The Canadian government said Wednesday it will soon announce the date when cannabis will become legal but warned it will remain illegal until then.
The Senate gave final passage to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bill to legalize cannabis on Tuesday. But Canadians will have to wait at least a couple of months to legally buy marijuana. The country will become the second in the world to make pot legal nationwide.
“The legislation is transformative,” said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, adding it “marks a wholesale shift in how our country approaches cannabis, leaving behind a failed model of prohibition.” The federal government said provincial and territorial governments will need eight to 12 weeks following Senate passage and royal assent to prepare for retail sales. Legal sales are expected to start sometime in early or mid-September. Wilson-Raybould suggested Trudeau could announce the legalization date as soon as later Wednesday when the prime minister has an end-of-Parliament session press conference.
“The law still remains the law,” Wilson-Raybould said. “I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force.” Canada is following the lead of Uruguay in allowing a nationwide, legal marijuana market, although each Canadian province is working up its own rules for pot sales. The federal government and the provinces also still need to publish regulations that will govern the cannabis trade. Many questions remain unanswered, including how police will test motorists suspected of driving under the influence, what to do about those with prior marijuana convictions and just how the rules governing home cultivation will work.
The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Manitoba have already decided to ban home-grown pot, even though the federal bill specifies that individuals can grow up to four plants per dwelling. “Provinces can set their own laws. If individuals are challenging that law, they can challenge it,” Wilson-Raybould said. Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said discussions for pardons of past convictions “can’t take place” until legalization is in effect.
In the neighbouring US, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana. California, home to one in eight Americans, launched the United States’ biggest legal marijuana marketplace on Jan 1.