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Legalization in Canada Could Help California

America’s neighbor to the north is moving at breakneck speed toward legalizing marijuana, and it’s increasingly clear it could happen at any time. If and when it does, it will be a landmark moment for reform.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauBut what should this matter to California potheads? Canada is hundreds of miles from the state’s border with Oregon, and there isn’t exactly much in the way of cultural crossover between the Golden State and the Great White North.

Still, what’s happening there matters. It’s mostly a question of simple geography, but it could help California legalize faster.

Legalization likely in 2016

That could happen as early as next November. Several petitions are already in the works to put legalization on the 2016 ballot, though competition between them threatens to derail the effort for another two years.

Just as important, public support for the idea remains very strong. California is on almost every commentator’s short list of states likely to adopt legal marijuana in the next few years. There are reasons for this, and Canada is one of them.

Four states currently allow cannabis for recreational use: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, along with the District of Columbia. Each of those states is located in the American West, and three of them lie along the Pacific Coast.

So, too, does British Columbia – a region that rivals California for its homegrown weed. If Canada were to legalize, and especially if Mexico were to join in, as looks increasingly plausible, legal marijuana fields could stretch from the subarctic into the tropics.

Try not legalizing under those circumstances. Given the fact that California would have to deal with even more marijuana crossing its state lines, especially from Mexico, legalization seems like an almost certain conclusion.

Canada will go ahead with reform plans

california-medical-marijuanaBut Canada comes first. The new government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in early December that the government indeed plans to carry through with full reform. Trudeau repeatedly promised as much on the campaign trail this year, going so far as to admit using the drug while a sitting member of Parliament.

The October general election was a watershed for Canadians. Voters rejected the longtime Conservative government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and swept the left-leaning Liberals into power. That party now holds a majority of seats in Parliament, giving it wide latitude to pursue legislative priorities.

Progress in Mexico

The timing couldn’t be better. Last month the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that a young girl may take medical marijuana. The ruling applied only to her, so it doesn’t immediately create a medical cannabis program, let alone enact full legalization.

But it does make both those outcomes much more likely. If Mexican lawmakers manage to pass reform and extend the court’s decision, it could take a big dent out of the country’s rash of endemic drug-related violence.

It’s anybody’s guess which of these three will fall first: Mexico, Canada, or California. It could even happen in rapid succession. But it’s becoming clearer by the day that legal pot is coming, and California may be the biggest prize of all.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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