Last Fall, Canada became the second nation in the world (after Uruguay) to federally legalize the possession and recreational use of cannabis amongst its citizens. In its approval of the Cannabis Act, they’ve forged a path that the United States could theoretically follow, should our country reach the threshold for federal legalization. Currently, thirty-three of our fifty states have partially or fully approved the legal use of citizens at a state level. It’s baffling that the use and possession of cannabis, which permitted (to some degree) by laws in two-thirds of our nation’s states, are simultaneously considered felonious at the federal level. This creates a number of difficulties that affect industry workers and imbibers alike. We’ll go over the most commendable components of Canada’s Cannabis Act. Should the United States follow in their footsteps one day, we’ll review their biggest steps forward – and potential pitfalls to avoid on the path toward Federal legalization.
Canada assembled and funded a federal task force – with the goal of thoroughly working through the finer points of legalization, and anticipating the implications of its passage. While the freshly enacted federal bill is thorough in its scope, it leaves many legal decisions to the jurisdiction of individual provinces and their voting public. Federally approving cannabis, with the open option for stricter state mandates, is an exceptional strategy that the United States would be wise to emulate in our own legislative efforts.
One reason for this is the deeply limited capacity of banks and financial brokers to handle even trace quantities of federally prohibited substances – or partner with businesses who do just that. Bankers and loan providers are reasonably reluctant to engage with dispensaries, as the continued federal prohibition in America leaves them culpable to legal and fiscal consequences, as federally backed establishments. Businesses centering on marijuana and related products have struggled to access and navigate issues like insurance, banking, income taxes, the leasing of business establishments – and so much more. The potential risks for cannabis retailers and their devoted staff include steep fines, asset forfeiture, jail time – and even felony charges. The lingering threat of such consequences, in conjunction with subsequent logistical limitations, can dramatically affect cannabis companies’ ability to function as businesses, by making the most fundamental business functions nearly impossible to navigate. With basic management processes complicated by pot’s legal discrepancies, it’s exceptionally difficult for growers, dispensaries and other industry businesses to meet the booming demands of the public in states where recreational weed has been legalized.
Overshadowing the Black Market
Canada’s legal age for cannabis consumption is eighteen. Meanwhile, the lowest legal age approved for marijuana use in the United States is twenty-one. In a 2017 study, approximately thirty-eight percent of surveyed American college students claimed to use cannabis – many of whom must continue to do so illegally under America’s stricter age restriction. Regardless of any individual stance on teenage pot use, prohibiting consumption among users under the age of twenty-one leaves college-aged marijuana users reliant on black market exchanges to access weed. Collegiate cannabis users are still quite vulnerable to legal and University sanctions for smoking weed.
Canada has already reaped immense benefits following their federal legalization of cannabis. If the United States wants to see a similar net gain, our legislators must focus on eliminating black market cannabis sales.
While Canada has challenged us to step up our game in many respects, no system is without its flaws. Canada could benefit from addressing a few central issues that have remained since their federal legalization was passed. The most glaring issue following Canada’s legalization is the continued incarceration of thousands of Canadians for the possession of cannabis itself, or of paraphernalia like water pipes. Thousands of Canadians’ sentences for possession and marijuana use were set prior to weed’s legalization – and despite the recent Cannabis Act passage, decriminalizing their sole offense(s), many individuals have remained behind bars for the nine long months since the October 2018 election. The nation is admittedly working hard to provide support to individuals who’ve completed their sentences, but the failure to free or otherwise address those who remain imprisoned is an inexcusable and infuriating failing for those whose lives hang in the balance. And we can’t scold Canada too loudly without calling our own practices out - despite the rising decriminalization of cannabis possession and usage, thousands of Americans similarly remain behind bars for activities which are now legal in their state.
Canada’s intensely regulated laws for the packaging of marijuana products also poses an issue to many users. Customers have complained that the generic packaging limits the clear articulation of strains and their differing effects or dosages – limiting the ability of consumers to make educated purchasing choices. Packaging laws have a respectable aim – they’re intended to prevent companies from influencing impressionable children and adolescents in favor of cannabis consumption. Nevertheless, adults seeking cannabis are struggling to find their perfect fit due to the stringency of Canada’s packaging restrictions.
Unlike the United States, Canada has impressively reduced the prevalence of marijuana on the black market so far. But many Canadian pot dealers are going down swinging – lowering their rates to edge out the legal competition. Time will tell how Canada will respond to the continued presence of marijuana’s illegal sale.
Unlike the United States, Canada has impressively reduced the prevalence of marijuana on the black market. But many Canadian pot dealers are going down swinging – lowering their rates to edge out the legal competition. Time will tell how Canada will respond to the continued presence of marijuana’s illegal sale.
710 Pipes carries all of the products you need, like JUULs and other vaporizers, water pipes, accessories and so much more! Stop by our Northglenn head shop between 8AM-10PM, seven days a week. We have two Denver pipe shops open daily from 12-8PM (11AM-9PM Thursdays through Saturdays) – on Colfax and on Evans near DU. Denver University students get 10% off with a valid student ID!
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