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Government unveils proposed marijuana legislation

Proposed legislation announced Thursday by the federal government to legalize recreational marijuana as early as next year comes with strengthened laws for offences.

Two new bills tabled in the House of Commons Thursday include one to regulate recreational use, sale and cultivation of marijuana and a second that toughens offences.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly stated the goal of the legislation is to restrict access of marijuana to minors, and choke profits from sales to organized crime.

“As a former police officer, I know first-hand how easy it is for our kids to buy cannabis,” stated Bill Blair, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. “In many cases, it is easier for our children to get cannabis than it is to get cigarettes. Today’s plan to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis will put an end to this. It will keep cannabis out of the hands of children and youth, and stop criminals from profiting from it.”

The Cannabis Act would, for the first time, make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and create significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences, stated Health Canada in its statement Thursday.

It noted Canada has the highest rates of youth cannabis use of any country in the world. In 2015, use among youth aged 15 to 19 was 21 per cent, while use among young adults aged 20 to 24 was 30 per cent.

Subject to Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, the government intends to provide regulated and restricted access to cannabis no later than July 2018.

It would allow people to possess up to 30 grams (one ounce) of dried or fresh cannabis and sets the minimum at 18 years of age, though provinces can set a higher legal age. There are no details yet on how it will be priced or taxed.

Adults would be able to grow up to four plants per household (not per person) at a maximum height of one metre, from a legal seed or seedling, or purchase from a licensed retailer.

Dried and fresh cannabis and cannabis oil sales will be available first, with edible products to follow later. Adults would be allowed to produce legal cannabis products such as food or drinks, for personal use at home.

Until the new law comes into force, cannabis will remain illegal everywhere in Canada, except for medical purposes.

The new act would create two new criminal offences with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail for giving, or selling cannabis to youth or using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence.

Possession, production, distribution and sale outside the legal system is subject to penalties proportionate to the seriousness of the offence, ranging from ticketing, up to a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The act would also prohibit packaging or labelling cannabis in a way that makes it appealing to youth; selling through self-service displays or vending machines, false, misleading or deceptive advertising, sponsorships, testimonials and endorsements that could entice young people. Penalities for these and other violations, include a fine of up to $5 million or three years in jail, or both.

The proposed Act seeks to avoid criminalizing youth and subjecting them to the lifelong consequences of a criminal record. Individuals under the age of 18 years would not face criminal prosecution for possessing or sharing very small amounts of cannabis (up to 5 grams).

Filed Under: Local News

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