By Patrick Cain and Leslie Young, Global News
The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, a body set up by the federal government in June to study marijuana legalization in Canada, released a set of recommendations Tuesday on how marijuana should be produced, sold and regulated.
The recommendations also include plain packaging requirements and limits on where marijuana can be sold.
At this point, they are only recommendations and will still need to be put into legislation and passed by Parliament. So the questions and answers below are only what the law could look like, according to the task force’s recommendations. It’s not necessarily what the law will look like, and definitely not what the law currently is.
Here are some of the major recommendations outlined in the report:
Who could buy marijuana?
Anyone over 18, though the task force recommends provinces harmonize the marijuana age with the drinking age.
Where could they buy it?
The task force recommends that marijuana not be sold in locations that also sell alcohol or tobacco. So that means they don’t think it should be sold in provincial liquor stores or corner stores where you can buy cigarettes. Likely this means separate stores that specialize in marijuana – though it also leaves the door open to distributing it in drugstores. However, during the consultations, some pharmacists expressed reservations about selling it.
Stores that sell marijuana should also be located an “appropriate” distance from schools, and community centres – though that distance is not specified.
For small communities where setting up separate storefronts is unfeasible, the task force recommends a mail-order system for distribution.
Final decisions about marijuana retail will be up to the provinces and municipalities, task force chair Anne McLellan told reporters Tuesday.
What could they buy and what will it look like?
The task force doesn’t recommend setting an upper limit on marijuana potency for smokable products, though it says all marijuana products should have THC and cannabidol levels clearly marked. All marijuana products should be in “plain packaging” with the company name, strain name, price, potency and warnings only.
The task force recommends prohibiting all products that mix marijuana with other things, like alcohol, tobacco or caffeine. And for edible marijuana products, they recommend developing standard servings with a maximum potency per serving.
It recommends higher-potency pot be taxed at a higher rate than weaker strains, while limiting personal possession to no more than 30 grams and allowing for what the report calls “social sharing.”
Who could grow marijuana?
The task force recommends the federal government regulate marijuana production by issuing licenses, similar to the current system that is set up for medical marijuana. However, the task force also wants the government to encourage smaller growers and a diverse, competitive marketplace.
People should also be able to grow their own marijuana at home, thinks the task force. They recommend that people be allowed to grow up to four plants per residence.
Allowing a minimum number of plants follows practice in several U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Setting a limit for a home, rather than an individual grower, mirrors Oregon’s system.
How much could people carry?
The task force recommends setting a limit of 30 grams for the personal possession of non-medical dried cannabis in public, with corresponding limits on how much a store could sell you.
What about medical marijuana?
The commission recommends the current system of medical marijuana be unchanged, McLellan said.
What about impaired driving?
The task force recommends setting a limit on the amount of THC you can have in you and still be allowed to drive, but it admits that it doesn’t know yet what this limit should be, from a scientific standpoint. So, it recommends investing in research to determine what a good limit should be, while emphasizing in public education campaigns that no amount of marijuana is safe to consume before driving.
So, the task force would like some kind of limit to be set, and then readjusted as better scientific proof comes in.
Legalization of recreational marijuana was a key part of the Liberal election platform in 2015.
A task force chaired by McLellan, a former cabinet minister, delivered its report on November 30, but it wasn’t made public until Tuesday.
While promising legalization, the Liberals also emphasized that a legal marijuana distribution system would be controlled – the commission’s terms of reference referred to a “new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution.”
Medical marijuana is legal in Canada with a doctor’s prescription, but in many cases dispensaries set up to serve a medical marijuana market have become outlets for recreational marijuana. All dispensaries are illegal, but local governments have been tolerating, ignoring, closing or regulating them as they saw fit.
Today’s announcement was hastily organized – a 9:15 a.m. lockup Tuesday morning was announced in a 4 p.m. news release Monday afternoon.
It wasn’t immediately clear why, though. Stocks in several medical marijuana companies traded wildly in late November. Conservative MP Alex Nuttall said in the House of Commons on December 6 that the report had been leaked, but didn’t offer proof.