When you think of marijuana in North America and the Caribbean, the country that is most associated with the plant is by far Jamaica. However, that will be changing soon as Canada aims to become the king of Marijuana.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government unveiled legislation Thursday to fully legalise marijuana, making Canada only the second country to do so, after Uruguay.
While medical marijuana use has been regulated in this country since 2001, cannabis remains a controlled substance.
Its legalisation and regulation for recreational use is expected in 2018, in time for Canada’s national holiday on July 1.
“We know that criminal prohibition has failed,” former-police-chief-turned-MP Bill Blair, who spearheaded the initiative, told a press conference.
“Legalisation,” he said, “seeks to regulate and restrict access to cannabis and will make Canada safer.”
According to government statistics, as many as 4.6 million Canadians will consume an estimated total 655 metric tons of cannabis annually by 2018, spending an estimated Can$4.2 billion to Can$6.2 billion (USD $3.15-4.65 billion) each year.
The new regulations closely follow recommendations proposed in December by a task force led by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan.
They would allow individuals to grow up to four plants at home for personal use.
Personal possession, however, would be limited to 30 grams (one ounce). And access would be restricted to adults 18 years and older.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale warned police would “come down hard” on illicit drug activities.
Trafficking outside the new regime would continue to be illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison, as would selling cannabis to youths, driving under its influence, and importing or exporting pot.
The drug has created new enforcement challenges because there has never been a legal or verified scientific test to determine a level of THC — the psychoactive chemical in pot — that causes impairment, for example, while driving.
Under the new regime, police would use new roadside saliva or blood tests to determine if a person is intoxicated, a crime punishable by fines or up to 10 years in prison.