Canada Moves Toward Legalizing Marijuana

The current approach to cannabis does not work. It has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit, while failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian youth. In many cases, it is easier for our kids to buy cannabis than cigarettes.

That is why the federal government, after extensive consultation with law enforcement, health and safety experts introduced legislation to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis.

The proposed Cannabis Act would create a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada. 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.

In addition to legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis, the Trudeau government will toughen 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.

The federal 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.

These additional resources will also allow the federal government to launch a public awareness campaign so that Canadians are well informed about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs. “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,” Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said.

Critics of the legislation argue there are questions left unanswered by this legislation.  The federal government has set aside $9.6 million for a public awareness campaign.  The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) believes that isn’t good enough “given the misconceptions about marijuana’s effect on driving,” they said in media reports.

Other questions arise from taxation and revenue sharing.  There are few indications over how this is to be done.  Will taxes (GST, PST/ HST) be applied to pot? Or will the federal government come up with another cannabis tax with the revenue to be shared among the provinces/territories?

The new law isn’t expected to impact relations between the United States (U.S.) and Canada.  “Legalization of marijuana in Canada will not have any impact on marijuana’s legality in the United States.  Thus, it is important that Canadians are aware of possible actions they may face upon attempted entrance into the United States if they possess or have residue of marijuana,” a spokesperson of the U.S. embassy told the CBC.  The bill is expected to be approved by July, 2018.