Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

What do America's 'marijuana midterms' mean for cannabis in Canada?

Legalization of recreational marijuana is on ballots today in North Dakota and Michigan. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press) (Tribune Media TNS)

Legalization of recreational marijuana is on ballots today in North Dakota and Michigan. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press)

Bud is on the ballot in a number of U.S. states Tuesday, as Americans cast their votes in midterm elections.

The stakes are highest in two states that border Canada: Voters in Michigan and North Dakota will decide whether to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana legalization measures are on ballots in Missouri and Utah, and many county and municipal elections include a wide variety of marijuana-related ballot questions that could have local impacts.

Does any of this matter when it comes to the future of cannabis in Canada?

The answer is no — at least, not immediately. For Canadian cannabis users, the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan and North Dakota could eventually provide some nearby destinations for weed-friendly vacations, although Canadians still wouldn't be allowed to cross the international border into those states with legal Canadian cannabis (or vice versa).

For Canada's legal cannabis industry, the picture is a bit different. Major Canadian cannabis firms are racing to build a global footprint in anticipation of an international wave of drug-law reform. Luckily for them, the U.S. marijuana industry still has one arm tied behind its back. As long as the U.S. federal government maintains its prohibition on cannabis, legal U.S. weed will remain largely shut out of the world market.

But today's midterms could mark a small step towards changing that situation, according to an American cannabis legalization advocate.

"Once we deschedule (marijuana federally), that'll begin to open up not just interstate commerce here, which is currently unavailable, but the possibility for the international trade to really become a thing," says Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

With each state that legalizes recreational cannabis, there's increased pressure on the federal government to deschedule marijuana and legalize it nationwide, Altieri believes.

"We're currently in a position where just about a little more than 20 per cent of the country lives in a place where marijuana is fully legal for adults," he says. "And as that number continues to grow, not only does that create the upward pressure from public support, it builds in support amongst federal legislators."

What would it take to turn that support into legalization action on the part of Uncle Sam? U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is well known for his anti-cannabis stance, but Altieri figures Sessions isn't particularly long for that job, considering ongoing tensions between him and President Donald Trump.

Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as Trump's communications director, has been spreading the word that The Donald himself will legalize weed after the midterms.

"I'll believe it when I see it," says Altieri.

"President Trump is anything but predictable. I don't believe… that he particularly cares, really, one way or another about this issue. It's not something he's put a lot of stake in either way."

If Trump somehow ends up moving to legalize cannabis at the federal level, American investors would inevitably start pouring money into the U.S. cannabis sector. That could create some serious competition for Canadian cannabis companies with global ambitions, although they'd still benefit from a head start.

The marijuana ballot measures in today's midterms won't directly lead to legalization across the U.S., but if they pass, they might nudge the federal government ever so slightly towards ending prohibition and changing the global cannabis landscape in a big way. Canada's weed industry will be watching.


New on The Leaf

  • People who depend on medical cannabis say some companies are using stock to supply recreational cannabis stores, leaving many patients without product. (Chad Hipolito / The Canadian Press files) (CP)

    People who depend on medical cannabis say some companies are using stock to supply recreational cannabis stores, leaving many patients without product. (Chad Hipolito / The Canadian Press files)

    A different kind of vote: The Leaf News wants your help shaping our future coverage. Please take a few minutes to fill out our quick online poll, if you haven't already.
  • Making a change: The founder of an online community for women who use medical cannabis is encouraging patients to switch away from medical cannabis producers with ongoing supply issues.
  • More marijuana media: Canadian newspaper chain Postmedia made an undisclosed investment in cannabis lifestyle publisher Prohbtd, which will presumably use the cash to buy a vowel or two.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • The Quebec government won't let stores sell these sunglasses in the province. (Moises Castillo / The Associated Press files) (CP)

    The Quebec government won't let stores sell these sunglasses in the province. (Moises Castillo / The Associated Press files)

    No cannabis leaves in Quebec: Provincial authorities are cracking down on stores that sell items that appear to promote cannabis, reports CBC News. That includes anything with a weed leaf.
  • Sold out: Many of New Brunswick's provincially operated cannabis stores were closed on Monday because they simply had no marijuana to sell.
  • Meanwhile, across the pond: The UK has legalized medical cannabis, but access remains highly restricted.

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