The federal government has launched a review of the cannabis law to determine whether the legislation governing marijuana legalization meets the needs and expectations of Canadians.
“Through this useful, comprehensive and evidence-based review, we will strengthen the law so that it meets the needs of all Canadians while continuing to dislodge the illicit market. I look forward to receiving the team’s findings,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said.
The Liberals lifted a century-old ban on the use and sale of recreational cannabis in October 2018, with a commitment to review the law three years after it went into effect. This review is nearly a year late.
According to the Cannabis Act, the review should focus on the law’s impact on indigenous people, on the cultivation of cannabis in an apartment complex and on health and consumption patterns of young people.
“Young people are at increased risk of suffering from the harms of cannabis such as mental health problems, including dependence, anxiety-related disorders and depression,” said Minister for Mental Health and Addiction Caroline Bennett.
“While a great deal of progress has been made in implementing the cannabis law and its dual goals of protecting public health and maintaining public safety, we need to take stock of the work that has been done and see how and where to adapt to achieve these goals.”
The review’s mandate has been expanded to include an examination of the social and environmental impacts of cannabis law, the impact of legalizing and regulating medical cannabis and its impact on societies and women classed as race.
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine Smith, co-chair of the all-party cannabis caucus, said the need to include these additional areas in the review partly explains why the government has fallen behind the three-year schedule.
“Getting the scope of the review right was far more important than the timeline,” he said. “If we had followed the legislation to a ‘T’ – both in terms of the three-year timetable, but also the considerations set out in the legislation – we would have missed a great opportunity to get this right.”
The expert panel will be named soon
The federal government said the Cannabis Act was passed to dislodge the illegal market and to protect the health of Canadians.
Progress in achieving these two goals will also be examined by the review, which will be conducted by an independent panel of experts.
Morris Rosenberg, a former deputy attorney general, will chair the panel of experts. No other team members have yet been named.
Watch: Federal government launches review of cannabis law:
We will hear from the public, government, Indigenous groups, youth, representatives of the cannabis industry and users of medicinal cannabis. The panel will also hear from experts in public health, drug abuse, law enforcement and health care.
“I look forward to working with the commission and providing evidence-based advice to ministers to advance this particularly important legislation and advance public policy in this area in Canada,” Rosenberg said Thursday.
children and eating
Bennett and Duclos were asked about reports that an increasing number of children have been hospitalized due to exposure to cannabis products, and whether the review would look at the effect on young children.
“We’ve done really well in terms of the public education campaign, but I think since the advent of the delicacy, we need to do more,” Bennett said. “Families should make sure they are in a safe place where children cannot reach.”
Erskine Smith said there are always public health risks when it comes to alcohol, cannabis and other substances, but they can be mitigated by minimizing the harm.
“The public health approach should be around harm reduction and taking a broader view… to say, ‘How can we better organize activities to reduce harm?’ Eating is a good example of that.
Since legalization, Duclos said, 70 percent of the Canadian cannabis market has moved from the illegal economy to legal and regulated sources of supply.
Erskine Smith said that eliminating the illegal market for cannabis should be a central goal of any cannabis legalization and a key component of the federal government’s overall agenda.
“We’re going to take down the illicit market,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time, and you’ll see, over the next three, five, and ten years, those numbers shift.” “The legal market will be where Canadians continue to transform.”
To ensure that this happens, he said, the federal government must continue to provide Canadians with safe, reliable and affordable supplies.