Where is Each Country Today?
Cannabis has been an evolving topic for the past few years within government policy and generally within pop culture. As the medicinal benefits of cannabis have been researched and documented, more areas have legalized it for at the very least medicinal use. However, research has also shown the safety of the substance as a non-addictive drug, and it has since been legalized all over the world recreationally as well.
Weed enthusiasts have embraced this change whole-heartedly and have taken to making trips to countries or territories where the substance is legal to sample the local wares. While Amsterdam used to be a hub for potheads everywhere since Canada legalized the substance, people have been flocking to the province for much less expensive access to a completely cannabis-friendly area. Meanwhile, the United States has notoriously confusing cannabis laws that change in every state. The different approach to the substance is an interesting juxtaposition for two countries that border one another.
Cannabis Availability in Canada
Canada has always taken a somewhat liberal approach to cannabis. It’s been legal for medicinal purposes since 2001, but in October of 2018, the substance became legal to cultivate, possess and consume. In fact, it was only the second country in the world to completely legalize the substance for recreational purposes, right behind Uruguay.
Growers naturally have to have a license, but this actually caused a few problems in terms of supply and demand. In October of 2019, a report was released saying that sales of marijuana for the first 7 months of the year were C$524 million rather than the predicted C$4.3 billion dollars. Sales weren’t as strong as the market had predicted for several reasons. First, the demand coming from the 23 million population in Ontario and Quebec was met with only 25 cannabis product outlets as of the time the report came out. Since accessibility wasn’t prioritized, the public was not as engaged with the availability and legalization of the product as the industry might have hoped.
Medical versus Recreational Marijuana in Canada
In addition, the recreational market didn’t disappear with the legalization of cannabis products in some areas, especially with the limited supply from the government stores. The costs at dispensaries and licensed vendors were almost double that of the recreational market and the limited types of products available at government stores mean that people were more likely to go find better prices. Online Dispensary Canada, a canadian weed dispensary, is one of these lower priced cannabis sources that maintains the quality, if not outperforming, of different medical cannabis sources. However, towards the end of 2019, more dispensaries were opening to meet demand and more products were becoming available, including edibles, topical products, and vaping products. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this new supply of cannabis-based products.
Cannabis Availability in the US
Technically, the sale, use, or possession of any cannabis product over .3% THC in the United States is illegal. It is still classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and in terms of federal law, it is still completely illegal to possess cannabis in almost any form. However, state-by-state laws on marijuana vary completely.
The Legalization Status of Marijuana in the USA
As of March of 2020, 33 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Thirteen of those states allow the use of restricted medical marijuana products, meaning they allow medical marijuana as a legal defense for possession in specific circumstances. For most of those states, legal medical marijuana means that with a prescription, patients can access low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD) products for the purposes of treating medical complaints. For states to have qualified comprehensive medical marijuana programs, they must have the following laws in place according to the National Conference of State Legislature:
- Patients have to be protected from illegal cries for using marijuana.
- Patients must use legal dispensaries or home cultivation for their marijuana access.
- There must be multiple strains or products, including those with more than “low THC”, available for patient use.
- It can’t be a limited trial program.
In addition, as of March 2020, 11 states have approved adult-use marijuana. This means that adults 21 and over can legally purchase cannabis products from licensed vendors, including edibles, oils, topicals, and buds, depending on the state you’re in. The laws for citizens vs. visitors are fraught and are completely different in every state. Depending on where you are you’ll want to make sure to check the rules about marijuana consumption.
America’s Black Market
Of course, the black market for marijuana is thriving in states where marijuana is not legalized and with more legal vendors opening all the time, there is more access to cannabis products even to those who don’t live in an area where it is legal. As accessibility expands to high-quality cannabis products, those who enjoy using the substance are likely going to be able to find ways of getting those products legally, either by moving to an area where they are legal or finding reliable sources on the black market. It’s likely that as marijuana becomes more acceptable throughout the United States both recreational and medicinal marijuana will become legalized in every state, at least in some capacity.
The Future of North America’s Cannabis Market
At this point, Canada has clear-cut cannabis laws while the United States has continued to see disparate laws passed in different states. It is likely that eventually, the federal government will weigh in on the issue and make a final decision that unites state-by-state policies somewhat, but for now, the laws on cannabis will change every time you cross state lines! Canada, meanwhile, has clear cut laws and policies on the subject that make it easy for citizens and tourists alike to understand the rules surrounding marijuana use.
Whether you’re a dedicated cannabis enthusiast or a person looking for cannabis-based remedies for a medical condition, there are plenty of options out there. The industry is constantly evolving both in terms of legislation and product quality and quantity. As science continues to increase its understanding of the benefits cannabis can offer, the public perception of marijuana use is likely to change as well. It will be interesting to watch how marijuana continues to influence consumers and how the demand for cannabis products changes as they become available.