Still More to do as Canada Shifts to Legal Cannabis, Liberals Say

OTTAWA — Canada’s shift to a legal cannabis regime is just the first of what the government says are several steps to come, from regulating edibles to training more drug cops.

The steps include rules for new forms of cannabis, scientific research on the effects of legalization and a bill to allow for easier pardons for past convictions of simple pot possession.

The government intends to launch consultations near the end of the calendar year on what rules should be in place for “new classes” of cannabis, including edibles and concentrates.

There will be no legislation, just regulations. Health Canada needs to approve any new rules by Oct. 17, 2019, otherwise edibles will become legal without any framework. But the government intends to finalize the regulations well before the federal election slated for the fall of next year.

The new pardon plan will also take months to come into effect, as legislation to set up the system is to be introduced this fall and must make its way through Parliament.

The Liberals are debating what to do on the politically sensitive issue of drug testing in the workplace, but officials quietly suggest many questions are likely to be answered by the courts.

Some projects flowing from the historic legalization effort will be immediately visible, while others won’t come to fruition until the end of the year or even later.

Beginning Wednesday, the government hopes Canadians notice a new public awareness campaign about cannabis use targeting young people on social media, minority communities and Indigenous Peoples through local organizations.

The messages in the campaign aren’t going to be too much different than ongoing advertising aimed at adults. But officials want to adjust their tactics to ensure young people are aware of the health risks associated with smoking pot and the safety risks of driving while high.

Work is ongoing behind the scenes to set up more centres to certify additional specialist drug officers in different parts of the country so police don’t have to rely for the most part on training in the United States, which doesn’t provide instruction in French.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is asking the Liberals to ensure marijuana tax revenues flow to cities because only three provinces have laid out plans for sharing in the projected windfall to cover the cost of enforcing the new regime.

The federation’s president, Vicki-May Hamm, says the Liberals have not detailed how $81 million in funding for policing will find its way to municipalities.

And as cash registers buzz and legal use takes hold, a vast network of researchers at universities and Statistics Canada plans to capture any and all data to help plan future regulatory or legislative changes.

The national statistics office says if enough Canadians type information into its online portal, it could be able to measure the difference in price between legal and illegal weed and track real-time changes in social and buying behavior.

“As we go about changing a legal regime that has existed for nearly a century, there are many steps that must be taken in proper sequence,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

“It is not a singular event, like flipping a switch. It is a process.”

The process could eventually bump up against political realities, as the early results of Canada’s grand experiment with legal weed will be apparent before the next general election.

But the Liberals don’t expect a backlash at the polls, arguing the policy is in line with the beliefs of the vast majority of Canadians.

“I’m confident that, quite frankly, we’ve done our job and we will continue to do our job,” said Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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