If you haven’t heard an “I’m moving to Canada” joke in a while, brace yourself: On Thursday, CBC News reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government will publish draft legislation that, if passed, would legalize recreational marijuana.
Should the Canadian legislature approve the Cannabis Act and other measures, the sale of legal marijuana in Canada would be limited to those age 18 and above.
Bill Blair, the ex-Toronto police chief turned Liberal MP, said the objective is not to promote the use of pot, but to allow its safe, socially responsible use through the mechanism of legislation and strict regulation.
“As the bill moves through the legislative process, existing laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they need to be respected”, he said.
Adults would be granted the rights to grow up to four plants per residence for personal use.
The proposed Cannabis Act introduces penalties for two new criminal offenses: “Giving or selling cannabis to youth” and “using youth to commit a cannabis-related offense”.
“The bills we propose today are aiming at putting drug dealers and organized crime out of the cannabis business”, said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. While the capital will regulate the production and ensure the safety of the country’s marijuana, the Canadian province will decide how the drugs will be distributed and sold. However, the government has allowed the provinces to set a higher age limit if they wish to do so.
Police would be able to demand a saliva sample if they have “reasonable suspicion” a driver has drugs in their body; a positive test result would then help officers identify “reasonable grounds” to demand a blood sample or further drug evaluation.
Marijuana for medical purposes is already legal but annual sales of recreational marijuana could be as high as £5.2bn.
Recreational marijuana usage has been legalized in some form in 26 states and the District of Columbia, and three more are set to join this year, but Canada would be the first Group of Seven country to do so nationally. Those specifics are not in the bill, but the proposed legislation does give the government the authority to bring in regulations on packaging, advertising and other practices.
Subject to Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, the government intends to provide regulated and restricted access to cannabis no later than July 2018.
Provinces will be allowed to sell only cannabis grown by a licensed producer.
Distribution: Under the legislation, the federal government says provinces and territories will authorize and oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis. Since September, Canada has been pushing the USA to change a policy that bans Canadians who admit to having used marijuana from travelling to the United States.
“This must be an orderly transition; it is not a free for all”.
Philpott says criminalizing cannabis has not deterred use among young people, noting products like alcohol and tobacco are legally available with restrictions.