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Canada Launches Review of Cannabis Legalization

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The Canadian government announced Sept. 22 that it has launched a review of its 2018 adult-use cannabis legalization law to evaluate its impact on youth, indigenous communities, the economy, the illicit market and more.

The study was mandated by the Cannabis Act, which took effect in October 2018 and directed Canada’s health minister to conduct a review of the legislation, its administration and operation three years later, according to a Reuters report.

“The work of the Expert Panel will address the ongoing and emerging needs of Canadians while protecting their health and safety,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a public statement. “Through this useful, inclusive and evidence-driven review, we will strengthen the act so that it meets the needs of all Canadians while continuing to displace the illicit market. I look forward to receiving the panel's findings.”

Duclos said the review, which launched a year later than planned, took longer than expected to set in motion because the government wanted to “make sure things were done right” and conduct a more extensive evaluation than the law required, Reuters reported.

The Cannabis Act had two main objectives, according to Health Canada’s press release: “to protect the health and safety of Canadians while serving as a flexible legislative framework that adapts and responds to the ongoing and emerging needs of Canadians,” and to create “a diverse and competitive legal industry made up of small and large players to displace the illicit market.”

The lawmakers who passed the law “recognized the need for an early assessment” of adult-use cannabis legalization to ensure that it continues to address the Canadians’ “needs and expectations,” the press release states.

Morris Rosenberg, who has served in several departments including the Department of Justice and the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, will lead the assessment of the Cannabis Act as Chair of the Expert Panel, according to the announcement. Rosenberg is expected to announce the other four members of the five-member panel in the coming weeks.

“I am honored to be leading the Expert Panel in conducting a thorough, independent review of the Cannabis Act,” Rosenberg said in a public statement. “I look forward to hearing the perspectives of the public, stakeholders, and First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples through the online engagement process underway.”

The panel will ultimately advise Duclos and Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, on the progress made toward achieving the objectives of the Cannabis Act, as well as identify areas of improvement. The law also requires the review to focus on the health and cannabis consumption habits of Canada’s youth, the impact of legalization on indigenous communities and the impact of home cultivation.

The panel also plans to expand the review’s focus to include the following items, according to the press release:

Economic, social and environmental impacts of the act;Progress towards providing adults with access to strictly regulated, lower risk, legal cannabis products;Progress made in deterring criminal activity and displacing the illicit cannabis market;Impact of legalization and regulation on access to cannabis for medical purposes; andImpacts on Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, and women who might be at greater risk of harm or face greater barriers to participation in the legal industry based on identity or socio-economic factors.

All Canadians are invited to share their perspective on legalization through an online questionnaire or through written feedback. All comments are due by Nov. 21, 2021.

"Ensuring that this review is informed by the input of experts and interested partners in many fields, Indigenous partners, as well as individual Canadians, will be essential to the work being done by Mr. Rosenberg and the rest of the Expert Panel,” Bennett said in a public statement. “Congratulations to him, and we look forward to the panel's review. Their work will be vital for our government to continue moving ahead in a responsible way, while also minimizing the health risks associated with cannabis, especially for young Canadians."


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