It is exhilarating to see the U.S. slowly but surely gain safe, legal access to marijuana as state after state passes adult-use laws. Already, 78 million Americans live in states where adult-use regulations are in effect, and over two-thirds of Americans have access to medical marijuana; experts believe that most of the country could have recreational marijuana dispensaries within the decade.
However, there are downsides to the manner in which the U.S. is currently proceeding with marijuana legislation. First, access is incredibly patchy: Most states allow individual municipalities to decide whether they will permit legal access to weed, meaning two people in neighboring towns might be subject to confusingly different laws regarding cannabis possession and use. Secondly, even as states legalize adult-use marijuana, the Federal Government continues to consider cannabis a Schedule I drug and has the power to prosecute minor drug offenses, like transporting bud over state lines — even if a user is traveling from one adult-use state to another.
The United States needs to seriously consider the importance of passing Federal legislation making adult-use marijuana accessible to all Americans — and thankfully, it has Canada to look up to. Here are a few lessons from Canada’s experience nationally legalizing weed, so Americans can do it even better.
Be Honest About Past Misconceptions and Mistakes
In the 1900s, most countries developed various domestic policies against marijuana and signed international agreements prohibiting the legalization of illicit drugs for recreational purposes (https://www.vox.com/). In becoming the second nation to permit adult-use weed, Canada is in direct violation of these treaties — but that is exactly what Canadian citizens wanted. With this legislation, Canadians are recognizing their past mistakes with regards to opinions and enforcements on cannabis policy. They are shedding their outdated ideas on marijuana and moving forward to benefit communities and the country as a whole.
Do Due Diligence to Ensure Productive and Proactive Legislation
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a plan to legalize cannabis since first being elected to his position in 2015 — but he didn’t push for legislation as soon as he stepped into office. Instead, he organized a government task force to research the best marijuana policies in depth before bringing anything to congress. As a result, Canada’s regulations are incredibly comprehensive, anticipating many issues that American states failed to consider in their cannabis laws. For instance, Canada’s tax levels are more balanced than states like California and Washington (https://taxfoundation.org), ensuring that more people have realistic access to cannabis products. By devoting time and energy to methodical policy-making, Canada has found more acceptance and greater success in its legalization efforts.
Leave Some Authoritative Decision-making to Local Government
There is a reason some U.S. states have legalized recreational weed and some have not: Different regions have different cultures. Canada accepted this in its own cannabis policy, giving individual provinces power to fine-tune their regulations to suit their unique populations. For example, Ontario has only government-run dispensaries, but Newfoundland only has privately owned weed shops. This ensures that legislation reflects the values of distinct regions and caters to individual needs and interests.
Relax Regulations on Branding and Product Availability
While most lessons from Canadian cannabis legalization have been examples of what the Great White North did right, here is a lesson based on something Canada did wrong. In an effort to prevent cannabis companies from appealing to children, regulators strictly control branding and packaging to the extent that almost all marijuana products look identical in black or white containers with warning labels. Unfortunately, this has caused mass confusion amongst cannabis users, who can’t always tell from the outside what a product is, let alone what it does or how to use it properly. Sometimes, marketing is a valuable tool for communicating with customers, and both Canada and the U.S. should consider giving companies like https://godbud.net/ more freedom in packaging and advertising.
Forgive and Forget Marijuana Criminal Records
Another example of a Canadian shortcoming is with respect to its treatment of cannabis convicts. Currently, there are over 500,000 Canadians with cannabis-related criminal charges; instead of developing a system for expunging a certain level of cannabis conviction, Canada merely suspends those records, and individual convicts need to apply for individual pardons. As a result, those with marijuana-related charges and their communities continue to suffer despite the legalization of the drug. In this case, Canada can learn from American states like Illinois, which built social justice into their legalization efforts (https://mjbizdaily.com/).
Undoubtedly, Canada is just the first major economic power to legalize cannabis. Though the nation’s drug policy isn’t perfect, it does lay the groundwork for other countries, especially the U.S., to follow with marijuana regulations of their own.