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Canada Senate Approves Bill To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

By Roger Malespin  photo/istock/wildpixel

In a landmark ruling in Canada, the Canadian upper house approved a bill that would lift the country’s 95-year old prohibition on recreational marijuana use by a vote of 56-30. The Trudeau government’s legislation will now go to the House of Commons, where they will decide to accept, reject, or amend the bill before it moves on to the Canadian Senate.

Most of the provisions that are up for review are minor, but some could prove to be a problem for legalization - specifically, the right to grow ‘personal amounts’ of home grown marijuana, which conservative lawmakers are united against. That aside, it is considered likely that the core aspects of the bill will pass the House, all but assuring its approval by the Senate.

So how does marijuana legislation in Canada affect legalization in the United States? There are a few ways, both direct and indirect, that it could help the already substantial momentum cannabis reform has in our nation.

First and foremost is money. The approval by the Canadian government highlights the inevitable shift towards decriminalization, and we can be sure that cannabis companies will immediately flock north to take advantage of the many benefits once the law passes - not the least of which is the ability to acquire land to grow on that cannot be regulated by the American government. 
Additionally, the billions of dollars in tax revenue that the cannabis industry is expected to bring in over the next year alone should be more than enough incentive to sway many lawmakers to the side of some form of legalization. They aren’t going to sit and watch all that money they could be making go up north for long.

Another benefit for the U.S is that Canada can be a model for how to transition smoothly into a legal cannabis market from an illegal one while dealing with the issue of states’ rights. Canadian provinces hold a good degree of power, much like each state does here. The U.S. market right now is clunky and inefficient in many ways, and seeing how Canada, a country the U.S. trusts, makes their system work is something that can be observed and followed here.

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, member of the newly-formed cannabis caucus, believes that legalization in Canada is likely to help the U.S. in three key areas - changing a 1980s-era tax provision that seriously hampers legal marijuana businesses; securing banking services for an industry that is forced to perilously operate in cash; and easing restrictions on marijuana-related research. The plight of opioid addiction, particularly among returning veterans, has become a hot button issue here in America, with many previously opposed Republicans openly supporting reforms. A nation like Canada implementing a successful cannabis program that could help veterans is something U.S. lawmakers will be watching closely.

The ruling in Canada is a wild card for the legalization movement in the U.S., but all of the realistic possibilities of how it will affect us seem positive. This is a story that all advocates and supporters of legalization should keep an eye on - we may see some of the same developments that happen there mirrored here sooner than later.