The Canadian government has introduced legislation which puts the country on track to make recreational marijuana use legal by July 2018, with plans to regulate production but leave the oversight of retail sales up to the provinces.
The legislation put forward on Thursday by the ruling Liberal party, which made legalising recreational marijuana part of its successful 2015 election campaign, would set the minimum legal age for use and purchase at 18. Provinces would be able to raise the age.
Although recreational marijuana use has been legalised in some US states, including Colorado and Washington, the legislation puts Canada on track to be the first Group of Seven country to legalise it nationally. Medical marijuana is already legal in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has argued that making marijuana legal will keep it out of the hands of underage users and reduce drug-related crime.
Provinces will be allowed to sell only cannabis produced by a licensed producer. In jurisdictions that do not put a regulated retail framework in place, Canadians would be able to purchase marijuana from regulated producers online.
Products will not be allowed to appeal to youth and packaging will need to be child-proof, the government said. Ottawa is studying whether plain packaging should be required, a government official told reporters.
The legislation will be reviewed in Parliamentary committees, where alterations could be made. But it is ultimately all but guaranteed to pass, as the Liberals have a majority in the House of Commons.