2018 Even if Canada legalises cannabis on 1 July 2018, as announced recently, a number of questions still need to be answered. How high will the taxes be, what will neighbouring countries say, how high will the minimum age be, and who will be doing the selling? The answers can be found here.
Government presents legalisation schedule
As late as January this year, it was still unclear whether the task force appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau would manage to present a specific plan for the planned legalisation of cannabis in spring 2017, as announced. It was also unclear whether the appointed committee would be able to alleviate the concerns of individual states and health authorities, which seemed to think little of the liberal government’s plans. But by mid-April, they had agreed on the main points and presented them during a government press conference. The planned date for the law to enter into force is 1 July 2018. Next Canada Day but one, individuals over the age of 18 will be allowed to have up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in their possession.
Four plants per household will be permitted. The processing of the buds into food products for personal use will also be legalised. Plants must not exceed 100 cm in height.
Those who export cannabis, or supply it to or share it with minors, may face a custodial sentence of up to 14 years.
Minors on whom less than five grams of cannabis is found will receive a police record but won’t be prosecuted.
The individual provinces will regulate details relating to growing, dispensing and selling cannabis. In principle, the minimum age is 18, but this might be raised to 19 in some provinces due to the different laws pertaining to the sale of alcohol. In some provinces, alcohol is only permitted once a person has reached the age of 19, so the minimum age for cannabis in those provinces is likely to be equivalent to that for alcohol.
First-time traffic offences (to be known as cannabis DUI offences) will be punished with a fine of up to CAD 1000 and up to one year’s driving ban. The upper limit for driving is 2.5 nanograms per ml in full blood (Germany takes measurements in blood serum, resulting in a higher value). Further research is needed in this area.
Tourists will also be allowed to consume cannabis legally. Tourists, just like locals, will be permitted to have up to 30 grams of cannabis buds in their possession, whilst import and export will continue to be strictly prohibited, even for medicinal cannabis.
Cannabis advertising will be permitted to inform, should warn against potential side effects and injury, and should not be “lifestyle-oriented“.
All other details such as taxation, packaging, detailed regulations on extracts and hashish, as well as the number of shops, their distance to schools and any other questions relating to the details will be resolved over the coming year.
The biggest problem, however, seems to be the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which basically bans cannabis, except for medicinal use. Trudeau had announced that he would find a viable way of allowing Canada to pass the proposed law without violating international treaties, especially the Convention that would make any type of legalisation problematic. Even after the press conference in Ottawa, it is still unclear what strategy will be pursued here.
Fear of stalling for time
Likewise, the Canadian media are reporting that Trudeau’s schedule could be a little too optimistic, because some basic points of the proposed plan are said to still be contested. After the first reading of the bill, individual MPs can still propose the amendment of individual clauses and paragraphs. Conservative Senator Bob Runciman told reporters that he “wouldn’t be surprised if there were to be at least one amendment to the minimum age”. What’s more, an amnesty for individuals who were convicted of cannabis offences doesn’t currently appear to be politically feasible.
“The opposition can delay the planned law, but not jeopardise the 1 July 2018 deadline,“ Professor Steven Hoffman of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa explained to marijuana.com. “The opposition has plenty of opportunities to delay a draft law. For example, it may insist on an additional study by the appropriate committee, apply for extensions or invite additional witnesses, in order to delay the schedule.“
UN – No problem!
Uruguay had simply countered the UN’s warnings prior to the legalisation in 2013 with to-the-point arguments, which had brought this small country a whole load of international criticism and had resulted in severe sabre-rattling on the part of the UN. But in the end, in spite of cannabis being legal, Uruguay was able to remain a signatory to the Convention, and Uruguay’s commissioner on drug-related issues now welcomes German delegations to share experiences.
Bolivia had already shown how you solve the problem with the UN Single Convention, in 2013, with the re-legalisation of coca leaves. In 2009, President Evo Morales requested the amendment by the UN of the UN Single Convention of 1961. The aim of the proposed amendment was to lift the scientifically unsupported ban on chewing coca leaves, whilst maintaining the global monitoring system for growing coca and the ban on turning it into cocaine. After the international community had failed to bring itself to pass the motion with a majority vote as late as 2011, Bolivia briefly terminated the treaty with the UNO six years ago, in order to resume it under the proviso that it can permit the growing, trade and consumption of coca leaves on its own territory. On 11 January 2013, Bolivia was readmitted as a party to the treaty, without budging from its condition concerning the status of coca leaves. Things could go the same way for cannabis-related matters in Canada too.