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Fight brews in Canada over home grown marijuana

OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a political challenge to his marijuana legalisation bill Wednesday as a fight brewed over whether Canadians should be allowed to grow marijuana at home.

After several months of study, the Senate proposed a ban on home cultivation as well as on branded pot swag as part of a series of proposed amendments to his government’s bill legalising recreational use of the weed.

Trudeau’s ruling Liberals rejected those and about a dozen other amendments outright, with his health minister rising to defend homegrown pot.

“Canadians are allowed to make beer at home, or wine,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said. “It is already possible for Canadians to grow cannabis for medical purposes and we absolutely believe the legislation should be consistent when it comes to recreational cannabis.”

The government, she said, would follow its expert panel’s recommendation to allow at-home cultivation of up to four marijuana plants for personal use.

As for the proposed advertising restrictions, she said the bill already contains limits such as a requirement for plain packaging.

Legalising weed was a 2015 campaign promise of Trudeau, who has admitted having smoked a joint with friends “five or six times.”

“We have spent months and indeed years talking with experts, reflecting on the best path forward on the legalisation of cannabis because the current system doesn’t work,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

“We need to move forward,” he said, adding that delays in passing the bill play into the hands of organised crime groups that profit from the illicit market.

The prime minister accused Tory senators of “playing games, to slow down (the bill’s passing), to interfere with the will of the House, with the commitment made by a duly elected government in an election campaign.”

An initial July 1 target was set for ending the pot prohibition that dates back to 1923.

Despite setbacks, Trudeau has insisted Canada would become the first member of the Group of Seven nations to legalise the production, sale and consumption of the psychoactive drug late this summer.

Over the coming days, the House of Commons will debate the bill before it is sent back to the Senate, at which point the upper chamber will have to decide whether to stand firm or accept the government’s will.

Statistics Canada has estimated that the market will be worth C$5.7 billion (US $4.5 billion), based on last year’s consumption data.