Legislation permitting the possession, use, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis takes effect this Wednesday, October 17.
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri is hailing the policy change. “We applaud Canada for showing legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy,” he said. “America’s leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, and similarly replace our archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status.”
Canada is only the second country in the world to explicitly legalize cannabis production and sales nationwide.
The Act, Bill C-45, permits those age 18 and older to legally possess (up to 30 grams) and grow cannabis (up to four plants of any size per household). Individual provinces possess the authority to enact additional regulations with respect to distribution, such as raising the legal age limit to purchase cannabis or by restricting home grow operations.
The Act also federally licenses commercial producers of cannabis and certain cannabis-infused products, while permitting provinces to regulate retail sales in public (government operated) and private stores, subject to local rules. Online cannabis sales will also be permitted in certain provinces.
While fewer than 200 total retailers are anticipated to be operational on day one of the new law, additional facilities are anticipated to be operational in the near future. Cannabis-infused edible products are anticipated to be regulated and available at retail stores early next summer. The new social use regulations do not amend Canada’s existing medical marijuana access laws, which have been in place since 2001.
The enactment of the new law fulfills a campaign pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised shortly after taking office to legalize and regulate the marijuana market. Prime Minister Trudeau, who formerly opposed legalization, cites a 2012 meeting with NORML members as the impetus for changing his position on the issue.
In anticipation of the law change, the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection Agency published a memorandum in September affirming that those Canadians either involved or invested in the legal cannabis industry may be barred admission into the United States. The agency later updated their policy directive on October 9, 2018, acknowledging: “A Canadian citizen working in … the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the US for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the United States. However, if a traveler is found to be coming to the US for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”
NORML criticized the agency for its stance. NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “Those thousands of Canadians participating in the legal cannabis industry pose no threat to the US and should not face discrimination or additional scrutiny,” he said. “At a time when public opinion and the culture surrounding marijuana is rapidly shifting, not just in the United States but around the world, it is inane for US border officials to maintain such a backward-looking policy.”