Now is the time for Canada to move from prohibition and become the largest developed country to establish a well-regulated legal marijuana industry, members of the country’s marijuana task force said Tuesday.
Canada’s marijuana legalization task force has outlined 80 recommendations for the country’s potential legal cannabis regime, including a minimum purchase age of 18; penalties against trafficking and impaired driving; regulations for packaging and pesticides; mail-order delivery and cannabis clubs; decriminalization efforts for minor offenses; and further robust research on the plant for public health, safety and potential medical purposes.
Canada is “well-positioned” to implement a framework for marijuana legalization that would establish a regulated, public health- and research-focused system to displace the entrenched illicit market, heads of the task force said during a news conference Tuesday.
The task force’s 106-page report is the result of five months of research and consultations. This includs 30,000 responses to an online questionnaire, meetings with provincial and territorial governments, interviews with experts across a variety of fields and industries, conversations with medical patients and international visits to Uruguay and U.S. states with adult-use marijuana laws such as Colorado and Washington.
The key takeaways from those interviews with legal marijuana markets included establishing baseline rules while also building flexibility into the framework, said Dr. Mark Ware, chairman of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicine and the task force’s vice chair.
Some of the more difficult issues to wrangle are age restrictions and regulations for impaired driving.
The Minimum Recommended Age Is…
Ottawa Public Health officials previously recommends that the minimum age be set at 25 years old, citing potential detrimental effects on brain development. Industry members and advocates suggested the minimum age align with legal drinking ages of 18 or 19, respective of province.
In the report, the task force acknowledged those and other concerns, but ultimately landed on 18:
“There was a general recognition that a minimum age for cannabis use would have value as a “societal market,” establishing cannabis use as an activity for adults only, at an age at which responsible and individual decision-making is expected and respected.
“We heard from many participants that setting the minimum age too high risked preserving the illicit market, particularly since the highest rates of use are in the 18 to 24 age range.”
The task force’s recommendations did not include a per se limit for marijuana impairment. They are deferring to ongoing work and research by the Drugs and Driving Committee, an arm of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science.
“Generally, we believe it is appropriate to proceed with caution,” McLellan said.
That includes addressing concerns of potential harm in the intermingling of cannabis, alcohol and tobacco. The report highlighted ways to minimize that co-use — via avenues such as barring cannabis-infused alcohol and restricting cannabis sales in locations that sell alcohol and tobacco. Taking those steps, the task force said, also could serve as a “health protection aim” of cannabis policy.
Now We Wait.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government commissioned the report. The plan has fueled a surge in Canada’s marijuana stocks in anticipation of billions of dollars of legitimate revenue.
Maintaining Canada’s current mail-order medical cannabis delivery system and giving access to recreational consumers ensures equality across the country. This will have zero impact on communities. The potential move is a big step in chipping away at the country’s illegal market.