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Manitoba plans to set 19 as minimum age to buy, consume marijuana

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, centre, and Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen, right, listen as Justice Minister Heather Stefanson talks about the Manitoba plan for cannabis retail and distribution at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, on Nov. 7, 2017.

John Woods/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Manitoba plans to set 19 as the minimum age to buy and use recreational marijuana once it's legalized in July, but people would not be allowed to grow it at home for their own use.

Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said the homegrown prohibition is aimed at protecting the health and safety of children and youth.

"Obviously we have young people that live in our homes and we want to protect them from being exposed to this," she said Tuesday after introducing cannabis legislation in the Manitoba legislature.

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Stefanson said allowing cultivation at home would also be too much of a burden for already busy police to enforce.

"I think it is difficult when they go into a home and start to look at whether or not there are four or six plant or 10 plants – I think that is a very difficult thing to be enforcing out there," she said.

The federal government has said people should be allowed to grow up to four plants per household and has set the minimum age at 18.

However, the federal legislation allows each province to set specific rules. The federal bill was approved by the House of Commons last month and has moved to the Senate.

Manitoba's proposed legislation calls for marijuana to be sold by private licensed retailers in a system where supply and distribution would be controlled by the Crown through the Manitoba Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority.

Municipalities would have power to ban cannabis sales if they hold a plebiscite.

Manitoba's bill calls for penalties including one year in jail for individuals and a fine of up to $500,000 for corporations convicted of selling pot from an unlicensed producer or selling as an unlicensed retailer.

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The province is accepting proposals from the private sector to operate retail cannabis stores until Dec. 22.

Ken Cameron, president of the Manitoba School Boards Association, praised the province's approach.

"Along with the power to consider the location of schools, parks and playgrounds as part of the process to approve cannabis retailers, government can ensure that all children are not unduly exposed to the potential harms of cannabis," he said in a statement.

British Columbia also proposed Tuesday setting 19 as the minimum age to legally possess, purchase and consume marijuana, bringing it in line with Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Yukon.

Both Alberta and Quebec have proposed setting the minimum age at 18.

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