One Step Closer to Legalization of Marijuana in Canada: Release of Task Force Recommendations for Regulation of Cannabis

The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation publicly released its report today outlining its recommendations on the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada. 

Production, and access to, marijuana for medical purposes is already subject to regulation in Canada.  The Task Force was created to advise on the design of a system to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to marijuana for non-medicinal purposes.  Between June 30 and August 29, 2016 stakeholders were invited to provide input to the Task Force on specific considerations. The Task Force’s report was delivered to Ministers on November 30, 2016 and released to the public today.

A high level summary of some of the Task Force’s key recommendations are set out below.

1.   Minimization of the harms of use
      The Task Force recommendations include:
 
  • A national minimum age of purchase of 18 years
  • Restrictions on advertising and promotion similar to those applicable to tobacco and strict sanctions on false or misleading promotion (including with respect to therapeutic claims)
  • Measures to manage appeal to children including requiring opaque and child-resistant packaging, “keep out of reach” warning labels, and prohibitions on products deemed to be “appealing to children”
  • Plain packaging 
  • Labelling requirements with respect to levels of THC and CBD, food and beverage labelling requirements on edible products and warning information
  • Establishment of a tax and pricing strategy that balances health protection with the goal of reducing the illicit market 
  • Development of educational strategies 

2.   How to establish a safe and responsible supply chain
      The Task Force recommendations include:

 
  • Regulation of production of cannabis and its derivatives drawing on the practices of the current cannabis for medical purposes system
  • Use of licensing and production controls to encourage a diverse and competitive markets that includes small producers
  • Provincial regulation of both wholesale and retail distribution (with a specific recommendation to avoid co-location of alcohol or tobacco and cannabis sales, where possible).  Notably, the Task Force recommends dedicated storefronts as well as direct-to-consumer sales
  • Allowing personal cultivation of cannabis for non-medical purposes when specific conditions are met


3.   How to enforce public safety and protection
      The Task Force recommendations include:

 
 
  • Implementation of enforceable penalties that limit criminal prosecution for less serious offences (potentially in a piece of distinct legislation such as a Cannabis Control Act), while maintaining criminal prosecution of offences such as trafficking and illicit production
  • Implementation of a limit of 30 grams for the personal possession of non-medical dried cannabis in public (with a corresponding sales limit for dried cannabis)
  • Extension of current restriction on public smoking of tobacco products to cannabis products 
  • Address impaired driving through development of a public education strategy (no specific cannabis driving limit is identified, but it is recommended that research and analysis be conducted to determine whether and how to establish a per se limit)
 4.   Whether to preserve a separate regime for medical users

       The Task Force recommendations include:

 
 
  • Maintenance of a separate medical use regime to support patients
  • Apply the same tax system for medical and non-medical cannabis products
  • Promote and support research on the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical purposes

The report closes with commentary and recommendations addressing the challenges that governments will face in implementing a regulatory framework for cannabis.  We will continue to monitor the development of this regulatory regime and update our blog as developments arise.

A complete copy of the Task Force’s Report can be found at: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/task-force-marijuana-groupe-etude/framework-cadre/alt/framework-cadre-eng.pdf