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Canada Confronts Cannabis

Legalization Lessons From the United States

A man smokes marijuana at a 4/20 rally in Ontario, April 2018. Chris Wattie / Reuters

On June 19, Canada’s Senate passed the Cannabis Act. Beginning on October 17, Canadians over the age of 18 will be permitted to carry up to 30 grams of marijuana in public and grow up to four plants at home. Cannabis retailers will be allowed to operate, subject to federal, provincial, and territorial regulations and taxation. Cannabis concentrates and edibles will be available about a year later.

That makes Canada only the second country, after Uruguay, to fully legalize marijuana. Supporters of the new law, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, claim that it will reduce underage drug use, eliminate illicit dealing, and lessen the harms of arrest and prosecution, while providing substantial tax revenue. How likely is it that Canada will achieve those objectives, and what are the risks of legalization?

Canadian officials can learn from both U.S. successes and U.S. mistakes as they try to design tax, regulatory, enforcement, and

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