Legalized Recreational Marijuana Use in Canada Impacts Global Stage
A new Dalhousie University study out today suggests that support for legalization has dropped to 50.1 per cent, down 18.5 per cent from their last poll in 2017. And 20.3 per cent of respondents now express ambivalence about last October’s change to allow recreational marijuana use.
That caution, however, seems at odds with the figures released by Statistics Canada last week that showed an uptick in cannabis use since legalization, with 18 per cent of those 15 or older — about 5.3 million people — reporting that they had used the drug in the past three months, up from 14 per cent a year ago. And the number of first-time users almost doubled, from 327,000 in 2018 to 646,000 in this survey.
The biggest increases in recreational marijuana use were seen among men, up 6 per cent from a year ago, and people aged 45 to 64, up 5 per cent. Use among women and those in the other age groups was basically unchanged.
Still, there seems little doubt that Canada’s decision to legalize, becoming the second nation to do so after Uruguay, has had a global impact.
On Tuesday, New Zealand’s justice minister announced that a binding referendum on legalization will be held during the 2020 general election. The series of yes-or-no questions will include options for the commercial sale and home cultivation of pot, although it will be up to whomever forms the next government to make the people’s wishes law.
Mexico also appears to be inching towards legalization, with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s newly released five-year National Development Plan calling the country’s “prohibitionist” approach to drugs “unsustainable.”
Possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis has been decriminalized since 2009, and the country’s Supreme Court legalized medical marijuana in 2017. And the right to recreational use has recently been upheld by the courts, setting the stage for a legislative change.
Last fall, South Africa’s Supreme Court legalized cannabis use by adults in private places. It will be up to Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC, which appears to have won a majority in yesterday’s election, to enact legislation before the court’s 2020 deadline.
Belize, St. Kitts, Georgia, Jamaica, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia are among the nations that have removed or eased prohibitions on the use of marijuana in recent years.
The United States is rapidly heading the same way.
This past weekend, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that he has struck a cross-party deal to legalize recreational cannabis use starting next year. If the deal holds, Illinois will become the 11th state with legal weed.
Connecticut may be the 12th, after the last key component of a state legalization bill passed the committee stage last week.
New Jersey and New York are also debating legalization legislation, although both states seem more inclined to kick the can down the road a bit and put it to the public in a referendum.
Thirty-three U.S. states now allow the medicinal use of cannabis. And last month, New Mexico became the 24th state to decriminalize marijuana, signing legislation that makes use and possession punishable by a $50 fine, rather than a prison term.
National polls suggest that more than 60 per cent of Americans now support legalization, and even in the most conservative states like Texas, there is momentum to, at the very least, decriminalize recreational marijuana use. Although the sale and use of cannabis remains subject to strict federal penalties.
Of course, there’s always the question of what to do with other illegal drugs.
Residents of Denver, Colo., narrowly approved a ballot initiative this week to decriminalize magic mushrooms. The measure will prohibit the municipality from spending money to impose criminal penalties on those who consume the hallucinogenic fungus within city limits.
Denver was the first major American city to similarly decriminalize pot back in 2005.
But such progressive measures pale in comparison to a new drug policy in Berlin, Germany, that has seen authorities set aside designated areas for dealers near the entrance to a popular park.
The zones, marked out with pink spray paint on the pavement, haven’t won universal acclaim.
Marlene Mortler, the conservative politician who serves as Germany’s national drug commissioner, slammed the initiative today.
“It’s a capitulation of the rule of law,” she told reporters. “We cannot give the dealers a licence to trade.”