Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday, June 20, 2018, that cannabis will be made nationally legal in the fall, making the Great White North the world’s second country, behind Uruguay, to legalize recreational marijuana.
After months of intense debate, Canada’s Bill C-45, or the Cannabis Act, passed in the Senate on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, paving the way for a fully legal market. And on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, Prime Minister Trudeau said Canadians will have legal access on Oct. 17, 2018.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould cautioned Canadians to obey the current law until recreational sales take effect in October. Potential pardons for past convictions are also on hold until that time.
“The law still remains the law,” Wilson-Raybould said.
The 52-29 Senate vote, with two abstentions, ends a 90-year prohibition on cannabis. The new law will allow adults 18 and older to buy and consume up 30 grams, or a little more than 1 ounce, of marijuana, and grow up to four plants at home. Edibles and extracts will be available in 2019.
“I’m feeling just great. We’ve just witnessed a historic vote for Canada,” independent Senator Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “We can start to be proactive in public education. We’ll see the end of criminalization and we can start addressing Canada’s $7 billion illegal market. These are good things for Canada.” By exchange rates Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 7 billion Canadian dollars is worth about $5.26 billion US dollars.
Bill C-45’s authors argued that legalization would protect the health of young people by restricting access, undercutting the black market, and allowing for quality control and public health awareness campaigns.
Trudeau, underscored that goal in a Tweet following the vote.
It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate. #PromiseKept
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 20, 2018
“It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate. #PromiseKept”
“Canada is once again establishing itself as a leader in North America, in the fight for rational cannabis policies,” Paul Armentano, national deputy director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a statement. “Our neighbor to the north is providing a roadmap with respect to how to replace the failed policy of cannabis criminalization with regulatory alternatives. Whether US politicians will choose to follow this path remains to be seen.”
Licensed producers in Canada will now be able to import and export their products for medical and scientific purposes.
Following legalization of medical cannabis in 2001, Canada now has 109 licensed producers.
In addition to doing well in their own stock exchange, several Canadian cannabis companies began trading on Nasdaq in recent months while a number of US brands head north to expand their fortunes.
Senators who opposed legalization cited concerns that Canada would be in violation of international drug control treaties.
However, the World Health Organization recently conducted an assessment of cannabis and will move to update global drug treaties based upon scientific evidence. The WHO concluded that marijuana is a “relatively safe drug” that has never caused an overdose death.
In a statement, NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri, also called on American leaders to “replace our archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status.”
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.