Marijuana is now legal in Michigan, but you still can't take it across the border in Sault Ste. Marie

Marijuana is now legal in Michigan. But despite being allowed on both sides of the Sault Ste. Marie international bridge, it is still against the law to transport pot across the border.

In Michigan, you can carry twice as much pot as in Ontario and grow three times as many plants

Now that Marijuana is legal in Michigan, as well as all of Canada, it is now maybe the only legal product that can't be transported over the border at Sault Ste. Marie. (CBC)

Not quite two months after pot prohibition ended in northern Ontario, our neighbours in Michigan get legal weed as of Thursday.

It is no longer against the law to own or grow marijuana in Michigan, but retail stores aren't expected to open until 2021.

And they can have a lot more legal weed than here in Ontario.

The new law allows Michigan citizens to have up to 12 cannabis plants, compared to four in Ontario. They can also carry 70 grams of it, while someone in Ontario is only allowed 30 grams. 

Right across the border in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the city commission recently voted against allowing cannabis dispensaries.

City commissioner Abby Baker was the lone vote in favour of pot stores, which she calls a "huge opportunity" for the city's tourism industry, which is currently based around the Sault's shipping locks.

"Unless you're into engineering or big boats, it's a 20 minute stop. There's nothing there to keep you there for longer than that," Baker says.

She fears that if pot stores remain banned on the Upper Peninsula, people will go across the river to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario to buy their weed.

"Oh yeah. It'll happen. It'll happen for sure. Just like we don't have a movie theatre. Everybody goes over there to go to a movie," Baker says.

Some in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan worry that people will just go over to Ontario to buy weed if the city continues with its ban on marijuana dispensaries. (www.saultbridge.com)

City council in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario is set to discuss whether or not to allow marijuana dispensaries at its meeting next week.

But because the federal government in the U.S. still considers cannabis an illegal drug, it can't be transported across the border in Sault St. Marie or anywhere else.  

Dan Malleck, a health sciences professor at Brock University and an expert in the history of prohibition, says this rare restriction of a legal product is because cannabis still has a cloud hanging over it.

"There's real and sort of imagined problems. The real ones are there are still illegal sources of cannabis. The imagined ones are cannabis is still embedded with this moral or legal problem. So it's still associated with negative things," Malleck says.

He expects it could be many years before marijuana is legal across the U.S., but he can see Canada allowing Americans to bring marijuana across the border and certainly welcome them to come north to shop and smoke.

"So we may see an actual attempt to open stores in border communities, but it wouldn't necessarily be openly encouraging them to bring it back into the U.S. where it is still illegal," he adds. 

Malleck says the same thing happened between 1927 and 1933 when Americans flooded across the border to drink alcohol in Ontario, when it was still illegal in their own country. 

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca