The legalization of cannabis, either as a medicine or for recreational consumption, isn’t just a hot topic in the US. Other countries are facing the same demands from their populations: to legitimize and decriminalize cannabis. What has been interesting is the different approaches countries have taken in tackling this issue. Here in the US, the marijuana movement has been predominantly at a State level, but is there a better way to do this? Let’s take a glance at what our friendly northern neighbors are up to with cannabis in Canada.
The Federal Approach
The biggest difference in how Canada is handling cannabis is that they chosen to start at the top and then work downwards. Canada tackled the issue of cannabis as a country first, working towards providing structure and guidance to each province to round out their marijuana programs to best fit their own populace and economic needs. While the first attempt at regulating marijuana came into being in 2001, there have been many changes since then in regards to fine tuning the program to keep making it better. The latest news is that Canada is on track to make cannabis legal across Canada for adult use by July of 2018, putting it on track to be the second country in the world opting for complete legalization.
Because legalization is working from the top down, federal agencies are involved from the very beginning. Health Canada (sort of like the US’s FDA) issues the licenses for growers and distributors. This doesn’t mean that they won’t need business licenses in their home provinces, but the fact that the rules are the same across the country puts every ganjapreneur on relatively even footing. Their agricultural department is involved, supporting and helping the government to put together beneficial guidelines to help improve the industry. Local law enforcement is receiving guidance from national agencies, uniting local agents and providing valuable input on how to regulate such a system.
One of the biggest problems here in the US is that while some states are embracing cannabis, the country has not, despite a recent Gallup poll suggesting 60% of Americans support legalization. This means that because marijuana is still federally illegal, cannabis businesses are extremely limited. Federal banks cannot deal with them, large ad agencies don’t want to touch them, and most landowners won’t work with them. Marijuana as an industry has grown exponentially despite these serious limitations. What we are seeing in Canada is that because it is supported on a national level, these cannabis companies are able to play on the same business fields as other industries. They can work with national banks for loans and services and are also able to be publicly traded. Their potential for growth is much less inhibited than their US counterparts.
While the legalization of cannabis is not a new issue, it has been interesting to see how each country around the world has gone about tackling it. Countries such as Uruguay, where cannabis is legal, and soon-to-be legal Canada will be leaders in this global trend. Whether they intended to be or not, countries like Canada will be looked upon as an example of cannabis legalization.
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