A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada

Below is an excerpt take from “The Final Report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation

Medical Access

Canada’s medical cannabis regime was created and then shaped over time by the federal government’s response to successive court rulings regarding reasonable access. Today, medical cannabis falls within the purview of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).

In formulating our recommendations, we considered various aspects of access, including affordability, strains, potency, quality and adequacy of supply. We deliberated on the fundamental question of whether Canada should have a single system or two parallel systems, including separate access for medical cannabis. We also considered the strengths and weaknesses of the country’s current medical cannabis system and regulations.

We considered the views and experiences of patients and their advocacy organizations, the medical community, other jurisdictions and the public. While opinions of stakeholders may differ on some key questions, there is consensus on the need for more research aimed at understanding, validating and approving cannabis-based medicines.

In our view, the outcomes of such research will be necessary to determine the need for and features of a separate system for cannabis for medical purposes. However, as the new regulatory regime is established, it is important that the federal government continue to provide patients with reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes, while contributing to the integrity of the overall cannabis regime and minimizing the potential for abuse and diversion.

To this end, the Task Force recommends that the federal government:

  • Maintain a separate medical access framework to support patients
  • Monitor and evaluate patients’ reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes through the implementation of the new system, with action as required to ensure that the market provides reasonable affordability and availability and that regulations provide authority for measures that may be needed to address access issues
  • Review the role of designated persons under the ACMPR with the objective of eliminating this category of producer
  • Apply the same tax system for medical and non-medical cannabis products
  • Promote and support pre-clinical and clinical research on the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical purposes, with the aim of facilitating submissions of cannabis-based products for market authorization as drugs
  • Support the development and dissemination of information and tools for the medical community and patients on the appropriate use of cannabis for medical purposes
  • Evaluate the medical access framework in five years

Implementation

The successful implementation of a regulatory framework for cannabis will take time and require that governments meet a number of challenges with respect to capacity and infrastructure, oversight, co-ordination and communications.

Capacity: Canada’s governments will need to move swiftly to increase or create capacity in many areas relating to the production and sale of cannabis. Success requires federal leadership, co-ordination and investment in research and surveillance, laboratory testing, licensing and regulatory inspection, training for law enforcement and others, and the development of tools to increase capacity ahead of regulation.

Oversight: To be satisfied that the system is minimizing harms as intended, it will need close monitoring and rapid reporting of results in a number of areas, including regulatory compliance and population health.

Co-ordination: The federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous governments will need to work together on information and data sharing and co-ordination of efforts to set up and monitor all of the components of the new system. The Task Force believes that Canada should prioritize engagement of Indigenous governments and representative organizations, as we heard from Indigenous leaders about their interest in their communities’ participation in the cannabis market.

Communications: We heard from other jurisdictions about the importance of communicating early, consistently and often with the general public. Youth and parents will need the facts about cannabis and its effects. Actors in the new system – including employers, educators, law enforcement, industry, health-care practitioners and others – will require information tailored to their specific roles.

To this end, the Task Force recommends that the federal government:

  • Take a leadership role to ensure that capacity is developed among all levels of government prior to the start of the regulatory regime
  • Build capacity in key areas, including laboratory testing, licensing and inspection, and training
  • Build upon existing and new organizations to develop and co-ordinate national research and surveillance activities
  • Provide funding for research, surveillance and monitoring activities
  • Establish a surveillance and monitoring system, including baseline data, for the new system
  • Ensure timely evaluation and reporting of results
  • Mandate a program evaluation every five years to determine whether the system is meeting its objectives
  • Report on the progress of the system to Canadians
  • Take a leadership role in the co-ordination of governments and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the new system
  • Engage with Indigenous governments and representative organizations to explore opportunities for their participation in the cannabis market
  • Provide Canadians with the information they need to understand the regulated system
  • Provide Canadians with facts about cannabis and its effects
  • Provide specific information and guidance to the different groups involved in the regulated cannabis market
  • Engage with Indigenous communities and Elders to develop targeted and culturally appropriate communications
  • Ensure that Canada shares its lessons and experience with the international community
  • These recommendations, taken together, present a new system of regulatory safeguards for legal access to cannabis that aim to better protect health and to enhance public safety. Their successful implementation requires the engagement and collaboration of a wide range of stakeholders. We believe that Canada is well-positioned to undertake the complex task of legalizing and regulating cannabis carefully and safely.

Click here to read a statement from the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council regarding the report.