Canadian lawmakers introduced federal legislation Thursday aimed at establishing a strict framework for the production, sale, distribution and possession of marijuana, following through on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's campaign promise and putting his country on course to become the first nation in North America to legalize the recreational use of weed.
"That is why the Government of Canada, after extensive consultation with law enforcement, health and safety experts, and the hard work of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, today introduced legislation to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis".
That means Canada's some 40 licensed medical marijuana producers stand to gain from first-mover advantage, said Vahan Ajamian, a research analyst at Beacon Securities.
"That's obviously a huge burden especially for seniors which is the highest growing demographic of medical users of cannabis in Canada", he said, adding that people on social assistance also often have to make tough choices. The provinces will also decide how the drug will be distributed and sold. The minimum legal age would be 18, though provinces would be able to raise that.Only cannabis grown by a federally licensed producer will be available for sale, though Canadians could grow up to four plants at home.
It would be easier for police to make drivers blow into a breathalyzer to detect alcohol as well as test people for drugs under the government's new legal-marijuana legislation.
Mayor Greg Dionne said the city has been preparing for the move, but he points out that there's still a long way to go before council will need to craft its own policy.
Marijuana producers say the federal government's proposed legal-pot regime needs more details to clarify issues like permissible advertising and distribution.
"Legalization", he said, "seeks to regulate and restrict access to cannabis and will make Canada safer".
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He was one of many industry watchers to draw comparisons to tobacco and alcohol in reaction to the government's overhaul of almost a century of marijuana laws, opening up a new legal recreational market to an extent that hasn't been seen since the end of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s.
"The Cannabis Act reflects an evidence-based approach that will protect Canadians' public health and safety".
"The legislation will be reviewed in Parliamentary committees, where alterations could be made", the wire service says.
The Canadian government closely followed the advice of a marijuana task force headed by former Liberal Health Minister Anne McLellan.
The law was tabled on Thursday, and would allow adults over 18 to possess up to 30g of dried marijuana.
The provinces will be responsible for overseeing and approving retail sales of cannabis.
"How do we tell if you're impaired or not because the science is not clear at what level impairment occurs", he said.
While many details remain to be seen, the legislation will block sellers from marketing cannabis products that appeal to youth or are packaged or labelled in a way to appeal to them. "Youth already think marijuana is harmless, and now we are giving them the government's seal of approval".