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What is Legalization? The Cannabis Act Explained


Next July, Canada will become the first industrialized nation to legalize and regulate cannabis from production to consumption.

From new bylaws and taxation, to new impaired driving laws and public health programs, legalization will have a significant impact on governments, businesses and communities across our country. And, there’s no question about it - the safe transition to legal cannabis will be complex and controversial.

But, what does legalization actually mean? The Cannabis Act is multi-faceted, but has a few key components. In general terms, the legislation will create a system similar to the one in place for tobacco and alcohol sales.

The federal government will license the growing of cannabis, set standards for potency and penalties for abuse, and create a taxation framework. It will be up to the provincial and territorial governments to determine the methods for distribution.

When the Act becomes law in July 2018, adults who are 18 years or older will legally be able to possess up to 30g of cannabis in public, share up to 30 grams with other adults, and grow up to four plants per household. The current program for accessing cannabis for medical purposes would continue under the new Act, and the rules around production and sales of edibles have not yet been finalized.

The Act proposes many rules that are designed to protect youth from accessing cannabis. No person will be allowed to sell or provide cannabis to any person under the age of 18. The Act creates two new criminal offences, with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail, for giving or selling cannabis to youth and using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence.

The Act also prohibits products that are appealing to youth, packaging or labelling cannabis in a way that makes it appealing to youth, selling cannabis through self-service displays or vending machines, and promoting cannabis, except in narrow circumstances where the promotion could not be seen by a young person.

The provinces and territories will license and oversee distribution and sales, and will also have the power to increase the minimum age, lower personal possession limits, create additional rules for growing cannabis at home, such as lowering the number of plants per residence, and restrict where adults can consume cannabis.

So, what is the goal of legalization? The Canadian government says the objective is to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and prevent organized crime from continuing to profit from the illegal cannabis market.

Canadians continue to use cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world. The Cannabis Act creates a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across our country. Developing the framework will be complicated, with multiple stakeholders and levels of government playing key roles in developing a system that ensures the safe transition to legal cannabis.

That’s why it is critical that government, industry and the health, education and public safety sectors collaborate. We must work together to create a regulatory framework for the cannabis sector, in order to achieve the shared goals of developing a globally competitive industry, while safeguarding public health and safety.


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National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education.         © 2017  All right reserved.