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Paving Way for 'Transformative Social Policy', Canada Approves Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Ninety years of prohibition will come to a close as Canada rolls out a regulated marketplace for cannabis in the coming weeks

The Canadian Senate approved a bill allowing the recreational use of marijuana on Tuesday. (Photo: Cannabis Culture/Flickr/cc)

Confronting the failed "War on Drugs" head on and offering leadership and a new model for other nations to follow, Canada on Tuesday became the second country in the world—following Uruguay—to fully legalize recreational use of the substance at the federal level.

The Canadian Senate voted 52 to 29 to legalize recreational marijuana use, paving the way for a fully legal marketplace for the plant within the next two to three months. Canadians will also be permitted to grow up to four plants in their homes under the Cannabis Act.

The House of Commons had already passed the bill on Monday.

Independent Sen. Tony Dean, who sponsored the Cannabis Act in the Senate, called the decision "historic" and looked ahead to the impact marijuana legalization could have on Canada's criminal justice system, under which 55,000 cannabis-related charges were pursued in 2016 alone—76 percent of which were for possession, according to Globe and Mail columnist Andre Picard.

"The end of 90 years of prohibition," Dean said after the vote. "Transformative social policy, I think. A brave move on the part of the government. Now we can start to tackle some of the harms of cannabis. We can start to be proactive in public education. We'll see the end of criminalization and we can start addressing Canada's $7 billion illegal market. These are good things for Canada."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the upper house of Parliament's decision on the matter, saying that the legal, regulated sale of marijuana—which has become increasingly popular among Canadian baby boomers in recent years—will limit young teenagers' access to it.

In Ontario, pro-legalization advocate Sarah Hanlon told Toronto.com, 40 dispensaries are planned on by the end of 2018. Canadians will be permitted to purchase up to 30 grams of dried cannabis at a time after the marketplace is operational, at about $10 per gram before taxes. Edible marijuana products have not yet been legalized.

 "This is a historic step forward for the movement to end marijuana prohibition," said Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, who called on "the U.S. to take similar action and adopt a more rational federal marijuana policy."

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