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Canada's marijuana legalization bill finally revealed

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Jenni Sheppard Apr 13, 2017 3:12 am 10,171

Canada’s Liberal government has finally tabled legislation aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana, with an emphasis on reforms of the impaired driving regulations.

The Cannabis Act is intended to come into force by July 2018, allowing adults to legally possess, grow and purchase limited amounts of cannabis products.

Cannabis products that will be legalized are: fresh or dried cannabis, cannabis oil, plants and seeds for cultivation.

Cannabis edibles will not be made legally available for purchase, although you will be permitted to make them at home for personal use.

All cannabis products will be produced by a federally-licensed grower and must be bought from a provincially or federally approved seller.

As well, cannabis products will have to be promoted in a factual way, rather than made to appeal to youth, or endorsed by celebrities, for example.

The Cannabis Act in detail

In detail, the new law will allow the possession of cannabis products by people aged 18 or older in a public place equivalent of up to 30 g of dried cannabis.

It will be illegal for anyone aged 18 and older to possess any cannabis products at all they know to be illicit cannabis, even if it is less than 30 g.

According to the government’s guidelines, 30 g of dried cannabis is equivalent to:

  • 150 g of fresh cannabis
  • 2.1 kg of liquid product
  • 7.5 g of concentrates
  • 30 cannabis plant seeds

It will also be legal for anyone aged between 12 and 18 to possess cannabis products equivalent of up to 5 g of dried cannabis.

According to the government’s guidelines, 5 g of dried cannabis is equivalent to:

  • 25 g of fresh cannabis
  • 350 g of liquid product
  • 1.25 g of concentrates
  • 5 cannabis plant seeds

However, it will be illegal for anyone to possess in a public place a cannabis plant that is budding or flowering, or more than four cannabis plants that are not budding or flowering.

It will also be illegal for an organization to possess cannabis products.

Anyone aged 18 or older violating these regulations will face a maximum prison term of five years less one day.

Meanwhile organizations will be subject to a fine, and youth will be sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Growing your own? Not so much

Under the bill, it will be illegal for anyone aged 18 or above to cultivate, propagate or harvest, or to offer to do so, a cannabis plant from seed or plant material known to be illicit.

The maximum number of cannabis plants permitted to be cultivated, propagated or harvested in anyone home will be four, regardless of the number of people living there.

Unless approved by Health Canada, all cannabis plants cultivated, propagated or harvested must be no more than 100 cm tall, not including the roots.

Cannabis plants will only be permitted to be grown by authorized producers or in a private citizen’s home as above, and never by anyone aged under 18.

Anyone aged 18 or older violating these regulations will face a maximum prison term of 14 years.

Meanwhile organizations will be subject to a fine, and youth will be sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Pot distribution locked down

Under the proposed bill, it will be illegal for anyone to share cannabis products equivalent to more than 30 g of dried cannabis, or to distribute any cannabis to anyone under 18.

It will also be illegal for anyone over 18 to possess any cannabis products with the intent of distributing to it to anyone under 18 years old.

In both cases, it will not be a defence to say you didn’t know that person was under 18, unless you took reasonable steps to find out their age.

For anyone aged between 12 and 18, it will be illegal to distribute cannabis products equivalent to more than 5 g of dried cannabis.

It will also be illegal to distribute illicit cannabis, any cannabis plant that is budding or flowering, or more than four cannabis plants that are not budding or flowering.

It will also be illegal for anyone of any age to distribute cannabis products to an organization, or for an organization to distribute cannabis.

Under the bill, it will be illegal to sell, or possess for the purposes of selling, any cannabis, or any substance represented to be cannabis, unless authorized to do so by Health Canada.

Anyone aged 18 or older violating these regulations will face a maximum prison term of 14 years.

Meanwhile organizations will be subject to a fine, and youth will be sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

This is ‘an important day’

Speaking on Thursday morning at a news conference with four government ministers, Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair said this is “an important day.”

“From experience, I know the use of cannabis among our young people is among the highest in the world,” he said. “Also, this is a business overwhelmingly controlled by organized crime…We know criminal prohibition has failed to protect our kids and communities.”

Blair said he was very proud the government has committed to doing a better job of protecting Canada’s children.

Blair said the legislation would impose “serious criminal penalties” on those who provide cannabis to young people and take profits out of hands of organized crime.

The legislation will also punish more severely those who drive under influence of drugs.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, emphasized that driving while impaired by drugs is and will remain illegal.

“Young people who test positive for alcohol or drugs continue to be the largest group of people killed in vehicle accidents,” said Wilson-Raybould.

Wilson-Raybould said the legislation would give police the ability to use oral fluid screening devices to test drivers for drug use, if they had reasonable suspicion to do so.

Based on the results, police could then require a blood sample or drug evaluation at the police station, she said.

The legislation would also introduce mandatory alcohol screening to ensure drivers over the legal limit have a greater likelihood of being caught.

Current law ‘an abject failure’

Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, described the law regarding marijuana as it stands today as “an abject failure.”

Goodale said Canadian law enforcement spends $2-3 billion a year trying to protect teenagers from cannabis, while criminals earn $7-8 billion in illicit proceeds.

“The legislation will do a better job of protecting our kids and fighting crime,” said Goodale. “Cannabis producers will be security cleared and federally licensed.”

If you were thinking the new legislation would make it easier to travel across the US border with a spliff in your pocket, you’d be wrong.

“It will remain illegal to import to Canada or export from Canada cannabis or cannabis products unless exceptionally authorized by Health Canada,” said Goodale.

It will also be illegal to possess cannabis products for the purposes of exporting it, punishable with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

However, you will be able to transport cannabis products freely from province to province, or territory to territory, within Canada.

But, Goodale added, existing laws remain in place until the new law comes into force. The current law needs to be respected for an “orderly transition… It is not a free-for-all,” he said.

Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, who is a social worker by training, emphasized the need to legalize and regulate pot to protect Canada’s kids.

“It is easier for a young person to get an illegal joint in their school than buy cigarettes,” said Lebouthillier. “The current approach does not protect our youth.”

“It’s high time we live up to our responsibility to protect our youth.”

Edibles legislation coming soon

The Cannabis Act will now enter the legislative process for approval by the House of Commons and the Senate, with the aim of coming into force by July 2018.

It should be noted that provinces and territories will be allowed to increase the minimum age, lower the possession limit, and impose extra rules on home growing.

Provinces and territories will also be able to set extra requirements, such as restrictions on zoning for cannabis-related businesses and where cannabis can be consumed in public.

Once the Cannabis Act is in force, the government has said it intends to develop separate regulations to allow the legal sale of cannabis edibles.

More to follow…

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Jenni Sheppard
Jenni is a former Senior Staff Writer at Daily Hive. Happy Vancouverite. Traveller, snowboarder, foodie, film fan, feminist, geek, cheesemaker, curler.

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