It looks like the Trudeau government is following through on its campaign commitment to “legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.” In April 2016 the Government of Canada announced, in a speech to the United Nations, that it will introduce measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the spring of 2017. Although the use of medical marijuana is already legalized throughout the nation, the push for the legalization has heightened in recent years as many states across the United States, such as Washington and Colorado, have taken similar action.
As of June 30, 2016, the Canadian Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, moved the nation one step closer to this legislation by announcing the creation of a Task Force to guide the process of legalization. This Task Force will be made up of nine members and headed by former Deputy Prime Minister and Health and Justice Minister, Anne McLellan.
What will the task force do?
Officially known as The Task Force on Marijuana Legalization & Regulation, the group will consult with a variety of experts throughout the nation, as well as gauge public opinion through the newly established www.canada.ca/health. Through this website, the public is encouraged to give their feedback on issues including the enforcement of public safety and how to ensure production is safely handled. Expert consultations will include those in criminal justice, public health, economics, substance abuse and other relevant fields. The Task Force will also meet with local governments on the municipal, territorial and provincial levels. This process will also include consulting with representatives from indigenous governments and groups.
In November 2016 the task force is to present a final report to Ministers with their framework for the creation of a new legislative system in regards to marijuana. This report will later be made available to the public.
Why is it important?
During her announcement on June 30th, Wilson-Raybould made sure to remind citizens that the current Canadian policy regarding recreational marijuana will continue to be enforced until other legislation is in place. (Learn more in the current Statement from the Ministers of Justice, Health and Public Safety on the current marijuana laws).
This is a significant reminder, as current law surrounding marijuana has caused confusion among city governments and is not always enforced diligently. A series of raids throughout Toronto earlier in 2016 led to local officials reaching out to the federal government for clarification on the law. The new legislation will clearly define laws regarding current dispensaries and medical marijuana shops which have been operating in a legal “gray area” in recent years.
After months of pressuring the Liberal government to decriminalize the possession of marijuana for personal use, the New Democrats were not pleased with the announcement which virtually quashed any hope of interim decriminalization laws anytime soon. In a statement following the press conference, the MP of the New Democrats, Guy Caron, stated, “so we’re extremely disappointed with what we heard this morning and will continue our attempts to have the government listen to reason.”