Canada introduces long-awaited legislation to fully legalise marijuana

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The legislation put forward on Thursday by the ruling Liberal party, which made legalising recreational marijuana part of its successful 2015 election campaign, would set the minimum legal age for use and purchase at 18.

Bill Blair, the ex-Toronto police chief turned Liberal MP, said the objective is not to promote the use of pot, but to allow its safe, socially responsible use through the mechanism of legislation and strict regulation.

The bills - it appears there will be more than one - are expected to include measures to address issues surrounding the new legal landscape, including limits for legal possession, age restrictions for retailers, marketing rules and tougher penalties for selling to minors and impaired driving. Individuals would be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of recreational pot, similar to the one-ounce standard set in several US states with legal marijuana laws in effect, while households would be allowed to grow up to four plants. Households would also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants.

Now, new offences could be added to the Criminal Code under the Government's proposed legislation - including those for driving under the influence of drugs.

The long-standing prohibition on pot in Canada has been an "abject failure", with police forces spending upwards of $3 billion a year trying to stamp out cannabis use among some of the heaviest users in the western world, said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Those who are under the influence of marijuana, he said, are still drastically less impaired than they would be under the effect of legal quantities of alcohol.

Sales by mail or courier through a federally licensed producer would be allowed in provinces that lack a regulated retail system.

Although the government's plan will lift the 94-year-old prohibition on recreational use of marijuana, Larsen said it is not enough.

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It is also unspecified where Canadians will be able to buy marijuana. Minister of Health Jane Philpott went on to say that there will be differences provincially.

The minimum age for recreational use of marijuana has been set at 18, but provinces can decide to set a higher minimum age, as some now do in the case of alcohol. "In any jurisdiction where a law has passed that a citizen deems unfair, we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms", she said.

Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., on April 14, 2016.

If the proposal receives Royal Assent and Parliamentary approval, the Government intends to bring the proposed Act into force no later than July 2018. "There are billions upon billions of dollars flowing into the pockets of organized crime, street gangs, and gunrunners. if we can get that out of the criminal elements and into a more regulated fashion, we will reduce the amount of criminal activity that's profiting from those".

"The idea that they are going to create some kind of blood-testing system, it will simply mean that no one who uses cannabis will ever be able to drive again".

"Each country establishes its own rules", Goodale said. While eight states plus the District of Columbia have already legalized recreational marijuana here, it remains illegal at the federal level.