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Legislative Review Report of Canada’s Cannabis Act Published

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A report on Canada’s Cannabis Act –  entitled Legislative Review of the Cannabis Act – What We Heard Report – has now been published by the Expert Panel tasked with overseeing the legislative review.

The country’s Cannabis Act requires a review every three years, including a report on the review with any findings and recommendations.

The What We Heard Report explores several areas including: 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; the impact of legalisation and regulation on access to cannabis for medical purposes; and, impacts 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

It summarizes what the Expert Panel heard during its engagement activities between December 2022 and June 2023. Almost 500 stakeholders in nearly 90 meetings were engaged as part of its first phase of work including researchers and academics, health care professionals and organizations, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, the cannabis industry and more.

The report reads: “There was general agreement that the main objectives of the cannabis framework should continue to be the protection of public health and public safety. Public health stakeholders insisted that the focus of the regime should be on reducing harms associated with consumption, high-potency products, higher-risk product formats, polysubstance use (that is, the consumption of at least 2 substances), cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, driving after cannabis use, and cannabis poisonings of children.

“Public health stakeholders were generally supportive of the precautionary approach — including the 10 milligram delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit for edible cannabis products and restrictions on promotion of these products.

“There were some suggestions that further restrictions should be considered such as stricter age limits on who can possess, distribute, and buy cannabis, setting minimum pricing retailers can charge, and restrictions on selling flavoured products.

“In contrast, industry representatives suggested that elements of the precautionary approach impede their ability to compete with the illicit market and thus risk sending to the illicit market for unregulated products that may pose greater health harms.”

Further recommendations include more public education, drug prevention, and treatment efforts, more research on diverse populations of youth, recognition of First Nations authority over a range of cannabis activities and more.

Chair of the Expert Panel, Morris Rosenberg, commented: “We want to thank everyone who generously gave us their time and energy in sharing their perspectives and answering our questions.

“We have heard a wide variety of perspectives throughout the consultations. A very rich and broad scientific literature was shared with us, as well as diverse lived and living experiences. We hope that we have captured the breadth and nuances of perspectives.”

The Expert Panel will now be developing its final report for the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, which will continue to be informed by engagement activities.

The final report – set to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament by March 2024 – will provide advice and recommendations on areas of the legislative framework or its implementation that could be improved or reformed.

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