Marijuana in Canada – Changing Laws and Greener Pastures

Weed in Canada
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America’s northern neighbor has been legally handling marijuana use differently than the U.S., recognizing the medicinal value of the plant at the national level for over fifteen years. In April, the Prime Minister and head of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, introduced legislation fulfilling a campaign promise to fully legalize marijuana in Canada.

Canada will join Uruguay and Portugal, two other nations of the world who have seen it in the public interest to legalize marijuana fully. Canada, however, has entered the global stage, touting marijuana reform as a humanitarian and economic effort to deter crime and protect public health and safety. While there are hundreds of countries across the world, Canada remains one of the world’s most economically and diplomatically developed nations on the globe. This positions the Canadian foray into full-tilt marijuana legalization as potentially the most influential sign of progress in reforming marijuana laws and perceptions on a global level.

Legalization, however, puts Canada at risk of violating international treaties. Canada, alongside over 100 other countries, has signed various treaties relating to harmful narcotics. The first version of the treaty, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as well as the subsequent 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances each recognize marijuana (aka cannabis) as a narcotic substance. Though it seems unlikely the global community would react to legalization of marijuana in Canada, this may present issues in how the program is ultimately formed and regulated.

As Canada remains one of the world’s leading countries, the Group of Seven members has the ability to inspire culture internationally, focused on their social equity in developed countries (after all, Canadians are known for being nice). Though other countries may furrow their brow at the breach of international treaties posed by going forward with legalization, the value of proposing to all organized society there is a better way to handle marijuana and its products has the potential to shift perception and even change medicine.

The Cannabis Act – Introduced April 13th, 2017

Expected to be implemented with sales beginning no later than July 1st, 2018, the Canadian government is pushing the Cannabis Act through Parliament. The bill would broadly allow adults 18 years and older to buy and possess marijuana in Canada. The law would leave Provinces with the authority to adjust the purchase age, similar to how alcohol laws were developed across the country. In British Columbia, for instance, the drinking age is 19 whereas neighboring Alberta is 18.

While the regulatory process will look different in each province, the law as introduced would allow adults 18 and older the following:

  1. Possess as much as 30 grams of dried legal marijuana in public.
  2. Share as much as 30 grams of dried marijuana with adults 18 or older.
  3. Purchase fresh marijuana or cannabis oil from a regulated seller. If no regulatory framework is in place, users may purchase marijuana from a federally licensed distributor to be delivered by mail.
  4. Grow as many as four (4) plants per residence. None can be more than one (1) meter in height and the seeds must come from a licensed supplier.
  5. Make marijuana-infused products at home, such as edibles and oils, given no dangerous solvents are used.

The law would create two new crimes related to supplying marijuana to persons under 18. After the law is passed, selling or otherwise giving marijuana to a person under 18 or using a person under 18 in a marijuana-related crime will be new offenses with up to a 14-year maximum sentence. The harsh penalties for supplying youths with marijuana assumably are aimed to dissuade the 1/5th of Canadians age 15-19 who use marijuana from being able to as easily acquire it. According to Health Canada, Canada has one of the highest rates of youth marijuana use in the developed world, so the Cannabis Act would enforce greater penalties on adults who may supply marijuana to teens, deterring youth marijuana use directly.

The Canadian Marijuana Consumer – An Analysis

Smoking Weed in Canada
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The potential value of legalization of marijuana in Canada has been estimated at $22.6 billion by Deloitte, a private advisory and consulting firm. This estimate includes direct sales revenues, as well as ancillary markets (growers, manufacturers, laboratories, and security) and potential increases from tourism, taxes, fees, and the sale of smoking devices and paraphernalia.

The study was done by surveying 5000 Canadians age 19 or older across the country regarding their cannabis use. Research suggested only 14% of Canadians use cannabis on a monthly basis (excluding medical marijuana patients), while 8% use marijuana occasionally (such as with friends). 11% of those surveyed used marijuana weekly, while 17% of participants surveyed indicated they may use it if it were legal. In total, the survey suggests 39% of Canadians are willing to use marijuana, with 28% of users consuming weekly.

The study revealed legalization of marijuana in Canada is favored by only 40% of the country, with over 1/3rd of the nation opposed to legalization. Even so, 59% of participants indicated marijuana use is the same or less harmful than alcohol. Millennials, in particular, are the generation least likely to abstain from using marijuana, with 22% indicating they use marijuana monthly – 8% more than the national average.

In Canada, daily marijuana users and occasional consumers were shown to prefer joints, whereas weekly marijuana users prefer bongs or pipes. Interestingly, monthly users showed a preference for vaporizers. As the Cannabis Act would revise the federal law and set up a framework for the growth, processing, and sale of marijuana, where the product will be sold remains undetermined. Research suggests 29% of consumers prefer private, dispensary-style retailers to get marijuana from whereas those who do not use marijuana find pharmacies or government-owned retailers as the preferred place where marijuana should be sold.

80% of Canadian marijuana consumers rarely, if ever, consume marijuana and alcohol simultaneously, suggesting marijuana and alcohol are largely viewed as two fundamentally different recreational experiences.

Canada’s Global Reach in a Growing Industry

In the U.S., federal law restricts states with medical or recreational marijuana programs from exporting marijuana to other states or nations. With their medical marijuana program recognized at the federal level, Canada has been able to develop international business relationships which supply hemp, medical marijuana, and related products all over the world.

By advancing the marijuana industry in Canada, the country has the potential to supply medical marijuana to the international medical marijuana community. Canadian medical marijuana producers are on the frontline as international medical marijuana exporters, positioning their brands and products uniquely on a global stage as research of marijuana, cannabinoids, terpenes, and the various medical benefits are further understood and accepted across the earth. For instance, Tilray, a Canadian medical marijuana producer, already exports marijuana from Canada to Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Croatia, and Brazil.

With more countries each year beginning to recognize the potential medical value of the plant, the entry into the international marijuana export market by companies growing marijuana in Canada gives them a distinct advantage on the world stage – simply for being there before the rest. Vice News reports the global marijuana trade is valued near $200 billion – with half of that from medical marijuana. If producers of medical marijuana in Canada can create strong relationships with medical companies across the globe, a fat slice of the $100 billion dollar pie is almost unavoidable.

Canada’s approach to marijuana has the potential to define global medical marijuana standards while their domestic approach will potentially limit marijuana use by children, remove black market sales, and create jobs and taxes.

Article By: Joey Wells


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Joey Wells
Joey is a freelance writer and digital marketer based out of Denver, Colorado. He has been a contributing writer in the cannabis industry for nearly two years. In his time in the cannabis space, he has written on economics, taxes, regulations, law, and medical or scientific research.