The clock is ticking down the days to cannabis legalization in Canada. The proposed Cannabis Act aims to become law by July 2018. Just a little over a year away, the anticipation is only going to build as Canadians who are ready for legalization eagerly wait for the details to be worked out. Americans will wait in anticipation as well, many hopeful that this will ignite the fire of progress towards cannabis legalization in the US. But with so many kinks to work out and red tape, what will the US do when cannabis is legal in Canada?
A Monumental Step For Canada
With Canada soon legalizing cannabis for recreational use on a national level, it will only be the 2nd country in the entire world to have done so. Uruguay actually holds the title as being the first country to legalize cannabis back in 2014. In fact, Uruguay will be the first country in the world to begin selling cannabis in its pharmacies starting in July 2017.
As Canada prepares for this long-awaited change, Americans will have to sit back and wonder when their turn will come. With a handful of states, including Colorado, having legalized cannabis already and over half of the 50 states that allow it to be used medicinally, there is certain to be a majority of Americans anxious to enjoy the same freedom.
Hope For The United States?
With Canada being the United States closest and most relatable neighbor, Americans will no doubt be paying closer attention than ever to the legalization movement taking place there. Marijuana sales in the US for 2016 were over 6 billion dollars and are likely to rise significantly over the next few years. These numbers are tremendous, considering that on a federal level cannabis is still illegal.
HBO’s John Oliver has recently chimed in on this news. With over 60 percent of Americans in favor of legalizing cannabis, he states that over time it’s something that “we’ve just all gradually decided is okay…”. Comparing it to other schedule 1 drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine, he points out how ridiculous it is that they are even in the same category.
Even a representative for Oregon, Earl Blumenauer, is speaking out on the topic. As a member of Congress’s Cannabis Caucus, he is also hoping that Canada’s law change will impact the way cannabis is classified in the US. Blumenauer, along with other members of the Cannabis Caucus, have recently presented some very progressive marijuana-related legislation. They are referring to it as “The Path to Marijuana Reform”. From cannabis being regulated on a federal level like alcohol to creating easier access of it as medicine for veterans, there is some optimism that, regardless of what changes do take place in the US as a result of Canada’s laws changing, they will be positive changes. One section in The Path to Marijuana Reform explains the hardships businesses face (such as penalties, limited access to funds and legal representation, and tax penalties from the IRS) despite the growing evidence that cannabis is an enormous benefit to the economy:
In the face of these challenges, the state-legal marijuana business sector continues to grow. In 2016 the state-legal marijuana industry produced an estimated $7.2 billion in economic activity, with marijuana businesses paying billions of dollars in federal income tax. This industry is expected to produce nearly 300,000 jobs by 2020 and grow to $24 billion by 2025. It is an undeniable fact that the legal marijuana industry is an economic driver in the United States. And every public road, bridge, school, and hospital is paid for, in part, by income taxes paid by marijuana businesses—legal under state law, but still prohibited by the federal government.
Even Canada has vested interests in the US cannabis market. Tapping in on the market here, Canadian companies are seeking to license products that they know will sell in the US. Until cannabis is legal for Americans on a federal level, Canada can expect to profit immensely from exports alone.
As It Currently Stands
For now, Americans will have to play the waiting game. While cannabis legalization in Canada is certainly going to have some kind of impact on reform for the US, it’s unclear as to what the impact will be and how soon it will take effect. Other countries, like France, are watching as well while they face possible changes to their cannabis laws with their upcoming election.
The US could benefit from observing how Canada handles implementing their new law and how they work out all of the details. If they are successful, it could help change the minds of those who are on the fence and turn the tide of marijuana reform.