Canada Legalizes Marijuana In Historic Vote

By Paul Gaita 06/21/18

Residents are expected to be able to purchase marijuana from licensed producers as early as mid-September 2018.

Canadian flag emblazoned with marijuana leaf

Canada became the second country in the world to legalize marijuana after the passage of its Cannabis Act in a 52-59 vote on Tuesday, June 19.

Canadian adults will be allowed to carry and share up to 30 grams of legal marijuana in public and cultivate up to four plants in their homes. The country's provinces and territories will be allowed to draft their own rules for sales, which have been projected to echo the billion-dollar windfall enjoyed by the marijuana industry in the United States.

The government is giving its provinces 8 to 12 weeks to set up their own regulations on sales and more, and residents are expected to be able to purchase marijuana from licensed producers as early as mid-September 2018.

Prior to the passage of Bill C-45, Uruguay was the only country on the planet to legalize marijuana for sale and use. In the U.S., 29 states and Washington, D.C. allow the medical use of marijuana, while nine and D.C. also allow recreational use. Canada introduced the Cannabis Act in 2017, which passed the House of Commons in November of that year before reaching the Senate for final approval.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed the intention of C-45 in a June 19 Twitter post which read, "It's been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits," he wrote. "Today, we change that."

Once the bill receives Royal Assent—a ceremony in which Canada's governor general, Julie Payette, will officially approve the measure—only adults ages 18 or 19 years or older (depending on the province or territory) will be allowed to legally purchase "cannabis, dried cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis seeds or cannabis plants" from licensed retailers, both at brick-and-mortar locations and online.

According to the BBC, edibles will not be available for purchase by the proposed September launch date, but are expected to reach markets within a year's time to allow the government to establish regulations for such projects.

They can also grow up to four plants per household—not per person—for personal use as long as the seeds are bought from a licensed supplier, and make cannabis-related products in their home as long as the plants do not use dangerous organic solvents.

C-45 will also establish a new offense of up to 14 years in prison for selling cannabis to minors, as well as "significant" penalties for individuals who involve minors in cannabis-related offenses or drive under the influence of cannabis, and will impose restrictions on how marijuana is promoted to young people, such as through the use of celebrity or animal/cartoon character images. 

Provinces will also decide where cannabis will be sold to the public. As CNN noted, Alberta will make it available at more than 200 private retailers, while buyers in Ontario will only find it in state-run stores, and Newfoundland/Labrador residents will be able to purchase cannabis along with their groceries at the Loblaw supermarket chain.

With Canadian sales of marijuana in 2015 estimated at about $4.5 billion—nearly the same amount spent on wine—cannabis industry observers have suggested that the country may see annual revenue as high as $5 billion.

Canadian finance minister Bill Morneau said that the excise tax revenue will be split 75/25 between provincial government and the federal government for the first two years after legalization.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.