Ottawa, Canada: The Canadian Senate voted 56-30 (with one abstaining) and passed a bill known as Bill C-45 the Cannabis Act, on Friday, to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
The Cannabis Act, outlines measures to control and regulate how cannabis is grown, distributed, and sold, while prohibiting any promotion, packaging, and labeling that could be “appealing to young persons or encourage its consumption.”
The Act outlines its purposes “to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework. The Act is also intended to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.”
The Cannabis Act will now go back to Canada’s House of Commons, which passed the bill in November 2017, for approval of amendments that the Senate added, and upon agreement of the final text, it heads to the Monarch or designate—usually the governor general—who can grant Royal Assent.
This puts Canada on track to legal recreational use by their July 2018 goal put forth in April of 2017.
Legalising weed was a 2015 campaign promise of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has admitted having smoked a joint with friends “five or six times.”
The initial timeline for legal pot sales called for it to be available by July 1, Canada’s national day, but fall now appears more likely.
It would then be up to Canada’s provinces and territories to set up distribution networks and enforcement.
The sale of medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001.
Bill C-45 would allow individuals over the age of 18 to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana for personal use.
Sales to anyone under 18 would be banned under federal law but provinces and territories could set their own age limits.
It would also allow the federal government and the provinces to levy taxes on legal weed sales amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Pot sales would be through authorised retail stores much like the current situation regulating alcohol sales in Quebec and Ontario.
A total of 105 businesses have been authorised to grow marijuana and offer pot-based products. Under the new measure, individuals could grow up to four plants at home.
The government has also set aside funds to study the impact of legalised cannabis consumption on public health.
Statistics Canada has estimated that the market will be worth C$5.7 billion (US$4.5 billion), based on last year’s consumption data.
Uruguay approved the recreational usage of marijuana five years ago and nine US states have too but Canada will be the first G-7 country to do so.
In an interview last month, Trudeau said the world is closely following Canada’s plans and predicted several nations would follow suit.
“There is a lot of interest from our allies in what we’re doing,” he said.
“They recognise that Canada is being daring … and recognise that the current regime (of prohibition) does not work, that it’s not preventing young people from having easy access to cannabis.
“In many countries, especially in Canada, it is easier (as a minor) to buy a joint than buy a beer,” Trudeau said. “Organised crime is making huge sums of money on the illicit sale of marijuana.”
Trudeau insisted that creating a regulated market would take it out of the hands of crime groups and “better protect communities and children.”
However, he added the allies he spoke with “are interested in seeing how things go … before they try it,” without specifying which nations.