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Legalization of cannabis one step towards ending war on drugs

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Canada is poised to be the second country in the world to legalize cannabis after Uruguay legalized marijuana's production, sale, and consumption in December 2013. There, the state controls all aspects of the marijuana market, which will be much like Canada’s upcoming plan.

The marijuana laws of these two countries will be even more liberal than the Netherlands, where recreational drugs are illegal, but a policy of tolerance is intact.

Cannabis has been illegal in Canada for 95 years, and the Cannibis Act bill is set to replace antiquated laws in the failed war on drugs. Justin Trudeau pledged to keep marijuana away from underage users and reduce drug related crime. How will this play out in real time, once cannabis is legalized? We will have to see.

The Cannabis Act -- officially Bill C-45 -- was a Trudeau campaign promise. With the Liberal Party’s electoral win in 2015, efforts to legalize marijuana were first rolled out in April 2017.

Nanos Research national poll conducted in 2016 revealed that 7 in 10 Canadians are in favour of legalization.

When cannabis is legalized, adults in Canada will be legally allowed to purchase fresh or dried cannabis, cannabis oil, and plants and seeds for cultivation from either a provincially- or territorially-regulated retailer, or -- where this option is not available -- directly from a federally-licensed producer.

Canadians will also be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis or its equivalent in public and share up to 30 grams (or its equivalent) of legal cannabis and legal cannabis products with other adults. Canadians will also be able to cultivate up to four plants total per household and prepare varying types of cannabis products at home for personal use, provided that no dangerous organic solvents are used in the process. 

Canabis is currently legal in Canada only for medicinal purposes, under conditions outlined in the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), but that will soon change.

Initially, the government had stated that marijuana would be legal by July 1, 2018, but provinces and territories -- who will be drafting their own rules for the practical and logistical aspects of selling the drug -- have notified the government that they will need eight to 12 weeks after the Senate’s approval to phase in the required logistics and infrastructure. 

The road to legalization had had several obstacles. The legislation to legalize cannabis passed in the House of Commons back in late November 2017, and passed a second reading in the Senate on March 22. Senate voted to approve the legalization of marijuana on June 7, voting 56-30 with one abstention, in favour of the move. But, there were nearly four dozen amendments to the bill, which automatically sends the legislation back to the House for reconsideration.

The biggest amendment is around the legality of growing cannabis at home with the possession of up to four plants per household being legal. Quebec and Manitoba have already chosen to prohibit home-grown cannabis, with zero tolerance for plants from any form of home grow-op. This amendment would erase the possibility of legal challenges to their constitutional authority to do so if the four plant, home grow-up remains. 

One amendment revolves around restrictions on advertising by Canadian cannabis companies on merchandise, such as T-shirts and hats. Yet another amendment invovles rules for sharing cannabis with minors, making it a summary or ticketed offence to share five grams or less of marijuana with someone more than two years younger than the individual in question. It would also allow parents to share marijuana with their kids, just as they can with alcohol.

On June 18, the House passed the bill with most, but not all, of the Senate's amendments. The Senate accepted this version of the Act the following day by a 52-29 vote with two abstentions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on June 20 that recreational use of cannabis would no longer violate the Criminal Code as of October 17 of this year.

"One of the things that we heard very clearly from the provinces is that they need a certain amount of time to get their bricks and mortar stores -- their online sales -- ready. Producers need time to be able to actually prepare for a regimented and successful implementation of the regime ... This is something that we want to get right," Trudeau told reporters at a press conference held today before the House of Commons rises for its summer recess.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould warned Canadians that they won't be allowed to legally use the drug until the aforementioned date, regardless if legalization is coming up by the end of the year. 

Image: Cannabis Culture/Flickr

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