Legalizing controlling cannabis in Canada
Legalizing controlling cannabis – By the summer of 2018 Canadians from coast to coast should be able to roll up or light up their pipes and paraphernalia with marijuana, without fear of being charged for possession or production – but much still depends on how the provinces want to handle it. On Thursday April 13th, the Liberal party of Canada kept its promise and introduced the legalization of recreational marijuana across the country, creating a huge ‘buzz’ – positive and negative.
The legislation put forth allows provinces, territories and municipalities to adapt the rules for their own jurisdictions and how they want to enforce and regulate them – such as licensing, distribution and retail sales and whether marijuana can be sold like alcohol. Provinces will also be able to set their own zoning rules for cannabis industries and adapt provincial traffic safety laws.
It is expected to take months for the federal and provincial governments to study and go over the details of the bills before the specifics are ironed out and things are clearer. Here in Quebec the government stated they are not against the legalization of marijuana, but they immediately voiced their concerns about the many responsibilities and potential problems that will come with it, especially the anticipated high costs of applying the plan, policing and prevention programs which will be the responsibility of the provinces.
The legislation was inspired by several items besides the cries from recreational users to decriminalize their pot, such as strong evidence of the medicinal benefits of cannabis for those suffering from nausea associated with cancer treatments, chronic and arthritic pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and even chronic bowel inflammation among many other health issues. It is also aimed at taking the illicit business of marijuana off the streets and away from organized crime as much as possible, especially the access it gives to our youth.
Alcohol in Quebec can easily be bought by someone under 18 years of age at a corner store with a fake ID or by having someone over 18 years old purchase it for them, but cannabis can be bought on the streets and the dangers associated with it are very significant. Allowing uncontrolled access to our youth also creates higher addiction rates. Legalizing and controlling cannabis is not a ‘cure all’ as there will always be a ‘black market’, but it can put a substantial dent into the illegal operations.
To address the issue, the federal government said it would spend $9.6 million on a five-year educational campaign aimed at youth and adults on the risks of cannabis use and when the legislation is passed it would establish a ‘strict legal framework for the production, sale, distribution and possession of pot, and make it against the law to sell cannabis to youth or use a young person to commit a cannabis-related crime’. New penalties would range from a police citation to 14 years behind bars. For the first time, selling cannabis to a minor will become an unequivocal offence.
Portage, who operate drug addiction rehabilitation centres in Québec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada, helping youth between 14 and 18 years of age said marijuana should not be legalized for youth under 21 years and are concerned about the possible effects on brain development – which some experts believe continue up until the age of 25. It will be up to the provinces to address the issue with the authority they will have to change the legal age.
In Montreal, Mayor Denis Coderre welcomed the news about legalization saying he ‘agrees in principle with the idea’ but education and awareness about the use of cannabis is imperative, and he would be ‘watching to see what kind of controls are imposed on young people and especially the sites where it can be sold… parks and areas near schools, for example, are out’.
The federal government said there will be severe penalties for those who involve youth in cannabis-related crimes and also a ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to driving under the influence of drugs. The legislation would allow police to use ‘oral fluid screening devices’ to check for marijuana use and new driving offences will be introduced for those caught driving while impaired. Police would be able to demand a saliva sample if they have ‘reasonable suspicion’ a driver has drugs in their body and if the test result is positive, it would give officers ‘reasonable grounds’ to demand a blood sample or further drug evaluation.
Here are some of the more important points from the Federal Legislation:
– Sales are to be restricted to people age 18 and older, although provinces would have the jurisdiction to increase their own minimum age.
– Adults 18 and older would be allowed to publicly possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent in non-dried form.