Is Canada the Positive Weed Role Model We All Need?

Canada is pushing the cannabis convo forward faster than the States.

Canada just might legalize cannabis quicker, and more efficiently, than the United States.

In a sense, this should be expected. Recently elected Prime Minister/alleged stud-and-a-half Justin Trudeau is seen as progressive and open-minded when it comes to legalizing weed. When Trudeau isn’t being challenged Ice-Bucket-style to suck down limes, he’s so forward-thinking about cannabis, that he promised during his PM campaign to enact a legal framework upon which he hopes Canada will build a regulated market for recreational adult use, by 2017. 

Medical marijuana is already legal in the country that also brought the world poutine. A 2015 report showed more than 35,000 patients enrolled in Canada’s medical program.

In April, the United Nations met for a special session on global drug policy, mostly because the current prohibitionist methods are failing everywhere, according to everyone from users to researchers. At the meeting, Canada’s health minister, Jane Phillpot, reportedly said of the Trudeau administration’s commitment to fulfilling its legal weed promises: “We will work with law-enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal-justice measures. We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem.” 

Image via World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr

In the United States, where legal bud buys grew by more than 200 percent in 2015, all progressive changes in cannabis legislation have been states-based experiments of sorts. Lawmakers in weed-illegal states are watching and waiting for processes and outcomes in 420-friendly states such as Colorado, Washington, and/or (kind of) California. In Canada, proponents for legal weed have pursued a federal-first model as more conducive to scaling the industry quickly and delivering billions of dollars in expected tax revenue. 

“[Canada] currently [has] the most industrialized process for marijuana production in the world,” Toronto-based cannabis entrepreneur Alan Gertner told The Guardian. “That puts us in a position where, with the repeal of marijuana prohibition at a national level, we can build significant infrastructure and build brands and build intellectual property at a pace that’s unrivaled.”

"The space between the intention of legalization and the implementation of legalization will disappear. And everyone will start playing by the same set of rules." 

Gertner previously told The KIND that he sees many parallels between dot-com booms and the marijuana legalization movement: “The Internet came with all kinds of fascinating legal challenges and legal issues. I think cannabis will have a similar impact and outcome.”

Gertner, who claims to own proprietary strains, says his company caters to a new generation of cannabis consumer. 

Nesta Holding Co., an Ottawa, Canada-based private equity firm, purchased Wikileaf, the pot-price-comparison platform based in Seattle, Washington, for an undisclosed amount in December of last year. Two of Nesta's founders are former Tweed, now known as Canopy Growth Corp. (CGC), employees. CGC is commonly referred to as Canada’s largest and most diversified pot conglomerate. The company is said to carry a more than $200 million valuation, and operates a number of brands in the space.

Jordan Sinclair, communications manager at Tweed, still CGC's core brand, describes the Canadian cannabis movement as fast-moving. Much like in the states, entrepreneurs are operating under the assumption that weed will soon be legal for recreational use. "In two of our biggest cities, Toronto and Vancouver, there's been a surge of people opening dispensaries now that we're going to have a legal rec market in a year or two," Sinclair tells The KIND. 

"Both of those cities' politicians and city managers are now moving to fine these dispensaries (which aren't legal) to try and control how fast they're proliferating," says Sinclair. "In Vancouver, they've handed out a handful of $250 tickets to businesses. In Toronto, they haven't handed out any fines, but they've recently announced that [such fines] could be as high as $25,000 for individuals, and $50,000 for businesses."

As to the not-so-distant future, Sinclair surmises: "I think we'll have a scenario where the federal government regulates production and then each province sorts out the points of sale. The space between the intention of legalization and the implementation of legalization will disappear. And everyone will start playing by the same set of rules." 

Image via Canopy Growth Corp.

We should applaud the Great White North for taking the lead on legalizing weed from the top down, and look forward to many border-crossing, corporate-canna-collaborations to come. Also, let's hope this go-getter-attitude serves as inspiration for the Red, White, and Blue to get its ill-regulated, confusing, and not-yet-legal green act together and working properly.