Canada introduces legislation to legalize marijuana

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Leaders of Canada's Liberal Party unveiled a proposal Thursday that would make the country only the second in the world to legalize recreational marijuana, allowing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deliver on a campaign promise and inching the nation ever closer to replacing the maple leaf on its flag.

Under the proposed new system, individuals will be able to possess up to 30 grams of dried or fresh cannabis for personal use - about one ounce - and can grow up to four plants at home, provided they are not more than one meter high.

Possession of small amounts of pot will be legal throughout the country on July 1, 2018, if the legislation passes.

People would be allowed to possess up to 30 grams, or just more than an ounce, of marijuana for personal use, similar to the 1-ounce standard in US states where marijuana use is legal.

An official panel recommended late previous year that the government require plain packaging.While medical marijuana is already legal in Canada, consulting firm Deloitte has estimated annual sales of recreational marijuana could be as high as C$8.7 billion ($6.5 billion). "It's too easy for our kids to get marijuana", says the Prime Minister. Furthermore, most Canadians are unaware that persons receiving medical cannabis do not consistently receive a therapeutically appropriate degree of counselling or advice at the time of dispensing. "If there appears to be a pattern of examination at the border that just does not accord with appropriate, professional, reliable, consistent conduct, then obviously that's the sort of thing that we should raise at a governmental level to make sure people are treated appropriately". Police will be able to ask for roadside saliva to test for drugs. "The proposed legislation, which is introduced today, seeks to legalise, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis".

"The current system of prohibition is failing our kids", Liberal MP Bill Blair, a supporter of the legislation, said Thursday.

"We don't really have a way of monitoring or at least of detecting people who are driving on the roads who may be impaired by marijuana", said Gordon Wyant, justice minister of the Canadian province Saskatchewan.

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While medical marijuana is already legal in Canada, consulting firm Deloitte has estimated annual sales of recreational marijuana could be as high as $6.5 billion.

The comments came as the federal government tabled legislation on Thursday to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2018.

The legislation - "an Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts" - would set a minimum age of 18 to purchase and use marijuana. Marijuana taxes will be announced at a later date. "The Cannabis Act reflects an evidence-based approach that will protect Canadians' public health and safety".

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was asked that question - whether the Liberal government had sought assurances from the USA that someone who admitted to using cannabis legally would not face the same fate.

But the federal task force recommended marijuana not be sold with alcohol.

"I want to highlight", Goodale said, "that under the proposed act, it will remain illegal to import into Canada or export from Canada, cannabis and cannabis products- unless exceptionally authorized by Health Canada". "Police forces spend between $2 billion and $3 billion every year trying to deal with cannabis, and yet Canadian teenagers are among the heaviest users in the western world".

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