If your objectives are to protect public health and safety, keep marijuana out of the hands of minors, and cut illegal profits flowing to organized crime, then the law as it stands today has been a failure.
Law enforcement agencies in Canada spend an estimated $2-3 billion a year trying to fight pot, yet Canadian teenagers are among the heaviest users in the western world.
And criminals walk away with $7-8 billion every year in illicit proceeds. We have to do better.
The new legislation we introduced reflects to do a better job of protecting our kids and fighting crime. The new law would create a strong framework for legalizing, strictly regulating and restricting the use of cannabis:
* Only adults 18 years of age and older will have legal access to the product through an appropriate retail framework, and sourced from a safe and well-regulated industry, or grown in small amounts at home, i.e., a maximum of four plants in any one residence.
* Provinces will be able to set a higher minimum age or a lower home limit, if they deem that appropriate.
* It will be legal for adults to possess, use and share [with other adults] up to 30 grams in public.
* Commercial producers of cannabis will have to be federally-licensed and security cleared. Strict product safety and quality standards will be required. Mail order distribution will be allowed, but generally retail operations will be under provincial jurisdiction to regulate. Municipalities will be able to enact local bylaws reflecting community preferences [e.g., where cannabis is produced or consumed].
* Serious criminal penalties will apply to all those operating outside this framework, with a strong focus on illicit production and trafficking, those who try to exploit children and youth, and drug-impaired driving.
* Importing and exporting cannabis will also remain illegal, unless exceptionally authorized for medical or scientific purposes by Health Canada.
* For a young person under 18, it will be an offence to possess, use or share marijuana. Criminal charges will not be laid where the amount involved is under five grams, but provinces could create ticketable offences to deal with such small amounts.
* Promotion, packaging, labelling and display will be tightly controlled to ensure accuracy and prevent appeals to young people.
Our entire legislative package is now before the House of Commons.
We believe our proposals represent the best approach to promote health and safety, protect our kids and combat crime.
We are anxious to continue working with provincial, territorial, municipal and private sector partners to achieve a successful and orderly transition to the new regime.
In the meantime, the existing law – as deficient as it has been – needs to be respected. This is not a free-for-all.
Minister of Public Safety