The Canadian parliament has voted to pass a law legalising recreational cannabis use, with the country becoming the first major economy to do so.
Canada’s Cannabis Act won in a 52-29 vote in the country’s senate, proving a series of controls and regulations on how cannabis can be grown and marketed to consumers. From September, the act will allow Canadian consumers to purchase cannabis legally throughout the country.
While recreational cannabis laws were passed in several US states over the past decade, the new law makes Canada the first major economy and G7 member to allow cannabis use on a nationwide scale.
The new law is one of several election promises made by the Liberal Party during its previous campaign. As of 2018, the only other country that allows recreational cannabis use is Uruguay.
Canada was one of the first countries to allow medical use of cannabis, with the drug legalised for limited medical use in the country since 1981. However, the new bills opens cannabis use to non-medical users, including the general public.
The law also creates several new restrictions on cannabis use and offenses for illegal growth or sales of the drug. For example, the sale of cannabis products to people aged under 18 is strictly prohibited under the new law.
Under the new law, Canadian provinces and territories also have the ability to set independent minimum ages for cannabis use, allowing provincial governments to restrict access to people above the nationwide minimum age of 18.
Several Canadian provinces and territories have minimum drinking ages of 19, which analysts expect to be repeated for cannabis consumption.
Although Canada is the first G7 country to legalise the use of recreational cannabis, it’s not the only country discussing such a move. Throughout the UK, there’s been increasing debate about the merits and potential benefits of legalising medical and/or recreational cannabis.
Recently, despite an increase in lobbying for the legalisation of cannabis, both the NHS and the Home Secretary have taken steps to reject new laws, claiming that legalising cannabis has the potential to “introduce new risks for young people.”
Despite this, there have been significant efforts made to provide a path towards the legalisation of cannabis, with a group of Tory MPs, academics and legalisation campaigners noting that the drug’s illegal status has produced “stronger, more damaging” form of cannabis.
Under the new law, the Canadian government will regulate the sale of cannabis. The drug (and its byproducts, including oils) will be available for sale only at regulated shops, with the sale of edible forms of cannabis restricted for one year after the law passes.
Edible cannabis products (known as “edibles”) will be subject to separate regulations, which are expected to be introduced in the next year.
Under the law, adults will be able to carry as much as 30 grams of cannabis for recreational use. The law also allows Canadian adults to grow up to four marijuana plants at home. Despite this, provinces such Manitoba and Quebec are likely to ban home growing of cannabis plants.
Prime Minister Trudeau believes that the new law will fix a “failed system” of drug offenses while removing the “criminal element” that’s linked to marijuana cultivation, sale and usage throughout the country.