On October 17, Canada made history when it became the latest country to legalize marijuana. Following Uruguay’s lead, Canada chose to end its federal prohibition on weed. Although Canada legalized medical cannabis in 2001, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spent two years pushing for the legalization of recreational use. The Canadian government action reflects society’s changing opinion of cannabis.
Canada will likely see financial benefits regarding its decision. Black market operators can now enter the regulated system, which allows the government to profit from tax revenue. Statistics Canada estimates Canadians spent $4.4 billion a year on cannabis before legalization. Researchers predict that number will continue to climb in a legal market, raising potential tax revenues. In fact, the Canadian government estimates revenues may fetch government programs as much as $1 billion.
The economic opportunities of legalization have many Americans wondering why the U.S. government doesn’t follow suit. Though both medical and recreational cannabis use is still illegal at the federal level, the United States’ marijuana market was $8.5 billion in 2017. Experts expect this number to grow to $23.4 billion by 2022 as more states move to legalization.
Growing Support Reaches New Highs
Since 2012, 9 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use. More than half of U.S. states have voted in support of medicinal cannabis. On October 17, Oklahoma became the 30th state to legalize for medical purposes.
Aside from tax revenue, states that permit recreational weed have seen a decline in crime and opioid addictions. These benefits haven’t gone unnoticed. A recent Gallup poll shows 66 percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana. While support continues to grow, so has the number of states that permit the use of medical and recreational pot. With attitudes about legalization changing, and more states permitting medical and recreational use, even more states are looking to legislation reform.
A Burning Issue for Midterm Elections
Voters in two Canadian-bordered states will have their say at the ballot in November: North Dakota and Michigan. Although the medical marijuana industry is booming in Michigan, the Great Lakes State will vote on recreational use.
North Dakota, one of the most conservative states in the country, will also sound off on recreational marijuana. Two years ago in the 2016 election, 64 percent of North Dakota’s voters favored legalizing medical cannabis.
Utah voters, who live in a state with some of the strictest alcohol laws in the country, are up against the Utah Medical Association and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to legalize medical marijuana. Yet polling shows strong support.
Missouri voters will find three different proposals all aiming to legalize weed for medicinal purposes.
Planting Seeds of Change
While not on the ballot for midterm elections, a number of other states are also looking at marijuana reforms.
Global Legalization: A Joint Effort?
It’s hard to say whether America will follow in the footsteps of its northern neighbor. As Canada works through the logistics of legalization, the U.S. will be watching to see if the grass truly is greener on the other side.