Legalization news: the latest headlines from the United States and Canada

Here’s a quick look at some new developments on the cannabis legalization and decriminalization front from across North America


The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police argues that low-level drug possession should be decriminalized and substance misuse should be treated as a public health matter. Photo by The-Vagabond/iStock/Getty Images Plus


Here’s a quick look at some new developments on the cannabis legalization and decriminalization front from across North America.

Canada’s top cops call for decriminalization

In Canada, the recreational use of cannabis has been legal since the federal Cannabis Act came into effect on October 17, 2018. While many other substances remain illegal, the country’s top cops have endorsed decriminalization for simple possession of illicit drugs.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police released a report this week which states that its members “agree that evidence suggests, and numerous Canadian health leaders support, decriminalization for simple possession as an effective way to reduce the public health and public safety harms associated with substance use”.

The report’s executive summary reads, in part:

Currently, people who experience substance use disorder face repercussions including criminal records, stigma, risk of overdose and the transmission of blood-borne diseases. The aim is to decrease these harms by removing mandatory criminal sanctions, often replacing them with responses that promote access to harm reduction and treatment services.

“Canada continues to grapple with the fentanyl crisis and a poisoned drug supply that has devastated our communities and taken thousands of lives,” CACP President Adam Palmer said in a press release. “We recommend that enforcement for possession give way to an integrated health-focussed approach that requires partnerships between police, healthcare and all levels of government.“

The CACP report makes a clear distinction between decriminalization and legalization:

In a decriminalized regime, drug possession remains illegal, but the nature of the penalty for possessing a small or predetermined amount of drugs (for personal consumption) is either reduced/changed from a criminal conviction to a fine or other type of sanction. In all countries where one or more drugs have been decriminalized or legalized, production is either controlled or is illegal, and trafficking remains a criminal offence.

The CACP has called for the establishment of a national task force to research drug-policy reform proposals that would help it accomplish its goal of harm reduction.

Task force doesn’t push Biden to legalize

A criminal-justice task force created by Joe Biden’s campaign in partnership with Bernie Sanders has not pushed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to back the full legalization of cannabis at the federal level.

This is in spite of the fact that polls show the majority of U.S. voters are in favour of it—and the equally compelling fact that most individual members of the Biden-Sanders task force have gone on record in support of legalization.

The task force’s report, released on July 8, mostly reiterated the former vice-president’s existing position.

“Decriminalize marijuana use and legalize marijuana for medical purposes at the federal level,” it recommends. “Allow states to make their own decisions about legalizing recreational use. Automatically expunge all past marijuana convictions for use and possession.”

To see the full Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force report—which also includes recommendations on combating the climate crisis, building a stronger economy, and reforming health care and education—click here.

Around the U.S.

Missouri: On July 9, the city council of Kansas City, Missouri, voted to approve an ordinance that will remove all penalties for cannabis possession under local laws. Non-medical cannabis use is still illegal at the state level.

Idaho: Activists campaigning for the legalization of medical cannabis have asked the state allow them to collect signatures electronically in support of their ballot initiative. Other campaigns have been allowed to do so. For example, an education-funding campaign filed a suit against the secretary of state, arguing that COVID-19 social-distancing restrictions made it more difficult for them to collect enough signatures in person before the deadline in May. A judge allowed that campaign to collect signatures for an additional 48 days.


  • terry mckinney July 18, 2020 02:11 AM

    Who will provide these drugs?How will addicts attain their supply?Prohibition is still applied at every step of the way.Only the really violent and powerful survive.People that never touch the product,have no concern for quality or safety.Fentanyl would never have polluted the system if addicts were in charge.That’s no longer the case.Medical grade heroin wasn’t popular with addicts when it was available,in the past.I doubt there are many who even remember really good,chinese heroin?Lab quality heroin.Now it’s created in holes in Afghanistan?Dug in the ground?True legalisation,or decriminalisation is required.Nobody goes down for drugs.The price is almost all profit and the added cost of dodging the laws.The illegality is a huge part of the draw.It’s also a big part of why people don’t quit.Who profits from the illegal drug trade?Follow the money.Why was Amerika in Vietnam so long?Why has Afghanistan lasted 19 years?How are black budgets financed?Why did drug use amongst youth drop away in Portugal?Why is proper treatment so expensive?Who is behind the treatment industry and who works there?Why is that industry so predatory and judgemental?How were opioids sold as being safe and non addictive?Why is the truth so toxic?

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