Canada set to be largest na­tion that al­lows pot

Move could open door for other coun­tries to fol­low, an­a­lyst says

The Dallas Morning News - - World - Gene John­son,

DELTA, Bri­tish Columbia — Mat Beren and his friends used to drive by the vast green­houses of south­ern Bri­tish Columbia and joke about how much mar­i­juana they could grow there.

Years later, it’s no joke. The tomato and pep­per plants that once filled some of those green­houses have been re­placed with a new cash crop: mar­i­juana. Beren and other for­merly il­licit grow­ers are help­ing cul­ti­vate it. The buy­ers no longer are un­law­ful deal­ers or du­bi­ous med­i­cal dis­pen­saries; the buyer is the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.

On Wed­nes­day, Canada be­comes the se­cond and largest coun­try with a le­gal na­ tional mar­i­juana mar­ket­place. Uruguay launched le­gal sales last year.

It’s a pro­found so­cial shift promised by Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and fueled by a de­sire to bring the black mar­ket into a reg­u­lated, taxed sys­tem af­ter nearly a cen­tury of pro­hi­bi­tion.

It also stands in con­trast to the United States, where the fed­eral gov­ern­ment out­laws mar­i­juana but many states al­low its med­i­cal or recre­ational use by peo­ple 21 and older.

Canada’s na­tional ap­proach has al­lowed for un­fet­tered in­dus­try bank­ing, in­ter­province ship­ments of cannabis, on­line or­der­ing, postal de­liv­ery and bil­lions of dol­lars in in­vest­ment; na­tional pro­hi­bi­tion in the U.S. has sti­fled greater in­dus­try ex­pan­sion there.

Han­nah Het­zer, who tracks international mar­i­juana pol­icy for the New York­based Drug Pol­icy Al­liance, called Canada’s move “ex­tremely sig­nif­i­cant,” given that about 25 coun­tries have al­ready le­gal­ized the med­i­cal use of mar­i­juana or de­crim­i­nal­ized pos­ses­sion of small amounts of pot. A few, in­clud­ing Mex­ico, have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in reg­u­lat­ing recre­ational use.

“It’s go­ing to change the global de­bate on drug pol­icy,” she said. “There’s no other coun­try im­me­di­ately con­sid­er­ing le­gal­iz­ing the non­med­i­cal use of cannabis, but I think Canada will pro­vide al­most the per­mis­sion for other coun­tries to move for­ward.”

At least 109 le­gal pot shops are ex­pected to open across the na­tion of 37 mil­lion peo­ple Wed­nes­day, with many more to come, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey.

The prov­inces are tasked with over­see­ing mar­i­juana dis­tri­bu­tion. For some, in­clud­ing Bri­tish Columbia and Al­berta, that means buy­ing cannabis from li­censed pro­ duc­ers and then ship­ping it to re­tail shops and on­line cus­tomers. Oth­ers are hav­ing grow­ers ship di­rectly to stores.

Ted S. War­ren/the Associated Press

At least 109 le­gal pot shops are ex­pected to open across the na­tion of 37 mil­lion peo­ple Wed­nes­day, with many more to come, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey.

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