Canada introduing marijuana law
A person lights up outside Parliament in Ottawa as Canada announces pending legislation to legalise the sale of marijuanaReuters/Chris Wattie

Canada is preparing to debate legislation legalising the sale of marijuana across the entire nation. If the law is enacted in 2017, it would make Canada one of the largest Western countries to allow widespread national use of the drug. Medical marijuana is already legal in Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed for legalisation during his campaign.

The legislation plan was announced by Canadian Health Minister Jane Philpott at a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Delegates there were reviewing the progress and implementation of the UN's 2009 action plan to assess combatting the world's drug problems.

Hundreds of marijuana users smoked up as they demonstrated in favour of legalisation outside Parliament in Ottawa as Philpott was making the announcement about the pending bill. Philpott pledged to keep marijuana "out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals."

"We will work with law enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal justice measures," Philpott said. "We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem."

Trudeau has named Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, as the government's point person on legalisation. "It's a great deal of work. It's important to do it right. And so, we're looking at regulations with respect to production, distribution, the retail and consumption of marijuana and we want to make sure that it's based on the best advice from experts." Blair told reporters on his way to meetings at the UN.