Pubdate: Mon, 28 Nov 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Kelly Cryderman
Page: 4


Chair of task force producing analysis for Ottawa says study will
'engender a lot of interest,' but stresses importance of moving slowly

Ottawa's march toward a controlled market for legal marijuana in
Canada takes a major step forward this week with the delivery of a
task force report that includes advice on a minimum age, product
warnings and measures to prevent drug-impaired driving.

The report on pot legalization will be delivered to cabinet by
Wednesday, said task force chair Anne McLellan, a lawyer and former
federal cabinet minister in the Chretien and Martin

Ms. McLellan said her nine-person group - which has received 30,000
online submissions and visited U.S. states with experience in the
legalization process - has authored a responsible, fair and balanced
report that will "engender a lot of interest."

Speaking on the sidelines of a Bennett Jones LLP business forum last
week, Ms. McLellan said it's hard to understate how significant a
psychological shift will be required as law enforcement, governments
and Canadians as a whole adapt to marijuana legalization - a key
policy plank of the federal Liberal government.

Right now, production and possession of marijuana is illegal unless it
has been authorized for medical purposes, but the government estimates
the illegal marijuana industry's size at $7-billion, annually.

Ottawa has committed to introducing legislation in the spring that
will move marijuana "from a criminal regime, where this was an illegal
substance with criminal sanctions - some of them very serious - to a
legalized product in a regulated marketplace," Ms. McLellan said. It's
important to move slowly, and deliberately, in implementation, she

"Most Canadians think it's time to move away from the system we have.
But they are less clear about words like 'decriminalization' and
'legalization.' "

The report will be made public "in due course," Ms. McLellan said. She
said the task force - which was asked to provide advice for keeping
the drug out of the hands of children and youth - will recommend a
minimum age for marijuana purchases.

In the interest of healthy brain development, the Canadian Medical
Association has said that pot sales should be limited to those 21 and
older, and that restrictions on the potency of marijuana should be in
place for all Canadians younger than 25.

However, others have argued that is unrealistic because pot use among
Canadians 15 to 24 years old is already double that of the general

"The legal age should reflect the ability of an individual to make an
informed decision rather than evaluating the relative safety of use,"
argued the group Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

"Setting a lower age limit may help prevent the continuation of an
underground cannabis market and reduce the associated harms on youth."

Ms. McLellan, who served in the justice and health portfolios among
others, also said the task force report will address marijuana
labelling and warnings, and said it's an area in which "the federal
government has a lot of experience based on their tobacco regime."

Special attention will be paid to the issue of drug-impaired driving,
she said.

The task force was also asked to address issues such as where
marijuana will be sold, how to keep profits out of the hands of
organized crime and how to continue access to quality-controlled
marijuana for medical use.

Patient groups, in presentations to the task force, have made the case
that the drug needs to be affordable, through means such as dropping
the sales taxes or by encouraging medical insurers to cover the drug.

Ms. McLellan notes the task force had calls with officials from
Uruguay, which in 2013 became the first country in the world to
legalize marijuana sales. Some task force members travelled to
Colorado, while others went to Washington - U.S. states that have also
had legal pot markets for three years.

Earlier this month, voters in California, Massachusetts and Nevada
passed measures to legalize recreational marijuana - joining Alaska,
Oregon and Washington, D.C.

"Canadians who have been following this area would see that in the
United States - where cannabis is still illegal federally - that there
will probably be a tipping point where the government of the United
States will have to take a look at their ongoing regime of
illegality," Ms. McLellan said.

"That's not for me to say," she added. "But you do see a certain

In its assessment of "affiliations and interests" of task force
members, Health Canada noted Ms. McLellan has been a senior adviser
with Bennett Jones for a decade, and the law firm represents some
clients with interests in the legal marijuana business.
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