The Canadian government’s Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation released their recommendations to the government on december 13th 2016. The extensive report discusses nine key public policy objectives and outlines numerous specific recommendations in regard to production, distribution, sale, consumption and more. In the foreword is stated:
"For millennia, people have found ways to interact with cannabis for a range of medical, industrial, spiritual and social reasons, and modern science is only just beginning to unpack the intricacies of cannabinoid pharmacology. We are now shaping a new phase in this relationship and, as we do so, we recognize our stewardship not just of this unique plant but also of our fragile environment, our social and corporate responsibilities, and our health and humanity. This report is a beginning; we all have a role to play in the implementation of this new, transformative public policy".
The Federal government can now use these recommendations as they work towards presenting legislation in Parliament next spring. The process after the legislation is tabled could easily take months or even years. Territorial and provincial ministers reportedly urged federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould at a recent meeting to implement a 1-2 year “gap period” for different jurisdictions to have time to work out legalization and distribution issues.
While the Task Force paper presents its information very thoroughly, some of the key points are summarized below. Namely, the Task Force recommends a national age limit of 18 with provinces being able to set levels above that as they do with alcohol, limits on advertising, home production limits of four plants, taxation based on THC levels to discourage the use of high THC products, no ‘co-location of alcohol or tobacco and cannabis sales’ and that a limit of 30 grams be implemented for the personal possession of non-medical dried cannabis in public.
The Government of Canada’s response to the report, along with several other relevant links, can be found here.
Below are the 21 separate recommendations:
The Task Force recommends that the federal government set a national minimum age of purchase of 18, acknowledging the right of provinces and territories to harmonize it with their minimum age of purchase of alcohol.
Promotion, advertising and marketing restrictions.
-Apply comprehensive restrictions to the advertising and promotion of cannabis and related merchandise by eny means, including sponsorship, endorsements and branding, similar to restrictions on promotion of tobacco products
-Allow limited promotion in areas accessible by adults, similar to those restrictions underthe Tobacco Act.
-Require plain packaging for cannabis products that allows the following information on packages: company name, strain name, price, amounts of THC and CBD and warnings and other labeling requirements.
-Impose strict sanctiona on false or misleading promotion as well as promotion that encourages excessive consumption, where it is allowed.
-Require that any therapeutic claims made in advertising conform to applicable legislation
-Resource and enable the detection and enforcement of advertising and marketing violations, including via traditional and social media
Cannabis-based edibles and other products
-Prohibit any product deemed to be “appealing to children,” including products that resemble or mimic familiar food items, are packaged to look like candy, or packaged in bright colours or with cartoon characters or other pictures or images that would appeal to children
-Require opaque, re-sealable packaging that is childproof or child-resistant to limit children’s access to any cannabis product. Additionally, for edibles:
-Implement packaging with standardized, single servings, with a universal THC symbol
-Set a maximum amount of THC per serving and per product
-Prohibit mixed products, for example cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages or cannabis products with tobacco, nicotine or caffeine
-Require appropriate labeling on cannabis products, including:
-Text warning labels (e.g., “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN”)
-Levels of THC and CBD
-For edibles, labelling requirements that apply to food and beverage products
-Create a flexible legislative framework that could adapt to new evidence on specific product types, on the use of additives or sweeteners, or on specifying limits of THC or other components
-Provide regulatory oversight for cannabis concentrates to minimize the risks associated with illicit production
-Develop strategies to encourage consumption of less potent cannabis, including a price and tax scheme based on potency to discourage purchase of high-potency products
-Require all cannabis products to include labels identifying levels of THC and CBD
-Enable a flexible legislative framework that could adapt to new evidence to set rules for limits on THC or other components
-Develop and implement factual public education strategies to inform Canadians about the risks of problematic use and to provide guidance on lower-risk use
Tax and price
-Conduct the necessary economic analysis to establish an approach to tax and price that balances health protection with the goal of reducing the illicit market
-Work with provincial and territorial governments to determine a tax regime that includes equitable distribution of revenues
-Create a flexible system that can adapt tax and price approaches to changes within the marketplace
-Commit to using revenue from cannabis as a source of funding for administration, education, research and enforcement
-Design a tax scheme based on THC potency to discourage purchase of high-potency products
-Implement as soon as possible an evidence-informed public education campaign, tergeted at the general population but with an emphasis on youth, parents and vulnerable populations.
-Co-ordinate messaging with provincial and territorial partners
-Adapt educational messages as evidence and understanding of health risks evolve, working with provincial and territorial partners
Prevention and treatment
-In the period leading up to legalization, and thereafter on an ongoing basis, governments invest effort and resources in developing, implementing and evaluating broad, holistic prevention strategies to address the underlying risk factors and determinants of problematic cannabis use, such as mental illness and social marginalization
-Governments commit to using revenue from cannabis regulation as a source of funding for prevention, education and treatment
-Facilitate and monitor ongoing research on cannabis and impairment, considering implications for occupational health and safety policies
-Work with existing federal, provincial and territorial bodies to better understand potential occupational health and safety issues related to cannabis impairment
-Work with provinces, territories, employers and labour representatives to facilitate the development of workplace impairment policies
Special Focus: Cannabis, alcohol and tobacco
-Regulate the production of cannabis and its derivatives (e.g., edibles, concentrates) at the federal level, drawing on the good production practices of the current cannabis for medical purposes system
-Use licensing and production controls to encourage a diverse, competitive market that also includes small producers
-Implement a seed-to-sale tracking system to prevent diversion and enable product recalls
-Promote environmental stewardship by implementing measures such as permitting outdoor production, with appropriate security measures
-Implement a fee structure to recover administrative costs (e.g., licensing)
-Regulate CBD and other compounds derived from hemp or from other sources
-Distribute wholesale of cannabis by regulation by provinces and teriritories
-The Task Force recommends that retail sales of cannabis be regulated by provinces and territories in close collaboration with municipalities.
-The Task Force further recommends that the retail environment include:
-No co-location of alcohol or tobacco and cannabis sales, wherever possible. When co-location cannot be avoided, appropriate safeguards must be put in place
-Limits on the density and location of storefronts, including appropriate distance from schools, community centres, public parks, etc.
-Dedicated storefronts with well-trained, knowledgeable staff
-Access via a direct-to-consumer mail-order system
-The Task Force recommends allowing personal cultivation of cannabis for non-medical purposes:
-A limit of four plants per residence
-A maximum height limit of 100 cm on the plants
-A prohibition on dangerous manufacturing processes
-Reasonable security measures to prevent theft and youth access
-Oversight and approval by local authorities
Enforcing Public Safety and Protection
-Implement a set of clear, proportional and enforceable penalties that seek to limit criminal prosecution for less serious offences. Criminal offences should be maintained for:
-Illicit production, trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, possession for the purposes of export, and import/export
-Trafficking to youth
-Create exclusions for “social sharing”
-Implement administrative penalties (with flexibility to enforce more serious penalties) for contraventions of licensing rules on production, distribution and sale
-Consider creating distinct legislation – a “Cannabis Control Act” – to house all the provisions, regulations, sanctions and offences relating to cannabis
-A limit of 30 grams be implemented for the personal possession of non-medical dried cannabis in public
-A corresponding sales limit be implemented for dried cannabis
-Equivalent possession and sales limits for non-dried forms of cannabis be developed
Place of use
-The Task Force recommends that jurisdictions extend the current restrictions on public smoking of tobacco products to the smoking of cannabis products and to cannabis vaping products.
-The Task Force further recommends that jurisdictions be able to permit dedicated places to consume cannabis such as cannabis lounges and tasting rooms if they wish to do so, with no federal prohibition. Safeguards to prevent the co-consumption with alcohol, prevent underage use, and protect health and safety should be implemented.
-Invest immediately and work with the provinces and territories to develop a national, comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis causes impairment and the best way to avoid driving impaired is to not consume. The strategy should also inform Canadians of:
-The dangers of cannabis-impaired driving, with special emphasis on youth; and
-The applicable laws and the ability of law enforcement to detect cannabis use
-Invest in research to better link THC levels with impairment and crash risk to support the development of a per se limit
-Determine whether to establish a per se limit as part of a comprehensive approach to cannabis-impaired driving, acting on findings of the DDC
-Re-examine per se limits should a reliable correlation between THC levels and impairment be established
-Support the development of an appropriate roadside drug screening device for detecting THC levels and invest in these tools
-Invest in law enforcement capacity, including DRE and SFST training and staffing
-Invest in baseline data collection and ongoing surveillance and evaluation in collaboration with provinces and territories
-The Task Force further recommends that all governments in Canada consider the use of graduated sanctions ranging from administrative sanctions to criminal prosecution depending on the severity of the infraction. While it may take time for the necessary research and technology to develop, the Task Force encourages all governments to implement elements of a comprehensive approach as soon as feasible, including the possible use of administrative sanctions or graduated licensing with zero tolerance for new and young drivers.
-Maintain a separate medical access framework to support patients
-Monitor and evaluate patients’ reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes through the implementation of the new system, with action as required to ensure that the market provides reasonable affordability and availability and that regulations provide authority for measures that may be needed to address access issues
-Review the role of designated persons under the ACMPR with the objective of eliminating this category of producer
-Apply the same tax system for medical and non-medical cannabis products
-Promote and support pre-clinical and clinical research on the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical purposes, with the aim of facilitating submissions of cannabis-based products for market authorization as drugs
-Support the development and dissemination of information and tools for the medical community and patients on the appropriate use of cannabis for medical purposes
-Evaluate the medical access framework in five years
-Take a leadership role to ensure that capacity is developed among all levels of government prior to the start of the regulatory regime
-Build capacity in key areas, including laboratory testing, licensing and inspection, and training
-Build upon existing and new organizations to develop and co-ordinate national research and surveillance activities
-Provide funding for research, surveillance and monitoring activities
-Establish a surveillance and monitoring system, including baseline data, for the new system
-Ensure timely evaluation and reporting of results
-Mandate a program evaluation every five years to determine whether the system is meeting its objectives
-Report on the progress of the system to Canadians
-Take a leadership role in the co-ordination of governments and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the new system
-Engage with Indigenous governments and representative organizations to explore opportunities for their participation in the cannabis market
-Provide Canadians with the information they need to understand the regulated system
-Provide Canadians with the facts about cannabis and its effects
-Provide specific information and guidance to the different groups involved in the regulated cannabis market
-Engage with Indigenous communities and Elders to develop targeted and culturally appropriate communications
-Ensure that Canada shares its lessons and experience with the international community
With credits for David Brown