November 2, 2018
First, the challenge: Cannabis use is widespread in our society. Canadians, and particularly young Canadians, are using cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world. According to the 2015 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, the prevalence of past-year cannabis use was 21 per cent among youth aged 15 to 19; just under 30 per cent among young adults aged 20 to 24; and 10 per cent among adults over the age of 25. The evidence is clear that young Canadians are currently consuming cannabis at alarming rates.
There are well known risks associated with cannabis use. This is particularly so for younger Canadians when the drug is consumed frequently and intensively. There is evidence that frequent and heavy use of cannabis can affect brain development in children and adolescents.
Beyond the health risks associated with cannabis, the criminalization of this drug results in tens of thousands of criminal records each year, which can have long-term consequences for Canadians, including stigmatization, marginalization and restricted employment opportunities.
Criminalization of cannabis has also contributed significantly to high costs and backlogs in the criminal justice system. More than half of all reported drug offences were cannabis related. In 2016, this amounted to nearly 55,000 offences reported to police. The majority of these offences--81 per cent--were possession offences.
Prior to legalization, 100% of non-medical cannabis was provided by an illegal market worth between $6 billion and $7 billion. These drugs were, and remain, untested for potency or contaminants.
It was for all of these reasons that Bill C-45, an Act respecting Cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, was introduced. The Bill was passed by the House of Commons and Senate and became law on October 17, 2018. It is now known as the Cannabis Act.
The Cannabis Act creates a legal framework where adults can access legal cannabis through an appropriate retail framework sourced from a well-regulated industry or grown in limited amounts at home. The Act is divided into four main themes: consumption, production, distribution, and penalties.
In addition, there is a division of powers between the federal government and the provinces and territories. Provinces and territories are generally responsible for the distribution and sale components of the legalization framework and can create further provincial restrictions as they see fit...