The Canadian government unveiled legislation on Thursday to legalize marijuana.

The legislation would make it legal for Canadians who are at least 18 years old to purchase, use and grow limited amounts of recreational marijuana by July 1, 2018. Meanwhile, Canada could become the largest country in the world to legalize marijuana.

Under the proposed law, an adult will be able to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis (roughly enough for 50 “joints” or rolled marijuana cigarettes) in public, and grow four cannabis plants at home for personal consumption which do not exceed one meter in height. But exporting and importing marijuana will remain illegal without a valid permit for special purposes, such as medical marijuana, which is legal in Canada, and industrial hemp.

Also, penalties for possessing a bit more marijuana than allowed will be considerably less severe than before. Rather than being charged with an offense and facing a possible criminal record, someone possessing more than 30 but less than 50 grams of cannabis will receive the equivalent of a ticket for a traffic infraction.

Canada has now become the first Group of 7 (G7) country to proceed with legalizing marijuana, as it decided to get rid of the criminal prohibitions that had been in place since 1923 because they have proven to be ineffective.

“Canadians, including 21 percent of youth and 30 percent of young adults, continue to use cannabis at among the highest rates in the world,” former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, now parliamentary secretary to Canada’s justice minister and attorney general, told a news conference. He was the federal government’s point man on the recreational-marijuana file.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that police forces spend between 2 billion and 3 billion Canadian dollars (between 1.5 billion and 2.25 billion U.S. dollars) annually to enforce Canada’s existing law against marijuana use. “Yet Canadian teenagers are among the heaviest users in the Western world, and criminals pocket 7 to 8 billion dollars in illicit proceeds,” he said.

Ottawa won’t be alone in implementing a national legalized marijuana regime. Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories have the authority to increase, but not decrease, the minimum age for use and impose additional requirements for personal cultivation. For instance, the minimum age for consuming alcohol varies across Canadian provinces.

It is also unspecified where Canadians will be able to buy marijuana. The local authorities are responsible for overseeing the retail sale of cannabis. Ottawa, however, will control who is allowed to produce marijuana under the proposed Cannabis Act.

The law will also allow adults to transport marijuana across Canada. However, crossing the border into the United States, where marijuana has only been legalized in eight states, including California and the District of Columbia, could prove challenging for Canadian pot smokers.

But Goodale told reporters that Canada is hoping to convince the United States that the planned recreational marijuana regime in Canada “will better protect our kids and better stop the flow of illegal dollars to organized crime.”

“Our system will actually be better,” he said. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/