Pot legalization: Canadians need to educate themselves

Feb 16, 2018 By Matthew Friedberg
OTTAWA — The federal public safety minister says people shouldn't jump to conclusions about when they'll be able to buy marijuana legally, as a key federal bill makes its way through Parliament.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says there will be an implementation phase that takes a ``short period of time'' after passage of the bill legalizing recreational marijuana use.

But he isn't saying whether that means people will be able to legally smoke pot as of July, as many have come to expect.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said this week that provinces and territories have indicated once the federal bill receives royal assent, they'll need another eight to 12 weeks to prepare for retail sales.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto criminal lawyer Matthew Friedberg says it’s most important that Canadians educate themselves about when the new law comes into force and what that will look like in their particular province.

“They should be aware that each province will have oversight [when it comes to distribution and sale] so things will be different from one jurisdiction to the next,” he says.

Friedberg, a partner with Caramanna Friedberg LLP, says Canada hasn’t really been prosecuting low-level marijuana possession for many years and he expects to see fewer criminal cases related to the drug in the future.

“It will be interesting to see how the police deal with this legislation after it takes effect,” he says. “I think there will be cases with new legal challenges for criminal lawyers with the legislation. What it will look like still remains to be seen."

The Liberals say the current system of prohibition does not stop young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of pot.

But the legislation is just one element of the plan, and the federal and provincial governments are sorting out myriad questions about the availability and sale of pot, as well as allocating resources to implement the new regime.


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