Cannabis enthusiasts and legalization advocates are still gushing about Canada’s landmark vote approving the Cannabis Act. The new legislation makes Canada the second country in the world to legalize the sale, purchase, and consumption of recreational cannabis nationwide.
In an update, however, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that recreational cannabis can be legally purchased only starting October 17. This is more than three months later than the previously expected July 1 rollout. And before Trudeau’s announcement, many were expecting a mid-September implementation date.
“I think we all agree that it is important to get this right and not rushed.” – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
In a news conference, Trudeau said that they will be taking cannabis out completely from the hands of the organized crime market over the next several months, and even years.
According to Trudeau, it is their hope that as of October 17, retail cannabis outlets run by the provinces and with an online mail delivery system will start to operate smoothly and in an orderly fashion. Trudeau has promised to legalize recreational cannabis during his campaign in 2015.
Trudeau said that it is important that they get this right and not rushed.
He said that cannabis legalization is a process and not a single-day event, so they want to give the provincial governments more time to ensure that they are fully prepared for the legislation taking effect. By doing this, they can make sure that it will be a smooth success in every way.
The newly approved bill still needs royal assent before it is officially considered part of Canadian law. Royal Assent is the Sovereign’s formal approval of a bill passed by both houses of the Parliament in identical form. In Canada, Royal Assent is given by the Governor General.
The next steps will also include the release of regulations for the cannabis market, including the approval of cannabis-infused edibles within a year, as well as working with the Indigenous communities to address the negative consequences of the transition.
According to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, the new legislation is transformative and marks a wholesale shift in how the country approaches marijuana, leaving behind a model of prohibition that has failed.
Raybould also reminded Canadians that recreational cannabis is not officially legal yet and that existing laws still remain in place until legalization is in full force.
The Cannabis Act and the provincial government
While federal law makes the use, sale, and purchase of recreational pot legal, it will be up to the provincial government how the drug will be sold and distributed.
Moreover, while federal law states that Canadian adults aged 18 up will be able to possess up to 1 oz. or 30 grams of dried cannabis in public, most provinces have decided to raise the minimum age limit to 19, which is in accordance with the legal drinking age.
The bill also allows for people to grow up to four cannabis plants per household for personal use. But Manitoba and Quebec intends to prohibit home cultivation.
Raybould explained that it was not the federal government’s intent to challenge provincial laws when it comes to home cultivation, but the issue could end up in the courts if individuals would present a legal challenge.
The issue of pardon
Some people have criticized the government for continuing to enforce cannabis prohibition until the legislation is officially implemented. They have asked the government to grant pardon to those who have been convicted or minor cannabis-related infractions between now and October 17.
In response to this, Trudeau said that it was pointless to talk about pardons and amnesty while the old law is still in place.
He assured them, though, that as soon as the law comes into force, they will start looking at the issue of criminal records and pardons.