Today (December 13) a federal task force charged with guiding Canada’s path to legalizing recreational marijuana released its recommendations for how the country should proceed.
Here are the highlights:
- The distribution and sale of recreational marijuana should largely be regulated by the provinces and territories.
- The minimum age to purchase recreational marijuana should be 18 years, but provinces should have the right to harmonize age restrictions with those for alcohol (which in B.C. is 19 years).
- Marijuana should be sold via mail order and in storefronts (perhaps storefronts that are very similar to Vancouver’s dispensaries).
- Marijuana should not be sold in the same locations where alcohol is sold (the task force was less definitive on the question of selling recreational marijuana in pharmacies but struck a tone of mild disapproval for that idea).
- There should be limits placed on the amount of marijuana a person is allowed to carry and cultivate; those are 30 grams for personal possession and four plants for cultivation at home.
- Existing smoking bans applied against cigarettes should also apply to the consumption of marijuana; however, provinces should be allowed to make exemptions to “permit dedicated places to consume cannabis such as cannabis lounges and tasting rooms”.
- Distributors should be allowed to sell marijuana in the form of edibles and oils but those products must not be attractive to minors.
- Extreme security requirements for the production of marijuana drafted by the former Conservative government should be loosened.
- People growing marijuana should be allowed to do so outside; there should be no requirement for cultivation to occur inside a closed facility.
The task force’s recommendations are just that: suggestions. There is no obligation for the federal government to follow them when it crafts legislation that is scheduled to be tabled in the legislature this spring.
Nevertheless, advocates for liberal marijuana reform warmly greeted the task force’s report.
“Never thought I’d hear Anne McLellan say anything I agreed with,” Marc Emery wrote on Twitter in reference to the task force’s chair. “Was overall very encouraged by the Legalization Task Force summary.” (McLellan, a former Alberta MP, was instrumental in seeing Emery, Canada’s leading marijuana activist, extradited to the United States. He subsequently spent more than four years in prison there for selling seeds.)
Emery’s wife, Jodie, was more cautious.
“Gov’t anti-marijuana prohibition is still alive & well-funded,” she wrote. “Liberal Gov’t will keep criminalizing growers.”
Kirk Tousaw, a Victoria-based lawyer and expert in cannabis-policy reform, wrote that he was pleasantly surprised to see the task force say that social lounges (like those on Vancouver’s 200-block of West Hastings Street) should be allowed to operate.
Jamie Shaw, a past president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD), expressed her approval for the task force’s recommendations by sharing rapper Ice Cube’s 1993 hit, “It was a Good Day”.
The task force that authored the report consisted of nine individuals who were asked to establish guiding principles for the country’s path to marijuana legalization. From B.C., the group includes: Dr. Perry Kendall, who is B.C.’s senior public health official; Susan Boyd, a professor at the University of Victoria who played a role in shaping B.C. polices on harm reduction; and George Chow, a former Vancouver city councillor who was once a vocal opponent of Vancouver’s first supervised-injection site.
It was chaired by former MP Anne McLellan. Dr. Mark Ware served as task-force vice chair. He’s the executive director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids—a nonprofit research group that focuses on marijuana’s therapeutic applications—and an associate professor of family medicine at McGill University.
The task force’s report is a nonbinding document that consists of recommendations. Health Minister Jane Philpott has said legislation that takes those recommendations into account will be tabled in the legislature in the spring of 2017.