Article by Tonda McCharles, The Toronto Star
The federal Liberal government took the first step Thursday towards a massive overhaul of Canada’s drug laws that will make it legal for those aged 18 and older to grow, buy and use recreational marijuana as early as next year.
The government introduced a proposed law Thursday that largely follows the recommendations of a federal task force. The new regime would provide for:
- New legal limits to allow individuals to have up to 30 grams (a little more than an ounce) of cannabis on hand at a time, to consume as they wish — to smoke or eat it in home-baked — and to grow four plants in their own home, without breaking the law. There would still be tickets for possession of small amounts, or up to five years in jail for illegal possession of larger amounts, depending on the amount held.
- New criminal penalties for illegally supplying to minors (up to 14 years in jail) and for driving while impaired by marijuana. Penalties can range from $1,000 to life imprisonment for driving within two hours of having an illegal level of drugs in the blood. The penalty depends on whether someone was hurt or killed during the offence.
- Strict controls on advertising, marketing and branding of legal marijuana, such as standardized serving sizes and potency, and packaging and labeling.
For the first time in Canadian law, there would be a regulated limit of the amount of THC that if detected in a driver’s blood by a roadside saliva test, could allow a police officer to demand an evaluation by a drug impairment expert or a blood sample.
The new bill would also enact stiffer penalties where a driver is impaired by both marijuana and alcohol.
The Liberals have promised a broad-based public campaign to educate people on the dangers of early and prolonged marijuana use, the risks of high-potency products, and the ability of marijuana to impair drivers’ judgment especially when combined with alcohol or other drug use, and more research into the health impacts of marijuana use.