Canada is set to have one of the world’s most liberal and permissive marijuana regimes, if the Trudeau government heeds the advice of his task force.
In a new report, released Tuesday, the task force lists dozens of recommendations — including setting a minimum legal age of 18 to buy and consume cannabis, a tax structure linked to the THC content of the marijuana, and to legally permit the home growing of marijuana plants.
“We recommend taking a public health approach,” said Anne McLellan, former minister of justice and chair of the task force, at a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday.
“Designing and implementing a Canadian system is a unique undertaking,” she said, underscoring that: “We are the largest developed nation to ever move on legalization.”
The task force was specifically deputized by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to come back with a comprehensive plan on how Canada could go forward with legalization by its self-imposed deadline of spring 2017.
But Trudeau has also maintained that he wants to tightly restrict the sale and distribution of marijuana across the country.
The task force’s plan would crack down on advertising of the drug, as well as the sale of marijuana to those under 18.
But the report generally calls for few federal restrictions on how Canadians can buy and use marijuana.
- Allow for the public possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana.
- Permit Canadians to grow four of their own plants at home.
- Allow for retail sales and for indoor marijuana lounges.
- Require plain packaging for marijuana that lists the THC and CBD content, the name of the strain and producer, and a warning about the possible health risks.
- Ban most marijuana advertising, unless it will be seen only by adults.
- Fund a public education campaign about marijuana and the possible dangers.
- Allow the sale of edibles, as long as they are not deemed to be “appealing to children.”
- Discourage provinces from selling marijuana in stores that also sell tobacco or alcohol — “wherever possible.”
- Remove most criminal prohibitions for marijuana, limit prosecutions for less serious offences, and move to fines for breaking licensing or production rules.
- Push for “graduated” penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, ranging from fines to criminal prosecution — but also invest more seriously in studying the link between THC and impairment on driving.
- Push for a competitive cultivation and distribution market that makes room for smaller growers, and encourages involvement of Indigenous communities.
The devil in the details will be how the provinces choose to manage the distribution of cannabis. While the federal government will maintain control of the production and cultivation side of the things, it will be up to each province and territory to determine where cannabis can be sold — and, if they so choose, whether the legal age for cannabis ought to be 19, in line with most province’s legal drinking age.
“Some of [the provinces] were prepared and ready to engage, and some of them were still working through their thinking on the issue,” said Mark Ware, vice-chair of the committee.
But the committee took one issue head-on — they encouraged provinces and cities to allow storefront sales of cannabis.
“Under a regulated system, consumers should be able to access cannabis in a safe manner that minimizes potential risks to consumers and communities and reduces the involvement of the illicit market,” the task force writes in their recommendation for retail sales.
McLellan was clear that the “prohibitory” scheme to limit access to marijuana was no longer an option. “It is not working, and it is not needed,” she said.
The task force was made up of a federal and local politicians, doctors, law enforcement, lawyers and addiction specialists.
The recommendations are just that — recommendations — and the Trudeau government can simply ignore them, if it so chooses.
Read the full report below: