UPDATE — 4/12, 9:52 a.m. EDT: CBC News is reporting a senior government official has said legislation that would make recreational marijuana legal throughout Canada will be introduced in parliament on Thursday.
Canada’s Liberal Party is expected to introduce legislation in parliament this week that legalizes the sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes across the country by July 2018, fulfilling a campaign promise made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
According to government sources, the bill will allow citizens 18 years and older to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana and four cannabis plants per household for personal use.
The legislation is also likely to follow recommendations of the government commissioned marijuana task force, charged with advising members of parliament on public health issues related to the drug. Specifically, the panel suggested taxing marijuana based on THC-levels and prohibiting establishments which offer alcohol or tobacco products from selling the drug.
The government in Ottawa will also be in charge of licensing marijuana suppliers, but distribution methods and commercial regulations, including prices and increased minimum age limits to purchase, will be left to the discretion of individual provinces.
Despite the economic opportunities that recreational legalization will afford the people of Canada, critics contend that the so-called “green rush” expected after the new law goes into effect will cause the government’s marijuana policy to be dictated by large businesses, like Canopy Growth Corp, which currently operates as a medicinal distributor but is expanding operations in anticipation of the policy reform.
“Whether you look at alcohol, tobacco, or pharmaceuticals, the government seems to be a lot friendlier to industry interests than public health concerns,” said McMaster University drug policy expert Michael Devillaer.
Currently, about 100,000 Canadians have medical marijuana prescriptions, a number that increases 10 percent each month. Legitimizing the drug’s recreational use could turn the pot industry into a $4 billion annual business according to some estimates.
The Guardian recently reported on Canada’s economically depressed eastern coastal region, New Brunswick province, which has been subsidizing marijuana producers to in an attempt to boost badly needed job opportunities. One startup company, Zenabis, received a $3 million loan from the provincial government to finance the building of a production facility, while another, OrganiGram, benefited from a $745,000 payroll tax break after constructing a 136,000 square foot warehouse there.
While some believe a target date of mid-2018 is too ambitious to implement a nationwide recreational marijuana system, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and Liberal Party marijuana policy consultant, Bill Blair, recently announced that the law should go into effect before July 1, 2018, so as not to coincide with Canada Day.
[CBC News] [Fool.com via Fox Business] [The Guardian]