Feds introduce cannabis legalization bill

Plants seized at an illegal grow op in the RM of Fisher, Man. in February. The proposed federal Cannabis Act would limit home production of cannabis to four plants per residence at a maximum height of 100 cm per plant. (Photo courtesy Fisher Branch/Peguis RCMP)

The federal government is set to decriminalize cannabis possession and use and to allow limited home-grown pot plants starting in mid-2018, while sticking close to the existing licensing system for wholesale-level production.

The government on Thursday introduced the Cannabis Act, which will allow adults — that is, ages 18 and up — to legally possess and use cannabis.

Meanwhile, the bill makes a new and specific criminal offence of selling or giving cannabis to minors or “engag(ing) young Canadians in cannabis-related offences.”

Subject to Parliament’s approval and royal assent, the government said Thursday, it “intends to bring the proposed act into force no later than July 2018.”

Once in force, the Act would allow adult Canadians to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis in public, and to grow up to four plants per household (not per person, the government emphasized), to a maximum height of one metre per plant, from a legal seed or seedling.

The new Act would also allow adult Canadians to share up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis with other adult Canadians, and to buy dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a “provincially regulated retailer.”

Adult Canadians would also be able to make “legal cannabis-containing products at home, such as food and drinks,” as long as “dangerous organic solvents” aren’t used to make them.

Once the Act is in force, adults would be able to legally buy fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils, and “seeds or plants for cultivation.” However, products such as “edibles” would be “made available at a later date, once federal regulations for their production and sale have been developed and brought into force.”

Possession, production, distribution and sale of cannabis “outside the legal system” would remain illegal, the government said. Those offences would be subject to penalties ranging from tickets up to a maximum 14 years in prison depending on the offence.

Under the proposed Act, imports and exports of cannabis and cannabis products without valid federal permits would still also be prohibited. Import or export permits could be issued for “certain limited purposes” such as medical and scientific cannabis or industrial hemp.

Until the Cannabis Act comes into force, the government warned Thursday, cannabis will “remain illegal everywhere in Canada, except for medical purposes.”

The new Act, the government said, is “informed by” last November’s recommendations from the federal Task Force for Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.

The task force’s recommendations call for regulation on production of cannabis and its derivatives to remain at the federal level, “drawing on the good production practices of the current cannabis for medical purposes system.”

The task force also recommended continued use of “licensing and production controls to encourage a diverse, competitive market that also includes small producers” and a “seed-to-sale tracking system to prevent diversion and enable product recalls.”

It also called for “environmental stewardship” by allowing outdoor production, with “appropriate security measures.”

A fee structure for licensed producers would be put in place to “recover administrative costs,” the task force recommended. The government said Thursday it would share more details on a new licensing fee and excise tax system “in the months ahead.”

Wholesale distribution and retail sales of cannabis would be regulated by provinces and territories, the task force added.

In jurisdictions “that have not put in place a regulated retail framework,” consumers would be able to buy cannabis online from a federally licensed producer, with “secure home delivery through the mail or by courier.”

The proposed Act would also add new offences to the Criminal Code to enforce a zero-tolerance approach on driving under influence of cannabis or other drugs, the government said.

The Act would also authorize “new tools” such as roadside oral fluid drug screeners for police to “better detect drivers who have drugs in their body.”

Among provincial officials responding to Thursday’s announcement, Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley noted “many important decisions will be left to the province” such as “where cannabis can be sold and where it can be consumed.”

The Alberta government, she said Thursday, “will be reaching out to gather input and feedback in the coming weeks.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons also said public consultations would start in the “very near future” on “all aspects of legalization including distribution, regulation and potential economic benefits to the province.” — AGCanada.com Network

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