Trudeau Proposes Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Use in Canada

If passed, Canada would be first developed nation to fully legalize pot since the War on Drugs began in the Seventies

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed a federal bill to legalize recreational marijuana use that is expected to pass. Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP/Rex

One week before 4/20, Canada has taken a definitive step toward marijuana legalization. On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a comprehensive bill that would federally legalize the recreational use of marijuana, The New York Times reports. If passed, Canada would become the second nation in the world, after Uruguay, to make pot a consumer product.

"We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana," Trudeau’s Liberal Party said on its website. "Canada's current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug."

"Criminal prohibition has failed to protect our kids and our communities," said Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief whom Trudeau tasked with overseeing the legislation, per the Times. Blair's comments reflect a growing trend among other countries and various U.S. states to decriminalize marijuana and allow the drug to be prescribed for medical purposes.

Trudeau's current proposal has some restrictions, such as an age minimum. The bill requires marijuana products purchasers to be at least 18 and would allow provinces to raise that age. The bill also would limit the amount of marijuana a person can carry at one time to approximately one ounce.

The Liberal Party's bill would allow households to grow up to four marijuana plants. Commercial growers would have to comply with the federal government and individual laws designated by the province, and obtain a license of some kind before selling marijuana. The finer points of marijuana regulation, such as the cost, how heavily the products will be taxed and how much marijuana can be distributed and sold within each province, have not been decided.

In order to enact the legislation, the Canadian government must also contend with international drug treaties that explicitly ban marijuana, Vox reports. And on the national level, Canada will have to come up with a marijuana equivalent of breathalyzers so people can be tested for safety while working or driving in public places.