OTTAWA – The federal Liberal government has finally launched its long-awaited effort to legalize recreational marijuana, setting in motion a host of sweeping policy changes for public safety and health across Canada.
The suite of bills – which would establish 18 as the minimum legal age to buy pot – was introduced in the House of Commons by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Health Minister Jane Philpott and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The new legislation would establish a “strict legal framework” for the production, sale, distribution and possession of pot, and make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor.
Adults over 18 would be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent in public, share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis with other adults and buy cannabis or cannabis oil from a provincially regulated retailer.
They would also be permitted to grow up to four plants per resident for personal use, as well as make legal cannabis-containing products at home.
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The government aims to establish “significant penalties” for those who engage young Canadians in “cannabis-related offences” and a “zero-tolerance approach” to drug-impaired driving, along with a “robust” public awareness campaign.
It would also provide additional investment for licensing, inspection and enforcement challenges.
Provinces, territories and municipalities would be able to tailor rules for their own jurisdictions, enforcing them through mechanisms such as ticketing.
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They will also be permitted to set their own licensing, distribution and retail sales rules, establish provincial zoning rules for cannabis businesses and change provincial traffic safety laws as they deem necessary.
Philpott says criminalizing cannabis has not deterred use among young people, noting products like alcohol and tobacco are legally available with restrictions.
Once passed, the Liberal bills introduced today would make Canada the first member of the G7 to legalize marijuana for recreational use across the country.
© 2017 The Canadian Press