Canadian Cannabis: Marijuana as an Irritant/problem in Canada-U.S. Relations

Article excerpt

The electronic, peer-reviewed Occasional Papers on Public Policy series, published at acsus.org by the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States, is designed to highlight ongoing research in Canadian domestic and foreign policy at the federal, provincial, and city levels. ACSUS invites submissions on issues of public policy that pertain to cross-border relations between Canada and the United States, or policies in one of these countries that have implications for the other.

As with ARCS, the e-journal is multidisciplinary and encourages submissions from all fields of policy inquiry. Ideally, papers will be four to eight pages in length (double-spaced) and should be submitted electronically to: Professor Michael Lusztig, Department of Political Science, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275; mlusztig@smu.edu.

The first "volume" in the Occasional Papers on Public Policy series is published in the pages that follow. The four occasional papers in this volume address a wide range of matters important to both the United States and Canada.

In a recent survey of the Canada-U.S. relationship, Munroe Eagles noted that the "popular impression" for many Americans was that Canadians were "out of step with their more conservative neighbor to the south" (Eagles 2006, 821). John Herd Thompson made a similar claim in his review of the bilateral relationship over the 1994-2003 period, writing that Canadians are perceived by some Americans as being "left wing wimps" (Thompson 2003, 17). One area in which Canada may be regarded as out of step with the United States, and Canadians as left wing wimps, is the issue of marijuana. There are real and noticeable differences between Canada and the U.S. in the way each side deals with the issue of marijuana. The following pages examine the marijuana issue in terms of the growing volume of the drug being smuggled into the United States from Canada, the increased potency of the strains of marijuana grown in Canada, and the differences in judicial deterrents adopted to penalize possession and cultivation. This is followed by a look at a couple of possibilities that have the potential to transform the marijuana irritant into the marijuana problem in Canada-U.S. relations.

The amount of marijuana being produced in Canada and then illegally exported to the United States is of increasing concern to all levels of American law enforcement. While British Columbia (B.C.), Ontario, and Quebec are all of concern to U.S. officials, British Columbia presents the largest source of Canadian marijuana for the U.S. market, so the discussion will focus primarily upon that province. The marijuana cultivation industry in B.C. is thriving, as demonstrated by the fact that the province accounted for almost 40 percent of all growing operations found by law enforcement officials in Canada in 2003. the last year for which full data are available (CCJS 2004). During that year, the province also had the highest rate of cultivation "incidents" in Canada, at 79 per 100,000 people. What this means is that 79 marijuana cultivation operations were found for every 100,000 people in the province. This is nearly triple the national rate of 27 per 100,000 people, and 33 higher than second-place New Brunswick, at 46. More marijuana cultivation facilities were uncovered by Canadian law enforcement officials in B.C. (3274) than in all of the other provinces combined (2564), except Quebec (2939), in 2003 (CCJS 2004). In their study of the B.C. marijuana growing industry over the 1997-2003 period, Darryl Plecas, Aili Malm, and Bryan Kinney identified over 25,000 cultivation operations uncovered by police officers in the province (Plecas, Malm, and Kinney 2005). In terms of the monetary value of marijuana, it is estimated that the annual wholesale value of the provincial industry is approximately C$6 billion, or what is equivalent to about 5 percent of the annual provincial gross domestic product. …