Health Care

Highlights of Thursday's federal pot bill

Highlights of Thursday's federal pot bill

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he would work toward legalizing marijuana in the country during his campaign, possibly saw his popularity get higher Thursday when he introduced legislation legalizing the recreational use of cannabis in the country.

The federal government's plan, based on recommendations from a task force, would set a minimum age limit of 18 years old for purchase of marijuana.

Parliamentary Secretary and MP Bill Blair said during the news conference that there has been an overwhelming consensus from provinces and territories for a new and regulated regime. "We need a new approach".

As part of the bill, the Canadian government also pledged to figure out a system to discourage and prosecute those users who might drive or operate machinery under the influence of marijuana, meaning they have to create a Breathalyzer-style meter, as well as establish minimum blood levels for proper regulation before stores can begin to sell pot. The proposed Cannabis Act introduces penalties for two new criminal offenses: "Giving or selling cannabis to youth" and "using youth to commit a cannabis-related offense".

The "Cannabis Act" plans, unveiled on Thursday, presents a fresh legal framework to control production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada.

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Canada's proposed legislation follows success at US ballot boxes past year in several states, including recreational marijuana laws in Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and California. The government is yet to decide whether the producers would use child-proof packaging or plain packaging.

The new law will expand pot use to non-medicinal purposes, where now Canadian law mandates that such uses are illegal, according to NPR.

Under the law, it would be illegal to sell marijuana packaged or labelled in a way that could be construed as appealing to young people, to include testimonials or endorsements, or to depict a person, character or animal. But the bill is expected to pass, meaning soon most Canadians over the age of 18 will be able to buy weed, and households will be able to grow up to four plants. "Additionally, the proposed legislation would authorize new tools for police to better detect drivers who have drugs in their body", reads the press release.

Canadian officials were in close touch with their American counterparts as they drafted the proposed law, Ralph Goodale, Canada's public safety minister, said on Thursday.

Sales by mail or courier through a federally licensed producer would be allowed in provinces that lack a regulated retail system.

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Canada has been in "very close touch" with the USA on the issue, said Goodale, but he had little to say about Canadians who might fear trouble from American border guards when travelling south.

Federal health minister Jane Philpott said Canada needs to address its "very high rates" of cannabis use among young people - some of the highest rates in the world.

'The only control that is now in place is the criminal sanction and the laws, ' he said, according to CBC News.

"This is an orderly transition, not a free-for-all", he admonished.

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