The Federal government introduced legislation last week that would legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana across the country.
Government officials say the current approach to cannabis does not work and has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit, while failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian youth.
“As a former police officer, I know firsthand how easy it is for our kids to buy cannabis,” stated Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice.
“In many cases, it is easier for our children to get cannabis than it is to get cigarettes. Today’s plan to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis will put an end to this. It will keep cannabis out of the hands of children and youth, and stop criminals from profiting from it.”
The proposed Cannabis Act would create a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada, government officials stated.
Following Royal Assent, the proposed legislation would allow adults to legally possess and use cannabis. This would mean that possession of small amounts of cannabis would no longer be a criminal offence and would prevent profits from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs. The Bill would also, for the first time, make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and create significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences, government officials stated.
In addition to legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis, the Government is toughening laws around alcohol-and drug-impaired driving. Under the Government’s proposed legislation, new offences would be added to the Criminal Code to enforce a zero tolerance approach for those driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs. Additionally, the proposed legislation would authorize new tools for police to better detect drivers who have drugs in their body.
“We are following through on our commitment to introduce comprehensive legislation to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis and to create new laws to punish more severely those who drive under its influence,” stated Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
“The Cannabis Act reflects an evidence-based approach that will protect Canadians’ public health and safety. By tackling alcohol- and drug-impaired driving with new and tougher criminal offences, Canadians will be better protected from impaired drivers and the number of deaths and accidents on our roads will be reduced.”
Subject to Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, the Government of Canada intends to provide regulated and restricted access to cannabis no later than July 2018.
“The bills we propose today are aiming at putting drug dealers and organized crime out of the cannabis business,” stated Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
“It will allow law enforcement to focus on other serious offences, including the distribution of cannabis to children and youth and driving under the influence of drugs. Drug-impaired driving puts the lives and the safety of drivers and passengers at risk every day, and we will lead a wide-ranging campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while impaired.”
Goodale added: “The proposed Bill will also provide more tools and stronger laws to punish more severely drivers who drive under the influence of drugs, including cannabis. We will continue to work with our law enforcement, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders to develop a consistent enforcement approach and to provide support in building capacity across the country.”
The Government will invest additional resources to make sure there is appropriate capacity within Health Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Public Safety to license, inspect and enforce all aspects of the proposed legislation, government officials stated.
These additional resources will also allow the Government to undertake a robust public awareness campaign so that Canadians are well informed about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs.
Working in partnership with provinces, territories, municipalities and local communities, the Government will also make appropriate investments to train and equip law enforcement so that Canada’s roads and highways are safe for all Canadians.
Government officials say in the months ahead, the Government will share more details on a new licensing fee and excise tax system. It will also continue to engage with all levels of government and Indigenous Peoples.
Here are some more details provided by the government about the legislation:
– The Cannabis Act proposes that legal sales of cannabis would be restricted to people who are 18 years of age and over. Provinces and territories could increase the minimum legal age of sale, purchase and consumption.
The movement of cannabis and cannabis products across international borders would remain a serious criminal offence.
– Following Royal Assent, the Government intends to bring the proposed Act into force no later than July 2018. At that time, adults would legally be able to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis in public, and to grow up to four plants per household at a maximum height of one metre from a legal seed or seedling. Until the new law comes into force, cannabis will remain illegal everywhere in Canada, except for medical purposes.
– The provinces and territories would authorize and oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis, subject to minimum federal conditions. In those jurisdictions that have not put in place a regulated retail framework, individuals would be able to purchase cannabis online from a federally licensed producer with secure home delivery through the mail or by courier.
– The proposed legislation would amend the Criminal Code to modernize and simplify the transportation provisions, strengthen the criminal law responses to impaired driving, and facilitate the effective and efficient investigation and prosecution of drug- and alcohol-impaired driving.
– To facilitate detection and investigation of drug-impaired driving, law enforcement officers will be authorized and equipped to use oral fluid drug screeners at the roadside.
Local politicians are skeptical
Coinciding with the Federal Conservatives stance, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Bev Shipley does not agree with the new legislation.
“It’s interesting that (Justin) Trudeau’s main priority when his government is in turmoil and division is to focus on the legalization of marijuana,” Shipley wrote in a newsletter.
” Conservatives believe the government should respect and listen to the expert advice of the medical community which is concerned with the public safety risks.”
Reports say Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope is skeptical about the proposed bill as well.
Hope told Blackburn News that enforcement and addiction will become “nightmares” for municipalities.
He said he fears the situation will end up becoming a municipal issue when it comes to the social and financial aspects.
Watch for more on this story.