Canada’s Liberal government has finally introduced legislation aimed at regulating cannabis for recreational purposes.
Legislation to establish a “strict legal framework” aims to regulate production, sale, distribution and possession of cannabis. The Cannabis Act also emphasises harsh criminal punishments for anyone caught selling cannabis to youth.
Failure to remain inside the regulated system still carries prison sentences, up to 14 years in some instances.
The new law, once in place, will allow adults 18 and over to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent in public. They can also share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, but they can only legally purchase cannabis or cannabis oil from a provincially regulated retailer.
Individuals will also be allowed to grow up to four plants per residence for personal use, as well as make legal cannabis-containing products at home.
The legislation is set to become law by the end of June 2018. Bill Blair is quoted saying, “We have a responsibility to act as expeditiously as we can … we can’t drag our feet; we aspire to get this done as quickly as possible.”
The Liberals aim to prevent cannabis branding, making it against the law to sell cannabis with a label that could be regarded as appealing to young people. It will also be against the law to include testimonials or endorsements, or to depict a person, character or animal on cannabis packaging.
The government is also taking a “zero-tolerance approach” to cannabis and driving, with plans to institute a “robust” public awareness campaign.
Provinces, territories and municipalities will be permitted to create their own rules regarding licensing, distribution and retail sales, enforcing them through mechanisms such as ticketing. They also have authority over zoning rules for cannabis businesses and certain traffic laws.
Until the legislation has made its way through the House and Senate, where it will receive Royal Assessment, the Liberals are emphasising that cannabis is still illegal.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told a news conference, “As the bill moves through the legislative process, existing laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they need to be respected… This must be an orderly transition; it is not a free for all.”