Coming to America: Canada's high
In 1919, the push for Prohibition was well underway in both the United States and Canada. But not everyone was happy. The independent-minded province of Quebec would have none of it, and moved to repeal the laws and let the lager flow, even before the U.S. constitutional prohibition had been enacted. In doing so, it drew the ire of the temperance movement and was quickly labeled the "sinkhole of North America". But then a funny thing happened: the French-speaking province became a tourist's haven for those seeking to imbibe of spirits not to be hand anywhere else in the country, or in the United States, for that matter. Quebec's economy and provincial government reaped a financial whirlwind and onlookers quickly to note. Other Canadian provinces began to follow suit throughout the 1920s and prohibition was effectively ended in Canada. The United States quickly followed suit with a full repeal in 1933.
Now American proponents of marijuana are hoping history repeats itself in their favor. With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada taking effect in October, 2018, there is hope that the heft and influence of the Canadian experience portends well for its sister movement in the United States. And just how would this dynamic likely play out? Consider the array of marijuana-based start-ups, job creation and revenue that will give Canadians a head-start on their fellow North Americans. Also consider the elimination of black markets and the associated criminal trafficking of the commodity. Canada is ready to be an early-adopter of policies that will soon bring the United States following not far behind.
For one, the revenue derived from the sale of marijuana would make any government policymaker salivate. Even in states where marijuana is only available in connection with medical treatment, the tax revenues results are in the millions each year. In states like Colorado and Washington where recreational marijuana is now fully available, revenues have exceeded $1 billion annually. Canada will find an immediate explosion in start-ups, sales and, in turn, tax revenue for government coffers. Already, Canadian firms are investing in marijuana grow operations in the United States to ensure a supply sufficient to address demand immediately upon legalization and to prepare for long-term trends, notably U.S. legalization. The longer the United States lags on this point, the greater the advantage Canadian firms will have in the business development and marketing across the continent.
Secondly, legalization will allow Canadian authorities to get on with more serious business when it comes to public safety. That's because Canadian black market for marijuana was eliminated with the stroke of a pen. Not to mention, the costs of enforcing criminal laws related to marijuana and the associated costs of court proceedings and incarceration. Bringing marijuana out of the shadows will allow the Canadian federal and provincial governments to shift their focus and resources to more pertinent policy matters and serious criminal justice concerns. In the United States, court dockets are filled with drug related offenses, many related to marijuana trafficking and consumption, not to mention individuals incarcerated and monitored through community controlled probation. Policymakers seeking to do more with finite resources will be forced to reckon with this net-positive Canadian experience. And with an unprecedented opioid epidemic raging across the United States, the pressure will increase to shift the focus to prevention and the use of marijuana as a safe, legal alternative to synthetics, heroin and an array of other relief for chronic pain, often cited as the chief reason for the current epidemic.
Lastly, consider that public attitudes and cultural norms are trending in favor of marijuana. Long-held views of marijuana have been associated with rabble-rousing and delinquency, particularly among teenagers. But marijuana's benefactors are aging. Baby Boomers are recognizing the value to their daily qualify to life. As public information campaigns have given more support to medical marijuana laws, there is a general softening on the subject at large. The Pew Research Center found in an October, 2018 survey that 62% of Americans favor legalization. That's up from just 12% of the population in forty years ago. The doom and gloom predicted by marijuana's opponents have not developed in states like Colorado once recreational legalization occurred, and Canada will quickly offer a similar example to combat the long-held public perception that marijuana causes society to descend into lawlessness.
Like it did in the days of Prohibition, Canada is setting the stage for a seismic shift in American drug policy. Canadian legalization of recreational marijuana may be just the tipping point to foment American support and embolden U.S. policymakers to reform long established and enforced American drug laws. On display for Americans from their neighbors to the north will be predictable economic booms, elimination of costs associated with anti-drug enforcement laws, and dispelled myths of marijuana's doom and gloom.
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