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The Bad: Dissecting the Canadian Cannabis Task Force Report

The Bad

Last week the federal task force on legalization released its final report to the public, giving activists some pleasant surprises along with a few problems and disappointments.  In my first blog about it last week I focused on the positive, as the report contains so many good recommendations that I missed a few in my summary.  However, there are some definite problems with these proposals and the next two blogs I will address those concerns, saving my issues with the inadequate suggestions regarding the medical uses of cannabis for the final blog.

First I should stress that these are just recommendations and not actual law.  The law will be entered into Parliament in Ottawa in the spring of 2017 and many fear it will be far more conservative than this report.  No doubt every stakeholder likes some parts of this report and strongly disagrees with others.  There will be a great deal of pressure exerted by some special interest groups to dramatically change the direction the document suggests we take.

Unfortunately, in some ways this report suggest a withdrawal from prohibition but not an entire ceasefire.  Proposed limits of 4 plants per household, with a 100 cm height limit and a 30 grams personal possession are bound to be struck down in court, as they are unnecessary, arbitrary and unenforceable.  Instead of giving adults the freedom to supply themselves with homegrown cannabis, the proposals build a corporate framework meant to maximize profits and tax revenue for the government.

Diversion is the main concern of this panel and the federal government.  They are not worried about diversion to children or to foreign countries.  They are worried people might smoke cannabis without paying taxes on it.  They want they cut from every joint smoked.

This was made clear by their decision to equally tax patients and recreational users, something I will further explore next blog.  The main concern of the federal government has shifted and now the focus will be to ensure that no black market, aka untaxed cannabis, is sold and are prepared to create harsh economic punishments for those who disobey.  While the new legislation is expected to draw cannabis out of the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act into its own set of regulations, there is every reason to believe that law enforcement and the Canada Revenue Agency will use heavy fines and asset forfeiture laws to discourage anyone from selling a joint to their neighbour.

Clearly enforcing any such rules would be very difficult and a further drain on valuable police resources.  Are police expected to carry scales or know what 30 grams of cannabis looks like.  Nothing was even mentioned about cannabis extracts, as it would be impossible to try to enforce any such limits when you consider the vast number of things cannabis can be infused into.  Rather than look completely ridiculous by proposing a limit of cannabis extracts, the task force seems to think they can just ignore that issue entirely.

However, the task force did try to suggest plants grow no bigger than 100 cm, hurting their credibility in the cannabis industry while not really making anyone else happy.  Are police now expected to go around each fall and measure everyone’s plants to make sure they are not too big?  What if the plant is tied down?  

This proposed 100 cm recommendation also virtually eliminates the possibility of growing many strains to full maturity.  This will not stop home cultivation, as some short, fat, fast-growing plants can produce far more far faster than large sprawling plants.  The only ones who would benefit from this 100 cm restriction are large companies who will be able to sell strains that people cannot easily grow for themselves.

Over time these arbitrary limits are bound to be struck down in court or changed by rational governments.  While most people will rely on purchasing their cannabis, there is no good reason to place such tight restrictions on those who choose to supply themselves.  Legalization implies freedom.  Not just freedom to smoke cannabis, but to grow it and produce your own medicines without fear or excessive paperwork.  

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