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What Amsterdam Can Teach Us About Legalizing Marijuana

When people think of places around the world that embrace cannabis culture, most think of Amsterdam first, with its street-level cafes and seemingly permissive culture. But its laws don't necessarily reflect that widely held view, as illustrated by this graphic produced and distributed by the Toronto law firm OMQ.

As the graphic points out, cannabis is illegal but tolerated there. The police will leave you alone if you possess five grams or less, because they assume you have it for your own personal use. You could face a fine or prison sentence if you have more than that, because they assume you could be dealing it.

OMQ produced this graphic, called "Marijuana Lessons for Canada," as a public education tool in advance of legalization, which the Canadian government says will happen by the spring of next year.

The graphic compares various states of legalization and decriminalization in three countries - Netherlands, United States, and Portugal - as a way of sparking debate about the possible reforms that could take place in Canada.

It answers basic questions like, "Where is smoking marijuana allowed?" In the Netherlands, it can only be consumed in licensed cannabis coffee shops. In Portugal - where cannabis is decriminalized, not legalized - you can only really smoke it at home. You can't do it public, though there are some unsanctioned cannabis coffee shops. In legal U.S. states, you also can't smoke it in public, though there is currently heated debate and various legislative initiatives to allow for cannabis clubs and cafes.

This graphic also answers questions around growing at home and where you can buy marijuana products. Because Canada has promised to legalize cannabis, not simply decriminalize it, the legal U.S. states are likely to provide more useful insights for setting up a legal, recreational market there.


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