Pubdate: Tue, 11 Apr 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Daniel Leblanc
Page: 3


Government to table new legislation Thursday, but is still working to
resolve issues such as packaging and impaired-driving penalties

The federal government will table a bill to legalize recreational
marijuana on Thursday that is expected to tightly control the ability
of producers to market their products to the public, federal sources

But key issues such as how to deal with drug-impaired driving have yet
to be fully resolved.

The government has indicated its legislation will be highly
restrictive and designed to discourage people from consuming
marijuana, especially under the age of 18. The bill is expected to
include tough penalties for those who provide marijuana to children
and teens, sources said.

"The goal will not simply be to legalize marijuana, but also to
prevent youth from having access to it," a senior official said.

The proposed legislation is also expected to call for plain packaging
for recreational marijuana so that it would be marketed more like
tobacco products than alcohol.

"It would be hard to imagine a scenario where you could sell pot like
you could sell booze," a senior government official said.

Although the bill is scheduled to be tabled in the House of Commons on
Thursday, the government refuses to commit publicly to the date on
which adults will be able to consume the product legally for
recreational purposes for the first time since it was first prohibited
in 1923.

"The legislation will be introduced in the near future and we will
ensure that it benefits from a robust parliamentary process before
cannabis becomes legalized," Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould
told reporters.

The bill unveiled this week is not expected to include all provisions
that will be needed before marijuana is officially legal.

For example, final plans to enforce tougher provisions against
drug-impaired driving are not expected to be released until the
government publishes the results of a recent pilot project with police
forces on saliva-based roadside tests, sources said.

"On Thursday, there will be a legislative package, but in terms of the
full suite of measures, not everything will be there," a federal
official said.

The senior government official acknowledged there is a "big gap"
between the government's position on packaging and a recent proposal
from Canada's licensed medical-marijuana producers, who have been
getting ready for the multi-billion-dollar recreational market.

In a recent letter to the government, several licensed producers
called on Ottawa to allow cannabis to be sold in containers with
colourful lettering and logos as long as it is not targeted at children.

"Packaging debates are often driven by public health concerns but in
order to develop well-rounded public policy, rules surrounding
packaging and in-store promotion must take into account the current
status of the large, illegal cannabis black market and the harms it
causes youth and society more generally," said the letter dated March

"Therefore, there must be allowances for branding as well as for
in-store advertising of cannabis products to ensure that consumers who
have already self-selected to enter a legal cannabis retailer will be
well-informed about the products they are purchasing," the letter said.

After it is tabled in the House, the legislation will be studied in
committee in coming weeks.

In terms of the timing for the opening of the legal marijuana market,
a key issue will be the ability of the provinces to develop the
necessary infrastructure to distribute and sell it.

The legislation will be inspired by a task force, led by former
Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan, which proposed a complete
legalization model in a well-received report last year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already endorsed one of its key
recommendations: that marijuana should be legal for people who are of
legal drinking age - 18 or 19 years old, depending on the province
they live in.

The task force also urged the government to allow Canadians to buy or
carry 30 grams of marijuana for personal use, and to grow up to four
plants at home. The task force also recommended a system that would
feature storefront sales and mail-order distribution, and allow a wide
range of producers to operate legally, including "craft" growers and
the current producers of medical marijuana.
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