In Brief

Canada becomes second nation to legalise cannabis

Recreational use of the drug now legally sanctioned across the country

Canada has become the second nation in the world, after Uruguay, to legalise the possession and recreational consumption of cannabis, fulfilling a 2015 campaign promise by prime minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau made the campaign promise, arguing that century-old laws that criminalised non-medical possession and use of cannabis had been ineffective, on the basis that Canadians are among the world’s heaviest users of the drug.

The new laws, which came into effect at midnight on 17 October local time, have been introduced in order to reduce the burden of cannabis laws on the Canadian justice system.

CTV News reports that federal officials are also planning to grant pardons for any Canadian citizen convicted of past simple possession charges in relation to cannabis.

It remains illegal for any unlicensed person to sell cannabis to another person, meaning that Canadians will have to purchase the drug for their own consumption from a registered dispensary.

“Anyone found selling marijuana without a licence will face fines up to $5,000 or up to 14 years in prison,” The Guardian reports, noting that “You are, however, allowed to freely share your drugs with your friends”.

Questions remain over how law enforcement and health officials will be able to deal with the expected surge in cannabis use, in particular cases of citizens driving while under the influence of the drug.

Driving while under the influence will remain illegal throughout Canada, with anyone testing positive for THC levels of more than five nanograms per millilitre of blood facing fines of up to £585 for a first offence, up to a minimum of 120 days in jail for repeat offenders.

The BBC reports that the new laws are “not just a domestic affair”, given that global trends are “shifting away from a strict prohibition of cannabis”, meaning that “the world will be watching this national experiment in drug liberalisation”.

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