Canada high: Marijuana set to be legalised for recreational use

Late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel had a bit of fun Thursday night with the news that the Canadian government has introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.

Canadian lawmakers announced their intentions in March, saying their aim was to roll out the measure nationwide by July 1, 2018.

The minimum age for recreational use of marijuana has been set at 18, but provinces can decide to set a higher minimum age, as some now do in the case of alcohol.

Of course, laws surrounding framework for production, sales, distribution and possession of marijuana are also part of the suite of bills: individuals over the age of 18 will be able to possess up to 30 grams of dried marijuana, or its equivalent, in public settings.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government unveiled legislation Thursday to fully legalize marijuana, making Canada only the second country to do so, after Uruguay.

The government's new policy had been expected for some time as Trudeau had endorsed legalizing marijuana on the campaign trail.

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The bill is opposed by the official opposition Conservatives and has many critics in the addiction recovery community, who are not convinced the legislation will be effective in protecting children or in reducing the growing dependency of Canadian youth on cannabis. According to one estimate, Canada's legal-marijuana market could be worth almost $5 billion by 2019.

Bill Blair, a member of parliament and former Toronto police chief who has led the government's marijuana reform process, said that the government consulted extensively with officials in Colorado and Washington.

In a report released on Tuesday, the CD Howe Institute warned that if the cost is too high, it would do little to undercut the illicit market, but if it is too low, it could encourage consumption and fail to generate significant government revenue.

The federal government set the age at 18, but is allowing each of Canada's provinces to determine if it should be higher.

However, marijuana will remain illegal until the new law is approved and goes into effect. As well, citizens would be allowed to grow up to four plants per household at a maximum height of one metre from a legal seed or seedling.

"The bills we propose today are aiming at putting drug dealers and organized crime out of the cannabis business", Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said.

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Finally, accompanying legislation would toughen penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, alcohol and other drugs.

"The current system of prohibition is failing our kids", Liberal MP Bill Blair, a supporter of the legislation, said Thursday.

There will also be new provisions against drug-impaired driving, which will be closely scrutinized by critics who fear an increase in the number of cases of impaired driving once marijuana becomes legal. A positive test could result to more testing including a blood test.

'The only control that is now in place is the criminal sanction and the laws, ' he said, according to CBC News.

"Each country establishes its own rules", Goodale said.

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