Crossing Borders

As we progress through the stages of legalization in the U.S. those of us in Canada are left wondering when will it be our turn. Consider recent events in Colorado where every adult may potentially receive a $7.63 refund due to the astounding success of their legal marijuana program within their state. Granted, law-makes within Colorado are attempting to rewrite (or at least revise their own legislation) so they can build more of the schools, hospitals, and to give back to the people that made the program such a success. The extra revenue was generated through the 30 per cent tax on their cannabis and a 1992 state amendment that puts a cap on how much the state could receive from taxpayer money. The amendment called the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights refunds citizens in instances where the state collects more than what's permitted “a formula based on inflation and population growth." It was reported that in 2014 cannabis retailers in Colorado made more than $300 million.

Oklahoma and Nebraska have now filed a lawsuit

Almost ironically, Oklahoma and Nebraska have now filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to deem Colorado's marijuana laws unconstitutional. According to the lawsuit, the legalization that has been so successful in generating tax revenue in Colorado is now “draining the treasuries” of neighbouring states, and “placing stress on their criminal justice system." The lawsuit argues that the Colorado has not been proactive in restricting access to their legal marijuana. The authorities do not perform background checks on people who purchase pot and that it does not track those who do make purchases. And why would they bother with background checks, cannabis is legal there. It would be the same as documenting every time some college kid bought a six-pack of discount beer, or a nice old lady purchases a bottle of chilled Chardonnay — frankly, no one cares. The recreational marijuana laws in Colorado allow retailers to sell up to an ounce of marijuana to state residents with ID who are over age 21. Yet adults with out-of-state ID may still buy up to a quarter of an ounce. The lawsuit was not entirely unexpected, and it may not be successful. Congress has already passed a spending measure “that prevents the federal government from interfering with state laws regarding medical marijuana.” Therefore, the suit by Oklahoma and Nebraska can only target the recreational use laws. I’m certain that the production and sale of cannabis is not about to slow down in the meantime. Colorado is too busy enjoying the party to turn down the music for their whiny neighbours.

So how soon before this legal marijuana arrives in Canada?

Still, it is odd that these neighbouring states are opting to fight against the coming changes to marijuana regulation instead of simply embracing the positive changes and reaping the tax benefits associated with legalization. Instead of spending tax dollars enforcing cannabis possession laws (that are becoming increasingly more arbitrary between jurisdictions) they could be earning tax revenue and investing in the programs they value. A 2013 Gallop poll indicated that 58% of Americans were in favour of legalization. Recent votes show that support for the herb has only increased since. Even the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy holds the position that “marijuana can be helpful.” While, the President of the United States, Barack Obama smoked pot in his youth. States like Oklahoma and Nebraska just need to get with the times. It should also be noted that the marijuana possession arrests in Nebraska only increased marginally from 7,100 marijuana possession arrests in 2000, to 7,600 more than in 2014. Although even this subtle increase could have easily have been influenced by a number of other cultural and social changes. Anyone online is well aware that the walls holding up prohibition are starting to crumble and no one wants to wait for their state to get their act together to (officially) legalize marijuana. So how soon before this legal marijuana arrives in Canada? We still need more progressive cannabis laws and regulations in Canada. Though more immediately, is any of this pot crossing the Canadian border? Strange, how Canada has become famous for its illicit export south across the border — B.C. bud.

Alberta is broke

Now for the crux of this argument: Alberta is broke. The provincial debt clock is telling the world that oil “rich” Alberta is now over $11 billion in debt. There are no more “prosperity cheques” here. Instead each taxpayer is silently carrying $2,800 in debt on behalf of our Province. What if Alberta legalized marijuana, indifferent to the legal status of the popular plant? Could Alberta evolve into an independent legalized province like what is happening in the U.S.: each state legalizing cannabis like dominos falling into place. Change happens organically. Success can be claimed when there is nothing left to oppose because every individual state or province has already legalized cannabis locally. There is no going back now.

In Canada, we need to catch up. We just need that momentum towards legalization to cross the border.
Maria Kravets
Maria Kravets