Canada to legalize marijuana in Spring 2017

Canada to legalize marijuana in Spring 2017

Canada’ health minister Jane Philpott has announced that Canada’s marijuana legalization legislation will be ready in one year. The announcement took place on April 20th at a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York City. Philpott was in New York as part of a delegation working on the progress of the UN’s 2009 drug action plan.

From Philpott’s speech:

We will introduce legislation in spring 2017 that ensures we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals.

We will work with law enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal justice measures. We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem.

The delegation includes former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, now the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, and lead coordinator for Canada’s legalization plan. Blair worked as part of the Toronto police drug squad before ascending to the position of chief, which he held for 10 years until 2015. Although his tenure was marred by controversy, his experience in policing in a large metropolis adds integrity to the federal roll out of legalization legislation.

From Blair:

It’s a great deal of work. It’s important to do it right. And so, we’re looking at regulations with respect to production, distribution, the retail and consumption of marijuana and we want to make sure that it’s based on the best advice from experts.

The federal government was elected in October 19, 2015 on a platform that included the legalization of marijuana. The government is currently working on the logistics of expunging criminal records for possession, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and young people, and ensuring that marijuana does not become a legitimate income source for criminal organizations. The marijuana legalization legislation will include harsher penalties for illegal sale / sale to minors, and for operating a vehicle under the influence.

From the Liberal Party website:

We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.

Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.

Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses. At the same time, the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs.

We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework.

We will create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied.

Some critics are concerned that promises to expunge criminal records will effectively decriminalize marijuana immediately, before controls and legal retail channels are in place. The issue is that if criminal charges for possession will not be upheld after Spring 2017, will police bother to arrest for possession?

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