Thirty-seven measures recommended to reduce 'stigmatization' of legal cannabis
The Cannabis Council of Canada (C3) has called on the federal government to provide “immediate financial relief” for the legal cannabis industry and end the “stigmatization” of legal cannabis that allegedly limits progress on the key public health aims of legalization.
On September 22, Health Canada announced the launch of the legislative review of the Cannabis Act. It invited interested individuals and organizations to read the engagement paper “Taking Stock of Progress: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation in Canada” and share their views through the online questionnaire or written feedback until November 21.
C3 confirmed that it submitted a response to the legislative review to urge the federal and provincial governments to deal with the financial viability of current market participants. It called for the government to address the “unpredictably aggressive” excise tax and provincial distributor mark-ups and implement a moratorium on regulatory fees imposed by Health Canada.
“As the world leader in cannabis legalization, Canada is positioned to revisit its financial and regulatory approach to legal cannabis as planned,” C3 CEO and president George Smitherman said. “When cannabis legalization was conceived in legislation, the precautionary principle was applied deliberately and, in many cases, arbitrarily in ways so risk averse that they have contributed to re-stigmatization, and frequently confounded the objective of competing with and eliminating the illicit market, one of legalization’s key public health objectives.”
According to C3, while the current framework has been “a financial success” for governments and provincial monopoly distributors who apply mark-ups, it has also been “a bloodbath” for investors of all sizes within Health Canada’s licensed producers and processors framework.
It also noted that highly regulated and taxed licensed players, often including retailers, “are in a crisis” because of “unbridled competition from an illicit market that does not pay taxes, openly markets and sells unregulated cannabis to minors, and seemingly attracts very little enforcement interest.”
“The time has come for our governments to acknowledge Canadians’ support for legal cannabis and to tear down the walls that prohibit consumers from accessing the information they need to make informed choices about cannabis,” Smitherman said.
C3 noted that its submission contains 37 recommended measures to minimize harm to protect Canadians, promote education and awareness to support informed choices, create progress towards establishing a responsible supply chain, protect public safety, increase access to cannabis for medical purposes, and most importantly, reduce the “stigmatization” of legal cannabis. Some of them include the following:
- Revising the approach to cannabis taxation, mark-ups, and fees to ensure that legal providers are financially sustainable while competing with the illicit cannabis industry;
- Increasing the nature and availability of consumer-focused information about cannabis products;
- Enforcing the laws on the illicit cannabis industry’s “brazen use of the Internet” to openly market and sell cannabis to Canadians;
- Allowing cannabis companies to build brands to help attract the illicit cannabis consumer into the legal market;
- Revising the cannabis retail experience to support informed consumer choices;
- Increasing the 10 mg tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit on cannabis edibles to allow legal edible products to meet market demand, replace illicit edibles, and protect children from “copycat illegal edibles mimicking candy”;
- Allowing patients to access “untaxed” medical cannabis in pharmacy settings so that patients can benefit from practitioner oversight and including medical cannabis in any future reforms to medical insurance coverage and upcoming “pharmacare” program.
“While the Cannabis Act Review is welcomed by C3, it is incumbent upon the Government of Canada to acknowledge the financial crisis facing Health Canada licensed producers and processors and to make immediate changes that will create a sustainable environment for Canada’s legal cannabis industry,” Smitherman said. “We cannot wait for the outcome of the legislative review process for action from the governments.”