Government unveils proposed marijuana legislation

Posted April 21, 2017

The Canadian government's movement toward legalized recreational marijuana will have major implications in American border cities like Buffalo, where Western New Yorkers would theoretically be free to cross the border to buy and use the drug at Ontario's discretion.

Teens and minors under the age of 18, would be prohibited from having or buying marijuana.

"We know that criminal prohibition has failed to protect our kids and our communities", said parliamentary secretary Bill Blair.

If approved, legislation would establish new rules letting Canadians legally buy, harvest and have limited amounts of government-controlled marijuana in addition to implementing measures meant to discourage individuals from skirting the proposed restrictions.

The Liberal government has also pledged to have a public campaign rolled out to educate people on the dangers of marijuana use, especially when driving and combined with alcohol and other drugs.

Under the proposed new system, individuals will be able to possess up to 30 grams of dried or fresh cannabis for personal use - about one ounce - and can grow up to four plants at home, provided they are not more than one meter high.

Trafficking outside the new regime would continue to be illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison, as would selling cannabis to youths, driving under its influence, and importing or exporting pot.

The set of laws would likely go into effect in Canada by June 2018, with a "strict legal framework" for cultivation and sale of marijuana, officials said. It will be left to Canadian provinces to decide how the drug will be distributed and sold. Its also a departure from the norm in the USA, where states that have legalized recreational marijuana use have set a minimum age of 21.

Bringing marijuana products across the border could cause confusion for citizens of both countries: Americans who may cross back into the US still under the influence, and Canadians who enter the USA unwittingly in possession of marijuana. Goodale, the public safety minister, warned that existing laws banning cannabis will remain in force until the new legislation is passed. Canada's 10 provinces and three territories have the authority to increase, but not decrease, the minimum age for use and impose additional requirements for personal cultivation.

"How much is legalization going to cost?" he said.

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.

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.

The former police chief had chaired the government's cannabis task force, which laid out a blueprint for legal recreational pot in Canada. "Our system will actually be the better one". In provinces that fail to regulate marijuana, residents will be able to purchase from federally regulated distributers over the Internet. "Too many of our kids now have access to cannabis".