Canada proposes health warnings, child-proof packs for legal pot sales

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government proposed on Tuesday mandatory health warnings and child-proof packaging as well as a licensing regime for all cannabis products in legislation ahead of the July 2018 legalization of recreational marijuana.

FILE PHOTO: Various-sized joints for sale are pictured at the annual 4/20 marijuana event at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Redmond/File Photo

The proposals, which will be open for public consultation for 60 days, include restrictions on packaging to ensure the products are not enticing to children as well as legal standards for quality control and potency, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told reporters.

The government is on track to legalize recreational marijuana by July 2018, making it the first Group of Seven country to do so.

Petitpas Taylor said the government wants to set strict guidelines for the safety of cannabis products, but ensure micro-producers and big companies alike will have access to the market as long as they are licensed.

“We want to make sure the market will be open to everyone. Some people will be small businesses and they can certainly apply for a license in order to have a micro-industry, if you will,” she told reporters, adding there is no limit to the number of licenses that will be available.

The proposed regulations address the licensing, tracking, packaging and labeling of recreational and medical marijuana practices, and include a permitting regime for the cultivation, processing, sale, testing and import and export of cannabis.

The federal government earlier this month proposed splitting with the provinces income from excise taxes on recreational marijuana, drawing criticism from Ontario, which is concerned it will face higher costs associated with the new law.

The federal government said it wants an excise tax on all cannabis products, including medical marijuana, of C$1 per gram (0.04 ounce), or 10 percent of the retail price, whichever is higher.

Some provinces have asked the government to delay legalization, saying they need more time to set up a sales system and train police officers who will be enforcing the new rules.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the issue part of his 2015 successful election campaign and the Liberal government says regulating marijuana will keep it out of the hands of underage users and reduce drug-related crime.

Shares of licensed producers, such as Canopy Growth, have soared in anticipation of legalization but the stocks are expected to face a bumpy ride in 2018.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Lisa Shumaker