Couillard government won't rush into dealing with legalized marijuana
Published Thursday, April 13, 2017 7:23PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 13, 2017 7:30PM EDT
The Couillard government says it is disappointed with the federal government’s bill to legalize marijuana.
For the Trudeau Liberals it is a promise fulfilled, but much of the enforcement and regulation of the sale of pot is left up to provinces.
The bill tabled Thursday will, once approved, make the use of marijuana legal for all adults in Canada, however each province has the right to increase the minimum age should it choose.
Once the Cannabis Act is approved, marijuana will be:
- Restricted to 18 years of age and older
- Provinces can increase minimum age
- Allowed to possess 30 grams or less
- Grow up to four cannabis plants per residence
The federal law will also enact substantial penalties for those who sell to children, including up to 14 years in prison for giving or selling cannabis to youth, or using a youth to commit cannabis-related offences (such as drug dealing).
To ensure people are not driving while stoned, police will have the right to perform roadside drug tests, including demanding saliva for testing.
The federal penalty for driving while impaired will be a minimum $1,000 fine, and be up to life imprisonment for any crash involving injury or death while impaired. The federal government also gave police the right to administer breathalyzer tests without suspicion of alcohol use.
That move is strongly support by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“We’re very happy that the government has decided to go ahead and give our police officers the power to test for drugs,” said Theresa Ann-Kramer of MADD.
Regulations still to come will set limits on product branding similar to those used for tobacco.
Cannabis will also be taxed at a rate that is yet to be set.
Provinces will have a lot of leeway, including the ability to increase the minimum age and to determine how and where marijuana can be sold.
So far, Quebec’s ministers are less than thrilled with the proposal.
Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois won't put a dollar amount on the plan yet, but says the burden legalized marijuana will put on Quebec will be substantial.
“We’re going to need prevention! More prevention. This isn’t a little product that we’re talking about,” said Charlebois.
“I thought they would talk at least about the transfer of money for a good project for the provinces.”
She said that overall, Ottawa’s plan is short on details, among them: who is going to pay to train police officers.
Meanwhile the Couillard government is working with the Ontario government to harmonize regulations, and build a common framework for marijuana use and sale.
People who study drug use and abuse, such as Psychology professor Jean-Sebastien Fallu, said provincial governments have been slow to act.
Fallu pointed out that the federal Liberals announced their intent to legalize marijuana two years ago, so the provinces should not complain that they are being rushed.
“They could have prepared and consulted Quebecers as to what we want as a distribution model,” said Fallu.
But promising that it won’t be rushed, the Quebec government said if it needs to, it will opt out of legalizing marijuana by imposing an outright ban on the sale of cannabis.