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Liberals table marijuana bill that includes crackdown on impaired drivers
The federal government's proposed legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes includes a thorough overhaul of Canada's impaired driving laws, toughening up the system not only for drivers who are impaired by marijuana but also by alcohol.
The bill was tabled in the House of Commons shortly after noon on Thursday, with the government hoping to officially legalize marijuana for recreational use by July 1, 2018.
The broad outlines of the government's plans to lift the 94-year-old prohibition against the recreational use of marijuana have been in the public domain for weeks. Under the new regime, the federal government will license marijuana producers, while the provinces will be in charge of distributing and selling the product to Canada's adult market.
"We are moving from a prohibitive regime to a regulated regime," said a senior federal official.
As part of the major legislative initiative, the federal government is proposing a number of changes to the Criminal Code to punish anyone who would provide marijuana to youth or sell the product outside the new legal regime.
The proposed legislation would create new criminal offences with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail to anyone who sells or gives cannabis to youth.
The bill also proposes penalties of up to three years in jail, or a fine of $5-million, to anyone who creates cannabis products that are appealing to youth or promotes cannabis products except in specific circumstances.
Under the proposed legislation, adults could possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis and grow up to four plants per residence.
There will also be new provisions against drug-impaired driving, which will be closely scrutinized by critics who fear an increase in the number of cases of impaired driving once marijuana becomes legal.
In terms of impaired driving, the government is promising a system of roadside testing for cannabis impairment "before legalization occurs." Police would be given powers to obtain a saliva sample "if they reasonably suspect that a driver has drugs in their body."
The government is also proposing a new drug-impaired driving offence for drivers who combine alcohol with cannabis.