Toke Up, Ehhhhhhh! Canada Poised for Historic Marijuana-Legalization Law

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with some real high-fives.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with some real high-fives. Wikimedia Commons
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, following through on campaign promises, introduced federal legislation today that would legalize personal possession and cultivation of marijuana throughout the country.

It's expected to pass, according to news reports, giving Canada the most liberal marijuana laws of any country on earth.

"It's a very important day," Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair told members of the press this morning. "From experience, I know that use of cannabis among our young people is among the highest in the world. I believe that we we have to do a better job protecting our kids."

Rob Pederson, a Realtor from Saskatchewan with the travel-advice company Canada to Arizona, said he believes the proposed laws could help his country and redirect drug profits into legal avenues.

But it won't mean much to the thousands of Canadians going to Arizona every year except for the possibility of slightly more hassle at the international border by suspicious customs officers, he said.

The set of laws would likely go into effect in Canada by June 2018, with a "strict legal framework” for cultivation and sale of marijuana, officials said.

Adults 18 and over would be able to possess legally up to 30 grams — just over an ounce — of dried cannabis, and an as-of-yet unspecified amount of concentrates. Stores would be licensed to sell marijuana products, but edibles wouldn't be available until later, following the development of safety guidelines.

Adults would be granted the rights to grow up to four plants per residence for personal use.

At the same time, the new system creates harsh penalties for people who sell marijuana to underage people, and boost screening for impaired drivers. The laws allow the widespread use of oral-fluid tests by police to determine whether a blood test or drug-use evaluation for a driver was needed, officials told the press.

Blair said at the news conference in Ottawa that "criminal prohibition has failed" and that 21 percent of youth, and 30 percent of young adults, use cannabis in Canada.

Regulating and restricting access to marijuana "will make Canada safer," he said.

It'll also bring profits from the black market into legal businesses. According to one estimate, Canada's legal-marijuana market could be worth nearly $5 billion by 2019.

The move will likely put more pressure on American leaders in Washington, D.C., to reform marijuana laws on a federal level — and not the sort of reform Attorney General Jeff Sessions has in mind. The Trump administration has yet to detail how it will approach marijuana policy, leaving many in the multibillion-dollar state-legal marijuana industry anxious.

Canada's proposed legislation follows success at U.S. ballot boxes last year in several states, including recreational marijuana laws in Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and California.

Arizona was the only one of five states that turned down a proposed recreational-legalization initiative. The four new recreational states, which grant cannabis freedom to adults 21 and older, joined Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Washington, D.C., and Oregon in ending decades of the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.

More than half the states now have laws that legalize marijuana for recreational or medicinal use.

Canadian Realtor Pederson spends "months and months" in Arizona each year. He also said maybe legalization in Canada will spur a rise in marijuana tourism in his country.

"There's never so much demand to go the other way, especially when it's 40 below here (in Canada) and 70 degrees there," he said.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.