Canada grows closer to legalizing pot

An employee trims marijuana plants / The Canadian Press

 

Legal marijuana in Canada will take the shape of a tightly controlled and heavily regulated market, according to a panel appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The panel was created last year to investigate the issue of marijuana legalization in Canada. They’ve urged the creation of an environment where adults can safely and legally use marijuana, while also cracking down on the cannabis black market.

The panel was chaired by former Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan. Their final report states their recommendations, if put into effect, will “strike a balance between implementing appropriate restrictions, in order to minimize the harms associated with cannabis use, and providing adults access to a regulated supply of cannabis while reducing the scope and scale of the illicit market and its social harms.”

Trudeau plans to put forward legislation based on the panel’s report this spring.

The panel’s key recommendations regarding legalization include:

  • Set a national minimum age of purchase of 18
  • Sell only through specialty stores
  • Restrict the ability to advertise and promote the consumption of marijuana and related merchandise, similar to the way tobacco is regulated
  • Price based on potency
  • Inform Canadians of the facts of marijuana consumption and its effect on health through an evidence-informed public education campaign
  • Stronger penalties for selling marijuana outside the legal framework

The Liberal Party’s stance on the issue is clearly outlined on their website, where they state, “We will legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana.”

“Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work,” they continue. “It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.”

By legalizing marijuana and creating a tightly controlled market, the Liberal Party hopes to make it more difficult for minors to acquire the drug, as well as take the profits that currently go to the black market.

These profits are likely immense, if the experience of legalizing marijuana in Colorado is any indication. Last year marijuana sales brought in over a billion dollars, leading to an increase in tax revenue that is being used to build new schools and improve current ones, as well as to fund health programs.

Advocates for legalizing marijuana in the United States face uncertainty regarding President-elect Donald Trump’s position on the issue. Trump’s pick for attorney general, Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, has been vocal in opposing the legalization of  the drug, saying at one point that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Trump himself has vowed to keep marijuana illegal federally. What effect, if any, the swing in direction from its biggest neighbour will have on Canada, remains to be seen.

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