Government Discussion Paper Reveals Grim Future for Cannabis

On June 30, 2016 the federal government released a discussion paper on cannabis legalization entitled “Toward the Legalization, Regulation and Restriction of Access to Marijuana.” The paper tells us that the new regime will be punitive, monopolistic, and unmanageable. The paper is premised on various mean-spirited and wrong-headed assumptions about cannabis. Perhaps most offensive of all, the paper repeatedly stresses the “especially important” need to prevent the normalization of cannabis and thereby continue the almost one hundred years of stigma and prejudice against cannabis. The paper is a dark message about the future of cannabis regulation

The paper is obsessed with the dangers of cannabis. Organized crime is looming around every corner. Those who do not comply with the new system must be stopped. Dispensaries are so obviously evil there is no need to explain why. Home growing will cause your house to explode. And of course, think of the children.

The paper favors mail delivery as a means of distribution as is required in the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). There is not a person alive who would rather purchase cannabis by mail. This is an idea that must have been pushed by licensed producers as they have the infrastructure to do this. It is an astonishingly bad idea. All consumers will want to see and smell what they are buying and speak with the people from whom they are purchasing. The paper considers storefronts as something that “may be required in order to provide an alternative to the current illegal sellers that exist in certain Canadian cities.” In other words, new dispensaries might have to be permitted if only to help extinguish the current dispensaries.

The paper indicates that home growing brings risks of mould, fire and home invasion. These myths were debunked in Allard v. Canada where Mr. Justice Phelan found that the risk of mould can be avoided by having a proper ventilation system, the risk of electrical hazards can be addressed by having a certified electrician take care of any electrical installations, and the risk of home invasion was speculative without a foundation. I can grow tomatoes in my home, but if I grow cannabis then my house explodes. The paper seems to favour the MMPR licensed producer model over home-growing.

The paper advises there are health risks associated with cannabis use during adolescence. The paper says there is good evidence that cannabis use in early adolescence can harm scholastic achievement. They use the word ‘associated’ because there is no causal link. Science has not established a causal link between cannabis use and poor outcomes for youth. The paper should be upfront about its shortcomings, but instead it uses this weak science as justification for a potential minimum age of 25. There could be no more sure-fire plan for pushing young people towards the black market than a minimum age that is oblivious to the reality of cannabis use in Canada in 2016.

The paper seems to think that strengthened sanctions are necessary for those that act outside the boundaries of the new system. In other words, the previous government’s mandatory minimums are not enough. Our cannabis laws need to be made more draconian.

The paper suggests limits on THC levels, limits on how much may be possessed, limits on where cannabis may be consumed, limits on hours of operation, limits on advertising, limits on density of retailers, and limits – perhaps even a complete ban – on edibles.

Reasonable limits on advertising could be a practical means of guarding against big cannabis. There is nothing wrong with the government requiring reasonable regulation of packaging and production. The issue of age is a complex one in which despite an absence of peer reviewed science, a government might choose 18 or 19 as a minimum age because there is probably a consensus on this issue and that is how we have approached alcohol. However, this document is hysterical. It signals the government’s intention to shut the cannabis community out of the cannabis industry. It suggests an unrealistic expectation of micro-managed control. It reveals the government’s sinister plan to fight the normalization of cannabis. The discussion paper’s mean, punitive, monopolistic, and unmanageable proposals will guarantee many years of conflict, litigation, legal uncertainty, and a thriving grey market.

Paul Lewin, @PaulLewinLawyer

Tell Federal Government How to Regulate Cannabis

Government of Canada News Release June 30, 2016. Task force and public consultation to inform creation of a new system that will protect and inform Canadians. Ottawa, ON – Government of Canada – News Release

Participate by providing your input by completing the online consultation at Toward the Legalization, Regulation and Restriction of Access to Marijuana – Discussion Paper

or click the following link to start the questionnaire “Accessing Marijuana for Medical Purposes”, read the “Privacy Notice” then click the “Next” button to continue.

Canadians have until August 29, 2016 to share their views as to how cannabis should be regulated.


City of Toronto Meeting to Review Dispensaries Deferred Until October

The Licensing and Standards Committee of the City of Toronto met for the first time on June 27 as a response to Mayor John Tory’s letter dated May 19.

The letter by Tory requested a review of the current operations of medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of Toronto, as well as to recommend measures to address concerns, including the feasibility of providing licensing as a means to regulate the “proximity of these establishments to schools, childcare and other sensitive uses.”

A number of medical marijuana activists attended the Committee meeting and were left disappointed when councilor Giorgio Mammoliti initiated the motion to defer the discussion to a later date. The official decision was to defer the debate “until provincial and federal legislation has been passed on medical marijuana dispensaries and the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards can report on the matter.”

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Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ

Liberals Voted Against an NDP Motion to Decriminalize Simple Possession

The Liberals voted against an NDP motion to decriminalize simple possession of cannabis pending legalization. The proposed bill would not legalize selling or growing. It would simply stop penalizing consumers with a criminal record for something that will be legal soon. Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould said it would “give a green light to dealers and criminal organizations to continue to sell unregulated and unsafe marijuana to Canadians.” The fact that unregulated cannabis has been consumed for thousands of years without incident seems to have escaped Ms. Wilson-Raybould. The lone voice of reason was Liberal MP for Beaches-East York, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who broke ranks with the government and voted for the bill. NDP MP and justice critic, Murray Rankin, said this about the Liberals contradictory approach to the issue, “Canadians thought they were voting for a Liberal government that would act quickly to stop arrests and subsequent criminal records for those who smoke pot. But instead we see a government that has not moved on this issue and worse, they have encouraged law enforcement to crack down on marijuana users, further wasting resources and bringing greater confusion to the legal system.”

Paul Lewin, @PaulLewinLawyer

Possible Canada Post Strike a Concern for the Current Medical Marijuana System

Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) have been in contract negotiations since late 2015 and a strike or lockout could be prompted on July 2nd.

The medical marijuana licensed producers in Canada have been relying exclusively on mail service for delivery of their products ever since the creation of the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) and could face some challenges to their distribution if there is a Canada Post strike or lockout.

Some licensed producers have hired courier services in the event of a strike, and others are scrambling to provide courier services in the meantime. However, there is reasonable concern once again about the adequacy of access provided by the MMPR, particularly since the MMPR legislation introduced under Harper has already been deemed to be unconstitutional by a Federal Court judge earlier this year in Allard:

The threat of a potential strike by Canada Post calls into question a medical marijuana program that provides Canadians with limited distribution channels, limited competition, a lack of availability of different derivatives of the medicine and with a limited method of payment. Medical marijuana patients continue to be harmed and stigmatized by this current legislation as well as by ongoing efforts of law enforcement in the City of Toronto to shut down access to community-based dispensaries.

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ