On December 13, 2016, the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation – the nine-member committee mandated by the Federal Government to advise on the design of a new legislative and regulatory framework for legal access to cannabis in Canada- made public its final report on the legalization of recreational cannabis. Review the report in its entirety here.
The report is the result of 5 months of research, interviews and public consultations, including the review of nearly 30,000 public submissions. While the findings of the 112 page report cannot all be summarized here, there are a number of clear recommendations which one would expect to be reproduced in forthcoming legislation. Some of the report’s highlights include:
- Setting a national minimum age of purchase of 18, while acknowledging the right of provinces and territories to harmonize it with their minimum age of purchase of alcohol;
- Applying comprehensive restrictions to the advertising and promotion of cannabis and related merchandise by any means, similar to the restrictions on promotion of tobacco products;
- Prohibiting any product deemed to be “appealing to children,” including products that mimic familiar food items, are packaged to look like candy, or are packaged in bright colours or with images that would appeal to children;
- For edibles, implementing packaging with standardized, single servings, with a universal THC symbol. Setting a maximum amount of THC per serving and per product;
- Prohibiting mixed products, for example cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages or cannabis products with tobacco, nicotine or caffeine;
- Creating a flexible legislative framework that could adapt to new evidence on specific product types, on the use of additives or sweeteners, or on specifying limits of THC or other components;
- Developing strategies to encourage consumption of less potent cannabis, including a price and tax scheme based on potency to discourage purchase of high-potency products;
- Conducting the necessary economic analysis to establish an approach to tax and price that balances health protection with the goal of reducing the illicit market
- Committing to using revenue from cannabis as a source of funding for administration, education, research and enforcement
- Implementing an evidence informed public education campaign, targeted at the general population but with an emphasis on youth, parents and vulnerable population;
- Allowing personal cultivation of up to four cannabis plans for non-medical purposes;
- Creating designated public cannabis lounges for consumption.
There were also a number of valid concerns which came out of the Task Force’s public consultations, including addressing cannabis’ criminal element, the protection of children and impaired driving. With respect to this later point, the Task Force recognizes the current limitations on testing for cannabis impairment and recommends a national public education strategy for impaired driving and investing in further research to better link THC levels with impairment.
At first glance, the report appears thorough and presents appropriate, common sense recommendations on some challenging issues. Time will tell whether this government will actually follow the Task Force’s recommendations, but for the time being, the haze of uncertainty surrounding cannabis legalization appears to be lifting.
As this blog focuses on employment law, in a future post we will analyze how the Task Force’s recommendations may impact the workplace and employers.