TORONTO — Canada’s government said Tuesday it would study a federal task force’s recommendation that Canadians over 18 years old be allowed to buy marijuana for recreational purposes and would announce new laws in the spring for legalizing pot.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long promised to legalize recreational pot use and sales. If the legislation passes, Canada would be the largest developed country to end prohibition of recreational marijuana. In the United States, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voted Nov. 8 to approve the use of recreational marijuana, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, where it was previously legalized. Uruguay in South America is the only nation to legalize recreational pot.
The marijuana task force, headed by former Canadian Health Minister Anne McLellan, recommended that adults be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of pot for recreational purpose and grow up to four plants. It also recommended that higher-potency pot be taxed at a higher rate than weaker strains. It also said recreational marijuana should not be sold in the same location as alcohol or tobacco. Under the proposals, alcohol-free cannabis lounges would be allowed.
The panel’s report noted public health experts tend to favor a minimum age of 21 as the brain continues to develop to about 25, but said setting the minimum age too high would preserve the illicit market. It said Canadian youth have higher rates of cannabis use than their peers worldwide.
Trudeau said the government plans to control and regulate the sale of marijuana to keep it out of the hands of kids and to remove a significant source of revenue for criminal organizations and street gangs.
McLellan said task force members travelled to Colorado and Washington and spoke to government officials in Uruguay to hear from those who have enacted policies to legalize pot.
“We are only the second nation to move forward in this way,” McLellan said, urging the Canadian government to use caution.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be the next U.S. attorney general has raised fears among supp0orters of legalized marijuana that the new administration could crack down on weed-tolerant states 20 years after California became the first to legalize medical marijuana.
Colorado now allows adults 21 and over to have up to an ounce of marijuana, without needing a doctor’s recommendation for the drug. Colorado also allows adults to grow up to six plants at home. And Denver has approved a first-in-the-U.S. law allowing people to use marijuana at bars, restaurants and other public spaces.