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Here’s When Canada’s Legal Marijuana Sales Will Begin

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Marijuana will officially be legal in Canada on October 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a speech before the House of Commons on Wednesday.

His minister of health also tweeted the news.

The announcement comes one day after the Senate passed the government’s legalization bill, C-45, in a 52-29 vote, with two abstentions. After about a year of studies and debate over the legislation, the Senate ultimately accepted the amended bill, which was previously approved by the House of Commons, 205-82, on Monday.

The passage represents the fulfillment of a major campaign promise from the Liberal prime minister. Trudeau has argued that the establishment of a regulated cannabis system would prevent underaged youth from accessing marijuana and also deprive criminal organizations of profits from black market sales.

Trudeau held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the legalization bill and other pieces of legislation.

The prime minister confirmed the October 17 date to establish the country’s recreational marijuana system, citing the need to provide provinces with sufficient time to develop their own regulatory programs. He also fielded questions about the implications of the home grow provision, the prospect of pardoning former marijuana offenders, and the supply side of the country’s legal marijuana industry.

“I want to remind everyone that the reason we are moving forward on the legalization of marijuana is to better protect our kids, to better protect our communities and to remove the profits from the pockets of organized crime. Obviously the current approach—the current prohibition on marijuana—has not worked to protect our kids, to keep the money out of the pockets of organized crime—and that’s why we’re bringing in a new legalized framework around marijuana.”

Asked whether he expected “chaos” or an orderly rollout of the program on October 17, Trudeau said he was confident that “[i]t will be a smooth success.”

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould cautioned Canadians to refrain from indulging in cannabis use until the law is officially implemented at a press conference on Wednesday, The Times Colonist reported.

“I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force.”

There is one final step before the marijuana legalization bill is officially sanctioned: Royal Assent. Governor General Julie Payette, a representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, must also sign off on the legislation. Victoria Deng, communication advisor for Liberal Sen. George Furey, told Marijuana Moment that the Royal Assent ceremony will take place on Thursday at 9:30am ET.

There have been calls from legalization advocates and certain lawmakers to follow up on the cannabis reform bill with legislation that grants amnesty for Canadians previously convicted of marijuana offenses. But those conversations are on hold, pending the implementation of the recreational marijuana system, Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government’s point person on cannabis legalization, said.

New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Don Davies attempted to get unanimous consent for a measure to “immediately provide pardons for those burdened by criminal records for cannabis offenses that will soon be legal” on Wednesday, Globe and Mail reporter Laura Stone tweeted.

“The motion did not receive unanimous consent, and failed,” she said.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Trudeau said that the government would look at the possibility of amnesty after the new law takes effect but that “[t]here’s no point in looking at pardons while the old law is on the books.”

How we arrived at this historic moment.

It’s been a long, winding road to legalization in Canada, which is set to become the first G7 nation to fully legalize marijuana. The first reading of the bill in the House of Common took place more than a year ago, in April 2017. It’s since gone through rigorous debate, with multiple committees submitting reports that offered recommendations and outlined concerns about the legislation.

One of those issues concerned international travel for Canadians who use cannabis. Conservative lawmakers said that Canadians who admitted to consuming marijuana would be at risk of being permanently barred from entering the United States, where marijuana is federally illegal. The Canadian government issued guidelines emphasizing that traveling across international borders with cannabis will remain illegal under the new law.

More recently, the Senate proposed 46 amendments to the bill—including one that would allow individual provinces to ban home cultivation. The House rejected that proposal and 12 other amendments, sending it back to the Senate for a final, decisive vote. Numerous Conservative senators voiced opposition to the bill—and Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan offered up an amendment to include the home grow provision only to be shut down in a 35-45 vote, with one abstention.

And with that, the bill came to a standing vote on Tuesday. Here’s what it would accomplish.

The Cannabis Act legalizes the possession, use, cultivation and sale of marijuana for adults 18 and older. Individuals will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and grow up to four plants.

The bill also outlines criminal penalties for illegal distribution and sales of cannabis, crossing international borders with cannabis and possession over the legal limit.

Canada’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Gets Final Approval From Lawmakers

Photo courtesy of Christopher Policarpio.

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Kyle Jaeger is an LA-based contributor to Marijuana Moment. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE, and attn.

Culture

Border Patrol Reflects On Feds’ Friendlier Historical Approach To Marijuana

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Canada’s decision to legalize marijuana nationwide has stoked concerns that its citizens traveling across the U.S. border will risk temporary detention or even permanent visitation bans if they fess up having ever consumed cannabis, or even working in the industry.

Enforcement officials have told reporters that there’s no travel policy change in light of Canada’s end of prohibition, emphasizing that it remains illegal to bring cannabis across the border under federal law. Violating the policy “could potentially result in seizure, fines, and apprehension,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a recent statement.

But let’s take you back to a simpler time, courtesy of CBP.

“Did You Know… Marijuana Was Once a Legal Cross-Border Import?”

That’s the title of a 2015 blog post published by the federal agency—which seems to have gone mostly unnoticed until now—recalls how cannabis was historically recognized as a legal import by the government.

“One hundred years ago, the federal government was not overly concerned with marijuana, the common name for the Cannabis sativa L. plant,” the feds’ post reads.

Through the mid-1930s, the plant flew under the government’s radar, despite the fact that “several state governments and other countries had banned the drug.”

“The U.S. government hesitated, in part because therapeutic uses of Cannabis were still being explored and American industry profited from commercial applications of hemp fiber, seeds and oil.”

That all changed in the decades to come—first with the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, which imposed taxes and regulations on cannabis imports, cultivation, distribution and possession, and then with full prohibition under the Nixon administration.

Up until that point, the Customs Agency Service (later rebranded as CBP) didn’t put too much stock in pot. Just before the Marihuana Tax Act passed, the agency described its cannabis policy here:

“Marihuana may be cultivated or grown wild in almost any locality. Inasmuch as this drug is so readily obtained in the United States, it is not believed to be the subject of much organized smuggling from other countries.”

It seems like pretty basic supply and demand, but federal prohibition changed the equation. Suddenly, marijuana wasn’t “so readily obtained” in the country—and even simple possession carried serious criminal penalties—so the legal supply dried up. In the absence of legal access, criminal organizations swooped in to meet the demand for marijuana in the United States.

Ergo…

“Today, however, marijuana trafficking is a major concern of CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration,” CBP wrote. “Well over 3 million pounds of ‘pot’ were confiscated at our borders in 2011, making an impact on this multibillion-dollar illegal enterprise.”

The more you know!

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Here Are The DEA’s Newest Slang Terms for Marijuana: ‘Shoes,’ ‘My Brother’ And More

Photo courtesy of Gerald Nino, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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Why Congressional Democrats Deleted Their Anti-Marijuana Tweet

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A Democratic organization tasked with regaining the party’s control of the U.S. House of Representatives tweeted a bizarre anti-marijuana attack on a politically vulnerable Republican congressman this week, but the group meekly walked back the comments after being called out about it…by me and some of the lawmakers it represents.

It started with a tweet, posted on Monday by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

“GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher…has a ‘cult-like fixation on marijuana,'” the supposedly progressive group tweeted, quoting an article from conservative magazine National Review bashing the California congressman.

“It’s why [Democratic opponent] @HarleyRouda needs your help flipping this seat Clinton won from #RedToBlue,” the party organ added.

I was immediately struck by the tweet when I saw it minutes after it was posted. The vast majority of Democratic voters support marijuana legalization, as do all of the party’s U.S. senators who are thought to be weighing 2020 presidential campaigns.

Whenever Rohrbacher’s amendment to protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference has reached the House floor, the overwhelming majority of Democratic lawmakers have consistently voted for it.

“There are a lot of reasons why Democrats and progressives would wish for Rohrabacher to lose his reelection fight, aside from the fact that ‘flipping this seat from red to blue’ could make the difference in determining which party controls the House come January. But marijuana is not one of them,” I wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Thursday.

“The Democratic committee could have highlighted Rohrabacher’s position that homeowners should have the right to refuse to sell property to gay people — something mentioned by National Review in the same sentence as that cannabis quip. Or his position on climate change. Or healthcare.

“Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who has cosponsored many marijuana measures with Rohrabacher, told me in an emailed statement that the campaign committee’s tweet was ‘stupid,’ adding that he expressed those sentiments directly to the organization itself.”

Hours after the publication of my piece, DCCC has deleted the offending tweet, without comment.

In addition to Blumenauer’s public blasting of the organization’s tweet in my op-ed, at least one other Democratic congressman raised the issue during the party’s House Steering and Policy Committee on Thursday, a lawmaker who was in the room, but wished not to be named, told me.

“Pure bad karma and politics,” the legislator said, of the DCC tweet.

Indeed, beyond just Democrats, a growing majority of voters overall, as well independents and even Republicans specifically now support legalization.

California’s 2016 legal cannabis measure won by a significant margin in Rohrabacher’s district, so it’s somewhat of a mystery as to why Democrats thought attacking him over his leadership on the issue was a smart strategy to win back the seat.

Rohrabacher himself seemed to revel in the Democrats’ stepping in it and having to walk back their attack.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz chimed in, too.

One fun note that I didn’t have space to include in my LA Times op-ed is the fact that DCCC’s own chairman, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), himself voted three times on the House floor in favor of Rohrabacher’s medical cannabis amendment and even backed a broader measure from Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) that would have protected state recreational marijuana laws from federal interference.

Democrats should be campaigning on, instead of attacking, marijuana law reform.

Unless they want to remain the minority party.

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Major Alcohol Association Endorses States’ Rights To Legalize Marijuana

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For the first time ever, a major alcohol association has come out in support of ending federal marijuana prohibition so that states can legalize cannabis without interference.

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) announced “an official policy position in favor of a state’s right to establish a legal, well-regulated, adult-use cannabis marketplace,” in a press release on Thursday.

The announcement represented a significant departure from the association’s past statements on marijuana reform. Just two years ago, WSWA said in a sponsored advertisement that it was “neutral on the issue of legalization,” going on to caution congressional officials about the “dangers associated with the abuse and misuse of marijuana,” including drug-impaired driving.

Now the alcohol trade group is singing a different tune.

“The legal cannabis market continues to expand in the United States, generating $7.2 billion in economic activity in 2016,” Thursday’s press release reads. “WSWA believes that, similar to alcohol, the federal government should give states the power to legalize cannabis, but should ensure they meet an appropriate regulatory threshold.”

“Eight decades ago, Americans acknowledged that the Prohibition of alcohol was a failed policy. The state-based system of regulation, adopted after Prohibition, created a U.S. beverage alcohol market that is the safest, most competitive and best regulated in the world.” — WSWA Acting Executive Vice President for External Affairs Dawson Hobbs

WSWA went on to outline 13 policies it recommended for states that legalize recreational marijuana.

  • A minimum age of 21 for purchase, possession and use, along with penalties for providing cannabis to minors;
  • Establishment of Driving Under the Influence impaired driving standards;
  • Licensing of producers, processors, distributors and retailers; Policies to prevent vertical monopoly/integration;
  • Hours and days of sale parity with beverage alcohol;
  • Tax collection and enforcement; Measures to prevent diversion of cannabis to other states;
  • Restrictions on sale/common carrier delivery;
  • Labeling requirements that include potency and health requirements;
  • Testing of formulas to ensure product purity and consistency;
  • Advertising restrictions designed to discourage underage access and promote responsible consumption;
  • Restrictions on health claims on packaging;
  • Establishment of a designated agency overseeing cannabis industry regulation in each state;
  • Penalties for licensee violations on par with the state’s alcohol regulations;
  • and Regulations that ensure all products in market can be tracked/traced to source processor/producer.

So what changed from two years ago?

While the group’s sudden embrace of local cannabis legalization efforts might strike some as odd given the intrinsic, competitive dynamic that’s developed between alcohol and marijuana interests, one aspect of the press release reveals how the broader booze industry could stand to profit:

“Legalization should include regulations that set age restrictions on buyers, as well as license and regulate the supply chain of cannabis, including growers, distributors, retailers and testing laboratories.” [Emphasis added.]

In other words, marijuana legalization might take a bite out of alcohol sales—as recent studies have shown—but the cannabis industry has diverse roles for various players to fill. Ancillary operators such as distributors now working under the current three-tier model for alcohol could be used in states with legal, regulated marijuana markets.

Hobbs denied that the association was trying to help the alcohol industry cash in on legal cannabis during an interview with Fox Business on Thursday.

“No, what we’re talking about is just creating a pathway for states to have federal recognition of legalization by enacting appropriate regulation that creates a safe and reliable marketplace,” Hobbs argued. He also said that the association wouldn’t be lobbying Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take action on federal marijuana policy, but rather the group’s focus would be on Congress.

Marijuana Moment reached out to WSWA for comment, but a representative was not immediately available.

What remains to be seen is whether other alcohol associations will follow suit. After all, a handful of alcohol interests, including the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association and the Boston Beer Company donated to campaigns opposing legalization efforts during the 2016 election.

With this latest development from a major alcohol association, it seems the industry is conceding: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Cuomo Administration Report Backs Marijuana Legalization In New York

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