Pubdate: Wed, 14 Dec 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Author: Ian Austen


MONTREAL - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize the
recreational use of marijuana, but that doesn't mean Canada will turn
into a giant, smoke-filled set for a Cheech and Chong movie.

If Mr. Trudeau adopts the recommendations of a panel he appointed,
marijuana's move from the black market to the open market will be
highly bureaucratic, heavily taxed and tightly controlled, with
advertising and promotion virtually banned.

"The government doesn't want to have a country consuming marijuana,"
said Bruce Linton, the chairman and chief executive of Canopy Growth,
which owns Tweed, one of 36 companies currently allowed to grow and
sell medical marijuana. "They want a system for those who choose to
consume it."

The recommendations of the panel, which was led by Anne McLellan, a
former cabinet minister from Mr. Trudeau's Liberal Party, were made
public on Tuesday. They propose that the government create a tightly
controlled system that would lift marijuana out of the black market,
but perhaps without exposing it to full sunlight.

"Now is the time to move away from a system that has, for decades,
been focused on the prohibition of cannabis into a regulated legal
market," Ms. McLellan said at a news conference.

Mr. Trudeau has promised to introduce new laws by the

Among other things, the panel suggested that the coming Canadian rules
for cigarette packages, which are being contested by the tobacco
industry, also be adopted for marijuana. They will require plain
packages without logos or slogans, and with standardized designs and
fonts. The panel also recommended mirroring current rules on tobacco
advertising, which essentially ban it.

Sales, the panel said, should be handled through special stores and
not, as the province of Ontario had hoped, through government liquor
stores. And the minimum buying age, it said, should be at least 18 or
match provincial rules for alcohol.

It noted that marijuana stores, which have been popping up in Canadian
cities in anticipation of Mr. Trudeau's efforts to fulfill his
election promise, are clearly illegal, suggesting that they are
unlikely to be part of a new system.

Over all, the panel acknowledged that its system would be even tougher
than current Canadian limits on alcohol and cigarettes, which are
themselves severe by the standards of many other countries. But, the
report said, that simply reflects the need to do more about alcohol
and tobacco.

"In designing a regulatory system for cannabis, we have an opportunity
to avoid similar pitfalls," the report said.

Under the proposed system, householders could own up to four plants,
none taller than one meter, or about 3.3 feet. While the panel
suggested that the law should allow people to share their stash with
friends, individuals would not be allowed to possess more than 30
grams. The panel also recommended maintaining stiff penalties against
illegal sales.

The report found that there was no agreement on how to define when
motorists are impaired by marijuana, and it urged governments to fund
further research on that question.

The panel also said that taxes would have to be adjusted to reflect
the concentration of active ingredients in different kinds of
marijuana and to avoid prices that are so high as to drive buyers back
to the black market.

Several medical marijuana producers, including Canopy, have attracted
additional investment in anticipation of a legal recreational market
in Canada.

For them, however, the recommendations were a mixed bag. The panel
recommended keeping the current medical marijuana system and called
for recreational production to adopt the same tight licensing and control.

But it may be difficult for producers to distinguish themselves and
establish brands in a market with plain packages and few marketing

Tweed, perhaps pushing the limits of the medical marijuana system's
rules, formed a marketing partnership with the rapper Snoop Dogg, who
co-hosts a cooking show with Martha Stewart. At the time, the company
described him as "one of the world's most respected cannabis icons."

It is unclear what value that arrangement would have in a system that
effectively bans advertising and other promotion. But Mr. Linton said
he was confident that the partnership would still be an asset.

"Brands have already begun and exist," he said. "I don't think you can
extinguish what people already know."
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