Taking its cue from Colorado and Washington State, the Canadian government has presented comprehensive legislation that would legalize the use of recreational marijuana throughout the nation. The measure is scheduled for a July 1, 2018 launch date and represents a key campaign promise of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The sweeping legislation will revise criminal laws throughout Canada while setting product standards and licensing growers. It will be the responsibility of the provinces to determine policies regarding distribution and retail sales.
Canada is set to become the first large industrialized nation to implement a federal legalization system for recreational and medical marijuana use. It will mark the first time that a major world industrial power will sanction the common usage of both medical and recreational pot. It will join Uruguay as the only other country to legalize pot nationwide.
Specifics of the Law
Under the new law, citizens will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams (about an ounce) of cannabis for their personal use, either fresh or dried. They will also be permitted to cultivate as many as four plants at their personal residences with a height of no more than one meter.
As in U.S. states where cannabis is legal, the minimum age for recreational use will be set at 18, although each province is allowed to establish a higher age requirement. Breaking the law will come with stiff penalties. The government intends on enforcing penalties of up to 14 years in jail for pushing the drug to underaged teens.
Canada will also impose strict consequences if citizens are found to be under the influence while driving, making it a crime to operate a motor vehicle within two hours if the drug is found to exist in the bloodstream. Law enforcement agencies will be empowered to administer marijuana saliva tests on the spot if a motorist exhibits signs of use such as a strong odor of cannabis or red eyes.
Ready for Rec
Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001. The industry has been thriving with eager licensed suppliers waiting with bated breath for recreational retail operations to open the doors. The market is expected to explode.
Regulations in Place for Now
There is still quite a bit of work to be done before nationwide policies and regulations go into effect. In the meanwhile, current cannabis laws that prohibit marijuana will remain the law of the land until the proposed legislation is passed. The way that the products will be taxed looms large over the government. Policies that regulate the sale of edibles have been pushed back to an undetermined date.
As in most U.S. states, marketing targeted at underaged citizens would be outlawed. Vending machine sales and self-service setups will also be banned. The legislature has yet to determine any relevant packaging policies, which will go into effect only after consultation with the public and industry officials. Advertising, however, will be subject to similar regulations governing the sale of tobacco. Operators will not be permitted to brand their products.
For those visiting Canada, they will be permitted to consume cannabis at their leisure. However, importing and exporting the drug is strictly forbidden, and current laws are expected to remain in place. For example, citizens and tourists crossing from Washington State, where recreational pot is legal, and entering the Province of British Columbia will be subject to arrest if they are caught transporting weed across the border.
The International Playing Field
At this point, no other G7 (Group of Seven) nation has legalized marijuana nationally. These nations represent nearly 65 percent of net global wealth. They are the allied nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The potential worldwide impact of legalizing marijuana across these wealthy nations would significantly strengthen the global economy, bringing in hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue. This may simply be a pipe dream, however, because of current international drug treaties banning marijuana. This reality is a vexing problem for Canada, who failed to meet the July 1, 2017 deadline for pulling out of the agreement.
Some in Canada are not yet convinced. The finance minister of Manitoba insists that provinces should be allowed more time to consider all implementation aspects of the measure prior to rolling the law out nationally.
Others are concerned with addiction. This apprehension is largely related to the drug finding its way into the hands of minors, though medical officials indicate that cannabis is not physically addictive. The idea that marijuana serves as a gateway to more serious drug use continues to permeate the public perception.
Physicians and researchers do point to the psychoactive ingredients in THC, which might lead to some psychiatric disorders. They admit the risk is proportionately small.
Prime Minister Trudeau successfully argued that the new legislation will help law enforcement because it will allow the police to focus their resources on more serious crimes. It will also take a significant amount of money out of the hands of organized crime figures and gangs.
This move, involving a major world economic player, will be watched closely as other countries, including the U.S., are beginning to consider moves to legalize marijuana nationwide.