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Canada marijuana law calls for ‘aggressive’ church response

OTTAWA, Canada (BP) — Canada’s nationwide legalization of recreational marijuana, said a Canadian Baptist leader, should spur churches to adopt a “more aggressive approach” to warning believers about the spiritual and physical dangers of drug use.

“Everyone is going to be exposed to” legalized marijuana use, said Gerry Taillon, national ministry leader for the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC). “So the church is going to have to take a little more aggressive approach to developing a polemic against and an education against drug abuse.”

A bill known as the Cannabis Act passed Canada’s Senate June 19 by a 52-29 vote after passing at the House of Commons in November, according to media reports.

The measure makes Canada the second country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide — the first was Uruguay in 2013 — and the first G7 nation to do so. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made pot legalization one of his campaign issues in 2015, said marijuana will be available legally to Canadian adults beginning Oct. 17, after the country’s 10 provinces are given time to develop regulatory frameworks.

Among provisions of the Cannabis Act, Canadian adults will be allowed to purchase, possess, share and cultivate limited quantities of cannabis.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said marijuana legalization replaces failed prohibition laws that made criminals rich and threatened children, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She added that the government strengthened laws against alcohol- and drug-impaired driving in a companion bill to the Cannabis Act adopted by the Senate June 20.

Taillon, of the CNBC, told Baptist Press the Canadian convention is “completely against the legalization of marijuana. We feel like it will just promote more drug use. There’s lots of evidence that says it’s harmful, especially to under-25-year-olds.”

Worldwide, 3.8 percent of the global population (some 183 million people) were cannabis users in 2015, according to the 2017 “World Drug Report” released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. That figure is up from 3.4 percent in 1998. The total number of cannabis users has risen 28 percent over the same timeframe as the world’s population has increased.

In Uruguay, it is “too early to detect any effects” of the 2013 recreational marijuana legalization, according to the report. However, most marijuana users there apparently continue to obtain the drug illegally as only 7,500 users per month obtain pot through legal channels out of an estimated 140,000 monthly users.

The pro-marijuana group NORML boasts nine international chapters on its website, including in Canada, France, Israel, Jamaica and the Czech Republic.

In the U.S., recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, though it remains illegal under federal law.