Below are some thoughts on the proposed Marijuana Legislation and the potential impact it may have on certain demographics of our community.
I`ve provided a survey to every household in our community to hear directly from you on the direction the legislation should take before it is voted on this Fall in the House of Commons.
Here is my analysis on certain aspects of this proposed legislation:
The current legislation the Liberal Government has before the House of Commons would legalize the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. The legalization of marijuana has been a topic of great conversation around the country and in Edmonton Riverbend. Residents of Edmonton Riverbend are curious about the role the Government will play in the regulation of what is sold and who is selling it. I have explored this topic and although there are still a lot of unanswered questions with the Liberal plan to legalize marijuana, I have compiled some of the answers I do have.
If the Cannabis Act becomes law, anyone who is 18 years or older can possess marijuana—up to 30 grams of it. Four marijuana plants per household would be permitted for personal use. However, exceeding the possession limit or providing someone who is under the age of 18 with marijuana could result in fines, jail time, or both. It should also be noted that these are the rules imposed by the federal government. Provincial or territorial governments can increase the minimum age or decrease the amount that can be in one’s possession. They can also restrict where marijuana can be used. For example, a province could prohibit using marijuana in public or in a vehicle. However, they cannot impose looser restrictions that those of the federal government.
Canadians are curious about the role the Government will play in the regulation of what is sold and who is selling it. The federal government will be responsible for setting strict requirements for marijuana manufacturers, determining what types of cannabis products will be available for sale, setting packaging and labeling requirements, standardizing serving sizes and potency, creating a list of prohibited ingredients, tracking cannabis from seed to sale, and imposing restrictions on promotional activities. Permissible THC limits would be set by the federal government as well. However, provincial governments could restrict these characteristics of the products further if they wish. Legal cannabis producers would also be subject to the federal government’s current legislation that prevents corporations from forming monopolies within the Canadian economy.
The federal government’s responsibilities would include setting requirements for those who grow and manufacture marijuana and setting industry-wide standards, such as THC content and ingredients. However, the provinces would have a role in the regulation as well. In addition to licensing and overseeing the distribution and sale of cannabis, the provinces and territories would be able to impose additional regulations. For example, a province could increase the minimum age for consumption to an age older than 18, decrease the 30 gram possession limit, lower the number of plants permitted per residence to less than 4, or restrict where people can consume cannabis. However, they cannot create more lenient rules than those imposed by the federal government. A province will not be able to decrease the minimum age, permit individuals to possess more than 30 grams or allow more than 4 personal plants to be grown in a household.
Protecting the youth from exposure to marijuana has been one of the larger concerns in regards to Canada’s plans to legalize marijuana. In 2015, 21% of youth reported using marijuana within the previous year. Under the Cannabis Act, no person would be permitted to sell or provide cannabis to any person under the age of 18. Giving or selling cannabis to someone underage would carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail. The same penalty can be imposed upon someone who uses a minor to commit an offence relating to the distribution, sale, or production of marijuana. The Act would also prohibit products or packaging that would be appealing to youth and the promotion of cannabis except in situations where youth would not be able to see it—much like the existing regulations on the promotion of tobacco products. However, information based advertising will be permitted so consumers can make informed, health-conscious decisions.
Decriminalization of marijuana will bring with it a list of new potential penalties for those who abuse the regulations put into place. Providing youth with marijuana, illegal distribution or sale, production beyond personal cultivation limits, and transporting marijuana across Canada’s borders carry penalties of up to 14 years in jail. Possessing more than the legal limit, which is 30 grams, could result in up to five years in jail. The severity of penalties for exceeding possession or cultivation limits will vary based on how much the individual exceeds the limit by. For example, someone who has just a few more grams than permitted by law could be punished with a simple fine. Penalties related to cannabis-impaired driving have been put forward in the proposed drug-impaired driving legislation. These rules will be strictly enforced to ensure that there is no diversion to the illegal market.
Under current marijuana legalization legislation, adults who are 18 years or older would be able to possess and share with other adults up to 30 grams of legal cannabis. The cannabis would be available for purchase at provincially-licensed retailer. If an individual lives in a province that either chooses to not implement a retail framework or has simply not yet implemented one, they would be able to purchase marijuana online from a federally-licensed producer. Additionally, adults would be permitted to grow up to 4 cannabis plants with a maximum height of 100 centimeters per household for personal use—regardless of how many individuals reside in a particular household. Making cannabis products at home, such as edibles, would be legal as well provided that no dangerous organic solvents are used. As for edibles being available for retail purchase, regulations regarding the sale of them would be discussed at a later time after the Cannabis Act is implemented.
The possession limit put forward by the Cannabis Act is in terms of dried cannabis. However, marijuana can take many forms other than the dried form. The limit is 30 grams of dried cannabis, but that does not mean that one is limited to 30 grams regardless of form. The permitted amount can vary greatly based on which type of marijuana is being purchased. To put this in perspective for other forms of cannabis, 1 gram of dried cannabis is equivalent to 5 grams of fresh cannabis, 15 grams of edible products, 70 grams of a liquid product, ¼ of a gram of concentrates, or 1 cannabis plant seed. Therefore, an individual can possess 2,100 grams of a liquid cannabis product but only 7.5 grams of a concentrated form of cannabis, and so on.
Whether it is legal or illegal, youth getting their hands on marijuana is a growing concern, as nearly a quarter of minors reported using marijuana in a 2015 survey. In order to protect youth from legalized marijuana, providing someone with marijuana under the age of 18 or using a minor to commit a cannabis-related offence will be criminalized and carry a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. Additionally, marketing guidelines will be put in place to ensure that distributors do not use packaging that would be appealing to youth and promotional advertisements will be prohibited unless it is in a setting in which youth could not see it, much like the marketing guidelines currently imposed on the tobacco industry. Packaging and advertising should be directed toward informing consumers of contents and health hazards rather than toward promotion, sales and profits.
As members of Parliament debate and eventually vote on this legislation, I want to know your personal thoughts on some of the aspects of this legislation. Please fill out the back of the survey you received in the mail and send it back to me. I want to know your personal thoughts on this legislation.
Further details on the legislation will continue when the House of Commons resumes in September 2017.