Tomorrow, the Canadian Senate is expected to approve marijuana legalization legislation in a historic vote. The bill has the support of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and has already passed the House of Commons. Canada will become the second country in the world to legally regulate all aspects of the marijuana market – including production, sale and consumption – following Uruguay’s historic move to do so in 2013.
“Canada should be applauded for taking bold and decisive steps towards ending the failed prohibition of marijuana,” said Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Canada’s progress will galvanize support for drug policy reforms in the U.S. and all around the world.”
The Canadian Senate has been studying Bill C-45 for the past six months, and has introduced changes to the version received from the House. Once it passes in the Senate, it will be sent back to the House of Commons to approve the amendments to the bill, after which the implementation of legal marijuana will begin.
Bill C-45 allows for the possession of up to 30 grams of dried marijuana for adults over the age of 18, stipulates that marijuana must be sold in plain packaging with limited branding, and sets penalties for driving under the influence and sales to minors. Canada will have a decentralized model, which means that each province will be responsible for much of the decision-making on regulatory implementation, including matters such as home cultivation, public use, and zoning.
“Canada’s decentralized system will give provinces the freedom to tailor marijuana legalization to their local needs and contexts, allowing us to study and learn from the many different models that will emerge,” added Hetzer. “Canada should ensure that the harms of marijuana prohibition are rectified, especially by expunging people’s marijuana arrest records and by investing in communities most harmed by prohibition.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001, and Prime Minister Trudeau and his Liberal Party included marijuana legalization in their 2015 campaign platform.
Starting with Colorado and Washington in 2012, nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have now legalized marijuana for adult use. As detailed in a recent DPA report, From Prohibition to Progress: A Status Report on Marijuana Legalization, the evidence so far shows that legally regulating and controlling marijuana has enabled U.S. states to successfully set safety standards, restrict youth access, and enact regulations that limit the potential harms of marijuana use. Building on these positive outcomes, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and numerous other states are currently considering legislative proposals to legalize marijuana.