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Ruling Liberal Party of Canada (Liberals) had proposed this week to legalize marijuana in Canada during a news conference in Ottawa, and making Canada the first among developed nations to fully legalize pot, media reports said.
Image of Marijuana: Wikipedia
The media conference was attended by Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Health Minister Jane Philpott and parliamentary secretary Bill Blair, CBCNews reports said.
This Cannabis Act proposed by Liberals , if approved, aimed to protect public health would follow strict safety rules and quality requirements for the production, possession, distribution, and sale of cannabis across Canada, said Health Canada.
Cannabis will still remain illegal, continued Health Canada, till it moves through legislative processes to becomes a law in July 2018.
After the legalization of marijuana, Youth’s access to cannabis would be restricted, promotion activities of marijuana would be curbed and all illegal activities would be reduced, raising public awareness of its health risks, allowing access of licensed and quality controlled cannabis only to adults over 18 years, said Health Canada.
Legislation of marijuana would aim to protect minors and keeping profits away from organized crime, said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, CBCNews reports said.
Two new bills accompanied the legalization of pot; first to regulate the recreational use, sale and cultivation of marijuana, and a second to stop impaired driving.
The legal limit of the pot to adults over the age of 18 would be up to 30 grams of dried or fresh cannabis and provinces and territories had could use their own discretion to set higher legal age.
Consumers would be allowed to grow up to four plants at home to a maximum height of 100 cm, per residence for personal use from licensed seed or seedlings or buy from a licensed retailer, make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home but without using any organic solvents.
Provinces with unregulated retail framework, would be required to purchase cannabis from an online federally-licensed producer, said Health Canada.
Edibles, would be made available for purchase after appropriate rules for their production and sale are developed.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments would share responsibilities to oversee system, Health Canada said. The federal government would be responsible for setting industry-wide rules and standards for production practices including who grows and manufactures cannabis, the types of cannabis products for sale, their packaging and labeling requirements, standardized potency and serving sizes as well as tracking of cannabis from seed to sale and prevent promotional activities.
The provinces and territories would adhere to federal conditions in licensing in overseeing distribution and sale of cannabis. They would be allowed to lower the personal possession limit as well as lowering the number of plants per residence, restrict the places of consumption of cannabis such as in public or in vehicles, said Health Canada.
Tourists will be prohibited from bringing pot past the border under the new law, but provinces would be allowed to to sell pot at the same place as alcohol.
Federal Finance minister has not yet announced details regarding its taxes.
Unless and until all the key elements have been resolved, said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, legalization of marijuana would follow a careful path, until existing laws are in place.
"This must be an orderly transition. It is not a free for all," said Goodale, CBCNews reports said.
Justin Trudeau Prime Minister of Canada, had been stressing legalization of marijuana should be to restrict minors and prohit profits from its sales by organized crime.
Canada held a detailed consultation with other jurisdictions, including Colorado and Washington states, to learn pros and cons of legal marijuana, said Bill Blair, Parliamentary secretary.
Blair said, during a news conference after the bills were tabled, that Canada focused legalized production, distribution and consumption of cannabis targeted on the overall public health.
"And that focus enables us to avoid many of the pitfalls that other jurisdictions have experienced, where the focus was primarily on maximizing revenue,” said Blair, CBCNews reports said."
Health Canada said that the new proposed Bill would target illegal activities and those involved in organized crime. Penalties would be imposed depending on the seriousness of the offences from warnings and tickets for minor offences to criminal prosecution and imprisonment for more serious offences.
Although proposed legalization of pot had been applauded by marijuana advocates, there were concerns about rise in impaired driving and its effects on the mental health of young Canadians.
According to proposed law driving within two hours of an illegal level of drugs in the blood and the penalties for this rangied from a $1,000 fine to life imprisonment, depending on offence and if an injury or death resulted due to impairment.
Three new offences of impaired driving were created by the bill and gives police the power to require saliva tests for drivers suspected of being high. A test can be administered by police on signs based on red eyes or the smell of pot.
Colin Carrie, Conservative health critic accused the federal government of imposing unclear laws that helped pot smokers but forced the provinces to pay.
"He's made this promise, but there really isn't any clarity… And at the end of the day, how much is this going to cost?", said Carrie, CBCNews reports said.
The government had been also criticized, in a news conference, by Members of Parliament (MPs) of the New Democratic Party (NDP) for allowing thousands of Canadians to be charged and convicted before the bill passes into law.
Alistair MacGregor, NDP justice critic complained that it was 18 months ago when the Liberals first came to power with their promises to legalise the pot and it was unfair that Canadians would have to wait for at least for 15 more months.
The NDPs were also pushing the government to pardon past convictions, and said more measures were needed to reduce harm for broader drug addiction, including cash to tackle the opioid crisis.
The bills would face tough scrutiny by MPs in the House of Commons and at committee, said media reports, before it goes Senate for further study, but the government still hoped to make pot legal by July 1, 2018.
The proposed Cannabis Act is informed by the recommendations of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation (TFCLR). TLFCR had been created by The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, supported by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Health for legalization and regulation of marijuana.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)