Canadian Critics Say Legalization Act Is Good, But Not Perfect

Published on April 13, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
a row of Canadian flags outside Canada House in Trafalgar Square, London

From coast to coast, Canadian marijuana advocates are heralding the introduction of the federal government’s cannabis legislation as the dawn of a new era.

Lisa Campbell, spokesperson for the Cannabis Friendly Business Association in Toronto, describes it as “an exciting time for all Canadians.” National activist Jodie Emery says it’s “a good message to send out” to the world. But it’s not all bouquets and ovations for Justin Trudeau and his government. Campbell, Emery, and other advocates have plenty of criticism for the legislation as well.

Here’s a sampling of opinions, on a variety of aspects of the legislation, from around Canada this evening.

Under the proposed legislation:

The sale of marijuana is restricted to people 18 years and older, but provinces can increase the minimum age.

Deepak Anand, executive director of Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association: “From a Public Health perspective, we agree with the government’s mandate to legalise, regulate and restrict access to Cannabis by minors for recreational purposes.”

Adults can publicly possess up to 30 grams of dried or fresh cannabis.

Lawyer Jack Lloyd: “I like that adults can possess and share cannabis, although the arbitrary 30 gram limit will likely need some work.”

Adults can grow up to four plants at home.

Adults can produce legal cannabis products for personal use at home.

Commercial growers that are licensed and supervised by the federal government can produce marijuana.

Possession, production, and distribution outside the legal system is remain illegal.

Jack Lloyd: “Federal licenses only for producers? This is ripe for a legal challenge unless Health Canada speeds up the process for becoming a licensed producer. If the prerequisites are loosened, that would be better, but as is, they are creating a monopoly that is owned and controlled almost exclusively by elites in the Liberal Party of Canada. Getting a license should be easier, especially if their stated goal is ‘eliminating the black/grey market.’”

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Lisa Campbell: “There is hope for private retail storefronts. Dispensaries as we know them are at risk of not being included in legalization unless they carry products from federally licensed producers and are provincially regulated. It’s important as we come closer to legalization that we don’t shut out the craft cannabis businesses whose activism laid the foundation for legalization.”

Jodie Emery: “Those suffering from prohibition will continue to suffer. Police won’t save money. They will continue to conduct raids. Dispensaries will be raided and people will be sent to jail. That fact that licensed producers monopolize production should raise red flags. Also, Anne McLellan [the head of the federal task force whose recommendations formed the basis for the proposed legislation] is a senior adviser at a law firm that services licensed producers. The firm also has a dozen lawyers listed on securities documents as being granted stakes in one of the companies that will benefit from the legislation.”

Giving or selling marijuana to minors is prohibited.

Jack Lloyd: “I do not like a potential 14-year prison sentence for an individual accused of supplying cannabis to a youth. They do not apply a mandatory minimum to this potential custodial sentence, but it still will result in some very serious potential consequences.”

Jodie Emery: “According to this, a 19-year-old could face a prison sentence for sharing marijuana with a 17-year-old. There is no comparable penalty when it comes to alcohol. The criminalization of young adults who use marijuana continues to be a problem.”

Youth who are found in possession of up to five grams of marijuana won’t be criminally prosecuted, in order to avoid consequences of criminal prosecution.

Jack Lloyd: “I like that no criminal sanctions are to be used against youth found possessing cannabis. This tackles the main problem with the criminal law and prohibition in general as it applies to cannabis: Young people charged and/or convicted of cannabis offences suffer lifelong consequences. It appears the new legislation will prevent this from being an issue for youth going forward.”

Marketing is limited to providing only factual information.

Jack Lloyd: “I do not like the advertising restrictions on cannabis, unless they leave room for interpretation… Cannabis as a substance is completely different than alcohol or tobacco and should not have its advertisements restricted in the same way. Canadian cannabis genetics and breeding deserve to be celebrated, not locked away from view. Cannabis media also deserves to be freely expressed, celebrated, and shared – not shunned, hidden, and driven underground.”

Jodie Emery: “Restricting branding and marketing is problematic. Marijuana is a safer choice than opiates. Marijuana could help alleviate the opioid crisis.”

The existing program for access to medical marijuana continues as it currently exists.

Deepak Anand: “We are happy to see the Government of Canada having retained the ACMPR programme facilitating continued access by patients to Medical Cannabis.”

Jonathan Zaid, founder and executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana: “We welcome the federal government’s decision to preserve the existing Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) within the new legislation for the legalization of cannabis in Canada announced in Parliament today. This ensures that Canadians needing cannabis for medical purposes will be able to continue to obtain it, if they wish, through a separate, accessible, regulated system that is distinct from that for non-medical cannabis. However, other patient needs remain to be addressed in the negotiations with the provinces in the coming months.”

It is illegal to drive within two hours of having an illegal level of drugs in the blood.

Police have the power obtain a saliva sample if they reasonably suspect that a driver has drugs in their body.

Jack Lloyd: “I do not like the rules regarding cannabis and driving. Impaired driving is already against the law. Introducing new rules in this context will invite a massive amount of litigation, and I’m not convinced the government has the science to back their claims up. If someone consumes cannabis on Saturday afternoon, and is tested positive on Monday evening, based on the nanogram level in their saliva, they could face an escalating series of consequences, none of which is couched in proven science or judicially-approved law.

“If they ramp up impaired driving investigations, and are out looking for saliva/ blood concentrations of 2-5 nanograms/ml, then they may well end up criminalizing a large group of citizens (who are actually not ‘impaired’ in any way). Expect a lot of litigation in this area, although I will note that if this were done administratively, like it is dealt with in British Columbia, it might make more sense.”

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Randi Druzin
Randi Druzin
Randi Druzin is an author and journalist in Toronto. She has worked at several major media outlets, including the National Post and the CBC, and has written for dozens of publications, such as The New York Times, Time magazine, ESPN The Magazine, and The Globe and Mail.
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