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Canada is going to legalise marijuana to "protect youth and enhance public safety"

The country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had earlier admitted to having smoked the drug.

Image: Susan Walsh

CANADA WILL TAKE steps next year to legalise marijuana, the country’s Health Minister Jane Philpott announced today.

“We will introduce legislation in spring 2017,” she told a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on global drug problems.

Protecting youth

“While this plan challenges the status quo in many countries, we are convinced it is the best way to protect our youth while enhancing public safety,” Philpott said, according to a copy of her speech obtained by AFP.

Philpott offered several reasons for ending the ban on the drug, including the view that laws in Canada and abroad criminalising marijuana use have been both overly-harsh and ineffective.

“We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem,” she said, alluding to the “war on drugs” launched by Washington in the 1970s.

Uruguay became the first country to fully legalise marijuana in 2013. Canada is expected to become the first G7 nation to do so.

New regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed former Toronto police chief Bill Blair to sort out new regulations for the distribution of marijuana post-legalisation.

Trudeau admitted in 2013 to having smoked pot five or six times in his life, including at a dinner party with friends since being elected to parliament.

He has also said that his late brother Michel was facing marijuana possession charges for a “tiny amount” of the drug before his death in an avalanche in 1998, and that this influenced his decision to propose legalising cannabis.

An estimated one million of Canada’s 35 million people regularly smoke marijuana, according to a survey taken in 2014.

A survey released today by the non-profit Angus Reid polling institute found that two in three Canadians support legalising possession and use of marijuana.

- © AFP, 2016

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