Prime Minister Trudeau has quite correctly stated that cannabis legalization is not an event but a process. And what an intriguing process it has been – with endless controversy, unexpected twists and turns along the way, and assuming different shapes in different provinces.
We have seen changes in government in both Ontario and Quebec with potentially profound impacts. The new Ontario government discarded a government-run retail monopoly for an entirely private model. In Quebec, the new government has indicated an intention to raise the minimum age for cannabis purchase and possession from 18 to 21 – unique in Canada. What other surprises will come from these new governments and from those in other provinces?
Following legalization on October 17, major policy issues remain controversial and unresolved: impact of legalization on youth, funding for treatment, edibles, impaired driving, workplace safety, disposition of illegal retail outlets and supply chains in the face of shortages of legal product.
Municipal leaders are wise to regard cannabis legalization cautiously. If anything should go awry, it is in our communities, our neighbourhoods, local health/social care networks, workplaces, schools, campuses, and our homes where the consequences will be most profoundly felt.
And yet, an ambitious and emboldened cannabis industry is tirelessly challenging restrictions on product promotion in order to expand their markets. Health Canada has been permissive in its response thus far. In contrast, our Attorney General appears poised to use harsh measures, including lengthy prison terms, for those who engage with cannabis ‘outside of the system’. Full record expungement for those with past minor cannabis offences has yet to be granted.
Long-time advocates of cannabis law reform, perhaps less mesmerized by the spectacle of a glamorous, lucrative new industry, are left wondering what has happened to the compassion and sense of justice that fueled the drive for reform for more than a half-century. These humanitarian concerns appear to have been marginalized.
I remain passionate about cannabis law reform. I would welcome the opportunity to participate in your efforts to ensure that this complex policy initiative is guided by the latest evidence, principles of harm reduction, and compassion.
Have a look at the attached list of my updated presentations. If something looks interesting or helpful, let’s talk.
(November 27 2018)