Government Announces Cannabis Legalization Task Force

The federal government announced the makeup of the nine-member task force assigned to make recommendations on the Liberals’ plan to regulate and legalize cannabis.

Justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould revealed the group will be led by Anne McLellan, a minister in a variety of portfolios under former prime minister Paul Martin.

“We have confidence that the individuals who make up the Task Force have the expertise, knowledge and credibility necessary to provide us with thoughtful advice on the design of a system of strict marijuana production, distribution, and regulated sales,” said Wilson-Raybould.

The group’s scope includes engaging with representatives from provincial and municipal governments as well as public health, substance abuse, law enforcement and “groups with expertise in production, distribution and sales.”

“Our Government is moving forward with an approach to marijuana that is both comprehensive and evidence-based. We are committed to moving ahead in a responsible way, acknowledging and addressing the health risks associated with recreational use of marijuana, especially the health risks to young Canadians,” said health minister Jane Philpott.

Other task force members include:

  • Dr. Mark A Ware (task force vice-chair)
    • An associate professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University
  • Dr. Susan Boyd
    • Professor in the faculty of human and social development at the University of Victoria
  • George Chow
    • A former Vancouver city councillor who served from 2005 to 2011
  • Marlene Jesso
    • Officer in charge with the combined forces special enforcement unit Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Dr. Perry Kendall
  • Rafik Souccar
    • Retired RCMP deputy commissioner responsible for federal and international policing
  • Dr. Barbara von Tigerstrom
    • Professor at the University of Saskatchewan college of law
  • Dr. Catherine Zahn
    • President and CEO of the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health in 2009

Members of the task force were said to have been selected in consultation with the provinces and territories.

Toronto Dispensary Coalition representative Michael McLellan said his group looked forward to advocating to the task force the value of a dispensary-based system for both medical and recreational cannabis use.

“A dispensary distribution model is supported by a majority of Canadians and is used in almost every American jurisdiction for both medical and recreational marijuana,” said McLellan.

The government has remained firm in its decision that, until the legalization process is completed, the possession, production, and trafficking of cannabis will remain illegal.

“This includes storefronts selling marijuana, commonly known as ‘dispensaries‘ and ‘compassion clubs.’ These operations are illegally supplied, and provide products that are untested, unregulated and that may be unsafe,” read a joint government statement. “The Government of Canada supports law enforcement actions to address illegal storefront distribution and sale of marijuana in Canada.”

The government has also released a discussion paper on legalization and is accepting public feedback on the process through the document.

The task force now has until November to report back to the government, with legislation aimed to be brought to the House of Commons by spring, 2017.