Cannabis Chaos: Marijuana Laws Across North America

With cannabis use legal, in one way or another, in all but seven states in the US, you’d think we’d be approaching something akin to cohesive marijuana law. But that would make sense… instead we have the incoherent approach.

For starters, black market marijuana pours over the border from Mexico into illegal US distribution. It’s been that way for many decades, even though cannabis prohibition has been in place south of the border since 1920. Still, supply continued from a country that only decriminalized personal possession in 2009, and just this summer passed a bill legalizing medicinal use.

Canada is laying the groundwork for passing marijuana law next summer legalizing recreational cannabis use with regulation up to the provinces. Anticipating that development, Toronto Stock Exchange saw the launch of the first legal marijuana market EFT (exchange traded fund) on the continent in April.

Cool, right? Let’s make some cash! Not so fast, the SEC made it super difficult for Americans to trade Canadian ETFs. But here’s the really odd thing concerning the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF… it came out of the gate like a rocket, as one would expect. But its share values have decreased ever since. What’s up with that? Cannabis industry equipment and nutrient stocks grow, but weed stock lessens in value?

marijuana law

But things get really ass backwards when you look at what’s going on in the States.

It’s legal to possess and smoke weed in Washington, D.C., but thanks to Congress’ stalling, there is no marijuana law that allows you to sell the stuff. But you can order some $60 cookies or $55 lemonade there that come with a bag as a free gift. They deliver at no extra charge.

Maine legalized recreational use, but they haven’t completed setting up the state-regulated store system. So, you can use it and possess it, but you can’t sell it – just like in D.C. The weed you seek is free in Maine too, but your delivery fees are stiff, forcing legitimate cannabis businesses to operate a lot like it’s still the black market.

The scene is very different on the West Coast, particularly in California. American Green, one of the US’s largest cannabis industry companies, just bought a whole town and is turning it into a sustainable, off-grid weed lover’s mecca. Built during the gold rush, tiny Nipton sits near the Nevada border. Set a reminder to check on reservations at this vacation destination in about 18 months.

Recreational marijuana law in eight US states may make it legal to grow, buy, possess, and use cannabis, but the federal prohibition in place creates issues for people in other areas of their life. So, if you live in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, or Colorado… one of the following could mess up your future in a pro-cannabis place.

Firstly, you could lose out on an employment opportunity, or lose the job you have. Drug testing is still legal in Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Washington – according to Law 360. This makes sense if you’re buzzed at work, but not when you’re off the clock. Where’s the after hours alcohol use testing?

marijuana law

Secondly, federal law undermines the new economy this emerging industry is creating. Growers, dispensaries, and retail stores still cannot get basic banking services. No federally insured financial institution can open an account for the deposit of funds received from cannabis sales because it’s still a Schedule 1 narcotic. They say that credit unions are easier to deal with, but only those where your funds aren’t insured.

But that net casts wider over the field of financial services, affecting anyone employed in the marijuana industry. For starters, your employer cannot withhold employment taxes, which leaves you on the fence at tax time. Things don’t go well when applying for a car loan or mortgage when proof of ability to repay the funds is a business that deals in growing or selling cannabis. Even renting could find you up against a huge obstacle, as Amanda Woods told the Coloradoan in an interview published just two weeks ago.

As a compliance officer for the Choice Organics dispensary in Fort Collins, you know she’s got a steady income and a healthy paycheck every week. Still, Amanda can’t get a loan to buy a car. They instantly denied her credit, faster than a person with the worst credit history in the world.

Note to the marijuana industry – there’s a business opportunity here. Bypass the established banking system and start an industry credit union with banking and loan services available only to insiders. I believe crop and property insurances are also needed.

While many feel like great progress is underway in lifting cannabis prohibition, that isn’t the case at all. When alcohol prohibition ended, it was a national thing, free of chaos and confusion, over and done with in one fell swoop at the demand of the people. Not everyone was in agreement, but the majority was, just like the situation we’re in today with marijuana law that legalizes selective use everywhere. But 90 years ago, lobbyists and corporations didn’t own and control the US government, and the War On Pot had yet to create a huge segment of the US economy. An exercise in futility only ends when those involved give up, but perhaps there’s hope in this recently introduced bill to legalize cannabis in the US.

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Images courtesy of Recreational Pot ShopsDank Depot, and Brett Levin (respectively).

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.