A few minutes ago a press conference ended announcing the new marijuana task force for legalizing recreational marijuana. The chair will be Anne McLellan, a former deputy prime minister of Public Safety, and a host of other industry experts. The full list can be found here.
Of course, there was little to “announce” today in terms of what direction the new recreational market is heading, and that’s because the task force will decide this. Today was merely the announcement of the task force and who will be on it.
But there are two important take-home messages from today’s announcement. First and foremost, that this task force will consult across cities and provinces (and even outside the country) over the next 3 or 4 months. They will be providing their final report with recommendations in November this year. In my mind, they are moving very quickly (in government terms), and much faster than previously anticipated. I had blogged a few months ago that in the spring of 2017 we may see Gazette Part 1 regulations published for recreational use; now, this seems reasonable. If so, our new timeframe for regulations coming into force could be as early as the summer of 2017.
In other words, recreational cultivation, distribution, sale and consumption, will be regulated and controlled as of late 2017. We anticipate that once the report of recommendations is made available in November this year, that there will be a flurry of new interest in applying to be a producer under the MMPR (medical); it is highly likely that MMPR producers will be grandfathered into recreational cultivation/distribution once the new regulations are published.
The other key message from today’s announcement was that the current laws surrounding marijuana would continue to be enforced until new laws come into play. Considering also Blair’s clear comments that marijuana consumption has a clear and demonstrated negative impact on adolescent health and poses a public safety concern, we can read between the lines – that dispensaries will continue to be shut down over the foreseeable future. The only legal source of marijuana purchasing, of course, is from licensed producers.
My personal view is they will continue to raid dispensaries, but on a demonstrated risk basis. Dispensaries which have a longer history of responsible distribution, may continue to be left alone for the time being.
However, there is one other significant change coming soon – that pharmacies will be given the right to sell medical marijuana at their retail locations. We are expecting the confirmation next week, through indirect contacts in the industry. It is also a very likely scenario that isolated CBD will be descheduled, placing this substance outside the restricted list.
This task force will be publishing an online discussion paper at some point today, allowing stakeholders to provide online comment on the major issues which the task force will be investigating.