Canada announces legislation to legalize recreational marijuana

Tabitha Dunn
April 25, 2017

The plan represents progress for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised to legalize marijuana during his campaign.

While Canada had stopped enforcing pot laws for the past few years, this additional step toward full legalization is a huge leap for the country, and a major win for marijuana activists around the world.

Voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada voted a year ago to approve the use of recreational marijuana, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

While the bill removes punishments for use and possession of pot, it does not establish a nationwide regulatory system to sell marijuana commercially.

The government introduced a proposed law Thursday that largely follows the recommendations of a federal task force.

Thursday's legislation included a stipulation that those under the age of 18 found with up to five grams of marijuana will not face criminal charges.

The government plans to have a legalized-pot system in place by July 2018, said Blair. It will be left to Canadian provinces to decide how the drug will be distributed and sold.

That decision has created a year of legal turmoil across the country, as local and provincial police were forced to raid unlicensed dispensaries across the country and criminalize Canadians despite the fact that marijuana legalization is imminent.

Canada's Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale (left) speaks during a news conference with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould (center) and Health Minister Jane Philpott in Ottawa, Canada, April 13, 2017.

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The federal government set the age at 18, but is allowing each of Canada's provinces to determine if it should be higher.

'Criminal prohibition has failed to protect our kids and communities and we need a new approach, ' said Bill Blair, the government's point man on the issue and a former police chief.

Further to those guidelines, if Canadians want to grow their own marijuana, they are limited to four plants per household.

"We can't drag our feet; we aspire to get this done as quickly as possible", he said.

“With legalization in a growing number of our own states and now an entire major neighboring country ending prohibition, its going to be increasingly hard for drug warriors in the Trump administration to meaningfully roll back our gains, ” said Tom Angell of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority. "We are pleased to see the government moving towards laws that better reflect our society".

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that police forces spend between 2 billion and 3 billion Canadian dollars (between 1.5 billion and 2.25 billion US dollars) annually to enforce Canada's existing law against marijuana use.

CEO Vic Neufeld says the legislation introduced today is a good beginning, but leaves a lot of blanks to be filled, like more explanation as to allowed marketing and related practices.

The news that Canada was soon going to announce the law was noticed online last month by Snoop Dogg, who tweeted "Oh Canada!"

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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