Canada has launched a review of its cannabis law, four years after it legalized its recreational use – celebrated by thousands including this man who filmed smoking a knuckle at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto in October 2018.
Ottawa (AFP) – Canada on Thursday launched a long-awaited review of its cannabis regulations, four years after it became the first major economy to legalize its recreational use.
A panel of experts led by Morris Rosenberg, a former deputy justice minister, is set to measure the impact of legalization on young people, indigenous people and others, as well as the economy and the illegal market the new system was intended to dislodge.
The commission will also examine the regulatory burdens on the industry and determine whether a separate framework for medical marijuana – which has been legal since 2001 – should be maintained in order to provide access to patients.
The mandatory review, which comes a year late due to the pandemic, is expected to take 18 months.
The industry has complained about what it describes as exceptionally high taxes on cannabis, an abundance of stores – licensed and unlicensed – and restrictions on advertising and marketing that made it difficult to compete with the black market.
At a press conference, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said preliminary data this year showed that 69 percent of the cannabis market had moved from illegal sources to regulated, legal suppliers.
He said the review would help the government “strengthen the (cannabis) law so that it meets the needs of all Canadians while continuing to dislodge the illicit market.”
“We have learned that young people are at increased risk of exposure to harms from cannabis, such as mental health problems including dependence, anxiety disorders and depression,” said Addictions Minister Caroline Bennett.
She said public awareness campaigns have made “young people more aware of the harms of consuming cannabis,” but that their level of consumption has not decreased since legalization, as hoped.
But she said it has remained relatively stable.
According to government data, 25 percent of the population, or 9.5 million Canadians, used cannabis in 2021, down slightly from the previous year.
They spent an average of $69 CAD ($51 USD) on the pot per month.