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Canada legalizes recreational marijuana use

June 20, 2018

Canada's Senate has passed a landmark law, known as the Cannabis Act, legalizing recreational marijuana use. Canadians will have to wait until September at the earliest, however, before they can buy the drug legally.

Marijuana Day in Canada
Image: Getty Images/AFP/C. Roussakis

The Canadian Senate on Tuesday gave the final passage to the Cannabis Act, a landmark bill legalizing the purchase and consumption of marijuana.

The bill passed its final hurdle in a 52-29 Senate vote. It is expected to come into force within eight to 12 weeks.

How will Canada's cannabis market work?

Under the Cannabis Act, or Bill C-45, Canadian adults will be able to:

  • Purchase cannabis and cannabis oil produced by licensed growers at various retail locations
  • Order marijuana, as well as plants and seeds, online from retailers licensed by the federal government
  • Grow up to four marijuana plants in their home for personal use
  • Carry up to 30 grams (1 ounce) of marijuana in public
  • However, they will not be allowed to buy edibles infused with marijuana for up to a year after the bill comes into force. The government intends to outline regulations for those products over the coming year.

'Good for kids, bad for criminals'

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who pledged to push for legalization during his 2015 election campaign, tweeted minutes after 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 and regulate marijuana just passed the Senate."

"We've just witnessed a historic vote for Canada," Senator Tony Dean, who sponsored the Senate bill, told broadcaster CBC. "The end of 90 years of prohibition. Transformative social policy, I think. A brave move on the part of the government."

Read more: 5 facts about cannabis laws in Germany

Provinces given some leeway: Although the law applies nationwide, individual provinces will be allowed to make a handful of their own rules. For example, certain states have indicated they intend to set the legal age at 19. The standard legal age is 18. Quebec, Manitoba and Nunavut have also said they want to prohibit marijuana cultivation at home.

Following in Uruguay's footsteps: Tuesday's passage of Bill C-45 makes Canada only the world's second country to introduce a nationwide marijuana market, after Uruguay fully legalized the drug last year. The US has seen nine states legalize recreational cannabis use, while another 29 states allow medicinal use. However, Washington has so far refrained from introducing a nationwide legalization law.

Cannabis remains illegal in Germany, although laws concerning private consumption are relatively relaxed. Medical marijuana was legalized in March 2017. 

Read more: Of hemp, smoke and mirrors

Legalization by September: Trudeau's government had initially said it hoped to legalize cannabis by July 1. That deadline was pushed back, however, after the Senate requested more time to review the bill. The delay also gives each province eight to 12 weeks to prepare for the upcoming retail sales. Nevertheless, the bill is expected to receive royal assent in order to formally become law by as early as Wednesday.

dm/se (AP, AFP, dpa)