The federal task force charged with charting a course to marijuana legalization has produced its final report.
The 106-page document, spearheaded by former Chretien Health Minister Anne McLellan, makes dozens of recommendations to Ottawa, covering everything from retail sale, to taxation, medical use, and growing pot at home.
The report recommends pot be sold in storefronts and by mail to adults 18-years and older but suggests it should not be sold in the same stores as alcohol or tobacco.
It also suggests limits on how close those retail locations are to each other and community facilities like schools – much along the lines of the City of Vancouver’s dispensary bylaw.
It also recommends Canadians be allowed to grow up to four plants each and be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana.
The report says Ottawa should ensure pot is sold in plain packaging, and move to strictly block virtually all marijuana-related advertising and sponsorship along the lines of Tobacco laws.
As for medical marijuana, it calls for maintaining a separate framework for medical access, though recommends Ottawa tax the two systems at the same rate.
Further recommendations include taxing higher THC-marijuana at a higher rate in order to discourage consumption of high-potency pot.
On that tax front, the report falls short of recommending pricing, instead calling on the feds to develop a scheme that balances health protection with concerns about being undercut by the black market.
It calls for hashing out what to do with revenue from the system with the provinces and territories to ensure an “equitable distribution of revenues,” though suggests that cash should be directed towards funding the system, along with education and enforcement.
Regarding enforcement, the report calls fro limiting criminal charges to illicit production, export, and trafficking – with a particular focus on selling to youth.
It also makes a slew of recommendations regarding impaired driving, including research into the effect of THC (pot’s psychoactive chemical) on crashes, and looking into specific consumption limits, developing and investing in a new roadside pot “brethalyzer,” and more training for police. It also calls for zero tolerance for new and young drivers.
As for who would regulate the new system, the report points to oversight of wholesale and retail operations falling to the provinces, working with local municipalities.
B.C.’s public safety minister is applauding today’s recommendations but says it’s too soon to talk about details like enforcement and tax-revenue sharing.
Of particular interest, the expectation that local municipalities would establish their own oversight and framework for inspection and compliance. Public Safety Minster Mike Morris was asked if the province would pitch in extra money to municipalities for enforcement.
Public Safety Minster Mike Morris was asked if the province would pitch in extra money to municipalities for enforcement.
“It’s a little premature to talk about bylaws. We’re looking at provincial legislation. The bylaw issue for local government could extend to exactly what they have in place now, locating, zoning, those types of things. I don’t see an added burden on municipal governments,” Morris said.
As for how much tax-revenue the province should get from recreational marijuana sales Morris says the province isn’t ready to pin down a number yet.
Lawyer Trina Fraser represents licensed producers of cannabis and she says her clients are very pleased with the Task Force report.
“To the extent that retail sale is permitted in the new regime, obviously those retail stores, whether they’re government controlled or not or privately licensed, they’re going to have to sell product that’s been grown by a licensed producer so it massively expands the market for their product so they should be overjoyed to hear that,” she says.
As well, she says licensed producers will be very happy the scope of permissible products will include edibles and concentrate.
Dan Sutton, director with Fraser Valley-based producer Tantalus Labs says he’s similarly impressed with the Federal Task’s Force recommendations.
But he says he is concerned the regime could create barriers for new businesses looking to get into the industry.
“Many critics of the existing medical cannabis production system have been so vocal in the priorities of the federal government and the priorities of the office of medical cannabis. Well regulated production systems, with specific pesticides, labelling and consistency and security had been a bone of contention because they do present barriers to entry,” he says.
Sutton says it’s not likely the government will take all recommendations, but says the government will mostly likely move towards the progressive liberal approach.