(appeared May 2, 2016 at CanEvolve)

The Liberal government announced plans to table the legislation that would legalize cannabis in Canada in the Spring of 2017.

Cannabis has been illegal throughout our lifetimes, so it is woven into the societal fabric in a “wild west” sort of way and much of that can not be undone – especially within the near future. The black market is very well established, consumers are used to certain prices and quality and many will continue to use the black market if the regulated market falls short in any expectations.

In order to get legalization / regulation right, the government needs to ensure some basic steps are taken from the start if they truly wish for the black market to disappear. Each province will be responsible for some part in regulation as they do with alcohol and tobacco, so there will be variance of regulation from province to province. The basic steps needed by the federal government and provinces are presented and details can be fleshed out with time.

  • Remove cannabis from Schedule  II  of  the  Controlled  Drugs  and  Substances  Act
  • Allow for personal growing
  • Tax it at a federal/provincial rate low enough without being more expensive than the black market.
  • Allow for large and small producers to supply the market, much like beer-makers like Molsen’s or Labatt’s exist alongside local microbreweries.
  • Any strain grown for commercial purposes and general distribution should maintain the same type of regulation growing fruit and vegetables fall under in terms of growing practices as well as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and other relevant components of the Natural Health Products Regulations. It should be tested for mould and impurities, also the plant profile with breakdown of THC, CBD and other psycho and non-psychoactive properties. It could also include whether it is irradiated, organic, or altered in any way. Knowing if it was grown in hydro, soil or outdoor would be a bonus.
  • It is ill-advised to sell cannabis in liquor stores for reasons that will appear in another blog post. Allow independent and franchise distributors to operate and distribute cannabis as a one purpose entity. Medical cannabis could be accessed via dispensaries and pharmacies or mailed from Licensed Producers.
  • Keep the age limit the same as alcohol and tobacco or 16 as recommended by the Senate Committee in 2002.
  • A medical access program must be retained so workers who use cannabis are protected in their workplaces and other situations are remedied where patients use cannabis as part of their health regime where it may otherwise be prohibited. The plant count needed for medicinal patients growing their own medicine may also be much higher than the allowed limit in the recreational program.
  • Expunge records of those charged with cannabis related offences.

Other issues will also need to be addressed such as impaired driving limits. The government needs to get this right so we smoothly transition from a prohibitionist country to a regulated society. It also has to be mature enough to admit if things don’t work out as planned, to step back, re-examine and change the legislation to improve the law.

Every cannabis consumer has been waiting their whole lifetime for this moment, and they will not change the way they do business overnight to accommodate government boogey man fears.

They will change if the new way of doing things is more beneficial to their health and well being.

Debra Harper

(Post previously appeared at CanEvolve)