Canada has ushered in a new era of legal recreational cannabis use, positioning itself as the potential world leader in the industry.
And as Canadians flock to stores and online sellers to buy legal weed, many other countries around the world are keeping a close eye on the nation, wondering how the pot business will play out.
Of course, Canada isn’t the first country to legalize marijuana. Uruguay legalized it in 2014, but that model is a bit different than Canada’s.
The country allows cannabis to be sold at certain pharmacies without a prescription and residents can also grow up to six plants at home. Only citizens of Uruguay, not tourists, can purchase up to 40 grams a month at the pharmacies.
But Canada has placed itself as a much bigger player, according to Patricia Erickson, professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Toronto.
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“Certainly other countries will be watching Canada closely, looking to see what kind of outcomes will happen,” she said. “It could be months or years though.”
One of the big determining factors that may get other countries to also legalize weed is the multi-million dollar industry that Canada has currently tapped into.
“That’s going to be the big driver for other countries — money,” she said.
Even before legalization, several global brands had expressed interest in Canada’s burgeoning cannabis sector, including some — Molson Coors and Constellation Brands — who have already made big investments.
Lisa Harun, the co-founder of the vaporizer company Vapium, has no doubt that Canada can become a global player in exporting cannabis to countries that have recently legalized the product medicinally and have not yet established growing facilities.
“Right now, we are producing some of the best cannabis in the world. This is an opportunity, and it’s very scalable,” she said.
In 2017, about 4.9 million Canadians spent an estimated $5.7 billion on cannabis for medical and non-medical purposes, according to Statistics Canada.
Statistics Canada also forecasts Canadians could spend more than $1 billion on legal cannabis by the end of this year.
Over the past few years other countries, like Spain, Portugal and Jamaica, have either decriminalized marijuana or allowed medical weed. Some U.S. states have already legalized it but it remains illegal at the federal level.
“Other European nations have talked about it before, but now we finally have a more reasonable evidence-based approach that looks at education prevention and health issues, which always presented a barrier,” Erickson said.
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Erickson said countries that have legalized medical cannabis (or are planning to) like Canada did in 2001, may be on the path of legalizing recreational weed.
“Medical marijuana helps reduce the fear and stigma attached to it, it helps create knowledge,” she said.
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— With a file from Global News’ Jessica Vomieo