Get ready - recreational cannabis legalization in Canada is officially coming. After months of public consultation, the Federal Cannabis Task Force has now released their Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada, which contains various legalization recommendations, giving us some hints at what the path to regulation might look like.
Here are our thoughts on the most important recreational cannabis issues in this 112 page report:
Recommendations: A minimum age of 18 for cannabis consumption, acknowledging that provinces have the right to raise that age to harmonize it with their minimum age to purchase alcohol.
Feedback: This is the right course of action. Current science is not able to set a safe age for cannabis use, therefore it makes sense to follow the same general format as alcohol by allowing people to consume cannabis once they hit the age of majority. This age limit ensures that the age group most likely to access cannabis is able to access a safe supply and not receive criminal records for doing so. If you’re allowed to vote and fight in wars, you should also be allowed to consume cannabis.
Recommendations: Production should be regulated in a similar manner to the current cannabis for medical purposes system. Seed to sale tracking should be required and there must be licenses for small ‘boutique’ producers. Furthermore, outdoor production should be encouraged due to its smaller environmental impact.
Feedback: Production is a delicate game between price and quality. While indoor cannabis production is more consistent and high quality, outdoor production is cheaper. This less expensive product aligns well with the goal of eliminating the black market product that is often higher quality and less expensive than the licensed producers.
Hopefully the inclusion of small growers and new licenses can help to shake up the current monopolies in the market while increasing the product quality for consumers.
Recommendations: Cannabis should be sold through dedicated store-fronts with well-trained staff. This includes avoiding co-location of alcohol or tobacco and cannabis sales where possible. The current mail-order system should remain in existence.
Feedback: Yes! It takes a single visit to a dispensary staffed with a well versed budtender to understand exactly how complex cannabis is. From edibles to flowers to bath bombs, there is a wide variety of cannabis available to consumers today, and it is important that each person understands the effects that each strain and product have on the human mind and body. Neither pharmacies nor alcohol stores are knowledgeable enough to sell cannabis in a responsible way, and we look forward to seeing more welcoming and professional dispensaries.
Recommendations: Invest immediately in a public education strategy similar to what has been done for alcohol. Invest in THC impairment research to examine if a link between THC and impairment level can be established. Support the development of a roadside testing device and train more law enforcement officers on how to identify impairment.
Feedback: As supporters of legalization and fact-based discussion around cannabis, we are asked about impaired driving on a daily basis. There is no easy answer for this question, and the Task Force did the right thing by not blindly suggesting a maximum THC level be enforced.
THC affects everyone differently based on many factors, including consumption history. Many medical patients, for example, exhibit no signs of impairment because their body has adapted to high quantities of THC. Charging these patients and daily users with impairment when they are not actually impaired would be a mistake.
Investing in education and research on how THC affects individuals is a great start to an issue that will take many years to fully understand. Incidents of drunk driving are still too frequent, so the issue of impaired driving as a whole will take many years to address. (Self driving vehicles anyone?)
Recommendations: The Task Force recommends a limit of four plants per residence with a maximum height of 100 cm each. Local authorities have oversight on who grows, and reasonable security measures to prevent theft and youth access should be implemented.
Feedback: With 93% of of survey respondents saying that home growing should be legal, we are not surprised to see that the Task Force has included home growing in their recommendations. Four plants per household with a height limit, however, is on the conservative side. The four plant maximum is consistent with the regulations in Oregon, however the District of Columbia, Colorado, and Alaska all allow up to 6 plants per household without any size restrictions.
Through the current ACMPR regulations, medicinal patients are allowed to grow 5 plants indoors per daily gram they are prescribed, without any height restrictions. Using the same per-plant production rates, the task force is limiting recreational users to growing 0.8 grams per day per household. In a household with two consumers, 0.4 grams per day is likely not enough, and consumers will need to heavily optimize their grows with systems like Grobo, or supplement their supply by purchasing from licensed produces.
Although we hope to see an increase to 6 plants per household and the removal of the plant height restrictions, we are happy to see that security is recommended. Grobo has always had a steel lock and Fluid glass for this exact purpose, and we are happy to hear that all cannabis grows will be secured.
As a whole, the Task Force recommendations are clear and concise. They balance all party interests to ensure a safe and responsible introduction of legalization. If the government follows these recommendations, Canada has a strong potential of becoming a case study for the world on how to responsibly legalize cannabis.