That the federal government introduced the ‘Cannabis Act’ recently is not a surprise. It was part of the 2015 election platform. The goal of the proposed ‘Cannabis Act’ is to create a strict legal framework for controlling the production,
distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada. In a Financial Post article in October 2015, it was stated that legalizing recreational marijuana would create a market worth up to $5 billion.
At the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in May 2016, the Chamber Network voted and passed a resolution encouraging the provincial government to do the following:
In September 2016, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, with the support of the network, also sent a letter to the provincial government suggesting five guiding principles when developing the policy around design of a recreational marijuana distribution system.
With the tabling of the ‘Cannabis Act’ there are clearly defined roles for the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The federal government will design the framework to legalize recreational use of marijuana and the provincial and territorial governments will develop legislation around distribution and sales.
Given the role the provincial government will play heading toward implementation in July 2018, it is worth highlighting the five design principles related to distribution that the OCC wrote about last fall.
Eliminate the underground economy: Ensure that the chosen market model is not so overly regulated or onerous that it duplicates the current regime thus sustaining illegal channels for production and distribution
Limit points of access: A licensing system, whereby a fixed number of access points are auctioned out to both the public and private sectors, may be a more efficient model of regulated delivery. The OCC also suggests creating a service delivery competition to spur innovation around best-practice social responsibility standards
Communities must be empowered: Engage local governments in the decision-making process with the awareness that some have voted against production and/or distribution facilities
Invest in addiction prevention and treatment: Invest any revenues from the legalization of marijuana into addiction prevention and treatment with a portion given to the municipal level of government so as to ensure programming is tailored to local need. Report annually to the Ontario’s Patient Ombudsman on the impact of the investment of marijuana revenues on addiction prevention and treatment
Ensure products are subject to best-practice health regulation: Work with the federal government to study the health implications of recreational marijuana and develop evidence-based health and safety regulations
The desired outcome of a marijuana strategy is one that includes the private sector as an effective partner in a socially responsible distribution system and that municipal governments also have a seat at the table in the development process of a strategy.
In response to the letter from the OCC, the Ontario government said it was participating in the federal government task force that consulted with jurisdictions. The Ontario government also stated that an inter-ministry committee has begun research and background work and will take a steady approach in shaping a marijuana legislation framework.
For more information: www.canada.ca/en/services/health/campaigns/legalizing-strictly-regulating-