Government Discussion Paper Reveals Grim Future For Cannabis in Canada

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 favours 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 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. Presumably 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