Study Says: Don’t Build a Border Wall, Legalize Cannabis Instead

Study Says: Don’t Build a Border Wall, Legalize Cannabis Instead

[Editor’s Note: If the President is telling the truth, he’s making us believe we need a wall to stop illegal immigrants. The evidence is in, we don’t. We need to legalize cannabis, that will stop the cartels.]

The president has again and again invoked the threat of drugs coming in from Mexico to justify his call for a border wall.

On Dec. 27, he tweeted: “Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country.”

Now, Trump’s demands for congressional funding to build his border wall have forced a shut-down of the federal government, and two weeks in, Congress and the White House appear no closer to breaking their stalemate. Democrats are flatly refusing the president’s demand for $5 billion to fund his pledged border wall. Republicans, in turn, are rejecting a Democratic plan for interim funding of the government while negotiations continue.

But a new report from the libertarian Cato Institute makes the case that legal cannabis is a far more effective means of combating the narco-traffic across the southern frontier. Provocatively entitled “How Legalizing Marijuana Is Securing the Border,” the study documents how cannabis seizures along the border have declined as more U.S. states have legalized. Drawing an analogy to the immigration dilemma, it urges: “Just as legalization has reduced the incentives to smuggle marijuana illegally, greater legal migration opportunities undercut the incentive to enter illegally. Congress should recognize marijuana legalization’s success and replicate it for immigration.”

Fighting the Cartels With Domestic Supply

“President Trump has repeatedly cited drug smuggling to justify a border wall,” the study states. “Because it is difficult to conceal, marijuana is the main drug transported between ports of entry where a border wall would matter. However, Border Patrol seizure figures demonstrate that marijuana flows have fallen continuously since 2014, when states began to legalize marijuana.”

The report notes that decades of enforcement efforts to reduce marijuana smuggling had not worked, until from 2013 to 2018, the Border Patrol confiscated 78 percent less marijuana.

Therefore, study author David Bier concludes: “State marijuana legalization starting in 2014 did more to reduce marijuana smuggling than the doubling of Border Patrol agents or the construction of hundreds of miles of border fencing did from 2003 to 2009. As more states… legalize marijuana in 2019, these trends will only accelerate.”

That 78 percent decline in Border Patrol pot seizures has been from 114 pounds per agent in FY 2013 to 25 pounds per agent in FY 2018. Significantly, the decline began in 2014, the same year legalization took effect in Colorado (two years after being approved by the state’s voters). Legalization was then also being phased in by Washington state. Since then, seven more states have followed.

And the apparent impacts go even further. “Total marijuana seizures by all Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies declined by nearly 2 million pounds from FY 2013 to FY 2017,” the study says. “Other drugs have not entirely substituted for this decline in marijuana. The street value of all drugs seized by the average agent between ports of entry also fell by 70 percent from FY 2013 to FY 2018.”

The study asserts a direct causal link: “State-level marijuana legalization has undercut demand for illegal Mexican marijuana, which in turn has decreased the amount of drug smuggling into the United States across the southwest border.”

The DEA has acknowledged that because it is so much more difficult to conceal than refined white powders like cocaine, cannabis is “predominately smuggled between, instead of through, the ports of entry.” Bier adds a corollary: “Without marijuana coming in between ports of entry, drug smuggling activity now primarily occurs at ports of entry, where a border wall would have no effect.”

Cannabis Policy as a Model for Immigration

Bier further argues that the same logic of undercutting illegal flows with a more tolerant approach that permits above-board activity can also be applied to immigration. He writes: “Since the imposition of strict numerical limits on legal immigration in the 1920s, federal efforts to prevent illegal immigration have been largely unsuccessful in limiting the illegal entry and residence of large numbers of immigrants, except when combined with large increases in lawful migration or a collapse in American demand for foreign workers, such as during the Great Depression.”

Today, Congress allocates more money for immigration enforcement agencies like the Border Patrol and ICE than for all other federal law enforcement agencies combined — about $187 billion from 1986 to 2013. Since 2003, the federal government has deported about 1.7 million immigrants from the interior of the country and intercepted another 10 million at the borders.

Bier sees these outlays as largely a waste: “Just as legalization of marijuana has helped secure the border against illicit entry of marijuana, making it easier for immigrant workers to live and work legally in the United States has reduced the incentive of would-be illegal immigrants to cross the border. Over the last 70 years, the number of work visas is negatively correlated with illegal entries along the border. In other words, more work visas mean fewer illegal entries.”

Yet current law offers just 5,000 green cards to lower-skilled workers and bans anyone who crossed the border illegally from applying for a green card, even with family-sponsorship.

Bier states that cannabis legalization “provides a model for addressing illegal immigration.”

The difference is, however, that the states could unilaterally legalize cannabis, in defiance of the feds. Immigration enforcement, in contrast, is an unambiguously federal responsibility. It would take uncharacteristic courage from Capitol Hill if such outside-the-box thinking were to break the congressional logjam.

TELL US, do you think Congress should enact research-based drug policies?

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New Zealand Approves Medical Marijuana, Confirms 2020 Legalization Vote

New Zealand Approves Medical Marijuana, Confirms 2020 Legalization Vote

[Editor’s Note: New Zealand, the latest country to approve medical cannabis, is now going to put a binding referendum in 2020 make adult use cannabis legal. All the more reason to go visit New Zeeland!]

Days after legalizing medical marijuana, New Zealand’s government has confirmed that a referendum on general cannabis legalization will be held in 2020. With the Green Party aggressively pushing the idea, prospects seem good for Aotearoa to follow Uruguay and Canada as the world’s third country to legalize.

New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little confirmed Tuesday that the promised referendum on cannabis legalization will be held during the archipelago nation’s 2020 election — and it will be binding. “There is a bit of detail still to work through, but we are telling the electoral commission that’s when it’s going to be,” Little told local media. “We know when it will be, we have a commitment that it will be binding, and now it is just a question on filling in the detail from there.”

Medical Marijuana Passes In New Zealand

The announcement comes one week after New Zealand’s government passed a medical marijuana bill that has been in the works for over a year, laying the groundwork for a legal cannabis industry. The Medicinal Cannabis Amendment Bill mandates changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act to be phased in over the next year. However, the law immediately provides statutory defense for the terminally ill, allowing some 25,000 in palliative care to access cannabis. “People nearing the end of their lives should not have to worry about being arrested or imprisoned for trying to manage their pain,” said Health Minister David Clarke. “This is compassionate and caring legislation that will make a real difference to people… they can use illicit cannabis without fear of prosecution.” Among the reforms mandated by the law is the removal of CBD products from classification as controlled substances altogether. Plans for legal cannabis production are especially being hailed by marginalized Maori communities on the east coast of the North Island, who hope to turn the region’s illegal commerce into a robust above-ground industry.

Police, Prosecutors Reined In

The center-left Labour Party government in Wellington simultaneously unveiled a proposal for further reform of the Misuse of Drugs Act to address the opioids crisis and curb a frightening surge of synthetic drug overdoses. The new policy calls for treating possession and consumption of illegal drugs as a public health issue while focusing enforcement on suppliers of synthetic drugs. The proposed amendments would mandate that police and judicial authorities “not prosecute for possession and personal use where a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial, or there is no public interest in a prosecution.” Meanwhile, Police Minister Stuart Nash instructed police and prosecutors to “use their discretion” in pursuing charges. “We are striking a balance between discouraging drug use and recognizing that many people using drugs need support from the health system, or education about harm reduction,” he said. “We don’t want our jails full of people with addiction problems, we want those people getting treatment.”

Green Party Support Propels Cannabis Issue

Holding a referendum on cannabis legalization is a condition of the Labour Party’s “confidence and supply agreement” with the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, which has been aggressively pushing the idea. The Green Party has a petition on its website to pressure the government on the question. After this week’s government announcement, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick said on Twitter that her party is proud the referendum will go forward. “We’ve long advocated for a binding referendum with legislation setting out a clear, evidence-based regulatory framework,” she wrote. “That way, we avoid a Brexit-type situation figuring out what a ‘yes’ vote means after the fact and cut grey moral panic from the debate.” The Cannabis Referendum Coalition also welcomed the announcement, pledging to launch a campaign to maximize turnout.

The right-wing opposition National Party is staunchly opposed to legalization, and blasted the medical marijuana law as “decriminalization by stealth.” The more populist New Zealand First party is so far noncommittal on the question.

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2018 Midterm Election Guide: 4 States Consider Cannabis Reforms

2018 Midterm Election Guide: 4 States Consider Cannabis Reforms

Ed. Note: The only way we’ll get past the racist origin of cannabis prohibition is by repealing the laws that have sprung up since the 1937 Marijuana Tax Stamp Act. They started at the Federal level and went to the state and local level. Now the states are taking care of what the federal government should have done years ago. VOTE YES!

Republicans and Democrats across the country are hoping that the upcoming midterm elections will be decisive for the country’s future at this polarized moment. But advances for the right to access cannabis are on the ballot, too. This election cycle, conservative North Dakota or swing state Michigan could be the next to legalize. Amid a degree of political confusion, solidly conservative Utah and Missouri will vote on medical marijuana.

And in swing states Ohio and Wisconsin, many localities will get to vote on non-binding measures that may nonetheless move those states closer to decriminalization or even legalization.

Regardless of the outcomes, the fact that these measures are on the ballot in these heartland bastions is testament to the fast erosion of the cannabis stigma in American politics.

North Dakota and Michigan Will Consider Cannabis Legalization

In North Dakota, a legalization measure qualified for the ballot in August, as activists collected more than enough approved signatures. Measure 3, the Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative, is a surprisingly far-reaching measure.

The language includes no limits on quantities — either for possession or cultivation. Those under 21-years-of-age in possession of cannabis, or those selling it to minors, would be treated the same as if the substance in question were alcohol. Most encouragingly, the measure would mandate a process to expunge the criminal records of “individuals with convictions for a controlled substance that has been legalized.”

Predictably, the measure faces plenty of opposition. As Marijuana Moment reports, the measure’s sponsor, LegalizeND, has been outspent by the opposition, Healthy and Productive North Dakota (HAPND), by a factor of 10-to-1. The national group Smart Approaches to Marijuana poured over $150,000 into HAPND (including “in-kind services and resources”). Nonetheless. a recent poll conducted by The Kitchens Group found 51 percent of likely North Dakota voters support passing Measure 3, while only 36 percent opposed it.

Michigan is also facing a legalization initiative, with sufficient signatures approved in April. Proposal 1, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, would allow those 21 or over to possess up to 2.5 ounces on their person, and up to 10 ounces or 12 plants at home.

Advocacy group MiLegalize is again facing a tough fight from the opposition, Healthy and Productive Michigan. But a poll last month by the Detroit Free Press found over 55 percent in support of the measure, compared to some 40 percent opposed.

Utah and Missouri Will Consider Medical Marijuana

It was a real breakthrough when promoters of a medical marijuana initiative in Utah qualified for the ballot in April.

Proposition 2, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, would allow qualified patients to obtain either herbaceous cannabis or cannabis-infused products from state-licensed dispensaries. A poll last month by the group Utah Policy showed a comfortable 65 percent lead.

But there has been some political confusion around the bill, as lawmakers were seeking to head off the ballot initiative with a far more restrictive law allowing use only of CBD preparations.

This “compromise bill” has won the support of the Church of Latter Day Saints (popularly known as the Mormons) — major conservative power-brokers in the state, who are opposing the ballot measure. If the ballot measure fails, the compromise bill could still provide some relief for patients in Utah — despite much activist skepticism about the motives behind it.

Things are more confused still in Missouri. As the Springfield News-Leader notes, Missouri voters will face three different medical marijuana proposals on their ballots: two constitutional amendments and one change to state law. All would allow dispensary sale to qualifying patients, but would vary in how sales will be taxed. Amendment 2 is supported by a group called New Approach MissouriAmendment 3 is supported by Springfield physician-attorney Brad Bradshaw; and Proposition C is supported by Missourians for Patient Care.

Under Missouri law, if multiple “conflicting” amendments or measures are approved by the voters, the one winning the greatest number of votes prevails.

Local Decriminalization Measures On the Ballot in Wisconsin and Ohio

In Wisconsin and Ohio, there are no statewide ballots on cannabis, but voters in many localities will get to cast a vote of support for cannabis legalization or decriminalization.

In Wisconsin, 16 counties and two cities face referendum questions concerning cannabis decriminalization, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. All are “advisory referendums,” and their passage would not require the state legislature to take action. But advocates and lawmakers alike are looking to them as a measure of public opinion on the question.

Voters in Wisconsin’s Dane, La Crosse and Rock counties will also get to voice their yea or nay on legalizing personal use of cannabis for adults 21 years and older. Ten counties and the City of Waukesha focus their ballot questions on medical marijuana. Eau Claire and Racine counties have included multiple questions on medical or general legalization, while the City of Racine has added an option for decriminalization.

In Ohio, voters in six municipalities will face local initiatives on decriminalization: Dayton, Fremont, Garrettsville, Norwood, Oregon and Windham. As Marijuana Moment notes, these measures won’t change state law, but will deprioritize enforcement in those localities — as well as sending a message to lawmakers.

Ohio already has a partial decriminalization, with jail time eliminated for up to 150 grams, but a 30-day sentence applicable for between 150 and 250. Possession is considered a misdemeanor in any amount. In Wisconsin, the law is harsher, with a six-month term possible for possession of any amount, and a second offense jacked up to a felony. Both states have medical marijuana programs, but the one in Wisconsin is CBD-only.

TELL US, which state do you think will be next to legalize cannabis?

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Malaysia Abolishes the Death Penalty for Cannabis Crimes

Malaysia Abolishes the Death Penalty for Cannabis Crimes

Ed. Note: As bad as it might seem in the US to many people, there are countries, predominantly in Southeast Asia where it’s death penalty time for cannabis. Good reason not to go to any of them…ever. And that’s whether you’re a cannabis consumer or not. This is good news from Malaysia, but it should never have been this way in the first place. This can all be traced back to Harry Anslinger who would have hated the Malaysians because they were Asian! Somehow this is kind of insane.

In a victory for international advocates of both cannabis and basic human rights, the government of Malaysia has announced a reprieve in the case of a medical marijuana provider who was sentenced to be hanged. This news is especially welcome, as it comes as many Southeast Asian nations are moving in the opposite direction — toward intolerant “drug war” policies and the aggressive use of the death penalty for drug offenses.

But the change to Malaysia’s penal code hasn’t happened yet, and it still remains unclear if it will come in time to save the life of the celebrated defendant.

Abolition Imminent?

Malaysia’s cabinet chief Liew Vui Keong announced on Oct. 10 that his government will seek to abolish the death penalty in the next session of the country’s parliament, which opens this week. This comes two weeks after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed (at 92, the oldest ruler of any nation on earth) called upon his cabinet to amend the death penalty statutes — in direct response to the global outcry over the death sentence delivered to cannabis oil producer Muhammad Lukman.

Hopefully, Lukman’s execution will be placed on hold while the legislative change is pending. Nurul Izzah Anwar, a parliamentarian from Mahathir’s ruling coalition, said she would write a letter to the attorney general’s office asking for the sentence to be put aside.

“From the reports, it looks to be a miscarriage of justice,” she said, according to Channel News Asia.

The announcement was applauded by Amnesty International, whose secretary general Kumi Naidoo said, “Today’s announcement is a major step forward for all those who have campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Malaysia. Malaysia must now join the 106 countries who have turned their backs for good on the ultimate cruel, inhumane, degrading punishment — the world is watching.”

Death Sentence for Compassionate Care

Muhammad Lukman was convicted and sentenced to death by a court in the city of Shah Alam on Aug. 30. He was charged under Malaysia’s unforgiving 1952 Dangerous Drug Act for possession 3.01 liters (about 100 fluid ounces) of cannabis oil and 279 grams (about 10 ounces) of compressed cannabis. As local media reported, he had been arrested at his residence in December 2015 along with his wife, who was then six months pregnant.

Lukman’s attorney argued that he was not involved in any criminal enterprise, but was collaborating with advocacy organizations such as the Gerakan Edukasi Ganja Malaysia (Malaysia Ganja Education Movement) to provide cannabis oil to the ailing. For those who were too poor to pay, it was provided for free — demonstrating that Lukman’s own operation, dubbed HealTHCare, was not a profit-making entity.

Several of Lukman’s hundreds of patients — including his mother — testified in court on his behalf. So did Professor Mohammad Aris Mohd Moklas, a neuroscience researcher from University Putra Malaysia, who presented his recent paper on cannabis and brain function, “Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Induce Neurogenesis and Improve Cognitive Performance of Male Sprague Dawley Rats.”

Lukman’s international supporters launched an online petition at demanding his freedom. It has so far been signed by nearly 70,000 people.

But there are other such cases pending. Amiruddin Nadarajan Abdullah is on trial in the city of Petaling Jaya for providing cannabis oil to as many as 800 patients, Free Malaysia Today reported in January. Again, many of his patients, including young children and grandparents, came to court in support of Abdullah, known affectionately as Dr. Ganja. If convicted, Abdullah could also face the gallows — unless the law is changed.

There are currently some 1,200 inmates on death row in Malaysia. Amnesty International is especially demanding clemency for death row inmate Hoo Yew Wah, who was arrested with a small amount of methamphetamine when he was 20 years old.

Reversing the Regional Trend: South Asia & Cannabis

What would make the Malaysian repeal of the death penalty particularly significant is that it could begin to reverse the regional trend is currently heading in a more draconian direction. Southeast Asia has one of the world’s highest execution rates. In nations such as Singapore and Indonesia, even minor drug offenses can result in a death penalty.

A 2011 report by the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, “When Justice Fails: Thousands Executed in Asia After Unfair Trials,” found that the legal systems in the region often fail to meet international standards, with mandatory death sentences imposed on the basis of confessions extracted under torture. A presumption of guilt and denial of the right to counsel are other factors that contribute to unjust trials and convictions.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s draconian “drug war” has resulted in perhaps 20,000 extrajudicial killings by police and paramilitary forces since he took office two years ago. And his grim example is being emulated by other leaders across South and Southeast Asia. Sri Lanka has announced that it will start hanging drug convicts, with leaders explicitly hoping to “replicate the success” of Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in June condemned the government of Bangladesh for the killing of suspected drug offenders by security forces. The High Commissioner was responding to reports that 130 people had been killed in three weeks and thousands arrested after the government proclaimed a “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal drugs.

Medical Marijuana for Malaysia?

There is even some reason to believe that Malaysia could go beyond mere repeal of the death penalty and actually become the first Southeast Asian nation to legalize medical marijuana. Amid the cabinet meetings to discuss abolishing capital punishment, Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar told reporters that the idea had been “very briefly” discussed.

“It’s already been done in certain countries, and in certain states in America,” Xavier said. “If it’s going to be used for medicinal purposes, it can be used. Not for social purposes, for medicinal purposes — yes, it should be allowed to be used.”

While emphasizing that the Health Ministry would have the final word, Xavier said: “My own personal view is that if it’s got medicinal value, then it can be a controlled item that can be used by Ministry of Health for prescription purposes.”

As Bloomberg notes, the only other country in the region to have broached this idea is Thailand, where the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, a unit of its Ministry of Public Health, is trying to persuade the ruling military regime to approve studying cannabis with an eye toward permitting medical use.

TELL US, do you think Malaysia should legalize medical marijuana?

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Everything You Need to Know About Canada’s Cannabis Legalization

Everything You Need to Know About Canada’s Cannabis Legalization

This morning, legal cannabis finally becomes a reality in Canada, as the Cannabis Act has finally taken effect.

However, a policy patchwork across the country’s provinces and ongoing political tussles have left many confused as to what Canada’s new legal cannabis system will actually look like. We break down some of the frequently asked questions.  

Who Can Legally Smoke Cannabis in Canada Now?

Canada’s Cannabis Act allows those 18 and older to purchase cannabis, either online or from retail stores. However, all the provinces except Quebec and Alberta have raised the minimum age to 19, to conform with the drinking age. (In the U.S., states that have legalized cannabis have an age limit of 21, also matching the drinking age.)

How Much Cannabis Can Adults Possess in Canada?

The federal law sets a 30-gram limit for sales or for possession in public. That’s just over an ounce, which is the possession limit in all but one of the U.S. states that have legalized. (In Maine, the limit is 2.5 ounces, or 71 grams). The law sets no limit on residential possession, although some of the provinces have imposed such limits. The limit for residential possession in British Columbia is set at one kilogram. (These rules also only apply to non-medical cannabis, with medical marijuana under a separate system.)

Can You Grow Cannabis at Home?

The Canadian law also allows for home cultivation of up to four plants. However, two provinces — Quebec and Manitoba — have opted to forbid home-grown. (U.S. states including California, Nevada, Alaska and Colorado allow home cultivation of up to six plants.)

Where Can You Smoke Cannabis in Canada?

That’s another tricky question. As has been noted, Quebec’s regulatory legislation would allow people to smoke cannabis in most places where cigarettes are allowed. However, in neighboring Ontario, the provincial law bans consumption in public. So theoretically, Ottawa residents could head to Gatineau, the adjacent town in Quebec, buy cannabis and walk back home smoking it — as long as they stopped halfway across the interprovincial bridge and either finished off their joint or tossed it into the Ottawa River (which would certainly be a waste).

However, many Quebec municipalities, including Montreal, have in fact opted to ban public smoking of cannabis. Gatineau is considering such an ordinance, although it hasn’t passed yet.

A similar situation is playing itself out in Alberta, with the cities of Jasper and Banff opting for more strict regulations. British Columbia is instating a similar regulatory regime.

Where Will Cannabis Be Available in Canada?

That depends on which province you are in. Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories have each implemented their own regulations, as allowed by the federal Cannabis Act, creating a policy patchwork.

In some provinces, private retail outlets will be permitted. Alberta has adopted a free-wheeling model, with an unlimited number of private dispensaries — but it seems those actually ready to open now will be clustered around Edmonton, the provincial capital.

Saskatchewan will also allow private outlets, but has imposed a province-wide limit of 51 retail permits. At least four but probably no more than 10 will open on Oct. 17.

Other provinces, including Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, have opted for a model of only government-operated retail cannabis outlets — akin to Canada’s government-run liquor stores. The newly established Société Québécoise de Cannabis (SQDCsays the plan is to open 20 storefronts “gradually” once legalization takes effect. The SQDC says 14 of these will likely be ready to open on Oct. 17, mostly in Montreal and Quebec City.

Ontario has recently flipped on this question. Initially, the province opted for a government monopoly on all retail sales. But Ontario’s administration, under the confusingly named Progressive Conservative Party (actually more conservative than progressive), announced in mid-August that it will allow recreational cannabis to be sold in private retail stores while the provincial government will handle online sales. The provincial Ontario Cannabis Store will not operate any storefronts, but will sell through its website — which will include an age-verification system “to ensure safe home delivery of cannabis products.” But things are promising to move slowly. Premier Doug Ford says the first retail outlets will not open before April 2019.

Things are also moving slowly in British Columbia. The one government retail outlet in all of the province as cannabis goes legal this month will be in the interior city of Kamloops — not even cosmopolitan Vancouver. And the old dispensaries that have been operating in a legal “grey zone” (as it is often called) may not be an option.

What About Canada’s Old Dispensaries? Will They Be Raided?

That is the big-ticket question. Especially because legal retail outlets are coming online so slowly, a black market is likely to persist for a while, at the very least. And this could mean continued harsh enforcement efforts, and even rising arrests, after “legalization.” A tolerant approach to the “grey market” dispensaries established for the medical market could be the way out of this dilemma, if only for a transitional period.

But will authorities be so enlightened? It remains to be seen, and there have been some ominous signs. September saw a police raid on a Vancouver “harm reduction center” that was offering cannabis products. Recent months have seen a string of such raids in Toronto.

Just last week, provincial police raided eight dispensaries across Quebec, making one arrest at each. All the detained citizens have been charged with possession and trafficking. The Vancouver Sun reported on Oct. 14 that British Columbia dispensaries were racing to purge their stock of “grey-market” cannabis before legalization takes effect, in hopes of getting approved to stay in business under the regulated market.

If there is a general crackdown on the “grey market” outlets before the licensed ones are widely operating, Canadians could be faced with the perverse reality of cannabis becoming less available with “legalization.”

What About People in Prison for Cannabis Offenses?

Don’t get your hopes up. One promise of Canadian legalization was that those previously convicted of possessing cannabis in the quantities covered by the new law would have their records expunged — or even be released from prison.

However, in January, the administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear such an “amnesty” would not be instated until after the federal government’s legalization framework is in place. A measure introduced by the left-opposition New Democratic Party to instate an immediate amnesty failed when Trudeau’s Liberals voted against it. No such new initiative has been introduced. Expungement may happen eventually, but it is clearly not in the cards for this year.

Alas, this was one of the many false internet rumors concerning cannabis that periodically make the rounds. In 2016, when Trudeau’s administration was just beginning to prepare the drafting of the Cannabis Act, a Facebook meme proliferated claiming that he had “freed from prison and expunged the records of every marijuana user in his country.” The rumor-busters as Snopes shot it down.

How Does Canada’s New Cannabis Law Affect the First Nations?

Yet another tricky question. The Cannabis Act doesn’t mention First Nations — only the provincial governments. And the Indian Act, the primary Canadian law governing the country’s indigenous peoples, doesn’t mention cannabis — only alcohol. So the status of Canada’s some 600 First Nations in the new cannabis order is a legal ambiguity.

Some band councils are aggressively embracing retail outlets and cultivation facilities on the reserves. Others are banning the stuff outright. Both are claiming a sovereign right to do so, no matter what Canadian law has to say. So far, the federal government is taking a hands-off approach.

So sales on indigenous reserves could also help take up the slack while the licensed retail outlets are waiting to come online.

How Much Money Is Canada’s Government Expecting to Make from Legal Cannabis Sales?

A lot. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) stated earlier this year: “We believe that by 2020, the legal market for adult-use cannabis will approach $6.5 billion in retail sales. For context, this is greater than the amount of spirits sold in this country, and approaches wine in scale.”

CIBC economist Avery Shenfeld wrote, somewhat ominously: “The bottom line is that federal [and] provincial governments might reap as much as $5 billion from legalization, but only if all the underground sales are effectively curtailed.”

The federal government is saying all revenues from legal cannabis will go into public health.

Who Is Going To Be Cultivating Canada’s Cannabis?

The Licensed Producers created for Canada’s medical marijuana system are now poised to dominate the recreational market. Leaders include Ontario-based Canopy Growth (the first “plant-touching” cannabis company to list on the New York Stock Exchange) and Aphria Inc, and Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis.

However, the Licensed Producers have been surrounded in controversy since the government mandated that they were the only legal cultivating businesses in the country, as these large-scale producers lock smaller cultivators out of the cannabis industry.

TELL US, do you support Canada’s federal cannabis regulations? Is there anything you think should change?

The post Everything You Need to Know About Canada’s Cannabis Legalization appeared first on Cannabis Now.

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