July 1, 2018 will be a historic day in Canada if Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government gets its way. On April 13, the party proposed two bills that would effectively legalize marijuana. According to the CBC, one outlines regulations for the use and distribution of cannabis, while the other concerns driving under the influence of the drug.
The move comes during a wave of pro-legalization sentiment. If passed, these bills will make Canada a trailblazer for recreational marijuana. Uruguay is currently the only country to legalize the drug, though some U.S. states have taken similar measures. Other countries have opted for decriminalization, but Canada’s new laws would make it even easier for adults to access the drug.
While the bills may face changes before they’re passed into law, they do put an end to months of speculation about what it would look like to legalize marijuana. This article will summarize a few important developments that everyone should know about these proposed laws.
What Will Legalization Look Like?
Many aspects of marijuana legalization have yet to be determined. While the federal government is responsible for this legislation, the provinces will dictate specific policies within their jurisdictions. For example, the bill dictates that no one under 18 can buy marijuana, but provincial governments can raise that number as they see fit. The provinces will also decide where and how marijuana will be sold. However, the federal bill doesn’t prohibit retailers from selling alcohol and cannabis simultaneously, which opens the possibility of sale through liquor control boards.
Even if the government does legalize marijuana, not all forms of marijuana will immediately be available for purchase. The bills allow designated retailers to sell marijuana buds and cannabis oil, but not edibles. They also ban the sale of cannabis through vending machines and prevent visitors from bringing marijuana into or out of the country.
So Marijuana Will Be Completely Legal?
The short answer is no.
If the bill is passed, existing marijuana laws will remain in effect until July 1, 2018. Three MPs with the New Democratic Party (NDP) criticized this decision, arguing that it would result in further charges and convictions for marijuana possession. After the legalization goes into effect, those over the minimum age can keep up to 30 grams of cannabis at a time. Exceeding that amount will result in a fine.
Since only designated retailers will be able to sell cannabis, illegal trafficking will remain a crime. It will carry a 14-year maximum prison sentence, as will selling to minors. Impaired driving laws will also punish those who attempt to drive in a two-hour window after consuming drugs.
Significantly, the bills don’t mention anything about pardons for previous marijuana convictions. The NDP has argued for these measures, while Conservative health critic Colin Carrie argued that the bills offered vague policy for provinces and municipalities.
The bills must pass through the House of Commons and Senate before they can be given royal assent. From there, the provinces will need to set their own regulations for marijuana legalization. While this legislation represents a first step for legal cannabis in Canada, there remains plenty of work to do be done.