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STEVE ELLIOTT

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The federal government of Canada on Thursday released a plan that would legalize and regulate the commercial sale and adult use of marijuana nationwide. Passage of the law, expected to take effect by July 1, 2018, will fulfill one of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s primary campaign promises.

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Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the Justice Minister:
“Criminal prohibition has failed to protect our kids and our communities”
[Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press]

“Criminal prohibition has failed to protect our kids and our communities,” said Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the Justice Minister. Blair was one of the architects of the legislation, said at a news conference, reports Dale Carruthers at The London Free Press. The bill will “make Canada safer,” added Blair, a former Toronto police chief.

“It is not our intent to promote the use of this drug,” Blair said, reports Ian Austen at The New York Times. Blair said the Canadian system of legalization would place public health policy above commercial interests.

The new federal laws in Canada will make the possession of small amounts of cannabis legal throughout the country, reports Adam Kovac at USA Today. It will also establish broad guidelines concerning who can grow, sell and buy the herb.

Canada will become only the second modern nation on Earth to fully legalize marijuana, after Uruguay. There will be none of the ambiguity between federal and local laws in Canada that currently exists in the United States. U.S. federal law deems cannabis a Schedule I controlled substance, considered more dangerous than both methamphetamine and cocaine, both Schedule II drugs.

The legislation would establish 18 as the minimum legal age to purchase marijuana and would create a legal framework for its production, sale, and distribution. Adults 18 and older would be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana.

Each Canadian province will have the option to set the minimum legal age higher. Each province will also have the power to decide where and how cannabis may be sold, and will set prices in conjunction with the federal government.

Households will be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants. The legislation, however, seems to assume the most marijuana customers will avail themselves of weed supplied by commercial growers. Growers will be licensed and closely regulated by the federal government.

Existing licensed growers — more than 40 in all, including those that are not publicly traded — are expected to have a head start in the recreational market. But it isn’t a given that they will see a boom of the kind that, say, whiskey distillers enjoyed after Prohibition was repealed.

The illegal marijuana stores that sprang up in several cities after Trudeau came to power in late 2015, in anticipation of legalization, are not likely to be allowed to stay in business, according to the Times. The shops are supplied by black-market growers. Police have looked the other way in some cities, but authorities have been openly skeptical about assertions by shop owners that they sell only to medical users.

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Erik Altieri, NORML:
“This sensible approach to marijuana stands in stark contrast to the direction and tone … Donald Trump and his administration have been taking on the issue”
[Twitter]

The bills were introduced in the House of Commons by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Health Minister Jane Philpott and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“This sensible approach to marijuana stands in stark contrast to the direction and tone … Donald Trump and his administration have been taking on the issue,” the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) responded, in a prepared statement.

“While the Canadian government is moving in the direction of legalization and regulation, the Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem more intent on reviving outdated and erroneous Drug War rhetoric than allowing science and facts to dictate public policy,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “The United States should follow Canada’s example and end our own costly and disastrous prohibition on marijuana.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, first sparked the idea of decriminalizing pot in Canada back in 1977.

 

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