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Canada

  • by NORML October 17, 2018

    Today, Canada becomes the second nation to explicitly legalize the social use, possession, cultivation, and retail production and sale of cannabis. The new law marks the culmination of an effort led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised in 2015, shortly after taking office, to legalize and regulate the marijuana market.

    Further, the new law will include expungements of all possession criminal charges of less than 30 grams.

    Trudeau was not always in favor of legalization. In fact, for many years he opposed it. That was until he met face-to-face with NORML Canada advocates Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs in 2012. They presented Trudeau with pro-legalization arguments that he’s still using today as prime minister.

    According to the Toronto Star:

    Coulter told Trudeau flatly that decriminalization would not keep gangs and organized crime out of the marijuana business. “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol had only been decriminalized,” she said — a line she often used when talking to politicians.

    “I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

    Speaking with the Huffington Post in 2013, Trudeau acknowledged that he reversed his position after speaking with NORML members admitting their “line of argument did a long way towards convincing me.” Their conversation persuaded Trudeau that legalizing marijuana use for adults would be the best way for the government to regulate sales, provide consumer safety, and keep it out of the hands of kids.

    The Act, Bill C-45, permits those age 18 and older to legally possess (up to 30 grams) and grow cannabis (up to four plants of any size per household). Individual provinces possess the authority to enact additional regulations with respect to distribution, such as raising the legal age limit to purchase cannabis or by restricting home grow operations.

    The Act also federally licenses commercial producers of cannabis and certain cannabis-infused products, while permitting provinces to regulate retail sales in public (government operated) and private stores, subject to local rules. Online cannabis sales will also be permitted in certain provinces.

    While fewer than 200 total retailers are anticipated to be operational on day one of the new law, additional facilities are anticipated to be operational in the near future. Cannabis-infused edible products are anticipated to be regulated and available at retail stores early next summer. The new social use regulations do not amend Canada’s existing medical marijuana access laws, which have been in place since 2001.

    In anticipation of the law change, the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection Agency published a memorandum in September affirming that those Canadians either involved or invested in the legal cannabis industry may be barred admission into the United States. The agency later updated their policy directive on October 9, 2018, acknowledging: “A Canadian citizen working in … the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the US for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the United States. However, if a traveler is found to be coming to the US for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”

    But what about America? We still have a long way to go to achieve the kind of freedom Canadians are celebrating today.

    NORML is hard at work making sure Americans have the information they need when they head to the polls on November 6 to elect the most pro-reform candidates in history with our Smoke the Vote voter guide to legalizing marijuana. We’re arming advocates around the country with the persuasive arguments and undisputed facts necessary to have conversations like the one that changed Trudeau’s mind. We aren’t stopping until responsible marijuana consumers are no longer subject to arrest anywhere in America. We need your help to make this goal a reality.

    Make a pledge today of $25, $50 or $100 to make sure NORML has the resources to legalize marijuana in the US!

    Together, we can legalize marijuana in America, end the arrest of responsible consumers, and make sure there is access to safe, quality products at affordable prices. Together, we’ll keep fighting for our freedom.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 12, 2018

    This Wednesday, Canada will become the second nation to explicitly legalize the social use, possession, cultivation, and retail production and sale of cannabis. The new law marks the culmination of an effort led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised in 2015, shortly after taking office, to legalize and regulate the marijuana market.

    But PM Trudeau was not always in favor of adult use legalization. In fact, for many years he opposed it. That was until he met face-to-face with NORML advocates in 2012.

    Speaking with the Huffington Post in 2013, Trudeau acknowledged that he reversed his position after speaking with NORML members. “[Their] line of argument did a long way towards convincing me,” he admitted.

    Here is how the Toronto Star reported the event:

    Five short years ago, Trudeau was not a fan of legalized pot. As he wandered around the 2012 Liberal policy convention in Ottawa — the same one in which a majority of party members voted in favour of legalization — Trudeau was a dissenting voice.

    … By the end of 2012, a lot of things had changed for Trudeau — beyond his appearance. He had changed his mind about running for Liberal leader, officially launching his campaign in October, and he was also starting to see that legalization was better than the decriminalization option he’d long favoured.

    Today, Trudeau and his advisers trace the shift to a meeting with two women in his office in November of that year, who armed him with some of the pro-legalization arguments that he’s still using today — now, as prime minister. The two women were Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs, then representing what was known as the women’s alliance of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

    Coulter, who now lives in Victoria, remembers the meeting well, and is heartened to hear that Trudeau traces his conversion to this encounter.

    “I actually saw the ‘aha’ moment,” Coulter says. It had been an emotional meeting in Trudeau’s tiny Parliament Hill office; the three of them talked about their own personal experience with marijuana. Trudeau talked about his mother using pot, and his brother, Michel, who had been charged with possession not long before he died. (Trudeau has subsequently told the story publicly of how his father used connections to get the charges dropped so that his son didn’t have a criminal record.)

    Coulter told Trudeau flatly that decriminalization would not keep gangs and organized crime out of the marijuana business. “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol had only been decriminalized,” she said — a line she often used when talking to politicians.
    “I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

    Trudeau could see how this argument would blunt Conservative attacks on him as being soft on crime; with legalization, he could simultaneously seem liberal about marijuana but conservative about gangs and criminals. It helped persuade Trudeau that legalization, would be the best way for the government to regulate its use and keep it safe, especially for kids.

    The lesson here is clear. Never forget that change begins with a single step, and that significant policy reforms can be inspired by a single interaction with lawmakers. Or, as we like to say at NORML, “The more we’re talking about ending prohibition, the more we’re winning.”

    Let’s keep the conversation going.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 19, 2018

    [UPDATE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the new law will officially go into effect on October 17, 2018.]

    Members of the Canadian House and Senate have reconciled and given final approval to C-45, sweeping legislation amending the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that those over the age of 18 may legally possess, purchase, and grow personal use quantities of cannabis.

    Majorities of both chambers had previously approved slightly different versions of the measure. Today, Senate lawmakers voted 52-29 to concur with the House’s final version of the bill. According to the BBC, “the bill will likely receive Royal Assent this week, and the government will then choose an official date when the law will come into force.” The new law is anticipated to take effect by mid-September, at which time licensed cannabis retailers are expected to be operational.

    The Act permits those age 18 and older to legally possess and purchase personal use amounts of marijuana or marijuana-infused products from licensed sellers. Households will also be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use. Commercial marijuana production will be licensed by the federal government, while retail distribution of marijuana will be regulated by individual provinces. A Senate amendment that sought to allow provinces to limit or prohibit personal cultivation was ultimately rejected by members of the House. The new law will not amend Canada’s existing medical cannabis access regulations, which permit registered patients to grow or purchase cannabis from authorized licensed producers.

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri praised the vote. “We applaud Canada for showing federal legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy,” he said. “America’s leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, and similarly replace our archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 28, 2017

    Canadian parliamentMembers of the Canadian House of Commons voted 200 to 82 to approve legislation that seeks to legalize and regulate the adult use cannabis market. Liberal Party members, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, back the measure, which now faces debate in the Senate.

    The Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, amends the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that those over the age of 18 may legally possess, purchase, and grow personal use quantities of cannabis. It further seeks to establish rules and regulations governing the commercial production of retail cannabis products. Proponents of the legislation hope to have the new law in place by July 1, 2018.

    Health Canada is presently seeking public feedback regarding the regulations. Written comments will be accepted through January 20, 2018.

    Additional information regarding C-45 is available from NORML Canada. Updates regarding the text and status of the legislation is available from the Library of Parliament here.

  • by Clare Sausen, Former NORML Junior Associate September 21, 2017

    Canadian parliamentWhen Trudeau announced his decision to legalize marijuana in Canada (set to take effect in 2018), Trump-fearing Americans vowed to seek refuge with our Northern neighbors.

    So what brought Trudeau to his decision to repeal prohibition? You know what they say: behind every great man there’s even greater, weed-loving woman.

    In November of 2012, two NORML Canada board members, Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs, met with Trudeau and convinced him that supporting full legalization– not just decriminalization– was the right course of action for the Parliamentarian.

    “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol were only decriminalized,” Coulter said, convincing Trudeau that decriminalization wouldn’t keep organized crime rings and gangs out of the marijuana business.

    “I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

    Following in their footsteps, NORML Canada Board members Marc-Boris St-Maurice and Abigail Sampson went to testify before Parliament last week, discussing The Cannabis Act (C-45) with other jurisdictions in which cannabis is legal, to share their experiences in terms of public health, tax, and banking implications for legalization.

    In addition, NORML Canada Board member Kirk Tousaw went to Parliament to talk international considerations and how to deal with the transport of marijuana across border lines as it remains federally illegal in the United States.

    NORML Canada President John Conroy then took part in a panel on the issue of household cultivation (the current bill proposes four plants per household).

    NORML Canada members are proving that citizen involvement in legalization efforts with lawmakers, even simply having a discussion like Coulter and Matrosovs did with Trudeau, can make an enormous difference. Only time will tell if the United States will be able to follow the example set by our neighbors to the North.

    Follow NORML Canada on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their website at: http://norml.ca/