Marijuana will be readily available across Canada by next year, under Justin Trudeau’s new plan to regulate, tax, and sell the drug.
The plan, which is likely to pass Parliament, is entitled “The Cannabis Act” and will allow Canadians to buy and possess 30 grams of marijuana, or the equivalent in edibles or oil. Since the plan was introduced by the governing Liberal Party, which holds a majority in Parliament, it will almost certainly become law without significant change.
The minimum age for possessing marijuana will be 18 on a national level, although younger users won’t be prosecuted — at least not on the federal level.
Selling marijuana to youth will remain a criminal offence, and could be punished by a prison sentence of up to 14 years. By comparison, selling alcohol to a minor in Ontario is punishable by up to a year in prison.
While the national law leaves much of the details of exactly what the legal market will look like to the provinces — much like it does with the sale of alcohol — it will require the provinces to create some sort of retailer and distribution model. Most provinces have recently seen numerous marijuana dispensaries spring up which bill themselves as medicinal clinics. It is likely that some form of those shops will continue under the legal system.
Canada already regulates companies that run large-scale grow-ops for medical marijuana, and will continue overseeing those companies when they move to the recreational market.
The plan will make Canada only the second country in the world to fully permit the retail sale of pot, after Uruguay. Other countries, like the Netherlands, have permitted selling marijuana in certain circumstances, while some regional governments, like Alaska, Colorado, and Washington, have also legalized.
The one big missing piece thus far is how Canada will tax the drug. Some estimates have put the possible government revenue at anywhere between $600 million to $5 billion CAD. The decision on how to tax the drug will be made in the near future.
The legislation followed closely with a task force report, which studied how Colorado and Washington went through with their own legislation plans.
The new legislation still keeps some criminal law power to tackle those who stray outside of the regulated framework — those selling small amounts of marijuana without permission could be slapped with a $200 fine.
Alongside the legislation to regulate and sell pot was a bill designed to curb and crack down on impaired driving.
While there is currently no test to determine how impaired by marijuana a driver may be, the Trudeau government has set aside money to invest in just how high is too high to drive, and how police can detect it — much like a breathalyzer.
One big issue sure to confront Ottawa will be how it handles the Trump administration, which has made no secret of the fact that it is looking to roll back the clock on former President Obama’s softening on the war on drugs. Legal marijuana in Canada will undoubtedly have an impact on the accessibility of pot in America, its largest trading partner with whom it shares a 5,500 mile-long border.
The Cannabis Act makes it illegal to carry marijuana across the border, with a maximum punishment of 14 years in prison.