Leaders of Canada's Liberal Party unveiled a proposal Thursday that would make the country only the second in the world to legalize recreational marijuana, allowing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deliver on a campaign promise and inching the nation ever closer to replacing the maple leaf on its flag.
Shares of marijuana producers were trading lower following the announcement, though the stocks have seen a run-up in anticipation of legalization.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale defended the legalization, saying current laws have been "an abject failure" at keeping minors from using marijuana and organized crime from profiting.
It will also limit the amount of marijuana an individual can legally possess to 30 grams and the number of plants a household can grow to four.
After being brought in, it will be a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor.
The legislation also imposes tough new penalties of up to 14 years in prison for people giving or selling marijuana to children.
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After questions being raised on how the government will keep a track if people are driving under the influence of marijuana, the government has indicated that it will allow the police to test people's saliva to know whether the driver is driving under the influence of marijuana.
Despite introduction of the legislation, there remains a lot to be done before the legal regime comes into place. Health Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Public Safety would be responsible for enforcing the regulations.
"This must be an orderly transition; it is not a free for all". "This will not be a free-for-all".
Dried and fresh cannabis, as well as cannabis oil, will be initially available with edible products to follow.
It makes Canada "the largest federal jurisdiction in the world to legalize cannabis consumption", according to The Toronto Star.
With an eye on cross-border legal issues, the new law will allow visitors to Canada to consume marijuana.
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How marijuana is distributed, however, will be a decision on the provincial level.
Marijuana for medical purposes is already legal but annual sales of recreational marijuana could be as high as £5.2bn.
The government is intending the proposed legislation to also prevent profits from the production and sale of cannabis from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.
"Today's plan to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis will put an end to this", said Bill Blair, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.
With legalization in a growing number of our own states and now an entire major neighboring country ending prohibition, its going to be increasingly hard for drug warriors in the Trump administration to meaningfully roll back our gains, said Tom Angell of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority. This is in line with the age recommended by the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.
Granger Avery, a physician who is president of the Canadian Medical Association, had urged a minimum age of 21, and restrictions on marijuana potency until age 25, when the human brain typically is fully developed.
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