Cannabis Act: Canada set to legalise marijuana to keep children 'safe'

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NY [U.S.], April 14: The highly anticipated legislation aimed at regulating recreational marijuana use by July 2018 has been introduced by the Canadian Government.

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.

"Today's plan to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis will put an end to this", said Bill Blair, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. The Globe and Mail wrote that the federal government will need additional staff and resources to "speed up the approval process" for new producers looking to come online.

The government also aims to establish "significant penalties" for those who engage young Canadians in "cannabis-related offences" and a "zero-tolerance approach" to drug-impaired driving, along with a "robust" public awareness campaign.

Consumers will also be allowed to grow up to four plants at home or buy from a licensed retailer. In Canada, the federal government will change criminal law nationally and will license growers and set product standards while leaving it up to the provinces to handle distribution and manage retail sale.

The legislation divides the responsibilities of legalisation between the federal and provincial governments.

Ralph Goodale, Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said Thursday that the Canadian government has developed legislation with its American counterparts in mind.

Many nations have either decriminalized marijuana, allowed it to be prescribed medically or effectively stopped enforcing laws against it.

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Some Canadian authorities have heralded the arrival of this wide-spread legalization in favor of laws now on the books.

Despite having low levels of mind-altering THC, hemp has been lumped into the same category as marijuana in the USA, and is classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

"What we will see is that the regulation surrounding cannabis will become harmonized with those surrounding alcohol", Battley said. "Additionally, the proposed legislation would authorize new tools for police to better detect drivers who have drugs in their body".

With an eye on cross-border legal issues, the new law will allow visitors to Canada to consume marijuana. Since September, Canada has been pushing the USA to change a policy that bans Canadians who admit to having used marijuana from travelling to the United States.

Sources tell The Canadian Press the bill will also include rules requiring producers to sell their marijuana in plain packaging, similar to restrictions the federal government is trying to impose on tobacco manufacturers.

Rob Pederson, a Realtor from Saskatchewan with the travel-advice company Canada to Arizona, said he believes the proposed laws could help his country and redirect drug profits into legal avenues. Canadian provinces can raise that minimum age higher if they'd like.

The new regulations closely follow recommendations proposed in December by the task force led by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan. The bill does say, however, that it would be against the law to sell cannabis in a package, or with a label, that could be interpreted as being appealing to children and youth.

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