From the valleys of ancient China to contemporary music videos, cannabis has been present across different eras and in different cultures throughout history. But despite its omnipresence, its use still remains a taboo subject in most of the world. Nevertheless, recent legislation in various parts of the world, such as the recent laws passed in Canada, may bring about a paradigm shift.
The Canadian government is set to legalize recreational marijuana by October of this year – a move that would make the country the second in the world to fully permit the legal use of marijuana, after Uruguay. Additionally, it would put Canada on course to become the first G7 country to fully legalize recreational marijuana use. Other countries like Spain, Colombia, Denmark, and Australia have laws restricting marijuana use, but these are seldom enforced.
It will be up to Canada’s provincial governments to decide how the drug will be sold and at what price. While the federal government will stipulate that buyers must be at least 18 years old, provinces will be able to set a higher age limit and other restrictions if they wish.
Most analysts have estimated the country’s cannabis industry could eventually be worth somewhere between C$5 billion and C$7 billion annually. Those who oppose the measure are mainly concerned that legalization will bring about problems at the border. The current US administration has hinted that the Department of Justice will do more to implement restrictions on recreational marijuana, and that border agents will continue to enforce federal law.
Despite the Department of Justice’s tough stance, marijuana is still legal in nine US states, where results have been vastly positive.
Recent data from the US Department of Health polled for marijuana usage among students in grades six, eight, ten, and twelve. In Washington State, the results of the survey showed decreased usage by students in all four grade levels. For example, students in the tenth grade responded at a 17 percent usage rate in 2016, compared to rates of 20 percent in 2010. Similar decreases in usage among teens were observed in Colorado, with 21 percent reporting usage in 2015, down from 22 percent in 2011.
What’s even more encouraging is how the new legal market is expected to lead to an economic boom. Both Colorado and Washington have experienced tremendous growth in the cannabis business in the years since each state transitioned to fully legalized recreational markets. The emerging industry took in nearly $9 billion in sales in 2017 and it’s constantly creating businesses, jobs, and revenue.
The data clearly shows that regulations are easier and more effective and efficient than a ban but it must be understood that drug-use, accessibility, and public welfare are sensitive matters, and laws concerning them must be drafted and implemented with great care.
Right now it’s far too early to tell whether or not other countries will follow in Canada’s and Uruguay’s footsteps to legalise recreational marijuana. For now, the best thing we can do is understand and educate ourselves about drug-use and its consequences and learn from other nations’ experience with legalisation.