TORONTO (AP) - Canadians should be able to smoke marijuana legally by July 1, 2018, a senior government official said Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government will introduce legislation to legalize recreational marijuana the week of April 10th and it should become law by July next year, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorization to discuss the upcoming legislation.
Trudeau has long promised to legalize recreational pot use and sales. Canada would be the largest developed country to end a nationwide prohibition of recreational marijuana. In the U.S, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voted last year to approve the use of recreational marijuana, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Uruguay in South America is the only nation to legalize recreational pot.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould declined to confirm the dates provided by the official, but said in a statement the government is committed to introducing legislation this spring that would "legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis."
"This will be done in a careful way to keep it out of the hands of children and youth, and to stop criminals from profiting," the statement said. "In order to meet our commitment to legalize, the legislation will need to pass through the parliamentary process in a timely fashion."
The news was noticed online by Snoop Dogg , who tweeted "Oh Canada!"
The Canadian government is expected to follow the advice of a marijuana task force headed by former Liberal Health Minister Anne McLellan as well as the advice of former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister. Blair has been visiting police departments across the country.
The task force recommended adults be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of pot for recreational purpose and grow up to four plants. It also recommended that higher-potency pot be taxed at a higher rate than weaker strains. It also said recreational marijuana should not be sold in the same location as alcohol or tobacco. Under the task force proposals, alcohol-free cannabis lounges would be allowed.
The panel's report noted public health experts tend to favor a minimum age of 21 as the brain continues to develop to about 25, but said setting the minimum age too high would preserve the illicit market.
Canadian youth have higher rates of cannabis use than their peers worldwide.
While the government moves to legalize marijuana retail outlets selling pot for recreational use have already been set up. Trudeau has emphasized current laws should be respected. Police in Toronto, Vancouver and other cities raided stores earlier this month and made arrests.