How does legalization work for Canadians?
On Thursday, the Canadian government kicked off a review of the legalization launched in October 2018. During a press briefing, the Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, and the Minister of Mental Health and of Addictions, Carolyn Bennett, discussed the next steps in the review, which coincides with the government’s release of a commitment document titled “Status of Progress: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation in Canada”.
The review, scheduled upon legalization, was to begin three years after the start of legal sales, but was delayed.
“Canada is the first major industrialized country to provide legal and regulated access to cannabis for non-medical purposes, signaling the move away from the use of prohibitive measures to deter cannabis use, and the adoption of an approach evidence-based public health and public safety,” the document begins.
When drafting the Cannabis Act, lawmakers and policy makers recognized that for cannabis legalization to be successfully implemented, the framework “would require ongoing monitoring to assess early effects.” , as well as flexibility to adapt and respond to emerging policy needs,” the document states.
The document addresses the growing difficulties of the Canadian cannabis industry.
“The cannabis market is in its infancy and subject to ongoing market corrections. In response to the downward pressure on wholesale prices, licensees are seeking new investors and restructuring to help them compete in an increasingly competitive market,” the document notes. “Some licensees are pulling out of the business altogether or reducing the number of sites they operate.”
The document includes data related to some of the law’s goals, which include preventing use among young people, eliminating the illegal market, and reducing cannabis-related arrests, for example.
It also poses discussion questions throughout the paper, including: “What do you think of the legislative and regulatory restrictions currently in place to protect public health? and “What alternative measures, if any, could the government consider to better meet the needs of racialized, underrepresented, or indigenous communities under the cannabis licensing program?” »
One of the central points of the document concerns the way in which legalization affects the consumption of young people.
“Young people are at increased risk of experiencing the harms of cannabis, such as mental health problems, including addictive disorders related to anxiety and depression. Public education and awareness activities have been and continue to be critical to this effort to increase youth knowledge,” Bennett said Thursday.
“While much progress has been made in implementing Canada’s Cannabis Act and its dual goals of protecting public health and maintaining public safety, we need to assess the work being done and learn how and where to adapt to achieve these goals,” she added.
Regarding the illicit market, the document notes that illegal cannabis sales are “a source of profit for many organized crime groups”, and highlights the role of online sellers in complicating law enforcement efforts.
“Unlike the notable decline of unauthorized brick-and-mortar stores in Canada, the disruption of illegal online cannabis sales is an ongoing challenge. Monitoring online activity is complicated – a website can be created in one country, hosted in another, on a domain name registered in yet another third, while selling a product in multiple jurisdictions,” the document points out. . “Furthermore, websites can be created easily and replace those that have been seized or taken down by law enforcement.”
The document notes that some local leaders and law enforcement officials have shared concerns about home cultivation for medicinal purposes, which allows the four-plant limit to be exceeded in the adult use program.
“Specifically, there are concerns that some medical access program members could use their license as a cover for the production and diversion of cannabis to the illegal market,” the document notes.
The scope of the review has been expanded to include additional areas, including broader environmental and social impacts.
“Getting the scope of the review right was much more important than sticking to the schedule. If we had followed the law to the letter – both in terms of the three-year deadline and the considerations set out in the law – we would have missed an important opportunity to get it right,” said MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who is also Co-Chair of the Cannabis Caucus.
The government is also engaging with Canadians through an online questionnaire open until November 21.