Pubdate: Fri, 14 Apr 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Authors: Daniel Leblanc & Mike Hager
Page: A1
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


Stating that 94 years of prohibition were an "abject failure," the
federal government has tabled long- awaited legislation to legalize
marijuana for adult Canadians at the same time as toughening up the
Criminal Code to crack down on dealers targeting minors and those
getting behind the wheel while high.

The historic legislation would lift the prohibition on the
recreational use of cannabis that goes back to 1923, positioning
Canada as a leading country on the relaxation of illicit-drug laws.
If adopted as planned by the summer of 2018, Canada will become the
first G7 country - and the second in the world after Uruguay - in
which cannabis use is legal across the land.

Still, the Trudeau government is pitching its plan as highly
restrictive, designed for the sole purpose of reducing the role of
criminal organizations in the marijuana market and limiting the
availability of the drug to youth.

The legislative package includes one bill that would create a new
federal-provincial regime to produce and sell cannabis, and another
one to overhaul and strengthen the laws related to impaired driving by
users of both marijuana and alcohol.

Bill C- 45 and Bill C- 46 would also create a series of new criminal
offences, punishing those who provide cannabis to youth with up to 14
years in jail and allowing for roadside saliva testing to detect drug-
impaired drivers. Drivers with a small amount of THC in their blood
would face a fine of up to $ 1,000, while those with high levels ( or
those who also have alcohol in their blood) would face up to 10 years
in jail.

Liberal MP Bill Blair, the former police chief who has been the
government's point man on the file, acknowledged there is "not an
absolute guarantee" that marijuana would disappear from the hands of
young Canadians) Still, he said the government was creating a system
in which all legal producers would be licensed by Health Canada, and
all legal cannabis would be distributed through provincially regulated

"Today, the decision to sell or not to sell to that child is often
being made by a gangster in a stairwell," he said at a news
conference. "That is completely unacceptable to us and that will be
subject to serious criminal sanction."

As was expected, the legislation would allow all Canadians over the
age of 18 ( or older depending on the provinces) to buy marijuana by
mail and in provincially regulated retail spaces, or to grow up to
four plants at home. The possession limit of dried cannabis would be
set at 30 grams, while edible cannabis products would be legalized at
a later date.

The legislation will eventually be completed by a series of rules and
regulations, which means there are still unanswered questions on
issues such as the future price of marijuana, packaging and marketing
rules, and taxation levels.

Across the country, provincial politicians said many details
surrounding the distribution and sale of cannabis will have to be
worked out with municipalities, with most saying any tax revenue
generated from the new industry should go toward mitigating the
negative public health and safety effects brought on by the new laws.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, whose province houses the
majority of Canada's licensed medical-cannabis producers, said it
remains unclear as to whether provincial-government coffers will
receive any additional funds after legalization. As he prepares to
table a balanced budget on April 27, Mr. Sousa said he has not
budgeted for any extra money from marijuana sales and any proceeds
would be earmarked for spending on health and addiction services.

In B. C., home to Canada's largest black market for the production and
sale of cannabis, Premier Christy Clark echoed this statement, noting
the extra money should also go toward law enforcement. She added that
a panel of B. C. experts will help determine where best to sell the
drug. Several B. C. communities have followed in Vancouver's footsteps
to begin crafting bylaws licensing storefront dispensaries, which are
illegal under current laws but have exploded to more than a hundred
locations across the province.

Alberta's Minister of Justice and Solicitor- General Kathleen Ganley
told reporters Thursday that her government hopes to start
province-wide public consultations this summer to gauge which minimum
age is acceptable and where people prefer the drug be sold. Ms. Ganley
said her province likely won't support the sale of cannabis next to
alcohol, which was a key public-health recommendation made by the
federal task force that guided the new law.

A spokesperson for the Government of Saskatchewan praised the bill's
zero-tolerance approach to cannabis-impaired driving, but stated the
province wants to see federal funding to train more police officers on
how to recognize when someone is under the influence of the drug.

Quebec Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois said her province has
no choice but to implement the changes and hopes ending prohibition of
the drug will help better prevent its associated harms.

Mr. Blair, the former police chief of Toronto, said Canada is not
moving in the same direction as the handful of U. S. states that
legalized marijuana in an attempt to "maximize revenue."

"It is not our intent to promote the use of this drug," he said. "In
every other jurisdiction that has gone down the road of legalization,
they focused primarily on a commercial regulatory framework. In Canada
… it's a public health framework."

At this point, there are 42 companies that have the necessary
authorizations from Health Canada to produce marijuana for medical
purposes across the country.

A federal official said the cur rent holders of licences will have a
head start once the market is opened up to recreational users, while
saying staff and resources will be added at Health Canada to speed up
the approval process for new producers.

Federal Conservative finance critic Gerard Deltell said the
announcement was a "sad day for Canada" because the changes will
eventually expose more youth to the risks of marijuana. The NDP said
the proposal was a "step in the right direction, while complaining the
government was moving too slowly to put an end to a system in which
ordinary Canadians are still being charged with pot possession. Sales
would be restricted to people aged 18 and older, but provinces could
increase the minimum age. Anyone who sells cannabis to youth or
creates products appealing to youth could face fines or jail time.
Adults could publicly possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. Sales
by mail would be allowed in provinces that lack a regulated retail
system. Adults could grow up to four cannabis plants. Adults could
produce legal cannabis products, such as food or drinks, for personal
use at home. At first, sales will entail only fresh and dried
cannabis, cannabis oils and seeds and plants for c! ultivation.
Possession, production and distribution outside the legal system would
remain illegal. The existing program for access to medical marijuana
would continue as it currently exists.

- - With reports from Justine Hunter and Justin Giovannetti
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