Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat
Address locator 0602E
January 15, 2018
Re: Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis
To the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat,
I am writing to contribute to the consultation on Health Canada’s Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis. I have been very engaged on this file, and have heard from many constituents – cannabis patients, small producers, and other stakeholders – throughout this process.
While I have long been in favour of the legalization of cannabis and cannabis products, I was disappointed with the legislation developed by this government. In the fall of 2017 I submitted 18 amendments to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health during their consideration of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.
The legislation did not go far enough. We must ensure that regulations will not further stigmatize vulnerable populations and that those with criminal records due to cannabis prohibition are pardoned. Regulations should promote a diverse market that includes micro-producers and small businesses. Cannabis must be fully legalized, and the tax rate must keep costs in line with current dispensary sales if the government wants to get rid of the illicit drug market. This is also a unique opportunity to ensure that the legal cannabis industry is environmentally sustainable from the beginning.
Individuals who have histories of non-violent, lower-risk criminal activity who seek to obtain a security clearance so they can participate in the legal cannabis industry should be fully permitted to participate in the legal cannabis industry. The enforcement of cannabis laws disproportionately affects marginalized and racialized communities. These same communities should not be prevented from fully participating in a legal industry. Those with criminal records for cannabis offences due to prohibition already face multiple barriers that limit their full participation in society (for example, obtaining employment due to a criminal record); we should be focusing on reducing these barriers, not strengthening them. I am disappointed that the legislation and proposed regulations do not include any plans to pardon those convicted of activities that will no longer be illegal, and remain hopeful that federal legislation may be introduced that will automatically pardon those individuals.
Canada should look to Oakland’s Equity Permit Program for an example of how to address reparations and discrimination within the cannabis industry. The program’s goal is to minimize barriers of entry into the industry by giving a certain percentage of business licenses to victims of the war on drugs and those local to the area. While the Equity Permit Program is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction. When the program was announced in the spring of 2017, Oakland’s mayor said they were “committed to combating the disparities that have plagued the cannabis industry in the past.” Canada should follow suit and address the discrimination that has plagued marginalized communities and will plague the legal cannabis industry in this country if not addressed. Allowing those with histories of non-violent, lower risk criminal activity to take part in the cannabis industry will contribute to Canada having a diverse, competitive market, one of the recommendations from The Final Report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation. The Task Force also recommended that licensing and production controls encourage the participation of small producers. This is important if the market in Canada is to be more than just a few major producers. Patients and recreational cannabis consumers should have the option to support small, local producers. I fully support the inclusion of micro-cultivators and micro-processors.
Bill C-45 did not include any mention of the environmental impacts of indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation, and neither does Health Canada’s Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis. Research has shown that indoor cannabis production is incredibly energy intensive; in the United States it is estimated to account for 1% of national electricity use. While criminalization has led to indoor cultivation and the impossibility of regulatory standards for cannabis production, legalization will not change the environmental impacts of cannabis production without proper regulations. The government should look into incentivizing businesses and producers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices, and sustainable energy use.
Boulder County in Colorado has established a Marijuana Energy Impact Offset Fund, which requires cannabis growers to either offset their electricity use with local renewable energy, or pay a 2.16 cent charge per kWh. The fee goes towards funding to educate cannabis cultivators on the best cultivation practices with regards to energy consumption and promote sustainable practices.
Other jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis have begun to tackle this issue. We cannot ignore the impact that a thriving cannabis industry will have on Canada’s carbon emissions, and climate change goals. Canada should develop and enforce strong environmental regulations for the cannabis industry as it is legalized, not retroactively.
I am excited by the prospect of a fair and sustainable cannabis industry in Canada. Let us be a global example on international drug law by creating a cannabis industry that focuses on a triple bottom line: economic, social, and environmental sustainability.
Thank you for your consideration. I would be very happy to meet with the department and staff to discuss these matters further.
Elizabeth May, O.C.
Member of Parliament
Saanich – Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canda