Blair Says “No” to Cannabis Community on Legalization Task Force

Soon after federal health minister Jane Philpott said she wasn’t ruling out including members of the cannabis community from sitting on the cannabis legalization task force, MP Bill Blair seems to have done it for her.

Blair, the Liberal government’s point person on legalization, said there will be a chance for advocates to get involved, but it won’t be on the task force.

“I’ve assured those activists that their voices will be heard and they’ll have an opportunity to provide their input to the task force, but the task force is primarily focussed on the science and the evidence and the best advice of experts that we can get going forward,” Blair said in a statement from his office.

Yesterday, cannabis activist Jodie Emery sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and other cabinet members, requesting to sit on the group that will be researching cannabis before presenting Parliament with a report on regulation and legalization best practices.

Philpott had previously said she was open to representation from the cannabis community on the task force, but that the majority of its makeup would be experts in health care, addiction care, public safety and justice.

Lawyer Kirk Tousaw posted in response to Blair’s comments, arguing that activists are experts in the cannabis field and should be consulted.

“Your list of experts in traditional fields did not include experts in growing or distributing cannabis,” Tousaw wrote, in an open letter to Blair. “As this task force is supposed to guide the government in creating a system of lawful production, distribution and possession of cannabis, my respectful suggestion is that you include people with expertise in those areas.”

Tousaw said if the cannabis community doesn’t see the government imposing a fair and credible system it may fail and struggle like the current medical cannabis system, which also did not include any representatives from the medical cannabis community.

“Having listening sessions is not enough. Health Canada did that with the move to the MMPR,” Tousaw wrote. “That turned into a mess both inside and outside the courts. ‘Activists’ told HC exactly what would happen. They were right.”

A petition is also circulating to attempt to have more representation from cannabis experts on the task force, which Philpott said will be announced soon.