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Canadian Government To Review Cannabis Legalization

Canada’s Liberal Party government launched a review of the country’s legalization of cannabis on Thursday, four years after the country became the world’s second to legalize marijuana for adults. The Cannabis Act was passed in Canada in 2018. This is five years after Uruguay legalized cannabis in adults.

Jean-Yves Duclos, Health Minister of Canada said Thursday at a press conference that this review would help lawmakers and other policymakers to determine whether legalization of cannabis is in line with Canadians’ expectations and needs.

“Through this useful, inclusive and evidence-driven review, we will strengthen the act so that it meets the needs of all Canadians while continuing to displace the illicit market. I look forward to receiving the panel’s findings,” Duclos said.

Three years following the passage of law, The Cannabis Act required that an examination be made on cannabis legalization. This review is taking place one year after the law required. It is necessary to examine the effects of legalization of cannabis on Indigenous peoples and those who cultivate cannabis in complexes.

“Our government legalized cannabis to protect the health and safety of Canadians, particularly minors, and to displace the illegal market,” added Duclos.

Nathaniel Erskine Smith, Liberal MP and co-chairman of the all-party Cannabis Caucus said the review could help uncover the flaws in Canada’s Cannabis Act. This Act made Canada the first nation in the Northern Hemisphere to legalize recreational cannabis.

“We have been, in many ways, world leaders in advancing sensible drug policy and legalization and regulation of cannabis is an example of that,” said Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who co-chairs the all-party cannabis caucus, at a press conference. “But we didn’t get it perfect, we didn’t get it exactly right for the first time.”

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, agreed. The review will focus in part upon the potential mental health consequences of legalizing cannabis, especially among young people.

“Young people are at increased risk of experiencing harms from cannabis such as mental health problems, including dependence and disorders related to anxiety and depression,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett. “While a lot of progress has been made on the implementation of the Cannabis Act and its dual objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety, we need to assess the work that has been done and learn how and where to adjust to meet these goals.”

Protecting youth and displacement of the illegal market

When Canada’s Liberal government passed cannabis legalization in 2018, the stated goals of the Cannabis Act included protecting the health of Canadians and displacing the country’s illicit marijuana market. This review will allow officials to determine how well the legislation meets those goals.

“We are going to displace the illicit marketplace. It’s only a matter of time and you are going to, over the next three years, five years and 10 years, see those numbers shift,” said Erskine-Smith. “The legal marketplace will be where Canadians continue to turn.”

Canadian Chamber of Commerce supported the review and stated that it would foster growth of the legal cannabis market.

“However, to effectively displace the illicit market and protect the public health and safety of all Canadians, law enforcement, businesses, industry and all levels of government will need to continue to work together,” the Canadian Chamber of Commerce National Cannabis Working Group said in a statement.

This mandated review now includes an examination of the socio-environmental impacts of cannabis legislation, legalization and regulation of marijuana as well as the impact of reform on women and minority communities. Erskine-Smith said that including the additional areas of focus in the review is responsible for the government’s failure to meet the three-year deadline specified in the legislation.

“Getting the scope of the review right was much more important than the timeline,” he said. “If we’d followed the legislation to a ‘T’ — both in relation to the three-year timeline, but also the considerations that are set out in the legislation — we would have missed a major opportunity to get this right.”

Morris Rosenberg, who was formerly deputy minister of justice, will lead the panel of experts that will review. The remaining members of this review panel have not been named by the government.

This panel will include representatives of government, Indigenous groups and youth as well as cannabis industry representatives. A panel of leaders from the fields of public health, drug abuse, law enforcement and health care will address the group.

“I look forward to working with the panel and to providing evidence-based advice to ministers to strengthen this particularly important piece of legislation and advance public policy in this area in Canada,” Rosenberg said Thursday.