Task Force Report on Cannabis Legalization Released

The federal task force on cannabis released its report to the government today, recommending ways the Liberals can restrict and regulate cannabis while referring to it as legalization. It recommends that sales be restricted to those 18 and older, with a personal possession limit of 30 grams.

The report also addresses issues surrounding pricing, potency and where cannabis can legally be produced and sold.

A news conference with the chair of the task force, former federal cabinet minister Anne McLellan and vice-chair Dr. Mark Ware, took place this morning at 10:45 a.m. EST.

McLellan revealed that the age requirement for legal cannabis sales would be 18-years-old. As well, “we recommend of a well-regulated production, manufacturing and distribution environment.”

Federally licensed producers will be the only commercial sellers of cannabis, but the task force recommends the government take “different kinds of market interventions” to ensure a “degree of diversity.”

McLellan laughed off a narrative pinning corporate cannabis against smaller businesses, indicating that there are many smaller LPs capable of profiting in the current regulatory regime.

“I’m not sure how I would define corporate Canada,” McLellan said, “but our goal is a diversity of producers.”

Nevertheless, McLellan recognized that there are a lot of illicit producers and hopes they will work within the new legal regime by meeting the government’s regulatory standards.

“I think the government needs to understand the value of diverse markets with growers of different sizes and expertise, but at the end of the day, how that market ultimately develops is up to the government of Canada and quite honestly the marketplace,” she said.

McLellan added that it was also up the federal government to pardon cannabis criminals and expunge records.

McLellan also said certain activities should remain criminalized. Those include producing outside system, selling to minors, selling to international markets, and driving a car. The task force did not recommend a set price for cannabis, but suggested higher taxes on cannabis with elevated levels of THC.

McLellan and Ware said the success of the new regime depends on enforcing new rules and encouraging all levels of government to make the “necessary investments” to increase enforcement.

As far as taxation from legal sales going back into enforcement and education campaigns, McLellan said: “[Legalization] will take some upfront resources before government sees any revenue.”

Mark Ware said collaboration between federal and provincial governments is required for success.

Ware also said impaired driving is an issue for the future, as it’s a continuing problem and one of the recommendations is that it remains in the criminal code.

McLellan said impaired driving is not a new problem and that Canada needs more officers, training, education, and overall enforcement on drug-impaired driving.

Mark Ware spoke to edibles and the “mistakes” of the Colorado model. “They did not label and adequately warn the public about edibles. We recommended edible products are not appealing to children, wrapped in plain packaging,” and labeled, with a standard 5-milligram dose as sufficient.

The timeline for here on out is up to the Liberal government. Until then, McLellan said, “the law should be enforced. I, as a lawyer, could not advocate disobeying the existing law.”

Cannabis should be available in storefront locations, the report said, but it recommends a ban of selling it near alcohol and tobacco products, a blow to some provinces, such as Ontario, which had hoped to sell marijuana in government-owned liquor stores. It also said cannabis products should be sold in plain packaging, as the Liberal government has promised to do with tobacco. The report also recommends limits on the density of cannabis storefront operations and regulations to keep them away from schools, community centres and public parks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently said legalization was never aimed to “please recreational users,” but keep cannabis out of the hands children and to undermine the profitability of “organized crime.”

Click here to read the entire report.

Here are all the major recommendations:

  • 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.
  • Apply comprehensive restrictions to the advertising and promotion of cannabis and related merchandise by any means, including sponsorship, endorsements and branding, similar to the restrictions on promotion of tobacco products.
  • Allow limited promotion in areas accessible by adults, similar to those restrictions under the Tobacco Act.
  • Require plain packaging for cannabis products that allows the following information on packages: company name, strain name, price, amounts of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) and warnings and other labelling requirements.
  • Impose strict sanctions on false or misleading promotion as well as promotion that encourages excessive consumption, where promotion 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.
  • 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 labelling on cannabis products, including: Text warning labels (e.g., “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN”) and 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 as to risks of problematic use and lower-risk use guidance.
  • 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, targeted 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
  • 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.