Legalizing Marijuana A Much Tougher Sell In the U.S. Than Canada

Photo Credit: Brennan Linsley

Thomas George of investment forum Grizzle says that when it comes to the “green rush” of success that the marijuana industry is expecting in Canada, interested parties should be a little more circumspect about getting the same reception south of the border. In fact, the U.S. is far more divided over legalizing cannabis than we are in Canada, says George.

With Canada’s Senate expected to give final approval to Bill C-45, otherwise known as the Cannabis Act, sometime in June and the legalization of adult recreational use marijuana arriving by late summer, a brand new (and regulated) industry is about to take shape across the country. But as companies like Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis continue to ramp up production, we can wonder not only whether the transition will be rocky or smooth at the society-wide level but also whether there could be any spillover of Canada’s success at implementing the change into the United States.

That’s not so likely, says George, who claims that political and social divisions over marijuana are more stark in the States.

“On recreational marijuana, I think this is one of those things that we can be proud of here in Canada that there isn’t this big divide, you know, that we can come to some common ground. America is far different. Basically, there are some states where marijuana is almost viewed as a social ill, and I think those will be challenging at a federal level, but I think that like a lot of things in America, state-by-state, it will interesting to see how you navigate that as an investment play,” said George to BNN Bloomberg.

Currently, 29 states in the US have legalized medical marijuana, eight states have legalized its recreational use and a further 26 have either decriminalized pot or declared its possession a misdemeanor. In Canada, polls have repeatedly shown that a majority of the public are in favour of marijuana’s legalization for adult recreational use. A large proportion of adult Canadians have said that they would be willing to try legal weed, whether in smoked or edible form, a scenario that many pot growing companies are hoping will become reality once the retail marijuana begins.

George says that the cultural divide in the United States over marijuana may lessen as marijuana becomes more accepted and viewed as the safer alternative to drugs such as opioids.

“I think it’s an interesting question and I don’t have a definite answer right now but I don’t think it’s something that gets resolved quickly in a year because you have these factions that are going to be far apart, especially as you label marijuana as a social ill,” says George.

“The other quiver here is the opioid crisis: you have [US Attorney General] Jeff Sessions who’s saying a whole lot of bad things about marijuana, that it’s a gateway to opioids, but I think the opioid crisis … there are a few things where you could potentially see a pathway here.”

Sessions has been an active critic of marijuana legalization. Earlier this year, the Attorney General rescinded the so-called Cole memo, a guidance to US prosecutors established in 2013 which effectively called for limits placed on federal powers to overrule state positions on marijuana legalization.