Canada Is Legalizing Pot, but It Won't Be a Free-for-All
Says main aim of legalization is to put criminals out of business
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2017 5:41 AM CDT
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Government ministers announce changes regarding the legalization of marijuana during a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday.   (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)
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(Newser) – Canada rolled out its big marijuana announcement a week before 4/20: The federal government has brought in legislation to make recreational marijuana legal across the country, ending a 94-year ban on the drug that the government described as an "abject failure," the Globe and Mail reports. But the government stresses that fulfilling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's campaign promise isn't going to start a pot free-for-all: They say the main aim of legalization is to put criminals out of business and keep the drug out of the hands of young people. A roundup of coverage:

  • The law increases penalties for selling marijuana to young people and makes it easier to prosecute stoned drivers, who will face penalties of up to 10 years in jail, the BBC reports. The minimum age for buying or using marijuana will be 18, but provinces, which will have a lot of control over how the law is implemented, are free to raise the age limit. Adults will be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants. Details on pricing and taxation have yet to be worked out.

  • Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says there will be an "orderly transition" while new regulations are drafted, and police will continue to enforce existing marijuana laws until legalization is introduced next summer.
  • The Cannabis Act is expected to start a wave of mergers among the 40 companies already licensed to produce medical marijuana, the Financial Post reports. The firms are expected to lobby for advertising regulations closer to those for beer than the very strict ones Canada has in place for tobacco. The act prohibits using celebrity endorsements in pot advertising.
  • In Ontario, Canada's most populous province, Premier Kathleen Wynne says it makes a "lot of sense" to use the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which controls liquor sales and operates around 600 stores in the province, to control marijuana sales as well. She says the government-operated board already has the law's "social responsibility" aspects covered.
  • Bill Blair, a former police chief who's now an MP for the ruling Liberal Party, says while there's "no guarantee" that the law will keep pot out of the hands of young people, licensing producers through Health Canada and having provincial governments control sales is a step in the right direction, the Globe and Mail reports. Today, the decision to sell or not to sell to that child is often being made by a gangster in a stairwell," he said Thursday. "That is completely unacceptable to us and that will be subject to serious criminal sanction."
  • Canadian authorities say they worked closely with their American counterparts when they drafted the law, the Guardian reports. "It will be very important for people to understand that crossing the border with this product will be illegal," Goodale says.

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