weed market.
One Drop Can Become an Ocean
There is absolutely no question that Canada’s reform is a kick in the groin for the War on Drugs which has, frankly, been an utter failure. Canada legalizing weed is a much bigger deal than individual American states such as California doing so. Remember, marijuana remains federally illegal in the United States but will be federally legal in Canada.
This is a HUGE step in the right direction because it entails Canada sticking two fingers up to the ridiculously outdated UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a treaty signed by dozens of nations – including the United States and Canada – in 1961. Other United Nations treaties also force its members to keep weed illegal.
Countries that fail to follow these protocols could theoretically be punished in the form of sanctions. However, nothing happened to Uruguay in 2014, just like nothing will happen to Canada this year, and nothing will happen to any UN member that follows suit and legalizes cannabis. When Britain briefly decriminalized possession of small amounts of weed in the early 21st century, the UN International Narcotics Control Board did little more than admonish the UK in what amounted to a “you’re being a very naughty boy” type scolding.
Unfortunately, there is a possibility that Canada’s leap forward could result in strained relations with the existing administration in the United States. While President Trump changes his mind more than a toddler in a playground, his Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, has been consistent in his view that marijuana is responsible for everything bad that has ever happened in human history (yes, even White Girls, the only movie that rivals Reefer Madness in terms of sheer awfulness).
In June 2018, Peter Navarro, the president’s trade advisor (who calls himself ‘The Trade Guy’), copied his leader’s penchant for hyperbole by saying that Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, deserves a ‘special place in hell’, mainly because Canada wouldn’t give into America’s ridiculous demands over trade policy at the G7 Summit.
As a side note, Navarro was hired by Jared Kushner after a two-minute Google search. Jared was impressed by Navarro’s book: Death by China, a tome riddled with numerous half-truths which caused readers to wonder if Navarro understood economics at even a basic level.
For marijuana to ever regain legal status, it was necessary for a major country to act as a pioneer. With the greatest respect to Uruguay, which should be applauded for setting the tone, Canada’s decision will cause greater repercussions. Already, there is talk of Mexico embracing taxed and regulated weed. If that happens, America will be sandwiched between two large countries where marijuana is legal; and well over half the nation already has legal access to cannabis for medicinal purposes at least.
There are a number of European nations that could follow Canada and legalize marijuana in the next decade or so. Portugal led the way by implementing one of the world’s most radical drug policies in 2001, decriminalizing all drugs (in terms of being caught with small amounts). This proved to be a good decision, because it resulted in reduced deaths from heroin use, along with fewer cases of HIV. In June 2018, a bill to legalize medical cannabis products earned parliamentary approval, which suggests that full legalization may not be so far away.
The British Home Office recently announced plans to legalize medicinal marijuana products derived from cannabis. However, details remain sketchy. Over in Germany, weed is legal for certain limited medical contexts, and it is the same story in dozens of nations around the world.
Spain has an estimated 500 cannabis consumption clubs in what is one of Europe’s fastest growing marijuana communities. The Czech Republic has become known as one of Europe’s best weed hotspots because of its lax drug laws; Prague is now akin to Amsterdam in many tourist’s eyes. The Czechs also legalized medical weed in 2013, and as the herb plays a big role in its tourist industry, which its government is keen to expand upon, there is every chance that it could become legal recreationally.
Overall, there are already dozens of locations where marijuana is legal for medicinal use and countless places where a blind eye is turned to recreational use. As well as the European countries we mentioned, there is talk of nations such as Colombia, Peru, and Jamaica also following the Canadian model.
We should be grateful to the Canadian Government for allowing legalization to happen, and for Canadian citizens for accepting it more readily than their southern neighbors would. Now that a major country has seen sense, we feel it is a matter of a few years before a big European country joins the party. If and when that happens, we firmly believe that marijuana will enter a New Age.