Canada’s government is finally introducing long-promised legislation to make recreational marijuana legal across the country. The new law, likely to add to the country’s “liberal haven” reputation, could be in place in time for Canadians to celebrate Canada’s 151st birthday, on July 1, 2018, if not sooner.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government will lay out plans to legalize the drug next month, as early as April 10, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (One rumor says it may be April 20, or 4/20—a date with significance to weed enthusiasts.) The law would reportedly give power to the provinces to establish prices, while making the federal government responsible for the drug’s safety. Canadians would also be allowed to grow pot at home, but be limited to four plants per household.
The legislation ought to sail through Parliament with little opposition, since it has broad support from the left and right. Before news of the Liberal legislation broke, Trudeau and his party were facing criticism from the left-leaning New Democrats Party (NDP) for running a “cynical campaign” in 2015, when Trudeau promised to make recreational pot legal if elected. The NDP, which is pro-legalization, charged that the pledge was designed to attract young voters and that the Liberals had no intention of following through with the proposal.
And in a surprising softening of its tone on marijuana laws, the leader of the Conservative Party last year also leaned on the Liberals to enact the law, saying it was necessary to begin regulating pot to keep kids from buying it illegally from prescription dispensaries. The federal government would set the legal minimum age to purchase pot at 18, though provinces could set a higher limit.
Already, storefront dispensaries in Toronto, Vancouver, and other cities have been selling pot to those who have a prescription. Some even offer live video-conference appointments with a remote doctor who could write that prescription. Periodically, the dispensaries would be raided by police, but they quickly re-opened.
Legal pot is not expected to bring eye-popping tax revenues for the federal government— at least not in the first year or so. A report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer released last fall suggested that the change would lead to about $618 million in taxes when first enacted, but said that number would likely grow as the industry and market mature. Trudeau has said that the money raised should go toward drug education, addiction programs, and mental health support.
In a recent poll, 51% of Canadians said they supported legalizing marijuana, and 33% said they opposed it. Some 14% of respondents were totally chill, holding no strong opinion either way.