Marijuana Lessons for Canada: The USA vs Portugal vs Netherlands

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The following article is a guest post by my friends over at omqlaw.ca. Make sure to check out their incredible infographic at the bottom of the page. 

Marijuana legalization has been a hot topic in the past decade. With a number of countries already legalizing marijuana in some form, Canada is now pursuing the legalization of recreational marijuana in spring of 2017. But, as other countries can attest, the process to streamlining and implementing legalization is full of struggles.

There already exists a marijuana ecosystem of producers, medical marijuana users, and illegal storefront dispensaries in Canada that will be affected. And because of this, issues surrounding growth practices, quality assurance, and personal legal amounts will be more scrutinized than ever.

Canada’s Messy Marijuana Situation

Right now, though, Canada is in such a state of flux that it’s too early to tell how things will turn out. For one thing, the only way in which the substance can be legally acquired is through medical use. The MMPR (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) is Canada’s current marijuana program that sets the rules for marijuana providers and users across the country. Only those who are medically prescribed to use marijuana can obtain it legally with a prescription and by registering with a licensed producer, who is licensed and monitored by Health Canada.

However, the regulations haven’t put a stop to pro-marijuana entrepreneurs from setting up illegal dispensaries as an alternative “medical” marijuana source with lax policies. Vancouver and Toronto, for instance, account for the majority of illegal dispensaries in Canada. To exercise control over these, municipal officials are fining dispensary owners for violating by-laws that range from lacking business permits to unauthorized production locations. All this risk is taken in anticipation of cashing in on the future marijuana market.

Yet, before that dream market can happen, the criminal drug offences associated with marijuana possession and usage still have yet to be sorted out. Currently, smaller marijuana providers and recreational users may be unaware of what’s legal (or illegal). Questions abound. How much can you legally possess? If caught driving under the influence of marijuana, what will the penalties be? Will smoking marijuana in public be legal?

With policies on these issues yet to be officially resolved, regulated or modified, users and producers are consuming and growing marijuana at their own risk.
Canada’s Marijuana Future In The Balance

The main platform for legalizing marijuana in Canada is targeted and based on public health and safety. Since making the announcement, the government’s next step has been to develop a regulatory and realistic framework.

Ideally, the goal is to legalize marijuana (regulation and taxation) while enforcing penalties for illegal activities. This means also investing resources into programs to educate the public, extending pardons to convictions for related charges, and coordinating with local governments on regulations.

That being said, this leads us to one question: With the country’s current state and the Liberal government’s goals, what can Canada expect? From municipal by-laws and regulating access to quality control and production restrictions, Canada has a long way to go.

Thus, the best Canada can do right now is to look to other countries that have already legalized the substance. This includes countries like the USA, Portugal, and the Netherlands.

Looking Around To Look Forward: The USA vs. Portugal vs. Netherlands

We took a look at the laws in a few common areas: possession, growing, buying, and usage. These are crucial to fleshing out Canada’s future marijuana ecosystem. What types of laws have these countries implemented?

We can certainly try mapping out the marijuana landscape by exploring what’s going on in these 3 countries. For example, in the US, users are allowed to smoke marijuana, while Portugal considers consumption an addiction. The Netherlands allows people to grow a certain number of plants, but in Portugal, it’s illegal to grow any plants at all. And while people can only smoke marijuana in cannabis coffee shops in the Netherlands, in Portugal you can only smoke it discreetly, away from the public. These legal issues are as realistic a picture as Canada can expect for itself.

But let’s take an even closer look. The below infographic provides you with a visual overview of the state of Marijuana legalization in the USA, Portugal, and the Netherlands.

Marijuana Lessons for Canada: USA vs Portugal vs Netherlands

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