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22 April 2017, 01:56 | Violet Powell
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, following through on campaign promises, introduced federal legislation today that would legalize personal possession and cultivation of marijuana throughout the country.
Bill Blair, the Canadian government's point man on legalizing marijuana, speaks during a news conference Thursday in Ottawa.
Recent media reports have indicated that it is the goal of the federal government to have recreational cannabis legalized by July 1, 2018.
The Prime Minister's Office declined to say if he still feels that way, saying only it would "legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access" to cannabis in a careful way to keep it out of the hands of young people and to prevent criminals from profiting.
Health Canada's oversight of the industry was called into question in December when three federally licensed medical-marijuana producers were found to have sold products containing banned pesticides that can cause serious health problems when inhaled.
The legislation would establish a user's minimum age at 18 years, though individual provinces can raise that legal limit.
The bill does not deal with edible products such as chocolate bars and chewable gummy candies laced with cannabis, but does say that those products will be "made available at a later date". Medical marijuana is already legal in Canada.
Strict guidelines will be set on how marijuana can be marketed. The government is yet to decide whether the producers would use child-proof packaging or plain packaging.
Canadians would also be permitted to grow up to four plants per residence for personal use, as well as make legal cannabis-containing products at home.
No information was given on how the product will be priced or taxed; these details are expected to be announced by the country's finance minister in the coming months.
"The legislation will be reviewed in Parliamentary committees, where alterations could be made", the wire service says. Some have argued that the timeline of legalisation by mid-2018 is overly ambitious, suggesting that 2019 is a more likely date.
The bill gives authority to set in place regulations for other specific areas such as font and colour, Philpott suggested Thursday, noting the government will take public health lessons from issues including tobacco.
Also, penalties for possessing a bit more marijuana than allowed will be considerably less severe than before.
There will be new criminal code provisions, including making it an offense, punishable by up to 14 years in jail, for the illegal distribution or sale of cannabis as well as similar penalties for providing or selling marijuana to minors.
Others worry that legalisation will put Canada on a collision path with Donald Trump's administration south of the border. Canada would be the largest developed country to end a nationwide prohibition of recreational marijuana. Goodale said Canadian tourists "should never lie" to border guards and suggested he had raised the issue with US officials.
If authorized as planned, proponents say the bill will be a blessing for the almost one-third of young adults in Canada who admit smoking weed and subsequently risk arrest in the face the federal government's current prohibition.
But it won't mean much to the thousands of Canadians going to Arizona every year except for the possibility of slightly more hassle at the worldwide border by suspicious customs officers, he said.
The CAA said that a quarter of Canadians aged 18 to 34 believe a driver is either better at operating a vehicle, or the same, when they are high on marijuana compared with being completely sober. "We simply have to do better", said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
The driving objective of the Liberal government's plan is to address Canada's "very high rates" of cannabis use among young people that are among the highest rates in the world, Philpott said.
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