Cannabis is a widely used substance that has different legal and social implications in different countries. In North America, the US and Canada are two of the most prominent examples of how cannabis policies and perceptions can vary. In this article, we will explore some of the key differences and similarities between the two nations in terms of cannabis attitudes.
Legal status of cannabis
One of the most obvious differences between the US and Canada is the legal status of cannabis. Canada became the second country in the world to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2018, following Uruguay. The Cannabis Act regulates the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis across the country, with some variations depending on the province or territory. Adults aged 18 or 19 and older (depending on the jurisdiction) can legally possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or equivalent in public, grow up to four plants per household, and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers or online platforms.
The US, on the other hand, has a more complex and fragmented legal landscape for cannabis. Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. However, many states have enacted their own laws to allow medical or recreational use of cannabis, creating a patchwork of regulations and enforcement. As of January 2023, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult use, while 36 states and four territories have legalized cannabis for medical use. The legal age, possession limit, cultivation rules, and retail options vary widely among the states that have legalized cannabis.
Public opinion on cannabis
Another difference between the US and Canada is the public opinion on cannabis. According to a 2022 survey by Pew Research Center, 68% of American adults said that the use of cannabis should be legal, up from 12% in 1969. The survey also found that 91% of Americans favored some form of legal cannabis, either for medical or recreational purposes. The support for legalization was higher among Democrats (78%) than Republicans (55%), and among younger generations (76% of Millennials and 70% of Gen Z) than older ones (49% of Baby Boomers and 35% of Silent Generation).
In Canada, a 2022 survey by Statistics Canada found that 56% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported having a favorable opinion of cannabis, up from 43% in 2017. The survey also found that 27% of Canadians reported using cannabis in the past three months, up from 14% in 2017. The use of cannabis was higher among males (31%) than females (23%), and among younger age groups (41% of 15-24 year olds and 34% of 25-44 year olds) than older ones (13% of 45-64 year olds and 5% of 65 year olds and over).
Cannabis industry and market
A third difference between the US and Canada is the cannabis industry and market. Canada has a federally regulated and licensed cannabis industry, with strict quality and safety standards, packaging and labeling requirements, and taxation and revenue sharing mechanisms. The industry is composed of various types of license holders, such as standard and micro cultivators, processors, sellers, nurseries, researchers, and analytical testers. The industry also includes a growing number of Indigenous-owned and operated cannabis businesses, which operate under their own jurisdiction and governance models.
The US has a more diverse and dynamic cannabis industry, with different models and opportunities depending on the state and local regulations. The industry is composed of various types of operators, such as vertically integrated companies, independent cultivators, processors, retailers, delivery services, and ancillary businesses. The industry also faces various challenges, such as banking and financing restrictions, tax burdens, interstate commerce barriers, and competition from the illicit market.
According to a 2022 report by BDSA, a cannabis market research firm, the legal cannabis market in Canada was worth $2.6 billion USD in 2021, and is expected to grow to $6.4 billion USD by 2026. The report also estimated that the legal cannabis market in the US was worth $17.5 billion USD in 2021, and is expected to grow to $41.3 billion USD by 2026.
Cannabis is a complex and evolving topic that has different implications and impacts in different countries. The US and Canada are two neighboring nations that have different approaches and experiences with cannabis legalization and consumption. By comparing and contrasting the legal status, public opinion, and industry and market of cannabis in the two countries, we can gain a better understanding of the similarities and differences between them, and the potential opportunities and challenges for the future.