With Canada’s recent legalization of cannabis, pro-cannabis forces are increasingly optimistic about their future in the United States.
“Those in favor of legalization of cannabis have not yet won the war in America, but they are winning many of the battles,” says attorney Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish (www.sarahleegossettparrish.com), who handles many marijuana-related issues for clients. But the war obviously has not been won.
“Unfortunately, the different positions of the pro-cannabis states and the federal government are causing a lot of issues that still must be resolved. In states where it is legal, cannabis businesses still need to be protected from federal prosecution. Also, federal regulations need to be relaxed so legal cannabis enterprises can obtain banking services. Several states are beginning to look like dominoes ready to fall,” Parrish says. “The movement toward national legalization remains an elusive objective for cannabis supporters, but momentum is shifting from ‘if it will happen’ to ‘when it will happen.’”
- Michigan, North Dakota, Utah and Missouri are all considering measures to loosen marijuana laws. If all four states vote for legalization, responsible adult usage of marijuana would be legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and marijuana would be legal for medical use in 33 states.
- Six states – Florida, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Michigan, and Illinois – all feature gubernatorial races that feature pro-cannabis Democratic candidates running against anti-cannabis Republicans.
- The United States government remains locked in its position that cannabis is a Schedule 1 narcotic similar to heroin and opium. With America’s focus on illegal immigration and President Trump’s indication that he will build the wall for which he campaigned, suddenly eyes are starting to turn to America’s northern border where the longest international boundary between two countries is located.
Border officials have already stated that they are taking a zero-tolerance approach toward anyone who is caught trying to bring cannabis or cannabis products into the United States from any country, including Canada. However, the Canadian border is much more easily crossed illegally than the border with Mexico.
The Canadian cannabis decision is already being felt on Wall Street. Only a few days after Canadians legalized cannabis, Aurora Cannabis, one of the largest Canadian marijuana producers, went public on the New York Stock Exchange. When Aurora’s shares started trading, the company joined a select list of cannabis producers that are listing on U.S.-based exchanges.
Aurora already trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker ACB. The Edmonton-based cultivator grows cannabis for both the adult-use and medicinal markets. On Aug. 15, the beverage giant Constellation Brands announced it was upping its stake to $4 billion in an Aurora rival, Canopy Growth.
“There are significant challenges ahead for those who champion the legalization of cannabis,” says Parrish. “However, there are positive developments that signal many more states will join the green tide to decriminalize cannabis possession. Recreational pot may be a bridge too far for some states, but overall, the pro-cannabis forces are racking up some impressive wins.”