CannabisLink.ca
Google
CannabisLink.ca World Wide Web
HOME GOVERNMENT
LEGAL LINKS
MEDICAL NEWS
CannabisLink.ca
Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs
Cannabis : Summary Report
Highlights

Full Report: [HERE ]
CANNABIS: OUR POSITION FOR A CANADIAN PUBLIC POLICY
SEPTEMBER 2002
  • PART IV -- PUBLIC POLICY OPTIONS
  • CONCLUSIONS
  • RECOMMENDATIONS

  • PART I -- GENERAL ORIENTATION

    CHAPTER 1 - OUR MANDATE
    That a special committee of the Senate be struck to examine:
    • the approach taken by Canada to cannabis,its preparations,derivatives and similar synthetic preparations,in context;
    • the effectiveness of this approach,the means used to implement it and the monitoring of its application;
    • the related official policies adopted by other countries;
    • Canada's international role and obligations under United Nations agreements and conventions on narcotics,in connection with cannabis,the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other related treaties; and
    • the social and health impacts of cannabis and the possible consequences of different policies;
    CHAPTER 2 - OUR WORK
    At the Committee's public hearings,the Chair presented the research program as follows: "In order to fully satisfy the mandate conferred upon the committee,the committee has adopted an action plan. This plan centres around three challenges.
    • The first challenge is that of knowledge. We will be hearing from a wide variety of experts,both from Canada and afar,from academic settings,the police,legal specialists,medical specialists,the government sector and social workers.
    • The second challenge,surely the most noble challenge,is that of sharing knowledge. The committee hopes that Canadians from coast to coast will be able to learn and share the information that we will have collected. In order to meet this challenge,we will work to distribute this knowledge and make it accessible to all. We would also like to hear the opinions of Canadians on this topic and in order to do so,we will be holding public hearings in the spring of 2000 throughout Canada.
    • And finally,the third challenge for this committee will be to examine and identify the guiding principles on which Canada's public policy on drugs should be based."
    CHAPTER 3 - GUIDING PRINCIPLES
    On the whole,the legal basis of the criminal law is weak where the prescribed standard
    • first,does not concern a relationship with others and where the characteristics of the relationship do not establish a victim and a perpetrator able to recognize his/her actions;
    • second,has to find its justification outside fundamental social relationships;
    • and third,results in the form of enforcement,the harmful effects of which undermine and challenge the very legitimacy of the law. Where criminal law is involved in these issues,the very standard prescribed by the law turns the perpetrator into the victim and tries to protect him from himself,something it can do only by producing a never-ending stream of knowledge that remains constantly out of his reach. In this context only offences involving significant direct danger to others should be matters of criminal law.
    CHAPTER 4 - A CHANGING CONTEXT
    This chapter puts the Committee's work in context. In recent years,in fact,in the past few months,events of some significance have taken place; some directly linked to illegal drugs,others far removed from them. Obviously,September 11 comes to mind. In social and political terms,the claims of medical users,of recreational users,within the changing context of drug use and,more generally,inter-generational conflict,have to be taken into account. Legislation passed in the aftermath of September 11,some provisions of which could affect police drug investigations,the fight against organized crime and the trial of the Hells Angels in Quebec,must also be taken into account. In legal terms,court decisions have had a direct effect on medical use and a decision will be rendered in the next few months by the Supreme Court on recreational use. In international terms,the fragility of the UNDCP and the development of a continental drug policy for the Americas are relevant to an understanding of certain issues that may even overdetermine national policy. Finally,globalization and the more extreme forms of economic liberalism have been factors too,primarily in western societies but worldwide as well,in the increase of addictive behaviours,be they the use of drugs or other substitutes for social life.  

    PART ll - CANNABIS: EFFECTS, TYPES OF USE, ATTITUDES

    CHAPTER 5 - CANNABIS: FROM PLANT TO JOINT
    Available information on cannabis markets is weak and contradictory. Since 1997, the RCMP's annual reports on drugs suggest that 800 tons of cannabis circulate in Canada each year. Yet,many people told us that cannabis production has increased significantly and that cannabis has become more available than ever in this country. Data on the economic value of the cannabis market are no more reliable. We noted that:
    • The size of the national production has significantly increased,and it is estimated that 50% of cannabis available in Canada is now produced in the country;
    • The main producer provinces are British Columbia,Ontario and Quebec;
    • Estimates of the monetary value of the cannabis market are unreliable. For example, if 400 tons are grown yearly in Canada,at a street value of $225 per ounce,the total value of the Canadian production would be less than $6 billion per year,less than the often quoted value of the BC market alone;
    • An unknown proportion of national production is exported to the United States; and
    • A portion of production is controlled by organized crime elements. We heard many alarmist comments on the increased level of active ingredient (THC) in cannabis,however,it is currently impossible to estimate the average content of cannabis available in the market. More sophisticated growing methods have likely contributed to increasing the THC concentration. We observed that:
    • In its natural state,cannabis contains between 0.5% and 3% THC. Sophisticated growing methods and genetic progress have made it possible to increase THC content in recent years,but it is impossible to estimate the average content of cannabis available in the market; it is reasonable to consider that content varies between 6% and 31%.
    CHAPTER 6 - USERS AND USES: FORM,PRACTICE,CONTEXT
    • The epidemiological data available indicates that close to 30% of the population (12 to 64 years old) has used cannabis at least once;
    • Approximately 2 million Canadians over age 18 have used cannabis during the previous 12 months,approximately 600,000 have used it during the past month,and approximately 100,000 use it daily. Approximately 10% used cannabis during the previous year; and
    • Use is highest between the ages of 16 and 24.

      For youth in the 12-17 age group,we observed that:

    • Canada would appear to have one of the highest rates of cannabis use among youths;
    • Approximately 1 million would appear to have used cannabis in the previous 12 months,750,000 in the last month and 225,000 would appear make daily use; and
    • The average age of introduction to cannabis is 15.
    • Most experimenters stop using cannabis;
    • Regular users were generally introduced to cannabis at a younger age. Long-term users most often have a trajectory in which use rises and falls;
    • Long-term regular users experience a period of heavy use in their early 20s;
    • Most long-term users integrate their use into their family,social and occupational activities; and
    • Cannabis itself is not a cause of other drug use. In this sense,we reject the gateway theory.
    • Cannabis itself is not a cause of delinquency and crime; and
    • Cannabis is not a cause of violence.
    CHAPTER 7 - CANNABIS: EFFECTS AND CONSEQUENCES
    With respect to the effects of cannabis,the Committee observed that:
    • The immediate effects of cannabis are characterized by feelings of euphoria, relaxation and sociability; they are accompanied by impairment of short-term memory,concentration and some psychomotor skills; and
    • Long term effects on cognitive functions have not been established in research.

    The Committee has distinguished between use,at-risk use and excessive use. Quantities used,psychosocial characteristics of the users and factors related to use contexts and quality of the substance all come into play to explain the passage from one category to the other. On at-risk use,the Committee observed that:

    • Most users are not at-risk users insofar as their use is regulated,irregular and temporary,rarely beyond 30 years of age;
    • For users above 16,at-risk use is defined as using between 0.1 to 1 gram per day; and
    • Available epidemiological data suggests that approximately 100,000 Canadians might be at-risk users.
    • The Committee feels that,because of its potential effects on the endogenous cannabinoid system and cognitive and psychosocial functions,any use in those under age 16 is at-risk use. With respect to excessive use we observed that:
    • More than one gram per day over a long period of time is heavy use,which can have certain negative consequences on the physical,psychological and social well-being of the user. According to the epidemiological data available,there is reason to believe that approximately 80,000 Canadians above age 16 could be excessive users;
    • For those between the ages of 16 and 18,heavy use is not necessarily daily use but use in the morning,alone or during school activities;
    • Heavy use can have negative consequences for physical health,in particular for the respiratory system (chronic bronchitis,cancer of the upper respiratory tract);
    • Heavy use of cannabis can result in negative psychological consequences for users,in particular impaired concentration and learning and,in rare cases and with people already predisposed,psychotic and schizophrenic episodes;
    • Heavy use of cannabis can result in consequences for a user's social well-being,in particular their occupational and social situation and their ability to perform tasks; and
    • Heavy use of cannabis can result in dependence requiring treatment; however, dependence caused by cannabis is less severe and less frequent than dependence on other psychotropic substances,including alcohol and tobacco.
    CHAPTER 8 - DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CANNABIS
    The Committee feels it is quite likely that cannabis makes users more cautious, partly because they are aware of their deficiencies and compensate by reducing speed and taking fewer risks. However,because what we are dealing with is no longer the consequences on the users themselves,but the possible consequences of their behaviour on others,the Committee feels that it is important to opt for the greatest possible caution with respect to the issue of driving under the influence of cannabis.

    Given what we have seen,we conclude the following:

    • Between 5% and 12% of drivers may drive under the influence of cannabis; this percentage increases to over 20% for young men under 25 years of age;
    • Cannabis alone,particularly in low doses,has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving. Cannabis leads to a more cautious style of driving. However it has a negative impact on decision time and trajectory. This in itself does not mean that drivers under the influence of cannabis represent a traffic safety risk;
    • A significant percentage of impaired drivers test positive for cannabis and alcohol together. The effects of cannabis when combined with alcohol are more significant than is the case for alcohol alone;
    • Despite recent progress,there does not yet exist a reliable and non intrusive rapid roadside testing method;
    • Blood remains the best medium for detecting the presence of cannabinoids;
    • Urine cannot screen for recent use;
    • Saliva is promising,but rapid commercial tests are not yet reliable enough;
    • The visual recognition method used by police officers has yielded satisfactory results; and
    • It is essential to conduct studies in order to develop a rapid testing tool and learn more about the driving habits of cannabis users.
    CHAPTER 9 - USE OF MARIJUANA FOR THERAPEUTIC PURPOSES
    The question,and the only question,for physicians as professionals is whether,to what extent and in what circumstances,marijuana serves a therapeutic purpose. Physicians should have to determine whether people with certain diseases would benefit from marijuana use and weigh the side effects against the benefits. If they do decide the patient should use marijuana,they then have to consider how he or she might get it.
    • The quality and effectiveness of marijuana,primarily smoked marijuana,have not been determined in clinical studies;
    • There have been some studies of synthetic compounds,but the knowledge base is still too small to determine effectiveness and safety;
    • Generally,the effects of smoked marijuana are more specific and occur faster than the effects of synthetic compounds;
    • The absence of certain cannabinoids in synthetic compounds can lead to harmful side effects,such as panic attacks and cannabinoid psychoses;
    • Smoked marijuana is potentially harmful to the respiratory system;
    • People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes self-regulate their use depending on their physical condition and do not really seek the psychoactive effect;
    • People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes prefer to have a choice as to methods of use;
    • Measures should be taken to support and encourage the development of alternative practices,such as the establishment of compassion clubs;
    • The practices of these organizations are in line with the therapeutic indications arising from clinical studies and meet the strict rules on quality and safety;
    • The studies that have already been approved by Health Canada must be conducted as quickly as possible;
    • The qualities of the marijuana used in those studies must meet the standards of current practice in compassion clubs,not NIDA standards;
    • The studies should focus on applications and the specific doses for various medical conditions; and
    • Health Canada should,at the earliest possible opportunity,undertake a clinical study in cooperation with Canadian compassion clubs
    CHAPTER 10 - CANADIANS: OPINIONS AND ATTITUDES
    • Public opinion on marijuana is more liberal than it was 10 years ago;
    • There is a tendency to think that marijuana use is more widespread and that marijuana is more available than it used to be;
    • There is a tendency to think that marijuana is not a dangerous drug;
    • The concern about organized crime is significant;
    • Support for medical use of marijuana is strong;
    • There is a tendency to favour decriminalization or,to a lesser degree,legalization;
    • People criticize enforcement of the legislation in regards to simple possession of marijuana; and
    • There is a concern for youth and children.

    See also: Media Section [ in whole ]

     

    PART III -- POLICIES AND PRACTICES IN CANADA

    CHAPTER 11 - A NATIONAL DRUG STRATEGY?
    • Canada urgently needs a comprehensive and coordinated national drug strategy for which the federal government provides sound leadership;
    • Any future national drug strategy should incorporate all psychoactive substances, including alcohol and tobacco;
    • To be successful,a national drug strategy must involve true partnerships with all levels of government and with non-governmental organizations;
    • Over the years,the intermittency of funding has diminished the ability to coordinate and implement the strategy; adequate resources and a long-term commitment to funding are needed if the strategy is to be successful;
    • Clear objectives for the strategy must be set out,and comprehensive evaluations of these objectives and the results are required;
    • At the developmental stage,there is a need to identify clear and shared criteria for "success";
    • The core funding for the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) has been insufficient for it to carry out its mandate; proper funding for the CCSA is essential;
    • There is a need for an independent organization - the CCSA - to conduct national surveys at least every second year; there is also a need to achieve some level of consistency,comparability and similar time frames for provincially-based school surveys;
    • Coordination at the federal level should be given to a body that is not an integral part of one of the partner departments; and
    • Canada's Drug Strategy's should adopt a balanced approach - 90% of federal expenditures are currently allocated to the supply reduction.
    CHAPTER 12 - THE NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE CONTEXT
    • Early drug legislation was largely based on a moral panic,racist sentiment and a notorious absence of debate;
    • Drug legislation often contained particularly severe provisions,such as reverse onus and cruel and unusual sentences; and
    • The work of the Le Dain Commission laid the foundation for a more rational approach to illegal drug policy by attempting to rely on research data. The Le Dain Commission's work had no legislative outcome until 1996 in certain provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act,particularly with regard to cannabis.
    CHAPTER 13 - REGULATING THERAPEUTIC USE OF CANNABIS
    • The MMAR are not providing a compassionate framework for access to marijuana for therapeutic purposes and are unduly restricting the availability of marijuana to patients who may receive health benefits from its use;
    • The refusal of the medical community to act as gatekeepers and the lack of access to legal sources of cannabis appear to make the current regulatory scheme an "illusory" legislative exemption and raises serious Charter implications;
    • In almost one year,only 255 people have been authorized to possess marijuana for therapeutic purposes under the MMAR and only 498 applications have been received
    • this low participation rate is of concern;
    • Changes are urgently needed with regard to who is eligible to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes and how such people gain access to cannabis;
    • Research on the safety and efficacy of cannabis has not commenced in Canada because researchers are unable to obtain the product needed to conduct their trials;
    • No attempt has been made in Health Canada's current research plan to acknowledge the considerable expertise currently residing in the compassion clubs;
    • The development of a Canadian source of research-grade marijuana has been a failure.
    CHAPTER 14 - POLICE PRACTICES
    • The annual cost of drug enforcement in Canada is estimated to be between $700 million and $1 billion;
    • Reduced law enforcement activities resulting from amendments to the drug legislation on cannabis could produce substantial savings or a significant reallocation of funds by police forces to other priorities;
    • Due to the consensual nature of drug offences,police have been granted substantial enforcement powers and have adopted highly intrusive investigative techniques; these powers are not unlimited,however,and are subject to review by Canadian courts;
    • Over 90,000 drug-related incidents are reported annually by police; more than three-quarters of these incidents relate to cannabis and over 50% of all drug-related incidents involve possession of cannabis;
    • From 1991 to 2001,the percentage change in rate per 100,000 people for cannabisrelated offences is +91.5
    • thus,the rate of reported cannabis-related offences has almost doubled in the past decade;
    • The number of reported incidents related to the cultivation of cannabis increased dramatically in the past decade;
    • Reported incident rates vary widely from province to province;
    • Cannabis was involved in 70% of the approximately 50,000 drug-related charges in 1999. In 43% of cases (21,381),the charge was for possession of cannabis.;
    • The rate of charges laid for drug offences vary significantly from province to province;
    • The uneven application of the law is of great concern and may lead to discriminatory enforcement,alienation of certain groups within society,and creation of an atmosphere of disrespect for the law; in general,it raises the issue of fairness and justice; and
    • Statistics on seizure seem to confirm an increase in cannabis cultivation in Canada and also a shift in police priorities regarding this offence.
    CHAPTER 15 - THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
    • The cost of prosecuting drug offences in 2000-2001 was $57 million with approximately $5 million or roughly 10% of the total budget relating to prosecuting cannabis possession offences;
    • In 1999,it was estimated that Canadian criminal courts heard 34,000 drug cases, which involved more than 400,000 court appearances;
    • The Drug Treatment Court initiatives seem very encouraging,although comprehensive evaluations are needed to ensure such programs are effective;
    • Disposition and sentencing data with respect to drug-related offences are incomplete and there is an urgent need to correct this situation;
    • Correctional Service Canada spends an estimated $169 million annually to address illicit drugs through incarceration,substance abuse programs,treatment programs and security measures; expenditures on substance abuse programs are unreasonably low, given the number of inmates who have substance-abuse dependence problems;
    • A criminal conviction can negatively affect a person's financial situation,career opportunities and restrict travel. In addition,it can be an important factor in future dealings with the criminal justice system; and
    • Provincial courts of appeal have so far maintained the constitutionality of cannabis prohibition. They have found that because there is some evidence of harm caused by marijuana use that is neither trivial nor insignificant,Parliament has a rational basis to act as it has done,and the marijuana prohibition is therefore consistent with the principles of fundamental justice in section 7 of the Charter. These decisions have been appealed,and the Supreme Court of Canada will soon decide whether cannabis prohibition is constitutionally sound.
    CHAPTER 16 - PREVENTION
    • Prevention is not designed to control but rather to empower individuals to make informed decisions and acquire tools to avoid at-risk behaviour;
    • A national drug strategy should include a strong prevention component;
    • Prevention strategies must be able to take into account contemporary knowledge about drugs;
    • Prevention messages must be credible,verifiable and neutral;
    • Prevention strategies must be comprehensive,cover many different factors and involve the community;
    • Prevention strategies in schools should not be led by police services or delivered by police officers;
    • The RCMP should reconsider its choice of the DARE program that many evaluation studies have shown to be ineffective;
    • Prevention strategies must include comprehensive evaluation of a number of key elements;
    • A national drug strategy should include mechanisms for widely disseminating the results of research and evaluations;
    • Evaluations must avoid reductionism,involve stakeholders in prevention,be part of the program,and include longitudinal impact assessment;
    • Harm reduction strategies related to cannabis should be developed in coordination with educators and the social services sector; and
    • Harm reduction strategies related to cannabis should include information on the risks associated with heavy chronic use,tools for detecting at-risk and heavy users and measures to discourage people from driving under the influence of marijuana.
    CHAPTER 17 - TREATMENT PRACTICES
    • The expression "drug addiction" should no longer be used and we should talk instead of substance abuse and dependency;
    • Between 5% and 10% of regular cannabis users are at risk of developing a dependency;
    • Physical dependency on cannabis is virtually non-existent;
    • Psychological dependency is moderate and is certainly lower than for nicotine or alcohol;
    • Most regular users of cannabis are able to diverge from a trajectory of dependency without requiring treatment;
    • There are many forms of treatment but nothing is known about the effectiveness of the different forms of treatment for cannabis dependency specifically;
    • As a rule,treatment is more effective and less costly than incarceration;
    • Studies of the treatment programs should be conducted,including treatments programs for people with cannabis dependency; and
    • Studies should be conducted on the interaction of the cannabinoid and the opioid systems.
    CHAPTER 18 - OBSERVATIONS ON PRACTICES
    A study published by CCSA in 1996 but based on 1992 data had identified the following costs of substance abuse:
    • The costs associated with all illegal drugs were $1.4 billion,compared with $7.5 billion in the case of alcohol and $9.6 billion in the case of tobacco.
    • Expressed as a percentage of the gross domestic product,the total costs for all substances was 2.67%. Of this,0.2% was for illegal drugs,1.09% for alcohol and 1.39% for tobacco.
    • The principal costs of illegal drugs are externalities,that is,loss of productivity - $823 million,health care - $88 million,and losses in the workplace - $5.5 million,for a total of about 67% of all costs related to illegal drugs.
    • The cost of public policies,or opportunity costs,represent about 33%.
    • The cost of enforcing the law represents about 29.2% of all costs,or about 88% of all policy costs. The balance goes to prevention,research and administration.

      Overall, we observed the following:

    • The lack of any real national platform for discussion and debate on illegal drugs prevents the development of clear objectives and measurement indicators;
    • The absence of a national platform makes exchange of information and best practices impossible;
    • Practices and approaches vary considerably between and within provinces and territories;
    • The conflicting approaches of the various players in the field are a source of confusion;
    • The resources and powers of enforcement are greatly out of balance compared with those of the health and education fields and the civil society;
    • The costs of all illegal drugs had risen to close to $1.4 billion in 1992;
    • Of the total costs of illegal drugs in 1992,externalities (social costs) represented 67% and public policy costs 33%;
    • The social costs of illegal drugs and the public policy costs are underestimated ;
    • The cost of enforcing the drug laws is more likely to be closer to $1 billion to $1.5 billion per annum;
    • The principal public policy cost relative to cannabis is that of law enforcement and the justice system; which may be estimated to represent a total of $300 to $500 million per annum
    • The costs of externalities attributable to cannabis are probably minimal - no deaths, few hospitalizations,and little loss of productivity;
    • The costs of public policy on cannabis are disproportionately high given the drug's social and health consequences; and
    • The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse is seriously under-funded; its annual budget amounts to barely 0.1% of the social costs of illegal drugs alone (alcohol not included). Its budget should be increased to at least 1%; that is,approximately $15 million per annum.
     

    PART IV -- PUBLIC POLICY OPTIONS

    CHAPTER 19 - THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ENVIRONMENT
    • The series of international agreements concluded since 1912 have failed to achieve their ostensible aim of reducing the supply of drugs;
    • The international conventions constitute a two-tier system that regulates the synthetic substances produced by the North and prohibits the organic substances produced by the South,while ignoring the real danger the substances represent for public health;
    • When cannabis was included in the international conventions in 1925,there was no knowledge of its effects;
    • The international classifications of drugs are arbitrary and do not reflect the level of danger they represent to health or to society;
    • Canada should inform the international community of the conclusions of our report and officially request the declassification of cannabis and its derivatives.
    CHAPTER 20 - PUBLIC POLICIES IN OTHER COUNTRIES
    The vast majority of Canadians have heard about the "war on drugs" which the USA is conducting and about its prohibitionist approach,but many would be surprised to see the major variations between states,indeed between cities,within that country. Even fewer know that Sweden enforces a prohibitionist policy at least as strict as that of the US,but through other means. Many of us have,in one way or another,heard about the "liberal" approach introduced in the Netherlands in 1976. Fewer people know of the Spanish,Italian,Luxembourg or Swiss approaches,which are even more liberal in certain respects. More recently,Canadians learned of the decision by the UK's Minister of the Interior to reclassify cannabis as a Class C drugs,but it is not clear that we know precisely what that means. In view of the preconceptions that many may have in relation to France with regard to wine,many may be surprised to learn that its policy on cannabis appears more "conservative" than that of neighbouring Belgium,for example.
    CHAPTER 21 - PUBLIC POLICY OPTIONS
    A regulatory system for cannabis should permit,specifically:
    • more effective targeting of illegal traffic and a reduction in the role played by organized crime;
    • prevention programs better adapted to the real world and better able to prevent and detect at-risk behaviour;
    • enhanced monitoring of products,quality and properties;
    • better user information and education; and
    • respect for individual and collective freedoms,and legislation more in tune with the behaviour of Canadians. In our opinion,Canadian society is ready for a responsible policy of cannabis regulation that complies with these basic principles.
     

    CONCLUSIONS

    The Committee has endeavoured to take the pulse of Canadian public opinion and attitudes and to consider the guiding principles that are likely to shape public policy on illegal drugs,particularly cannabis. Our report has attempted to provide an update on the state of knowledge and the key issues,and sets out a number of conclusions in each chapter.
    • Billions of dollars have been sunk into enforcement without any greater effect. There are more consumers,more regular users and more regular adolescent users;
    • Billions of dollars have been poured into enforcement in an effort to reduce supply, without any greater effect. Cannabis is more available than ever,it is cultivated on a large scale,even exported,swelling coffers and making organized crime more powerful; and
    • There have been tens of thousands of arrests and convictions for the possession of cannabis and thousands of people have been incarcerated. However,use trends remain totally unaffected and the gap the Commission noted between the law and public compliance continues to widen. It is time to recognize what is patently obvious: our policies have been ineffective, because they are poor policies.
    INEFFECTIVENESS OF THE CURRENT APPROACH
    Clearly,current approaches are ineffective and inefficient. Ultimately,their effect amounts to throwing taxpayers money down the drain in a crusade that is not warranted by the danger posed by the substance. It has been maintained that drugs, including cannabis,are not dangerous because they are illegal but rather are illegal because they are dangerous. This is perhaps true of other types of drugs,but not of cannabis. We should state this clearly once and for all,for public good: it is time to stop this crusade.
    PUBLIC POLICY BASED ON GUIDING PRINCIPLES
    However much we might wish good health and happiness for everyone,we all know how fragile they are. Above all,we realize that health and happiness cannot be forced on a person,especially not by criminal law based on a specific concept of what is morally "right". No matter how attractive calls for a drug-free society might be,and even if some people might want others to stop smoking,drinking alcohol,or smoking joints, we all realize that these activities are part of our social reality and the history of humankind.
    A CLEAR AND COHERENT FEDERAL STRATEGY
    Although the Committee has focused on cannabis,we have nevertheless observed inherent shortcomings in the federal drug strategy. Quite obviously,there is no real strategy or focused action. Behind the assumed leadership provided by Health Canada there emerges a lack of necessary tools for action,a patchwork of ad hoc approaches varying from one substance to another and piecemeal action by various departments.
    A PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY

    - When cannabis was listed as a prohibited substance in 1923,no public debate or discussion was held on the known effects of the drug. In fact,opinions expressed were disproportionate to the dangers of the substance.

    - We have demonstrated that criminal law is not an appropriate governance tool for matters relating to personal choice and that prohibition is known to result in harm which often outweighs the desired positive effects.

    - Indeed available data indicate that the scale of the cannabis use phenomenon can no longer be ignored.

    -All of this does not in any way mean,however,that cannabis use should be encouraged or left unregulated.

    A REGULATORY APPROACH TO CANNABIS
    The prohibition of cannabis does not bring about the desired reduction in cannabis consumption or problematic use. However,this approach does have a whole series of harmful consequences. Users are marginalized,and over 20,000 Canadians are arrested each year for cannabis possession. Young people in schools no longer enjoy the same constitutional and civil protection of their rights as others. Organized crime benefits from prohibition and the criminalization of cannabis enhances their power and wealth. Society will never be able to stamp out drug use - particularly cannabis use.

    Amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) (Production and sale of cannabis for non therapeutic purposes)

    A. General aims of the bill

    • To reduce the injurious effects of the criminalization of the use and possession of cannabis and its derivatives;
    • To permit persons over the age of 16 to procure cannabis and its derivatives at duly licensed distribution centres; and
    • To recognize that cannabis and its derivatives are psychoactive substances that may present risks to physical and mental health and,to this end,to regulate the use and trade of these substances in order to prevent at-risk use and excessive use.

    B. Licence to distribute

    Amend the Act to create a scheme providing for exemption to the criminal offences provided in the CDSA with respect to the distribution of cannabis. A Canadian resident may obtain a licence to distribute cannabis. The resident must undertake not to distribute to persons under the age of 16; must never have been sentenced for a criminal offence,with the exception of offences related to the possession of cannabis,for which an amnesty will be declared; and must agree to procure cannabis only from duly licensed producers. In addition,in accordance with potential restrictions under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,licensed distributors shall not display products explicitly and shall not advertise in any manner.

    C. Licence to produce

    Amend the Act to create an exemption to the criminal offences provided in the CDSA with respect to the production of cannabis. A Canadian resident may obtain a licence to produce cannabis. The resident must undertake to only sell to duly licensed distributors; to sell only marijuana and hashish with a THC content of 13% or less; to limit production to the quantity specified in the licence; to take the measures needed to ensure the security of production sites; to keep detailed records of quantities produced,crops,levels of THC concentration and production conditions; and to submit to departmental inspections. No person charged with and sentenced for criminal offences,with the exception of the possession of cannabis, for which an amnesty will be declared,shall be granted a licence. No person or legal entity,directly or indirectly associated with the production,manufacture,promotion, marketing or other activity connected with tobacco products and derivatives shall be granted a licence. In accordance with potential restrictions under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,cannabis products and their derivatives shall not be advertised in any manner.

    D. Production for personal use

    Amend the Act to create an exemption to the criminal offences provided in the CDSA in order to permit the personal production of cannabis so long as it is not sold for consideration or exchange in kind or other and not advertised or promoted in any other way. In addition,quantities shall be limited to ensure production is truly for personal consumption.

    E. Consumption in public

    Consumption in public places frequented by young people under 16 years of age shall be prohibited.

    F. International trade

    All forms of international trade,except those explicitly permitted under the Act shall be subject to the penalties provided in the CDSA for illegal trafficking.

    G. Other proposals

    • Ensure the establishment of a National Cannabis Board with duly mandated representatives of the federal government and the governments of the provinces and territories. The Board would keep a national register on the production and sale of cannabis and its derivatives,set the amount and distribution of taxes taken on the sale of cannabis products and ensure the taxes collected on the production and sale of cannabis and derivatives are directed solely to prevention of at-risk use,treatment of excessive users, research and observation of trends and the fight against illegal trafficking.
    • The provinces and territories would continue to develop prevention measures that should be directed at at-risk use,as a priority. The Canadian Centre on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency should be mandated to collect best treatment practices and ensure an exchange of information on effective practices and their evaluation.
    • The provinces and territories would continue to develop support and treatment measures that should be directed at excessive use,as a priority. The Canadian Centre on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency should be mandated to collect best prevention practices and ensure an exchange of information on effective practices and their evaluation.
    • Resources available to police and customs to fight smuggling,export in all its forms and cross-border trafficking should be increased.
     

    RECOMMENDATIONS

    Recommendation 1

    The Committee recommends that the position of National Advisor on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency be created within the Privy Council Office; that the Advisor be supported by a small secretariat and that the necessary staff be assigned by federal departments and agencies involved with psychoactive substances on request.

    Recommendation 2

    The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada mandate the National Advisor on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency to call a high-level conference of key stakeholders from the provinces,territories,municipalities and associations in 2003,to set goals and priorities for action on psychoactive substances over a five-year period.

    Recommendation 3

    The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada amend the enabling legislation of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse to change the Centre's name to the Canadian Centre on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency ; make the Centre accountable to Parliament; provide the Centre with an annual basic operating budget of $15 million to be increased annually; require the Centre to table an annual report on actions taken,key issues,research and trends in Parliament and in the provincial and territorial legislatures; mandate the Centre to ensure national coordination of research on psychoactive substances and dependency and to conduct studies into specific issues; and mandate the Centre to undertake an assessment of the national strategy on psychoactive substance and dependency every five years.

    Recommendation 4

    The Committee recommends that,in the legislation creating the Canadian Centre on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency,the Government of Canada specifically include provision for the setting up of a Monitoring Agency on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency within the Centre; provide that the Monitoring Agency be mandated to conduct studies every two years,in cooperation with relevant bodies,on drug-use trends and dependency problems in the adult population; work with the provinces and territories towards increased harmonization of studies of the student population and to ensure they are carried out every two years; conduct ad hoc studies on specific issues; and table a bi-annual report on drug-use trends and emerging problems.

    Recommendation 5

    The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada adopt an integrated policy on the risks and harmful effects of psychoactive substances covering the whole range of substances (medication,alcohol,tobacco and illegal drugs). With respect to cannabis,this policy should focus on educating users,detecting and preventing at-risk use and treating excessive use.

    Recommendation 6

    The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to create a criminal exemption scheme. This legislation should stipulate the conditions for obtaining licences as well as for producing and selling cannabis; criminal penalties for illegal trafficking and export; and the preservation of criminal penalties for all activities falling outside the scope of the exemption scheme.

    Recommendation 7

    The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada declare an amnesty for any person convicted of possession of cannabis under current or past legislation.

    Recommendation 8

    The Committee recommends that the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations be amended to provide new rules regarding eligibility,production and distribution with respect to cannabis for therapeutic purposes. In addition,research on cannabis for therapeutic purposes is essential.

    Recommendation 9

    The Committee recommends that the Criminal Code be amended to lower permitted alcohol levels to 40 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood,in the presence of other drugs,especially,but not exclusively cannabis; and to admit evidence from expert police officers trained in detecting persons operating vehicles under the influence of drugs.

    Recommendation 10

    The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada create a national fund for research on psychoactive substances and dependency to fund research on key issues,more particularly on various types of use,on the therapeutic applications of cannabis,on tools for detecting persons operating vehicles under the influence of drugs and on effective prevention and treatment programs; that the Government of Canada mandate the Canadian Centre on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency to co-ordinate national research and serve as a resource centre.

    Recommendation 11

    The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada instruct the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to inform the appropriate United Nations authorities that Canada is requesting an amendment to the conventions and treaties governing illegal drugs; and that the development of a Drugs and Dependency Monitoring Agency for the Americas be supported by the Government of Canada.

    [ TOP ]




    Google



    Last Modified:Wednesday, 02-Nov-2016 15:54:50 PDT 53744