Justin Trudeau offers new details on future of legalized pot in Canada

Photo from CP.
Photo from CP.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with an audience at Vice headquarters in Toronto Monday night to answer questions about the future of legalized marijuana in Canada.

As Vice points out, the prime minister offered a number of details regarding the new laws, such as plans to accommodate large and small licensed marijuana producers — comparing it to the beer industry where major brewers and craft brewers compete in the same marketplace. He also confirmed there are no plans to expand the law to make other drugs, such as opioids, legal for recreational use.

Here are some other key new details we learned from the Trudeau’s open house discussion on pot legalization:

Canada learning from U.S. states

“We’ve been able to go down and learn from their successes, their failures that has definitely helped inform how we’re going to move forward on a legalization framework,” Trudeau said, referring to the eight U.S. states where marijuana is legal.

The prime minister added that a state like Colorado has more of a “commercial mindset” while Canada is “approaching it from a purely public health and safety standpoint.” Boosting revenue is secondary to eliminating profits gained by organize crime organizations through the black market, Trudeau maintained.

Current law is the law for now

The prime minister explained why his government won’t implement decriminalization now as Canadians continue to face charges for possessing a drug that is expected to be legal to carry sometime next year.

“If you’re decriminalizing, the only people who are going to be growing and allowed to sell it will be criminals themselves because if you’re decriminalizing possession but you’re not creating a legal framework for producing it, then it’s still going to be organized crime, Hells Angels, street gangs controlling the sale of marijuana. And we don’t want that,” he said.

“Until we have a better system in place, the current system has to stand.”

Feds may consider pardons, eventually

After Trudeau spoke about his younger brother’s legal battle with pot possession charges, a Toronto man asked him whether the government would consider pardoning people with marijuana-related convictions.

“We will start a process to look at how to make things fairer for those folks,” Trudeau responded.

Zero tolerance for black market

Responding to another question from the audience, the prime minister dismissed the notion of allowing Canadians to keep using their weed dealer of choice once legalization is implemented.

“There’s no black market for beer,” he said. “There’s no black market for alcohol.”

The prime minister insisted that “if prices were even, people would choose to buy legal,” especially if the government moves ahead with plans to regulate the drug for quality, strength, origin and purity.

Edibles could be ‘in the future’

The Liberal leader was careful not to make any promises regarding the potential legalization of edible marijuana products, such as weed brownies, which is not included in the current federal plan. Trudeau insisted that the government has to “get it right” before making edibles legal.

“We don’t yet have full confidence that we know what regulated framework around edibles will look like,” he said. “That next step, we’re going to be working on it within the new framework, and it’s in the future.”

No changes to medical marijuana

While the government works toward a plan to legalize recreational marijuana use, a system is already in place to deal with Canadians wishing to use medical marijuana.

“The current medical marijuana regime will stay in place exactly as is,” the prime minister told the audience. “We are not going to be removing or reducing or limiting in any way the medical marijuana field.”

Cannabis Act moving forward

If enacted, the move would allow for the government to strictly regulate and control marijuana across Canada. Provinces would have the ability to sell and distribute the substance as they see fit, with the freedom to set prices.

The bill would make it legal for Canadians to carry as much as 30 grams of marijuana for those aged 18 years and older. Canadians would also have the ability to grow as many as four plants per household. Those who provide minors with marijuana or illegally traffic the drug could face up to 14 years in prison under the strict new framework.

If the bill becomes law, marijuana would become legal for Canadians to use recreationally by July 1, 2018.

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