Questions about legalized pot regime abound


OTTAWA – The federal task force on legalization and regulation of cannabis made dozens of recommendations Tuesday with regards to introducing the new regime. However, several key questions remain. Among the unknowns:

1. When will legal marijuana be available? The Trudeau government has committed to introducing legislation this spring to implement the new system. But it’s unclear how long it will take the various levels of government to create the necessary regulations and infrastructure for legal sales. The Liberals have plainly said existing prohibitions will apply until the new rules are in place.

2. How much will pot cost? The task force says tax and price policies should help achieve the government’s public health and safety objectives. It recommends taxes therefore be high enough to limit the growth of consumption, but low enough to compete effectively with the illicit market. The members call on governments to come up with the appropriate tax level. They also suggest setting a minimum price and using taxation to discourage purchase of high-potency products.

3. Where will the revenues go? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said late last year any cash that flows to public coffers through taxation of pot should go towards addiction treatment, mental health support and education programs — not general revenues. The task force recommends using revenue from cannabis as a source of funding for administration, education, prevention, research, enforcement and treatment. However, individual provinces and territories might have varying views on where the money should go.

4. Will the black market thrive? A chief goal of legalization is to keep pot out of the hands of children while denying criminals the financial profits. The task force urges maintaining criminal offences for illicit production, trafficking, import and export, as well as administrative penalties for breaches of licensing rules on production, distribution and sale. But it acknowledges there will still be attempts to operate outside of the legal regime.

5. How can the offence of drug-impaired driving be discouraged? The task force recommends informing the public about the dangers of marijuana users getting behind the wheel, and investing in research to better link levels of THC — the active ingredient in cannabis — with impairment and crash risk. But the members say cannabis-impaired driving is more complex to study than alcohol-impaired driving. It can be especially difficult to reliably measure the degree of impairment.