Canada says it will start decriminalising cannabis next spring

The undertaking was first made during last year's election campaign

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Wednesday 20 April 2016 18:27
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Crime survey data suggests cannabis use remained roughly the same from 2010-15
Crime survey data suggests cannabis use remained roughly the same from 2010-15

It is hard to keep up with Canada’s flurry of progressive legislation.

A week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced a law that would legalise doctor-assisted suicides for people with “serious and incurable illness,” one of his ministers announced the government will next spring bring legislation to decriminalise and regulate recreational marijuana.

Health minister Jane Philpott said on Wednesday that the Liberal government would honour a vow made during last year’s election campaign. The party had given the undertaking following the example set by Colorado and Washington states in the US, but had not set a time scale.

Ms Philpott, speaking at a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York on drug problems around the world, said the Canadian law will ensure marijuana was kept away from children and would keep criminals from profiting from its sale. It was also 420, the day when cannabis lovers across the world light up.

“We will work with law enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal justice measures,” she said.

“We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem.”

Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, the government’s main advisor on legalisation, has emphasised current laws that make marijuana illegal will remain in effect.

Medical marijuana is a separate issue from recreational marijuana in Canada and already is legal. Canada’s medical marijuana growers say a jump in the number of illegal marijuana dispensaries as the federal government decides how to regulate the drug is costing them customers.

Medical marijuana patients in Canada are set to regain the right to grow their own cannabis after a federal court judge in March struck down the ban introduced by the previous Conservative government.

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