The Liberals have unveiled C-45, the blueprint for making recreational marijuana legal right across Canada. The bill gives a picture of what legalized marijuana will look like under Justin Trudeau's Liberals even though the long road to smoking weed legally in Canada will see many changes.
OTTAWA — The Liberals have unveiled C-45, the blueprint for making recreational marijuana legal right across Canada.
The bill gives a picture of what legalized marijuana will look like under Justin Trudeau's Liberals even though the long road to smoking weed legally in Canada will see many changes.
It's a bold and risky social experiment by the federal government with proposed new laws legalizing recreational marijuana for those aged 18 and older — and stringent new criminal sanctions for those who break them.
The bundle of bills tabled Thursday in the House of Commons marks the start of a lengthy process which, once complete in July 2018, will usher in a dramatic cultural change, its ramifications reaching into nearly every aspect of Canadian society, reported Canadian Press.
Since the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals have couched their push to legalize pot in a counterintuitive message: that it is the single best way to keep the drug out of the hands of impressionable and still-developing children.
The long-standing prohibition on pot in Canada has been an "abject failure," with police forces spending upwards of $3 billion a year trying to stamp out cannabis use among some of the heaviest users in the western world, said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
Criminals on the black market are the ones profiting from the current system, to the tune of anywhere from $7 billion to $8 billion a year, Goodale said.
In short, he said: "We simply have to do better."
Bill Blair, the ex-Toronto police chief turned Liberal MP, said the objective is not to promote the use of pot, but to allow its safe, socially responsible use through the mechanism of legislation and strict regulation.
Ottawa is leaving it up to the provincial and territorial governments to prescribe rules for retail environments, including whether marijuana can be sold alongside alcohol, as well as to properly regulate and distribute the drug.
That means the challenge now before the provincial and territorial governments is nothing short of monumental.
"I think that if we get it right, it can work," said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.
"I also know that there is a lot of heavy lifting to be done to get there … One of the things we know, for instance, is that it's not the cash cow that people think it is and there are a lot of costs associated with it."
Other questions remain unanswered.
One that dominated the conversation Thursday touched on how the changes could impact the country's relationship with the U.S., and what sort of administrative stress Canadians can expect at the border.
Canada has been in "very close touch" with the U.S. on the issue, said Goodale, but he had little to say about Canadians who might fear trouble from American border guards when travelling south.
"Every sovereign country has the ability at the border to make decisions for themselves," Goodale said.
"No one should lie at the border; in fact under the laws of both countries you are obliged to tell the truth when you're speaking to a border services officer."
A U.S. Embassy spokesperson, speaking on background, said while any changes won't impact the relationship between the two countries, Canadians still need to be cognizant of the law as it stands in the U.S.
"Currently, marijuana possession is against federal law in the United States, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will enforce the law as appropriate," the official said.
"It is important that Canadians are aware of possible actions they may face upon attempted entrance into the United States if they possess or have residue of marijuana."
Exporting and importing cannabis will continue to be illegal, Goodale said. The government said resources required by the RCMP and the Canadian Border Services Agency will be provided to enforce the law at the border, reported Canadian Press.
Highlights of the legislation:
Sales to be restricted to people age 18 and older, although provinces would have the jurisdiction to increase their own minimum age.
Adults 18 and older would be allowed to publicly possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent in non-dried form.
Sales by mail or courier through a federally licensed producer would be allowed in provinces that lack a regulated retail system.
Adults aged 18 and older would be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants for each residence, with plants not to exceed one metre in height.
Adults aged 18 and older would also be allowed to produce legal cannabis products, such as food or drinks, for personal use at home.
At first, sales will entail only fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils and seeds and plants for cultivation. Sales of edibles will come later, once regulations for production and sale can be developed.
Possession, production and distribution outside the legal system would remain illegal, as would imports or exports without a federal permit. Such permits will cover only limited purposes, such as medical or scientific cannabis and industrial hemp.
Travellers entering Canada would still be subject to inspections for prohibited goods, including cannabis.
The existing program for access to medical marijuana would continue as it currently exists.