April 13 (UPI) -- Canada's Liberal government took the first step toward filling a 2015 campaign promise to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Thursday, paving the way for legal pot smoking by next year.
Under the plan, Canada's federal government would repeal legislation criminalizing marijuana possession for an individual carrying up to 1 ounce (30 grams) of cannabis and would authorize government-registered dealers to sell it to anyone age 18 or older. Individual provinces would be permitted to set an older age, such as 19, which is the legal drinking age in three provinces, including the nation's largest, Ontario.
An accompanying piece of legislation would also strengthen impaired-driving laws to combat critics' arguments that legalized pot would lead to increased traffic deaths. A roadside saliva test would be used to determine whether a motorist had exceeded the legal limit of THC, the active compound in marijuana, in their system.
The legislation would also prohibit cannabis retailers from intentionally targeting young people with marketing campaigns and institute harsh penalties for retailers caught selling to underage people.
The legislation also would standardize things like serving sizes and potency of marijuana sold to the public. It would also allow people to grow up to four marijuana plants at home for personal consumption.
The package put forth by Liberals left several other details to be determined by provinces and government regulators, including whether marijuana could be smoked in public, where dispensaries are located and how compliance would be monitored.
The system proposed Thursday would not replace the nation's existing medical marijuana program, which allows individuals with a doctor's approval to have up to 150 grams of marijuana shipped directly to their home.
Government ministers said they hoped to have cleared legal hurdles in time to implement the legal marijuana proposal by July 2018.