Ottawa strikes task force as it moves to legalize marijuana
Ottawa is taking the first major step toward marijuana legalization by forming a federal task force led by former deputy PM Anne McLellan, which will report back November.
The federal government has launched a travelling task force to study how best to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana.
Ottawa is taking the first major step toward marijuana with a new federal task force led by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan.
But advocates hoping for unfettered access to recreational cannabis may be disappointed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government plans a strict regulatory framework to limit the production and distribution of weed.
Liberal MP Bill Blair (Scarborough Southwest), the former Toronto police chief who has been Trudeau’s point person on the issue, said Thursday “the science is overwhelmingly clear that marijuana is not a benign substance.
“It represents a risk to certain sectors of our population, particularly kids, in the impact on developing adolescent brains. But it also can have an impact on very frequent users or people who may be suffering from other illnesses, particularly mental illness,” Blair said in Ottawa.
“Unlike (growing) tomatoes, it is a substance that poses certain significant both social and health harms and risks to Canadians.”
McLellan, a former health and justice minister, said her task force of medical and legal experts would consult with provinces, municipalities, and the public before releasing a report in November that will be the blueprint for next year’s legislation.
“The current situation is not working and we need a better way forward,” said McLellan.
“I have myself concluded that legalization with a regulatory regime, such as the task force will be exploring, is the way forward,” she said.
Also on the volunteer panel are McGill University medical professor Mark Ware, Centre of Addiction and Mental Health president and CEO Catherine Zahn, University of Victoria criminologist Susan Boyd, former Vancouver city councillor George Chow, Newfoundland police Supt. Marlene Jesso, B.C.’s chief public health officer Perry Kendall, former RCMP deputy commissioner Rafik Souccar, and University of Saskatchewan law professor Barbara von Tigerstrom.
Ottawa has instructed them that the new law must “protect young Canadians by keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and youth; keep profits out of the hands of criminals, particularly organized crime; reduce the burdens on police and the justice system associated with simple possession of marijuana offences, (and) prevent Canadians from entering the criminal justice system and receiving criminal records for simple possession of marijuana offences.”
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould stressed marijuana laws should remain in place, meaning Toronto’s more than 100 “dispensaries” are operating illegally so police crackdowns and criminal prosecutions should continue.
“The possession, production, and trafficking of marijuana remain illegal. This includes storefronts selling marijuana, commonly known as ‘dispensaries’ and ‘compassion clubs,’ ” Wilson-Raybould said in a joint statement with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
“These operations are illegally supplied and provide products that are untested, unregulated and that may be unsafe. The government of Canada supports law enforcement actions to address illegal storefront distribution and sale of marijuana in Canada.”
However, the Toronto Dispensary Coalition’s Michael McLellan (no relation to Anne McLellan) said the shops work in Colorado and other jurisdictions where marijuana is legal.
“Dispensaries in our coalition strive to ensure the product we sell is safe and ethically grown, free from organized and violent crime. The repeated accusations by anti-dispensary business interests to the contrary are false and unconstructive,” he said.
Despite a B.C. court ruling that Ottawa has until August to address, medicinal marijuana will still only be legally available to patients with a prescription from a medical doctor and provided by one of Canada’s 33 licensed producers.
Those Health Canada-inspected facilities must ship their cannabis by registered mail and are not allowed to sell directly to the public through storefronts.
Philpott suggested marijuana would be a federally controlled substance as tobacco is.
“It’s not uncommon for other substances to have regulation from the federal government, so, as you know, there’s a Tobacco Control Act in place,” the health minister said.
But in Ontario people are legally allowed to grow up to 15 kilograms of raw leaf tobacco for personal use each year and they can brew their own beer and make wine.
So it remains unclear how Ottawa would prohibit homegrown weed for recreational use.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have a dozen provincial departments working on a marijuana strategy in preparation for legalization.
“We don’t know what the regulatory framework is going to be, so we have to wait for that to be put in place. We will work with the federal government as we develop in Ontario the complementary distribution network,” Wynne told reporters Thursday at the construction site of the Laird station of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.
“(If) you’re asking me about revenue from marijuana sales, I can’t tell you what that would be. We’ve got people in our ministries working on what it might mean,” said the premier, who wants recreational marijuana sales to be handled by the LCBO, the provincial liquor monopoly.
“I have been very clear that I think there needs to be, first, the distinction between recreational and medicinal marijuana.”
Article source Toronto Star
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Published on: June 30, 2016
The Liberal government is making a hash of marijuana legalization by embarking on a needless consultation exercise led by a task force of well-meaning volunteers.
Four U.S. states made cannabis legal in 2012 and others are vocally following suit.
Canada, which has had a legal medical scheme for more than 15 years, has had calls for legalization for half a century.
The 1969 Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, set up by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s dad, recommended after three years’ study that the country decriminalize cannabis.
There have been all kinds of smart people and a broad range of groups — mayors, chiefs of police, former attorneys general, medical officers of health — who have since echoed the message.
Cannabis and a variety of other drugs have been freely available on North American streets for at least a generation. More consultation is needed?
The nation doesn’t need more conversation; it needs new laws to replace the existing confusion and injustice.
It is not premature after seven months in office to expect the federal government led by a party that campaigned on legalization to present its plan.
Some task force members, Dr. Perry Kendall for instance, certainly sound like good advisers on this issue.
But former Toronto top cop Bill Blair, the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister in charge of the pot file, sounded like a character from Reefer Madness with his strident opposition to personal growing.
At the news conference Thursday, his eruption of concern about the “significant social and health harms” of marijuana and the dangers it poses to children was over the top.
An unreconstructed drug warrior is not needed here.
Cannabis legalization, on the contrary, is needed because criminalizing it helped turn school yards into black markets and gave society an enormous addiction monkey.
Legalization is an attempt to fix the problems a century of racist-inspired prohibition produced — endemic gang violence, a thriving criminal underclass and police budgets that are crippling municipalities.
The government estimates the illicit cannabis industry is worth $7 billion, the cost of policing it at $2.3 billion.
Anne McLellan, the former justice minister leading this group, sounded as out of touch as Blair with her assurance they are “undertaking a discussion” to look at what Colorado and Washington are doing.
Take your time, Anne, they’ve been at it for nearly half a decade. Oh, BTW, Alaska and Oregon legalized last year, too.
This is obviously unfocused busy work.
The Liberals already should been presenting their own proposal — and, regardless, legalization should have been examined as a policy option by the federal bureaucracy when American states approved recreational pot for adults 21 or older in 2012.
There is a plethora of real-world data and evidence, all kinds of papers on taxes, driving laws etc. and the various facets of legalizing cannabis.
Another round of chatter is redundant; the Liberals are playing dodge ball.
The regulatory, taxation, jurisdictional, advertising and other concerns should be dealt with under a parliamentary process, not delegated.
Will pot be treated like alcohol or tobacco? Will the medical production, distribution and regulation of cannabis for the ill remain within Ottawa’s bailiwick; recreational production, distribution and regulation within the provinces’ jurisdiction?
The country was looking for leadership, not dithering.
There should have been a federal-provincial working group appointed after the throne speech to develop legal blueprints for how recreational pot could be made available in the various jurisdictions.
While Blair wrings his hands with worry, remember people can grow their own tobacco, make their own wine and brew their own beer.
Marijuana is not benign, but it doesn’t even approach alcohol and tobacco in terms of associated health risks, perils to children and societal fallout.
Given the sea change in the U.S., it’s ridiculous that Ottawa would announce a lot more talk and a little a less action while illegal pot is sold like lattes in Vancouver and police in Toronto are raiding dispensaries.
This is more foot-dragging while thousands of otherwise law-abiding Canadians are at risk of capricious prosecution, prison and a life-altering record for smoking a joint or sipping a cup of herbal tea.
If this task force comes back in November saying it needs more time or couldn’t come up with a consensus, will the promised spring 2017 legislation be delayed?
Seems to me long-serving former prime minister Pierre Trudeau never followed up on the Le Dain recommendations and his promise to liberalize drug laws because of the pesky parliamentary agenda.
Article source Vancouver Sun
Marijuana Activists Respond To Launch of Canada’s New ‘Legalization’ Task Force
GOVERNMENT OF CANADA
The Task Force is engaging Canadians on key questions related to the legalization, regulation and restriction of access to marijuana.
This is an opportunity to provide your input for a period of 60 days, between June 30 and August 29, 2016.
Toward the legalization, regulation and restriction of access to marijuana
More information on healthycanadians.gc.ca
The Government of Canada has made a commitment to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to marijuana. To do this, a task force has been created to advise on the design of a new system. The Task Force is seeking the views of Canadians on issues that are key to the design of a new system. They will then provide the federal government with a final report.
The Task Force is seeking input from:
- provincial, territorial and municipal governments
- experts in relevant fields
- Indigenous governments and representative organizations
More information on healthycanadians.gc.ca