Canada introduces long-awaited legislation to fully legalise marijuana

Canada was on track to legalize recreational marijuana by July 2018 after the government put forward legislation on Thursday that will see it regulate production but left the details of how the drug will be sold up to the provinces.Recreational marijuana has been legalized in some USA states, including Colorado and Washington, but Canada would be the first Group of Seven country to do so nationally.

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.

The federal government will provide minimum conditions, but the provinces could set more rules about distribution and sale on top of those. People will also be permitted to grow up to four plants at home. Under the new regime, the federal government will license marijuana producers, while the provinces will be in charge of distributing and selling the product to Canada's adult market.

Under the federal Liberal government - which has the power to establish criminal law - it would still remain a crime to drive while impaired by drugs, to operate any kind of marijuana production or sales operation outside of what Ottawa says should be a tightly-regulated market, or to export it to worldwide markets.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Health Minister Jane Philpott were scheduled to address the details of the bills at a news conference later Thursday.

As Ottawa works toward squeezing out illegal producers of marijuana, federal officials are anxious that a shortage of cannabis would hurt their plans in the initial stages of legalization. "We've tried to learn from their experience", he said, noting that Canada has looked upon this as public health issue rather than a commercial opportunity and an effort to maximize tax revenue.

Another outlines rules for enforcing the proposed pot law, and includes provisions that could put convicted marijuana criminals in prison for up to 14 years. And in some provinces, the governments are anxious to allow their retail alcohol monopolies to sell cannabis as well.

The news has been welcomed by many legalization campaigners who argue that prohibition of marijuana does not deter users, but funnels money to criminals, and results in too many Canadians ending up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of pot. The provinces, though, could increase that age limit if they wanted to.

Currently, Canadians with a prescription from a doctor can legally buy up to 150 grams of dried marijuana - from a registered licensed producer of medical marijuana, which delivers it by mail order.

In the United States, seven states allow recreational use of marijuana. "The Cannabis Act reflects an evidence-based approach that will protect Canadians' public health and safety". Transporting cannabis across worldwide borders or selling to minors would be serious criminal offenses.

It noted that USA states where recreational marijuana use is legal had aligned the minimum age with alcohol consumption at 21.

  • Zachary Reyes