Living in Spokane, my experience with cannabis tourism has been mostly secondhand. Friends have visited and marveled at our dispensaries, but that's been about it. It's hard for me to count walking into a pot shop in Portland or Seattle as much of a memorable experience. But cannabis in another country? That would be something to remember, and it's what happened last weekend when a few friends and I made a trip up to Vancouver.
Our trip came almost exactly one year after the Cannabis Act went into effect, legalizing the drug in Canada. It made our neighbors to the north just the second country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana on a nationwide level. The other is Uruguay, a small South American country home to around 3.5 million people. Canada's population is roughly 10 times larger than Uruguay's. In other words, with all due respect to the 40-or-so million Californians, Canada is the largest petri dish in the world's experiment with legal weed.
On Oct. 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act went into effect. A few weeks later, these same friends and I visited Nelson, B.C. Thankfully, we didn't go to take part in cannabis tourism. Like many other jurisdictions, the rollout of a legal market up north was slow and stunted. At the time of our trip in early November, the nearest legal weed store was a few hours away in Kamloops. That was shocking, considering Nelson is about as stoney of a small town as I've ever seen.
Fast forward a year, and a few hundred miles west to Vancouver, and you can see that the legal market up north is now thriving. Walk around downtown Vancouver and you'll see posh dispensaries next door to bustling restaurants or nestled alongside pricey condominiums.
According to Bloomberg, cannabis has been responsible for contributing $8.26 billion to the nation's economy over the first year of legalization. And all of that economic impact came from good, old-fashioned weed. Edibles, topicals and extracts had to wait a full year after initial legalization to make their way onto the market. They'll hit shelves on Oct. 17, just like this edition of the Inlander.
Canada took a slow and steady approach to legalization — similar to ours here in Washington, but on a much larger scale. In doing so, the Canadians have built a model for legalization going forward. ♦