OTTAWA-The federal government is steering Canada into a bold and risky social experiment with proposed new laws legalizing recreational marijuana for those aged 18 and older-and stringent new criminal sanctions for those who break them. But Canada is virtually the only country in the world that allows the production, distribution and consumption of medical cannabis, but forbids its access in pharmacies.
Bill Blair, a member of parliament and former Toronto police chief who has led the government's marijuana reform process, said that the government consulted extensively with officials in Colorado and Washington.
The government said it will provide details on a new licensing fee and tax system in the coming months.
The bill also introduces a number of new penalties and toughens already existing laws regarding alcohol and drug-impaired driving. Prime Minister Trudeau's cannabis legislation would allow adults 18 or over to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public. Residents will be able to grow up to four plants per home, in addition to making legal-cannabis products.
The new policy would create tougher criminal offenses for selling marijuana to a minor - punishable by as much as 14 years in prison.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Health Minister Jane Philpott were scheduled to attend a news conference later in the day to speak to the legislation.
The marijuana will be available by way of a tightly controlled and regulated supply chain. The provinces will also decide how the drug will be sold and distributed.
The ruling Liberal party made legalizing recreational marijuana part of its successful 2015 election campaign.
Licensed Canadian producers grow for the medical marijuana market but most are jockeying to enter the lucrative recreational retail sector.
With that in mind, here's a look at some of the rules surrounding legalizing marijuana in Canada-and if the USA will be the next to do so. The new Trump administration has taken a more skeptical position on marijuana reform than its predecessor, but the news out of Canada may complicate that position. The press release puts a heavy emphasis on keeping cannabis away from children, curbing impaired driving and reducing criminal and organized crime profits.
If the proposal receives Royal Assent and Parliamentary approval, the Government intends to bring the proposed Act into force no later than July 2018.
Provinces and territories would make their own decisions regarding the distribution and sale of marijuana, Health Canada says.
Despite having low levels of mind-altering THC, hemp has been lumped into the same category as marijuana in the U.S., and is classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Association President Jeremy Jacob says, "For decades, Canada's war on drugs has been a complete failure, out of line with the beliefs and actions of many Canadians". The four new recreational states, which grant cannabis freedom to adults 21 and older, joined Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Washington, D.C., and OR in ending decades of the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.
"This must be an orderly transition, it's not a free-for-all", said Goodale.
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