Canada introduces bill to legalize marijuana

Canada's Liberal Party introduced legislation Thursday to allow adults to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana in public, USA Today reported.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize recreational marijuana use and its sale. If the legislation passes, Canadians would be able to smoke marijuana legally by July 1, 2018. The measure would make Canada the largest developed country to allow recreational marijuana, USA Today reported.

Uruguay, in South America, is the only nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

The legislation proposes to allow storefront sales of pot, to retain a separate medical marijuana system and create tougher driving laws for drugs and alcohol, the Toronto Star reported. Canada legalized marijuana for selected medicinal uses in 2001.

The legislation sets the minimum age at 18, but allows each province to determine whether the age should be higher. Persons younger than 18 found with small amounts of marijuana would not face criminal charges, USA Today reported. However, those who sell it or give to youths could face up to 14 years in jail.

"It's too easy for our kids to get marijuana. We're going to change that," Trudeau said.

In the United States, seven states allow recreational use of marijuana. Voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted last year to approve recreational use, joining Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Canada’s proposed law allows four plants to be grown at home.

"If your objective is to protect public health and safety and keep cannabis out of the hands of minors, and stop the flow of profits to organized crime, then the law as it stands today has been an abject failure," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said at a news conference. "Police forces spend between $2 billion and $3 billion every year trying to deal with cannabis, and yet Canadian teenagers are among the heaviest users in the western world ... We simply have to do better."

Goodale said that Canadian officials have been in close touch with the U.S. government on the proposed law, and emphasized that exporting and importing marijuana will continue to be illegal.

"The regime we are setting up in Canada will protect our kids better and stop the flow of illegal dollars to organized crime. Our system will actually be the better one," Goodale said.