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Canada is legalizing marijuana: Here’s what Michiganders should know

green neon sign that says smoke shop

On Wednesday, October 17, Canadian citizens will have the option of legally buying recreational marijuana. Rules regulating the use and sale of the drug, however, will vary throughout Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories.

In Ontario, for example, citizens who are at least 19 years old will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana in public and keep an unlimited amount in their homes. In Quebec, the legal purchasing age will be 18, and while citizens will also be permitted to carry up to 30 grams of the drug in public, the legal limit for possession on private property will be 150 grams. 

Whether Canadians will visit private businesses or government-regulated distributors to purchase marijuana will depend on where they live.

In Ontario, residents will have to make purchases online until brick and mortar stores are permitted to begin selling the drug in the spring of next year. At that time, private sellers will have to source any cannabis they sell to their customers from a single distributor: the provincial government.

Not all of the details surrounding marijuana legalization in Canada have been sorted out yet, particularly when it comes to the country’s relationship with the United States, where marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as cocaine and heroin. 

Doug Schmidt is a reporter with the Windsor Star. He joined Stateside to talk about what Canada’s decision will mean for Canadian and American citizens who regularly cross the border between the two countries.

Like Canadians, Americans who are of age will be permitted to legally purchase and use marijuana in Canada, but it will be illegal for citizens of both countries to bring the drug across the border into the United States.

The situation gets complicated, though, if a person attempts to cross the border in a vehicle that contains cannabis paraphernalia or after having recently used the drug.

“If you’re under the influence, you’re going to be in trouble. I mean, currently we’ve heard of Canadians who, when they’re crossing the border, if they get pulled aside for secondary inspection, they get follow-up questions and one of the questions can be ‘Have you ever consumed pot?’ And if you reply in the affirmative, even though it was maybe your college days decades ago, that could be grounds for you being prevented from crossing the border,” Schmidt said.

While the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency cannot legally prevent Americans from returning home, they can revoke NEXUS permits — which allow registered travelers to cross the border more quickly — from American citizens who admit to using marijuana in Canada.

Brian Masse MP is a member of Canada’s House of Commons. He has voiced concern over the lack of concrete decisions made between the Canadian and American governments on the issue of marijuana legalization.

“The reality is that we’re going to have people inadvertently get caught up into this, and that can have very big, significant consequences on our economy, on [American] tourism, on a number of different things. So it’s about an education project on the Canadian side to make sure that we weed out — no pun intended — all those accidental problems,” Masse said.

On Wednesday, October 17 — the day that recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada — U.S. Customs and Border Protection will hold a press conference on the subject. Masse hopes that the agency’s remarks will offer more clarity. 

“I’m hoping what they’re going to say is that, ‘These are the things that we are going to be looking for, these are things that are unacceptable, and do not even attempt to try that. If you do, these are the consequences.’”

Masse is frustrated that the United States and Canada did not take the opportunity to discuss the issue of border control and cannabis legalization during negotiations over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) last month. But, he says, it’s time for both countries to have an “adult conversation” about how they are going to handle the issue.

“Basically, it almost doesn’t matter whose fault it really is. We both have to get our heads together around this because if we make our border thicker and have more problems, then we’re not going to be able to compete and we’ll lose jobs,” Masse said.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas. 

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