Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2016
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2016 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Adam Kovac


No Pot Trade With U.S., Yet Border States May Brace for Change

Canada is moving to legalize pot in 2017, but don't expect it to 
become a new Amsterdam for Americans hoping to get a legal high just 
across the northern border.

Canada's Liberal Party government will introduce a law next spring to 
legalize recreational marijuana, Health Minister Jane Philpott 
disclosed last week at the United Nations. She did not detail who 
would be allowed to grow or distribute cannabis products.

"Canada has a lot of options here," said RAND Drug Policy Research 
Center co-director Beau Kilmer. "You have to pay attention to what's 
going to happen with the regulation and the taxes. That could really 
shape what happens in terms of people coming in from other countries. 
You have to decide whether you want to allow that."

Since most major Canadian cities are within 100 miles of the U.S. 
border, Canada's legalization could spur border states to enact 
legislation to prevent the exodus of tourism dollars to the north.

Colorado and Washington, which legalized marijuana in 2013, have seen 
an uptick in tourism since then.

Those states also may act as models for the new legislation.

"It's nice that those experiments are there for us to see what's 
worked," said Zach Walsh, a professor at the University of British 
Columbia in Kelowna, who studies cannabis. "We'll learn from those 
and I think, because we're looking at doing it federally and in a 
more organized way and maybe with a bit more prep time, I think we'll 
take what's worked from those models and make our own."

While Canada is the USA's largest trading partner, marijuana is 
unlikely to become the latest product traded by two countries.

"I don't see the government legalizing the export of cannabis," said 
Eugene Oscapella, an Ottawa lawyer who specializes in Canadian social 
policy. "Right now, it's a criminal offense punishable by life 
imprisonment. They don't need to change that part of the law in order 
to set up a legal regulatory regime in Canada."

Cannabis is illegal under U.S. law.

Legalizing marijuana was a major campaign plank for Justin Trudeau, 
who became prime minister after his Liberal Party won last fall's 
election. Although polls show a majority of Canadians support 
legalization, Trudeau's predecessor, Stephen Harper, opposed changing 
marijuana laws, calling the drug worse than cigarettes.

In 2003, Canada's outgoing prime minister, Jean Chretien, publicly 
questioned whether marijuana should be decriminalized. The U.S. 
response was swift: John Walters, director of the White House Office 
of National Drug Control Policy, said such a move would hurt 
Canadian-U.S. trade relations.

Times have changed, as public opinion in both countries has become 
more accepting of legal marijuana.

In addition to Colorado and Washington, Alaska and Oregon have 
legalized pot, and some cities, such as Portland, Maine, and 
Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational use of marijuana. 
Vermont and California have indicated they may legalize the drug in 
the next few years.

Canada faces no current U.S. pressure to stop legalization, but that 
could change depending on the outcome of the presidential election. 
Republican front-runner Donald Trump has vowed to build a wall on the 
Mexican border to deter the flow of drugs into the United States. 
While Mexico is the major supplier of marijuana to the USA, that 
hasn't stopped politicians such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, 
former GOP presidential hopeful, from floating the idea of building a 
wall along the northern border.

Trump has dismissed the possibility of a wall along the Canadian border. 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom