OUR POSITION FOR A CANADIAN PUBLIC POLICY
REPORT OF THE SENATE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ILLEGAL DRUGS
Chairman: Pierre Claude Nolin
Deputy Chairman: Colin Kenny
Senator Sharon CARSTAIRS, P.C. (ex officio)
Senator Colin KENNY, Deputy Chair
Senator Noel A. KINSELLA (ex officio)
Senator John LYNCH-STAUNTON (ex officio)
Senator Shirley MAHEU
Senator Pierre Claude NOLIN, Chair
Senator Fernand ROBICHAUD, P.C. (ex officio)
Senator Eileen ROSSITER
Assistant Clerk: Daniel Charbonneau
Assistant Clerk: Adam Thompson
Director of Research: Daniel Sansfaçon
Glossary of key terms
Vague term with a variety of meanings depending on the social, medical
and legal contexts. Some equate any
use of illicit drugs to abuse: for example, the international conventions
consider that any use of drugs other than for medical or scientific purposes is
abuse. The Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric
Association defines abuse as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to
clinically significant impairment or distress as defined by one or more of four
criteria (see Chapter 7). In the Report, we prefer the term excessive use (or
Refers to effects resulting from the administration of any drug and
specifically to its short term effects. These effects are distinguished between
central (cerebral functions) and peripheral (nervous system). Effects are
General term referring to the concepts of tolerance and dependency.
According to WHO addiction is the repeated use of a psychoactive substance to
the extent that the user is periodically or chronically intoxicated, shows a
compulsion to take the preferred substance, has great difficulty in voluntarily
ceasing or modifying substance use, and exhibits determination to obtain the
substance by almost any means. Some authors prefer the term addiction to
dependence, because the former also refers to the evolutive process preceding
A substance that acts on receptor sites to produce certain responses.
Agonist neurotransmitter of the endogenous cannabinoid system. Although
not yet fully understood in research, these neurotransmitters seem to act as
modulators as THC increases, the liberation of dopamine in nucleus accumbens and
in the cerebral cortex.
Use behaviour which makes users at risk of developing dependence to the substance.
Endogenous receptors of the active cannabis molecules,
particularly Delta 9-THC. Two endogenous receptors have been identified: CB1
densely concentrated in the hippacampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum and cerebral
cortex, and CB2, particularly abundant in the immune system. The central effects
of cannabis appear to be related only to CB1.
Three varieties of the cannabis plant exist: cannabis sativa, cannabis
indica, and cannabis ruredalis. Cannabis
sativa is the most commonly found, growing in almost any soil condition. The
cannabis plant has been known in China for about 6000 years. The flowering tops
and leaves are used to produce the smoked cannabis. Common terms used to refer
to cannabis are pot, marijuana, dope, ganja, hemp. Hashish is produced from the
extracted resin. Classified as a psychotropic drug, cannabis is a modulator of
the central nervous system. It contains over 460 known chemicals, of which 60
are cannabinoids. Delta-9-tétrahydrocannabinol, referred to as THC, is the
principal active ingredient of cannabis. Other components such delta-8-tétrahydrocannabinol,
cannabinol and cannabidiol are present in smaller quantities and have no
significant impacts on behaviour or perception. However, they may modulate the
overall effects of the substance.
Commission on narcotic drugs (CND)
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was established in 1946 by the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the central
policy-making body within the UN system for dealing with all drug-related
matters. The Commission analyses the world drug abuse situation and develops
proposals to strengthen international drug control.
Refers to effects which are delayed or develop after repeated use. In the
report we prefer to use the term consequences of repeated use rather than
Removal of a behaviour or activity from the scope of the criminal justice
system. A distinction is usually made between de jure decriminalization,
which entails an amendment to criminal legislation, and de facto decriminalization,
which involves an administrative decision not to prosecute acts that nonetheless
remain against the law. Decriminalization concerns only criminal legislation,
and does not mean that the legal system has no further jurisdiction of any kind
in this regard. Other, non-criminal, laws may regulate the behaviour or activity
that has been decriminalized (civil or regulatory offences, etc.).
The use of measures other than prosecution or a criminal conviction for
an act that nonetheless remains against the law. Diversion can take place before
a charge is formally laid, for example if the accused person agrees to undergo
treatment. It can also occur at the time of sentencing, when community service
or treatment may be imposed rather than incarceration.
Modification of the sentences provided in criminal legislation for a
particular behaviour In the case of cannabis, it generally refers to the removal
of custodial sentences.
State where the user continues its use of the substance despite
significant health, psychological, relational, familial or social problems.
Dependence is a complex phenomenon which may have genetic components.
Psychological dependence refers to the psychological symptoms associated with
craving and physical dependence to tolerance and the adaptation of the organism
to chronic use. The American Psychiatric Association has proposed seven criteria
(see Chapter 7).
Neuromediator involved in the mechanisms of pleasure.
Any chemical agent that alters the biochemical or physiological processes
of tissues or organisms. In this sense, the term drug refers better to any
substance which is principally used for its psychoactive effects. Also used to
refer to illicit rather than licit (such as nicotine, alcohol or medicines)
European Monitoring Centre on
Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
The European Monitoring Centre was created in 1993 to provide member
states within the EU objective, reliable and comparable information on drugs,
drug addictions and their consequences. Statistical information, documents and
techniques developed in the EMCDDA are designed to give a broad perspective on
drug issues in Europe. The Centre only deals with information. It relies on
national focal points in each of the Member States.
Characteristic of a substance to irrigate the tissues quickly. THC is
Gateway / Gateway Theory
Theory suggesting a sequential pattern in involvement in drug use from
nicotine to alcohol, to cannabis and then to “hard” drugs. In regard to
cannabis, the theory rests on a statistical association between the use of hard
drugs and the fact that these users have generally used cannabis as their first
illicit drug. This theory has not been validated by empirical research and is
Time needed for the concentration of a particular drug
in blood to decline to half its maximum level. The half-life of THC is 4.3 days
on average but is faster in regular users than in occasional users. Because it
is highly fat soluble, THC is stored in fatty tissues, thus increasing its
half-life to as much as 7 to 12 days. Prolonged use of cannabis increases the
period of time needed to eliminate it from the system. Even one week after use,
THC metabolites may remain in the system. They are gradually metabolised in the
urine (one third) and in feces (two thirds). Traces of inactive THC metabolites
can be detected as long as 30 days after use.
Resinous extract from the flowering tops of the cannabis plant transformed into a paste.
Various international conventions have been adopted by the international
community since 1912, first under the League of Nations, then under the United
Nations, to regulate the possession, use, production, distribution, sale, etc.,
of various psychotropic substances. Currently, the three main conventions in
force are the 1961 Single Convention, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic
Substance and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic. Canada is a signatory
to all three conventions. Subject to countries’ national constitutions, these
conventions establish a system of regulation where only medical and scientific
uses are permitted. This system is based on the prohibition of source plants
(coca, opium and cannabis) and the regulation of synthetic chemicals produced by
International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)
The Board is an independent, quasi-judicial organization responsible for
monitoring the implementation of the UN conventions on drugs. It was created in
1968 as a follow up to the 1961 Single Convention, but had predecessors as early
as the 1930s. The Board makes recommendations to the UN Commission on Narcotics
with respect to additions or deletions in the appendices of the conventions.
Disturbance of the physiological and psychological systems through
substance use. Pharmacology generally distinguishes four levels of intoxication:
light, moderate, serious and fatal.
Cigarette of marijuana or hashish with or without tobacco. Because joints
are never identical, scientific analyses of the effects of THC in their use are
more difficult, especially to determine the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and
to examine its effects on driving.
League of Nations
International organisation organization of Sstates until in existence
until 1938; now the United Nations.
Legislating under a regulatory system the culture, production, marketing,
sale and use of substances. Although no such provision currently exist in
relation to "street-drugs" (as opposed to alcohol or tobacco which are
regulated products), a legalization system could take two forms: free of state
control (free markets) and with state controls (regulatory regime).
Mexican term originally referring to a cigarette of poor quality. Has now
become a synonym for cannabis in popular language usage.
Substance which can induce stupor or artificial sleep. Usually restricted
to opiates. Sometimes used incorrectly to refer to all drugs capable of inducing
Office of National Drug
Control Policy (ONDCP) USA
Created in 1984 under the Reagan administration, the Office is under the
direct authority of the White House. It coordinates US policy on drugs. Its
budget is currently US $18 billion.
Substance derived from the opium poppy. The term opiate excludes
synthetic opioids such as heroin and methadone.
Historically, the term most often refers to the period of national
interdiction of alcohol sales in the United States between 1919 and 1933. By
analogy, the term is now used to describe UN and State policies aiming for a
drug-free society. Prohibition is based on the interdiction to cultivate,
produce, fabricate, sell, possess, use, etc., some substances except for medical
and scientific purposes.
Substance which alters mental processes such as thinking or emotions. We
prefer to use this term as it is more neutral than the term “drug” and does
not refer to the legal status of the substance.
Psychotropic substance (see
Used synonymously with psychoactive substance, however the term refers to
drugs primarily used in the treatment of mental disorders, such as anxiolytics,
sedatives, neuroleptics, etc. More specifically,the term refers to the
substances covered in the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
System of control specifying the conditions under which the cultivation,
production, marketing, prescription, sales, possession or use of a substance are
allowed. Regulatory approaches may rest on interdiction (as for illegal drugs)
or controlled access (as for medical drugs or alcohol). Our proposal of an
exemption regime under the current legislation is a regulatory regime.
Main active component of cannabis, D9-THC is highly fat-soluble and has a lengthy half-life. Its psychoactive
effects are modulated by other active components in cannabis. In its natural
state, cannabis contains between 0.5% to 5% THC. Sophisticated cultivation
methods and plant selection, especially female plants, lead to higher levels of
Reduced response of an organism and increased capacity to support the
effects of a substance after a more or less lengthy period of use. Tolerance
levels are extremely variable between substances, and tolerance to cannabis is
believed to be lower than for most other drugs,including tobacco and alcohol.
Characteristic of a substance which induces intoxication, i.e.,
“poisoning”. Many substances, including some common foods, have some level
of toxicity. Cannabis presents almost no toxicity and cannot lead to an
United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP)
Established in 1991, the Program works to educate the world about the
dangers of drug abuse. The Program aims to strengthen international action
against drug production, trafficking and drug-related crime through alternative
development projects, crop monitoring and anti-money laundering programs. UNDCP
also provides accurate statistics through the Global Assessment Programme (GAP)
and helps to draft legislation and train judicial officials as part of its Legal
Assistance Programme. UNDCP is part of the UN Office for Drug Control and the
Prevention of Crime.
World Health Organization (WHO)
The World Health Organization, the United
Nations' specialized agency for health, was established on
April 7, 1948. WHO’s objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the
attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health is
defined in WHO’s Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and
social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Special Committee on Illegal Drugs addressed the question of drugs just as
everyone else does, with the same preconceptions, attitudes, fears and anxieties
we all share. Of course, we had at our disposal the 1996 study our colleagues
conducted on government legislation dealing with illegal drugs, which had
enabled them to hear a number of witnesses over several months. We also knew at
the outset that research expertise would be available to us, but it is still
difficult to overcome attitudes and opinions that we have long taken for
granted. Whether one is in favour of enhanced enforcement or, on the contrary,
greater liberalization, opinions often resist the facts and in a field such as
this the production of facts, even through scientific research, is not
necessarily a neutral undertaking. We, like you, have our prejudices and
preconceptions. Together we must make the effort to go beyond such
predispositions. That is one of the objectives of this report.
public policy regime we propose expresses the fundamental premise underlying our
report: in a free and democratic society, which recognizes fundamentally but not
exclusively the rule of law as the source of normative rules and in which
government must promote autonomy as far as possible and therefore make only
sparing use of the instruments of constraint, public policy on psychoactive
substances must be structured around guiding principles respecting the life,
health, security and rights and freedoms of individuals, who, naturally and
legitimately, seek their own well-being and development and can recognize the
presence, difference and equality of others.
aware, as much now as we were at the start of our work, that there is no
pre-established consensus in Canadian society on public policy choices in
the area of drugs. In fact, our research has shown us that there are few
societies where there is a broadly shared consensus among the general public,
let alone between the public and experts. We are well aware, perhaps more so
than at the outset, that the question of illegal drugs, viewed from the
standpoint of public policy, has a broad international context and that we
cannot think or act in isolation. We know our proposals are provocative, that
they will meet with resistance. However, we are also convinced that Canadian
society has the maturity and openness to welcome an informed debate.
Part I – General
Chapter 1 – Our mandate
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;
That the special committee consist of five senators, three of whom shall constitute a quorum;
That the Honourable Senators Banks, Kenny, Nolin, Rossiter and (a fifth Senator to be named by the Chief Government Whip) be named to the committee;
That the committee be authorized to send for persons, papers and records, to hear witnesses, to report from time to time, and to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it;
That the briefs and evidence heard during consideration of Bill C-8, An Act respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances and to amend certain other Acts and repeal the Narcotic Control Act in consequence thereof, by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs during the 2nd Session of the 35th Parliament be referred to the committee;
That the documents and evidence compiled on this matter and the work accomplished by the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs during the 2nd Session of the 36th Parliament be referred to the committee;
That the committee be empowered to authorize, if deemed appropriate, the broadcasting on radio and/or television and the coverage via electronic media of all or part of its proceedings and the information it holds;
That the committee present its final report no later than August 31, 2002; and that the committee retain the powers necessary to publicize its findings for distribution of the study contained in its final report for 30 days after the tabling of that report;
That the committee be authorized, notwithstanding customary practice, to table its report to the Clerk of the Senate if the Senate is not sitting, and that a report so tabled be deemed to have been tabled in the Senate.”
Committee's mandate is a continuation of the evolution of drug legislation
passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1996, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. While this legislation was
being studied by the Sub-Committee on Bill C-7 of the Standing Committee on
Health of the House of Commons in 1994 and 1995, the vast majority of witnesses
were highly critical of the bill. The most common criticisms concerned three
points: first, the lack of basic principles or an expressed statement as to the
purpose of the act; second, the fact that the bill perpetuated the prohibition
system of the 1920s, and third, the absence of any emphasis on harm reduction
and prevention criteria. Despite the amendments made by the Sub-Committee of the
House, the testimony heard by the Senate Committee was equally critical.
Witnesses noted that the Act did not categorize drugs on the basis of the
dangers they represented, that it did not contain any specific, rational
criteria and that it was impossible, particularly in view of the Act's
complexity, to determine how it would be implemented in practice. All of these
criticisms led that Senate Committee to "propose energetically" the creation of a Joint Committee of the
House of Commons and the Senate that would review all Canadian drug legislation,
policies and programs. However, the 1997 federal election intervened. Senator Nolin,
convinced of the need for action and faced with the inaction of the House of
Commons, tabled his first motion in 1999 - that a Senate Committee be struck and
given a mandate to examine the legislation, policies and programs on illegal
drugs in Canada. The motion was adopted by the Senate in April 2000.
that Committee was dissolved by general election of October 2000, and was
restruck on March 15, 2001, with an amended mandate: the scope of its work
was now restricted to cannabis “in its context”. We chose to interpret this
Chapter 2 – Our Work
Committee's public hearings, the Chair presented the research program as
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.
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
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
of our mandate, including an obligation to provide Canadians with objective and
rigorous information, we have emphasized rigour and openness throughout the
entire process, an approach that was all the more important as opinions on all
sides of the illegal drugs issue are strong and often categorical. But rigour is
not enough. For the information to reach Canadians, we could not reserve it for
our exclusive use, hence the second principle that guided us: openness. From the
outset, we insisted that all our work be made available as soon as possible on
our Web site and we entered into direct dialogue with our fellow citizens as
well as with experts.
Committee approved a research program divided into five major axes of knowledge,
sub-dividing each one into specific issues:
Ø the socio-historical, geopolitical, anthropological, criminological and economic issues of the use and regulation of cannabis;
Ø the medical and pharmacological aspects of the consumption, use and regulation of cannabis;
Ø the legal aspects from a national perspective;
Ø the legal and political issues in an international perspective; and
Ø the ethical issues and Canadians' moral and behavioural standards.
attempt to answer these questions in the most effective and economical manner
possible, the Committee agreed to perform two tasks concurrently: conduct a
research program and hear expert witnesses–complementary activities. We asked
the Parliamentary Research Branch and other researchers to produce syntheses and
analyses of the relevant literature. In all, the Committee received 23 reports
and benefited from summaries of work conducted in other countries, including
attendance at international conferences. In all, the Committee held more than 40 days
of public hearings in Ottawa and 10 other Canadian communities, hearing more
than 100 witnesses from all backgrounds, from across Canada and abroad.
second component of our program of work was to examine public opinion. That
meant we had two closely related responsibilities. The first was a duty to
inform, indeed, to educate. We hope those who are offended by that term will
pardon our presumption, but we are convinced that on public policy topics that
are societal issues, it is the duty of political leaders to transmit information
that educates, not merely convinces. The level of knowledge about drugs, even
about cannabis, perhaps the best known drug, is often limited and clouded by
myth. Our second responsibility in taking public opinion into account was to go
out and discover it. We did so in three ways. We publicized our work as widely
and as openly as possible to enable everyone to learn about it and react to it.
Many chose to write us, although they were relatively few compared with the
number of people in this country. We commissioned a qualitative public opinion
study. The focus groups conducted across the country as part of that study are
described in detail in Chapter 10. We also held public hearings in eight
communities across the country, enabling citizens to come and tell us what they
thought, what they knew and what they had experienced.
to be able to interpret all this knowledge and come to conclusions and
recommendations, the third component of our work focussed on guiding principles.
Chapter 3 – Guiding
now been thirty years since the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the
Non-Medical Use of Drugs, the Le Dain Commission, studied issues
similar to those we are studying today. Its report on cannabis, whose scientific
conclusions on the effects of the drug were generally accepted by all members of
the Commission, led to three reports: a majority report by three of the members,
and two minority reports. Each expressed a different concept of the role of the
State and of criminal law, and the roles of science and ethics in the choices
that had to be made. Having examined each of these subjects, we have elected to
set down the guiding principles that clarify the concept we have of the roles
that the state, criminal law, science and ethics must play in the development of
a public policy on cannabis.
considerations take us through what is, that is the realm of facts, to the realm
of what should be, what would be desirable, moving from recognized facts to
standards, then more importantly to values and finally to the means of passing
on and above all implementing these values. This is why ethics was our first
subject. As a guideline, we have adopted the principle that an ethical public
policy on illegal drugs, and on cannabis in particular, must
promote reciprocal autonomy built through a constant exchange of dialogue within
always find ourselves in paradoxical situations where, to a certain degree, each
person has the free will to make decisions and makes free decisions for himself,
while at the same time rules are established in order to regulate interaction
with others, a complex and more or less formal, but appropriate approach. The
goal of governance is freedom, and not control. It is a question of defining the
goals of society through policies and programs of action that are then
implemented through systems and processes and upheld by those who govern that
permits the encouragement and affirmation of those goals for human action. The
law, as a vehicle of choice of governance, does not merely express rules or
limitations passed for the benefit of and on behalf of citizens, but seeks a
reciprocal process of building social relationships through which people,
citizens and governments, can constantly adjust their expectations of behaviour.
We therefore accept as a guiding principle for governance that all
of the means the State has at its disposal must work towards facilitating human
action, particularly the processes allowing for the building of arrangements
between government of the citizenry and governance of the self.
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
Committee’s Report - especially the second part - puts great emphasis on
research-based knowledge. This focus is an attempt to do justice to the
knowledge that has been developed over the past few decades. We considered it
important and indeed necessary to give it detailed consideration. Indeed, the
Committee recommends that the drive to acquire knowledge on specific issues we
deem important be continued. We do not claim, however, to have answered the
fundamental question of why people consume psychoactive substances, such as
alcohol, drugs or medication. We were indeed surprised, given the quantity of
studies conducted each year on drugs, that this area has not been covered. It is
almost as if the quest for answers to technical questions has caused science to
lose sight of the basic issue!
knowledge cannot replace either personal reflection or the political
decision-making process. It supports those processes, science’s greatest
contribution to public drug policy. Our guiding principle is that science,
which must continue to explore specific areas of key issues and reflect on
overarching questions, supports the public policy development process.
These principles have guided
our interpretation of the available information as well as our choice of
recommendations; the reader should always keep them in mind when reading our
Chapter 4 – A changing
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 II – Cannabis:
Effects, types of use, attitudes
Chapter 5 – Cannabis:
from plant to joint
chapter first describes the cannabis plant and the various forms in which it
becomes a consumer drug. We then take a brief look at the geographical origin of
the cannabis plant and the routes along which it circulates in the modern world,
noting at the same time current modes of production (soil-based and
hydroponic) that have developed in certain regions of Canada. We then describe
the pharmacokinetics of the cannabis plant, in particular its main active
ingredients, and their metabolism in the body.
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:
Ø 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;
Ø The main producer provinces are British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec;
Ø 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;
Ø An unknown proportion of national production is exported to the United States; and
Ø A portion of production is controlled by organized crime elements.
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:
Ø 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%.
Ø THC is fat soluble and readily spreads in the innervated tissues of the brain; it reaches a peak in the blood plasma in less than nine minutes and falls to approximately 5% after one hour.
Ø The body is slow to eliminate THC and inactive THC metabolites can be detected in urine up to 27 days after use in the case of regular users.
Ø Psychoactive effects generally last two to three hours and may last as many as five to seven hours after use.
– Users and uses: form,
cannabis? How do the patterns of use in Canada compare to those in other
countries? In what context is cannabis used? Why? What populations are most
vulnerable? What are the social consequences of cannabis, specifically on
delinquency and criminal behaviour? Most important, what trajectories do
cannabis users follow, specifically with respect to consumption of other drugs?
very least, partial answers to these questions are prerequisite to establishing
policy on a substance. In Canada, knowledge of patterns and contexts of cannabis
use verges on the abysmal. In the early 1980s, the USA, the United Kingdom, and
Australia introduced monitoring systems for the general population and the
student population. In the last five years, a number of European countries have
introduced data collection systems as part of the European Monitoring Centre for
Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Canada, by contrast, has carried out only two
epidemiological general population surveys specific to drugs (in 1989 and 1994),
and only some provinces conduct surveys of the student population, using
different methods and instruments that preclude data comparison. Furthermore,
few sociological or anthropological studies are conducted on the circumstances
or context of illegal drug use, specifically for cannabis. The result is that
our pool of knowledge on users and characteristics of use is sorely lacking.
no explanation for this situation, at least no satisfactory explanation. In the
1970s, following up on the work done by the Le Dain Commission, Canada
could have set up a trend monitoring system. In the 1980s, when Canada’s
Anti-Drug Strategy was adopted, to which the federal government allocated $210M
over five years, a data collection system could well have been created. The fact
that it was not could be due to an absence of leadership or vision, a fear of
knowing, the division of powers among
levels of government, or the absence of a socio-legal research tradition within
the departments responsible for justice and health. In fact, all of the above
are probable factors. Whatever the case, it is our contention that this
situation, unacceptable by definition, requires timely remedial action. We must
resign ourselves to working with the scarce Canadian data available, and, more
significantly, the virtually non-existent comparable data. We will also look at
studies and data from other countries.
chapter is divided into four sections. The first covers consumption patterns in
the population as a whole, then specifically in the 12-18 year age group and
compares the patterns in various countries. In the adult population we observed
Ø The epidemiological data available indicates that close to 30% of the population (12 to 64 years old) has used cannabis at least once;
Ø 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
Ø Use is highest between the ages of 16 and 24.
youth in the 12-17 age group, we observed that:
Ø Canada would appear to have one of the highest rates of cannabis use among youths;
Ø 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
Ø The average age of introduction to cannabis is 15.
second section looks at what we know about reasons for and details on use,
including origins and cultural differences. The third section deals specifically
with cannabis user trajectories, including escalation. We have observed the
Ø Most experimenters stop using cannabis;
Ø 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;
Ø Long-term regular users experience a period of heavy use in their early 20s;
Ø Most long-term users integrate their use into their family, social and occupational activities; and
Ø Cannabis itself is not a cause of other drug use. In this sense, we reject the gateway theory.
fourth and last section covers the relationship between cannabis use and
delinquency and crime. Based on research evidence, we concluded that:
Ø Cannabis itself is not a cause of delinquency and crime; and
Ø Cannabis is not a cause of violence.
Effects and Consequences
comes to cannabis, one hears anything and its opposite. While in some areas more
research is needed and in others research results are contradictory, there
exists nevertheless a strong basis of information contradicting many of the
myths that continue to be perpetuated.
chapter is divided into five sections. The first is a collection of statements
on the presumed effects of marijuana that the Committee heard or became aware of
through its research. The following three sections examine the acute effects of
cannabis, followed in turn by the physiological and neurological consequences,
the psychological consequences and the social consequences. Then, because of its
significance and the central place it holds in social and political concerns, we
turn our attention specifically to the question of any possible dependence
arising from prolonged use of cannabis.
respect to the effects of cannabis, the Committee observed that:
Ø 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
term effects on cognitive functions have not been established in research.
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
Ø Most users are not at-risk users insofar as their use is regulated, irregular and temporary, rarely beyond 30 years of age;
Ø For users above 16, at-risk use is defined as using between 0.1 to 1 gram per day; and
Ø Available epidemiological data suggests that approximately 100,000 Canadians might be at-risk users.
Ø 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.
respect to excessive use we observed that:
Ø 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;
Ø 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;
Ø Heavy use can have negative consequences for physical health, in particular for the respiratory system (chronic bronchitis, cancer of the upper respiratory tract);
Ø 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;
Ø 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
Ø 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.
8 – Driving
under the influence of cannabis
is one issue, other than the effects of cannabis use on young people or the
effects of substance abuse, that is likely to be of concern to society and
governments, then it is certainly the effect of the use of cannabis on the
ability to drive a vehicle. We are already familiar with the effects of alcohol
on driving and the many accidents involving injuries or deaths to young people.
In spite of the decreases in use noted in recent years, one fatal accident
caused by the use of a substance is one accident too many.
alcohol, cannabis is the most widely used psychoactive substance, particularly
among young people in the 16-25 age group. Casual use occurs most often in a
festive setting, at weekend parties, often accompanied by alcohol. People in
this age group are also the most likely to have a car accident and are also
susceptible to having an accident while impaired.
affects psychomotor skills for up to five hours after use. The psychoactive
effects of cannabis are also dependent on the amount used, the concentration of
THC and the morphology, experience and expectations of users. But what are the
specific effects of cannabis on the ability to drive motor vehicles? What are
the effects of alcohol and cannabis combined? And what tools are available to
detect the presence of a concentration of THC that is likely to significantly
affect the psychomotor skills involved in vehicle operation?
chapter is divided into three sections. The first considers the ways of testing
for the presence of cannabinoids in the body. The second analyzes studies on the
known prevalence of impaired driving, in both accident and non-accident
contexts. The third and last summarizes what is known about the effects of
cannabis on driving based on both laboratory and field studies. As in the other
chapters, the Committee then draw its own conclusions.
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.
what we have seen, we conclude the following:
Ø 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;
Ø 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;
Ø 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;
Ø Despite recent progress, there does not yet exist a reliable and non intrusive rapid roadside testing method;
Ø Blood remains the best medium for detecting the presence of cannabinoids;
Ø Urine cannot screen for recent use;
Ø Saliva is promising, but rapid commercial tests are not yet reliable enough;
visual recognition method used by police officers has yielded satisfactory
Ø It is essential to conduct studies in order to develop a rapid testing tool and learn more about the driving habits of cannabis users.
- Use of marijuana for therapeutic Purposes
has been renewed interest in the issue of the use of marijuana for therapeutic
purposes in recent years, particularly in Canada. In the wake of an Ontario
Court of Appeal ruling which found the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to be unconstitutional
pertaining to the therapeutic use of marijuana, the federal Minister of Health
made new regulations in July 2001 that give people with specified medical
problems access to marijuana under certain conditions.
the scientific community, the medical community in particular, is divided on the
real therapeutic effectiveness of marijuana. Some are quick to say that opening
the door to medical marijuana would be a step toward outright legalization of
of that should matter to physicians or scientists. It is not a question of
defending general public policy on marijuana or even all illegal drugs. It is
not a question of sending a symbolic message about “drugs”. It is not a
question of being afraid that young people will use marijuana if it is approved
as a medicine. 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.
chapter is devoted to the history of the use of marijuana for therapeutic
purposes and the status of contemporary knowledge of marijuana and synthetic
cannabinoids. We then give a brief account of compassion clubs and other
organizations that supply marijuana for therapeutic use, as well as various
public policy regimes. We conclude with our views on medical use of marijuana.
In a later chapter, we discuss which public policy regime would be most
appropriate given the status of medical use of marijuana
Ø There are clear, though non-definitive indications of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana in the following conditions: analgesic for chronic pain, antispasm for multiple sclerosis, anticonvulsive for epilepsy, antiemetic for chemotherapy and appetite stimulant for cachexi;
Ø There are less clear indications regarding the effect of marijuana on glaucoma and other medical conditions;
Ø Marijuana has not been established as a drug through rigorous, controlled studies;
Ø The quality and effectiveness of marijuana, primarily smoked marijuana, have not been determined in clinical studies;
Ø There have been some studies of synthetic compounds, but the knowledge base is still too small to determine effectiveness and safety;
Ø Generally, the effects of smoked marijuana are more specific and occur faster than the effects of synthetic compounds;
Ø The absence of certain cannabinoids in synthetic compounds can lead to harmful side effects, such as panic attacks and cannabinoid psychoses;
Ø Smoked marijuana is potentially harmful to the respiratory system;
Ø People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes self-regulate their use depending on their physical condition and do not really seek the psychoactive effect;
Ø People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes prefer to have a choice as to methods of use;
Ø Measures should be taken to support and encourage the development of alternative practices, such as the establishment of compassion clubs;
Ø 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;
Ø The studies that have already been approved by Health Canada must be conducted as quickly as possible;
Ø The qualities of the marijuana used in those studies must meet the standards of current practice in compassion clubs, not NIDA standards;
Ø The studies should focus on applications and the specific doses for various medical conditions; and
Ø Health Canada should, at the earliest possible opportunity, undertake a clinical study in cooperation with Canadian compassion clubs.
always difficult to gauge the public’s opinions, attitudes and concerns. The
traditional method of surveying a representative sample of the population was
too expensive for our resources. Surveys also have limits that we discuss in
more detail. However, we did commission a qualitative study using focus groups,
the results of which are presented in this chapter. We also report the results
of other surveys that we researched and considered. As well, many Canadians
wrote to us or sent us e-mails, and others came out to our public hearings
to participate. Obviously we cannot draw solid conclusions from this. The people
who wrote to us were probably those to whom the issue is very important,
regardless of which way they may lean. Some are cited in our Report but we must
reiterate that no conclusion should be drawn from these opinions in terms of
representativeness. No account of Canadians’ opinions on and attitudes toward
drugs in general would be complete without an examination of the role of the
media in shaping those opinions and attitudes. In recent years, as a result of
this Committee’s work and other initiatives, various Canadian newspapers and
magazines have run stories or have written editorials on the issue. These are
the focus of the first part of the chapter. The next part presents the results
of surveys and polls, including the survey we commissioned and surveys conducted
in different provinces. The last part covers our understanding of what Canadians
observed the following:
Ø Public opinion on marijuana is more liberal than it was 10 years ago;
Ø There is a tendency to think that marijuana use is more widespread and that marijuana is more available than it used to be;
Ø There is a tendency to think that marijuana is not a dangerous drug;
Ø The concern about organized crime is significant;
Ø Support for medical use of marijuana is strong;
Ø There is a tendency to favour decriminalization or, to a lesser degree, legalization;
Ø People criticize enforcement of the legislation in regards to simple possession of marijuana; and
Ø There is a concern for youth and children.
-- policies and practices in canada
- A National Drug Strategy?
the importance of the subject, it would probably surprise many Canadians to
learn that only from 1987 to 1993 did Canada have a fully funded national drug
strategy. It is true that Canada has had legislation dealing with the use of
psychoactive substances since the passage of the Opium Act in 1908. This Act was followed by several pieces of
criminal legislation over the years that increased federal enforcement powers
over psychoactive substances and expanded the list of illicit substances. These
pieces of legislation have historically focused on the supply of psychoactive
substances, adopting a prohibitionist approach to use. It is widely acknowledged
now, however, that a more balanced approach is required if one is to deal
effectively with those who abuse psychoactive substances.
chapter recounts the development and implementation of the 1987 National Drug
Strategy, which had as an objective the promotion of a balanced approach to the
problem of psychoactive substance abuse. This is followed by a discussion of
what became of the national strategy and what goals have been achieved.
observed the following:
Ø Canada urgently needs a comprehensive and coordinated national drug strategy for which the federal government provides sound leadership;
Ø Any future national drug strategy should incorporate all psychoactive substances, including alcohol and tobacco;
Ø To be successful, a national drug strategy must involve true partnerships with all levels of government and with non-governmental organizations;
Ø 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;
Ø Clear objectives for the strategy must be set out, and comprehensive evaluations of these objectives and the results are required;
Ø At the developmental stage, there is a need to identify clear and shared criteria for “success”;
Ø 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;
Ø 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;
Ø Coordination at the federal level should be given to a body that is not an integral part of one of the partner departments; and
Ø Canada’s Drug Strategy’s should adopt a balanced approach – 90% of federal expenditures are currently allocated to the supply reduction.
- The National Legislative Context
Drugs have been
prohibited for fewer than a hundred years; cannabis for slightly more than 75 years.
It is tempting to think that the decisions made over the years to use criminal
law to fight the production and use of certain drugs are in keeping with social
progress and the advancement of scientific knowledge about drugs. But is this
really the case? The history of legislation governing illegal drugs in Canada,
like the analysis in Chapter 19 of the structure of international
conventions, suggests that it is highly doubtful. To what extent is such
reasoning really rational? Is the rationale of the system of controls acceptable
in the eyes of civil society, users as well as abstainers? What criteria
motivated legislator decisions? Indeed, were there criteria? What motivated
parliamentarians from Canada and elsewhere to prohibit certain substances, to
control access to certain others, and to permit still others to be sold over the
Knowing where we have
been helps in understanding where we are going. That is the goal of this
chapter, retracing the evolution of Canadian drug laws from 1908 to the present
day. We have identified three legislative periods. The first, and longest, spans
1908 to 1960, the period of hysteria. We were told that drugs were
made criminal because they are dangerous. Analysis of debates in Parliament and
in media accounts clearly shows how far this is from truth. When cannabis was
introduced in the legislation on narcotics in 1923, there was no debate, no
justification, in fact many members did not even know what cannabis was.
The second period,
much shorter, runs from 1961 to 1975, the search for lost reason. Following the
explosion in drug use in the early 1960s and demands for reform from various
sectors of society, governments appointed a commission of inquiry in Canada, the
Le Dain Commission. Last comes the contemporary period at the beginning of
the 1980s. Reform is not on the policy agenda any more and anti-drug policies
have forged ahead.
summary, we observed that:
Ø Early drug legislation was largely based on a moral panic, racist sentiment and a notorious absence of debate;
Ø Drug legislation often contained particularly severe provisions, such as reverse onus and cruel and unusual sentences; and
Ø 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.
- Regulating Therapeutic Use of Cannabis
has an extremely long history of therapeutic use, going back several thousands
of years. It was often used for the same medical conditions it is used for
today. With the development of the pharmaceutical industry in the last century,
the medical community has gradually discontinued its use. Various factors may
explain this. Developments in the pharmaceutical industry provided the medical
community with more stable and better tested medication. The practice of
medicine itself has changed and so has our conception of health. Then, at the
turn of the 20th century, the plants from which opium, cocaine
and cannabis are derived were banned by the international community, except for
medical and scientific purposes. In the case of cannabis, no rigorous study had
been done until recently.
to the social rediscovery of cannabis and the identification of its molecular
composition and chemical elements in the 1960s, renewed interest in the
therapeutic applications of cannabis grew in the early 1970s. More people began
using the plant for its therapeutic benefits and many demanded a relaxation of
the prohibitionist rules governing cannabis.
because its safety and effectiveness have yet to be reviewed in clinical trials,
cannabis has not been approved for sale in Canada as a medical product. Despite
this lack of approval, many use cannabis for its therapeutic purposes without
legal authorization. In addition, because of the many claims regarding its
therapeutic benefit, a growing number of people have called for a less
restrictive approach and are demanding access to cannabis for people who could
benefit from its use.
chapter reviews the events that prompted the recent enactment of the Marihuana
Medical Access Regulations. One of the objectives of the regulations is to
provide a compassionate framework of access to marijuana for seriously ill
Canadians while research regarding its therapeutic application continues. Also
discussed is the implementation of these regulations, which came into force on
30 July 2001.
observed the following:
Ø 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;
Ø 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;
Ø 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;
Ø Changes are urgently needed with regard to who is eligible to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes and how such people gain access to cannabis;
Ø 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;
Ø No attempt has been made in Health Canada’s current research plan to acknowledge the considerable expertise currently residing in the compassion clubs;
Ø The development of a Canadian source of research-grade marijuana has been a failure.
- Police Practices
police priorities regarding enforcement of laws on illicit drugs are, at the
very least, inconsistent, if not contradictory. Some believe that too much
police time, effort and resources are spent in investigating illicit drug
offences and, more specifically, possession offences, even more specifically,
cannabis possession offences. Others, including the police themselves, claim
that police priorities are already focused on traffickers and producers, and
that possession charges are laid as a result of police presence to deal with
other criminal activity. Thus, they maintain that the vast majority of cannabis
possession charges are incidental to other police responsibilities.
chapter reviews the key organizations that are responsible for enforcing
Canada’s current illicit drugs legislation, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). It includes a discussion
of the powers they have been granted, and the investigative techniques used, in
relation to illicit drug investigations. Finally, key police-related
statistics are explored. This information should help clarify some of the
misconceptions related to enforcement of laws on illicit drugs.
Committee found that:
Ø The annual cost of drug enforcement in Canada is estimated to be between $700 million and $1 billion;
Ø 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;
Ø 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;
Ø 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;
Ø From 1991 to 2001, the percentage change in rate per 100,000 people for cannabis-related offences is +91.5 – thus, the rate of reported cannabis-related offences has almost doubled in the past decade;
Ø The number of reported incidents related to the cultivation of cannabis increased dramatically in the past decade;
Ø Reported incident rates vary widely from province to province;
Ø 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.;
Ø The rate of charges laid for drug offences vary significantly from province to province;
Ø 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
Ø Statistics on seizure seem to confirm an increase in cannabis cultivation in Canada and also a shift in police priorities regarding this offence.
- The Criminal Justice System
previous chapter examined how people first come into contact with the criminal
justice system through the enforcement of criminal legislation. Several
questions remain, however. What happens once a person has been charged with a
drug offence? Who is responsible for prosecuting drug cases? What type of
punishment do people receive? Who ends up with a criminal record? Have there
been any challenges to the constitutional validity of drug legislation? These
issues and others related to the criminal justice system are reviewed in this
observed the following:
Ø 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;
Ø In 1999, it was estimated that Canadian criminal courts heard 34,000 drug cases, which involved more than 400,000 court appearances;
Ø The Drug Treatment Court initiatives seem very encouraging, although comprehensive evaluations are needed to ensure such programs are effective;
Ø Disposition and sentencing data with respect to drug-related offences are incomplete and there is an urgent need to correct this situation;
Ø 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;
Ø 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
Ø 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 -
in theory, at least, as a public health issue, a policy on illegal drugs should
call for a strong prevention strategy. Nothing, however, is more fluid, vague,
or even controversial, than prevention. When it comes to illegal drugs, the
legal and political context makes the issue of prevention even harder to clarify
and actions even harder to define. The national legal context surrounding
illegal drugs and the interpretation of international drug policies are such
that because they are defined a priori
as harmful substances, illegal drugs must not be used. Another way of putting it
is that any use is abuse. If use is abuse, if individuals or organizations
involved in prevention are unable to make distinctions that are essential in
setting objectives and devising preventive measures, what hope is there of
establishing successful prevention programs? There are, as this chapter will
show, many prevention programs that are not aimed solely or even particularly at
the prevention of use, but rather the prevention of at-risk behaviour. Harm
reduction, for example, is not only a general strategy for dealing with
psychoactive substances, but is also a preventive approach that seeks to lower
the risks associated with drugs and drug control without requiring abstinence.
However, harm reduction is the subject of much controversy and criticism because
it is based on the premise that use of drugs is a social reality. Addressing the
issue of prevention means considering at the same time government policies on
illegal drugs. Any discussion of prevention entails discussion of the limits of
government intervention and of how one conceives of human action. How far should
government interventions go in identifying groups at risk without further
stigmatizing groups already at risk? To what extent are humans rational beings
who act in their best interest provided they are given the right information?
chapter on prevention begins with a statement that will come as no surprise to
health or justice experts: when it comes to prevention, there is lots of talk,
but the resources allocated are small and the initiatives weak. The second
section asks the question: what prevention? We look at current knowledge of the
factors underlying prevention initiatives and the effectiveness of some
preventive measures, with special emphasis on one of the most important weapons
in the war on drugs, the DARE program. The third section looks at the harm
reduction approach to prevention. As in the other chapters, our conclusions are
in the form of observations that may serve to guide future actions.
Committee found that:
Ø Prevention is not designed to control but rather to empower individuals to make informed decisions and acquire tools to avoid at-risk behaviour;
Ø A national drug strategy should include a strong prevention component;
Ø Prevention strategies must be able to take into account contemporary knowledge about drugs;
Ø Prevention messages must be credible, verifiable and neutral;
Ø Prevention strategies must be comprehensive, cover many different factors and involve the community;
Ø Prevention strategies in schools should not be led by police services or delivered by police officers;
Ø The RCMP should reconsider its choice of the DARE program that many evaluation studies have shown to be ineffective;
Ø Prevention strategies must include comprehensive evaluation of a number of key elements;
Ø A national drug strategy should include mechanisms for widely disseminating the results of research and evaluations;
Ø Evaluations must avoid reductionism, involve stakeholders in prevention, be part of the program, and include longitudinal impact assessment;
Ø Harm reduction strategies related to cannabis should be developed in coordination with educators and the social services sector; and
Ø 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 -
With the exception of
the treatment given to offenders imprisoned in federal institutions and
Aboriginals, the care available to individuals who are substance-dependent is
essentially the responsibility of the provinces and territories. This chapter is
therefore brief since we received only a few submissions and heard few witnesses
on this question.
In Chapter 7 we
determined that physical dependency on cannabis was rare and insignificant. Some
symptoms of addiction and tolerance can be identified in habitual users but most
of them have no problem in quitting and do not generally require a period of
withdrawal. As far as forms of psychological dependency are concerned, the
studies are still incomplete but the international data tend to suggest that
between 5% and 10% of regular users (using at least in the past month) are
at risk of becoming dependent on cannabis. We estimated that approximately 3% or
600,000 adult Canadians have consumed cannabis in the past month and that
approximately 0.5% or 100,000 use it on a daily basis. This indicates that
somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 people might be at-risk and 5,000 to 10,000
might make excessive use. For those aged 16 and 17, the numbers were between
50,000 and 70,000 at-risk and 8,000 to 17,000 potentially excessive users. The
data also indicated that the peak period for intensive use is between the ages
of 17 and 25 years. These broad parameters indicate where to look to prevent
dependency and offer treatment services for those in need.
What form does
cannabis dependency take? Most authors agree that psychological dependency on
cannabis is relatively minor. In fact, it cannot be compared in any way with
tobacco or alcohol dependency and is even less common than dependency on certain
Ø The expression ‘drug addiction’ should no longer be used and we should talk instead of substance abuse and dependency;
Ø Between 5% and 10% of regular cannabis users are at risk of developing a dependency;
Ø Physical dependency on cannabis is virtually non-existent;
Ø Psychological dependency is moderate and is certainly lower than for nicotine or alcohol;
Ø Most regular users of cannabis are able to diverge from a trajectory of dependency without requiring treatment;
Ø There are many forms of treatment but nothing is known about the effectiveness of the different forms of treatment for cannabis dependency specifically;
Ø As a rule, treatment is more effective and less costly than incarceration;
Ø Studies of the treatment programs should be conducted, including treatments programs for people with cannabis dependency; and
Ø Studies should be conducted on the interaction of the cannabinoid and the opioid systems.
Chapter 18 -
Observations on practices
chapters have described public action by dividing it into the major sectors of
involvement. Before closing the third part of this report, we make some general
observations that cut across the individual areas we have examined. The first
concerns difficulties in harmonizing the various levels and sectors of
involvement; the second, the difficulty in co-ordinating their various
approaches; and the third, the costs of drugs and public policy.
published by CCSA in 1996 but based on 1992 data had identified the following
costs of substance abuse:
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
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.
studies conducted in British Columbia in 1991, in Ontario in 1988 and in Quebec
in 1988, using different methodologies, established costs of $388 million,
$1.2 billion and $2 billion respectively, for a total cost of $3.5 billion
in these three provinces alone. These figures demonstrate the extent to which
such estimates can vary, according to the methodology selected and the
availability of data.
with the CCSA study taken as the standard, two comments must be made. First,
loss of productivity – the major cost – is measured in mortality - $547 million
and morbidity - $275 million. Except in the case of traffic fatalities,
cannabis is not a cause of death and involves none of this type of social cost.
Morbidity corresponds to losses attributed to problems caused by drug use as
measured by the difference between the average annual income of users and of the
population in general. Here, two further observations about cannabis should be
noted. A large proportion of cannabis users are young people who are not yet
part of the workforce and cannabis use involves none of the addiction and
attendant problems that follow from heroin or cocaine use. Therefore, the costs
that can be attributed to cannabis in this regard are likely minimal. If one
accepts the methodology of the authors, cannabis
in itself entails few externalities, which are the main measures of the
social cost of illegal drugs.
it should also be noted that the study did not calculate the costs of
substance-related crime. Alcohol is well known for its frequent association with
crimes of violence (at least 30% of all cases), as well as with impaired
driving, which results in major social and economic losses. Crime related to
illegal drugs is of several types: organized crime, crimes against property
committed in order to pay for drugs, true mainly in the case of heroin and
cocaine, and crimes of violence committed under the influence of drugs. With the
exception of organized crime and driving under the influence, cannabis involves
few of the factors that generate criminal behaviour.
according to the CCSA’s study, the main cost of illegal drugs, after loss of
productivity, is the cost of law enforcement, which the study estimates at
approximately $400 million. In Chapters 14 and 15, we note that police
and court costs are certainly much higher than this figure, and probably total
between $1 and $1.5 billion. The proportion of these costs attributable to
cannabis is impossible to determine for certain. But, insofar as 77% of all
drug-related offences involve cannabis, and of these 50% simple possession, and
given that about 60% of incidents result in a charge, of which some 10% to 15%
of cases the accused receives a prison sentence, it is clear that a considerable
proportion of the drug-related activity addressed by the penal justice system is
concerned with cannabis. While admitting this to be a very rough estimate, we
suggest that about 30% of the activity of the justice system is tied up with
cannabis. On the basis of our estimates and the lowest cost of law enforcement,
or $1 billion, it costs about $300 million annually to enforce the
effect, the main social costs of cannabis are a result of public policy choices,
primarily its continued criminalization, while the consequences of its use
represent a small fraction of the social costs attributable to the use of
we observed the following:
Ø The lack of any real national platform for discussion and debate on illegal drugs prevents the development of clear objectives and measurement indicators;
Ø The absence of a national platform makes exchange of information and best practices impossible;
Ø Practices and approaches vary considerably between and within provinces and territories;
Ø The conflicting approaches of the various players in the field are a source of confusion;
Ø The resources and powers of enforcement are greatly out of balance compared with those of the health and education fields and the civil society;
Ø The costs of all illegal drugs had risen to close to $1.4 billion in 1992;
Ø Of the total costs of illegal drugs in 1992, externalities (social costs) represented 67% and public policy costs 33%;
Ø The social costs of illegal drugs and the public policy costs are underestimated ;
Ø The cost of enforcing the drug laws is more likely to be closer to $1 billion to $1.5 billion per annum;
Ø 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;
Ø The costs of externalities attributable to cannabis are probably minimal - no deaths, few hospitalizations, and little loss of productivity;
Ø The costs of public policy on cannabis are disproportionately high given the drug’s social and health consequences; and
Ø 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.
chapter could begin and end with the same words: The international drug control
conventions are, at least with respect to cannabis, an utterly irrational
restraint that has nothing to do with scientific or public health
Three points bear making concerning the substance of the current
The first has to do with the absence of definitions. The terms drugs,
narcotics and psychotropics are not defined in any way except as lists of
products included in schedules. It follows that any natural or synthetic
substance on the list of narcotics is, for the purposes of international law, a
narcotic, and that a psychotropic is defined in international law by its
inclusion in the list of psychotropics. The only thing that the 1961 Convention
tells us about the substances to which it applies is that they can be abused.
The 1971 Psychotropics Convention, which reversed the roles in that the
synthetic drug producing countries wanted narrower criteria, indicates that the
substances concerned may cause dependence or central nervous system stimulation
or depression and may give rise to such abuse as to “constitute a public
health problem or a social problem that warrants international control.”
The second point, following from the first, relates to the arbitrary
nature of the classifications. While cannabis is included, along with heroin and
cocaine, in Schedules I and IV of the 1961 Convention, which carry the most
stringent controls, it is not even mentioned by name in the 1971 Convention,
though THC is listed as a Schedule I psychotropic along with mescaline, LSD
and so on. The only apparent criterion is medical and scientific use, which
explains why barbiturates are in Schedule III of the 1971 Convention and
therefore subject to less stringent controls than natural hallucinogens. These
classifications are not just arbitrary, but inconsistent with the substances’
pharmacological classifications and their danger to society.
Third, if there was so much concern about public health based on how
dangerous “drugs” are, one has to wonder why tobacco and alcohol are not on
the list of controlled substances.
conclude from these observations that the international regime for the control
of psychoactive substances, beyond any moral or even racist roots it may
initially have had, is first and foremost
a system that reflects the geopolitics of North-South relations in the 20th century.
Indeed, the strictest controls were placed on organic substances – the coca
bush, the poppy and the cannabis plant – which are often part of the ancestral
traditions of the countries where these plants originate, whereas the North's
cultural products, tobacco and alcohol, were ignored and the synthetic
substances produced by the North’s pharmaceutical industry were subject to
regulation rather than prohibition. It is in this context that the demand made
by Mexico on behalf of a group of Latin American countries during the
negotiations leading up to the 1988 Convention, that their use be banned,
must be understood. It was a demand that restored the balance to a degree, as
the countries of the South had been forced to bear the full brunt of the
controls and their effects on their own
people since the inception of drug prohibition. The result may be
unfortunate, since it reinforces a prohibitionist regime that history has been
shown to be a failure, but it may have been the only way, given the mood of the
major Western powers, to demonstrate the irrationality of the entire system in
the longer term. In any case, it is a short step from there to question the
legitimacy of instruments that help to maintain the North-South disparity yet
fail miserably to reduce drug supply and demand.
the following observations:
Ø The series of international agreements concluded since 1912 have failed to achieve their ostensible aim of reducing the supply of drugs;
Ø 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;
Ø When cannabis was included in the international conventions in 1925, there was no knowledge of its effects;
Ø The international classifications of drugs are arbitrary and do not reflect the level of danger they represent to health or to society;
Ø Canada should inform the international community of the conclusions of our report and officially request the declassification of cannabis and its derivatives.
- Public Policies in Other Countries
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. As may be seen, after the overall
framework of the puzzle has been established by the international community, the
ways the pieces are put together vary widely among states, and at times among
the regions of a single state.
why, in order to learn about the experience and approaches of other countries,
the Committee commissioned a number of research reports on the situations in
other countries and heard representatives of some of those countries in person.
We of course had to make some choices, such as limiting ourselves to the western
countries of the northern hemisphere. This is a weak point in our Report, we
agree, but our resources were limited. In addition, as we wanted to compare
public policies with data on use trends and judicial practices, we were forced
to choose countries with an information base. In our hearings with
representatives of those countries, we were mainly limited by time and cost.
chapter, we describe the situations in five European countries — France, the
Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland — and in Australia and
the United States.
policy is not just a matter of enabling legislation, in this case criminal
legislation. Nonetheless, when it comes to illegal drugs, criminal legislation
occupies a symbolic and determinative place. It is as if this legislation is the
backbone of our public policy. Public discussions of cannabis do not deal so
much with such matters as public health, user health, prevention of at-risk or
excessive use, but with such questions as the pros and cons of
decriminalization, establishing a civil offence or maintaining a criminal
offence, or possible legalization and the extent thereof.
respect of illegal drugs, where the key issues are, first and foremost, matters
of public health and culture (including education and research), and where
criminal law should be used only as a last resort, public policy must be based
primarily on clear principles and objectives. For this to come about, public
policy must be equipped with a set of tools designed to deal with the various
issues that drugs represent to societies. Legislation is only one such tool. The
social and economic costs of illegal drugs affect many aspects of society
through lower productivity and business loss, hours of hospitalization and
medical treatment of all kinds, police time and prison time, and broken or lost
lives. Even if no one can pinpoint the exact figures, a portion of these costs
arise, not from the substances themselves, but from the fact that they are
criminalized. In fact, more than for any other illegal drug, its criminalization
is the principal source of social and economic costs. However, in spite of the
fact that the principal social costs of drugs affect business, health and
family, the emphasis on the legal debate tips the scales of public action in
favour of law enforcement agencies. No one can deny that their work is necessary
to ensure public order and peace and fight organized crime. At the same time,
over 90% of resources are spent on enforcing the law, the most visible actions
with respect to drugs in the public sphere are police operations and court
decisions and, at least with respect to cannabis, the law lags behind individual
attitudes and opinions, thus creating a huge gap between needs and practice.
national strategies display a similar imbalance. The national strategies that
appear to have the greatest chance of success, however, are those that strive to
correct the imbalance. These strategies have introduced knowledge and
observation tools, identified indicators of success with respect to their
objectives, and established a veritable nerve centre for implementing and
monitoring public policy. The law, criminal law especially, is put in its proper
place as one method among many of reaching the defined objectives, not an aim in
chapter is divided into three sections. The first examines the effectiveness of
legal measures for fighting drugs, and shows that legal systems have little
effect on consumption or supply. The second section describes the various
components of a public policy. The third considers the direction of criminal
policy, and defines the main terms used: decriminalization, depenalization,
diversion, legalization, and regulation.
our view, it is clear that if the aim of public policy is to diminish
consumption and supply of drugs, specifically cannabis, all signs indicate
One might think the situation would be worse if not for current anti-drug
action. This may be so. Conversely, one might also think that the negative
impact of anti-drug programs that are currently centre stage are greater than
the positive effect, specifically non-compliance with laws that are
inconsistent with majority attitudes and behaviour. One of the reasons for this
failure is the excessive emphasis placed on criminal law in a context where
prohibition of use and a drug-free society appear to remain the omnipresent and
determining direction of current public policies.
that a public policy on psychoactive
substances must be both integrated and adaptable, target at-risk uses and
behaviours and abuses based on a public health approach that neither trivializes
nor marginalizes users. Implementation of such a policy must be
that decriminalization is a step in the right direction, one that gives society
time to become accustomed to cannabis, to convince opponents that chaos will not
result, to adopt effective preventive measures. We believe however that this
approach is in fact the worst case scenario, depriving the State of a necessary
regulatory tool for dealing with the entire production, distribution, and
consumption network, and delivering hypocritical messages at the same time.
opinion, the data we have collected on cannabis and its derivatives provide
sufficient grounds for our general conclusion that the regulation of the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis,
inasmuch as it is part of an integrated and adaptable public policy, is best
able to respond to the principles of autonomy, governance that fosters human
responsibility and limitation of penal law to situations where there is
demonstrable harm to others. A regulatory system for cannabis should permit,
effective targeting of illegal traffic and a reduction in the role played by
programs better adapted to the real world and better able to prevent and detect
monitoring of products, quality and properties;
user information and education; and
for individual and collective freedoms, and legislation more in tune with the
behaviour of Canadians.
our opinion, Canadian society is ready for a responsible policy of cannabis
regulation that complies with these basic principles.
Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs’ mandate was to examine Canada’s
public policy approach in relation to cannabis and assess its effectiveness and
impact in light of the knowledge of the social and health-related effects of
cannabis and the international context. Over the past two years, the Committee
has heard from Canadian and foreign experts and reviewed an enormous amount of
scientific research. 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.
final section sets out the main conclusions drawn from all this information and
presents the resulting recommendations derived from the thesis we have developed
namely: in a free and democratic society, which recognizes fundamentally but not
exclusively the rule of law as the source of normative rules and in which
government must promote autonomy as far as possible and therefore make only
sparing use of the instruments of constraint, public policy on psychoactive
substances must be structured around guiding principles respecting the life,
health, security and rights and freedoms of individuals, who, naturally and
legitimately, seek their own well-being and development and can recognize the
presence, difference and equality of others.
–thirty years ago
years ago, the Le Dain Commission released its report on cannabis. This
Commission had far greater resources than we did. However, we had the benefit of
Le Dain’s work, a much more highly developed knowledge base since then
and of thirty years' historical perspective.
Commission concluded that the criminalization of cannabis had no scientific
basis. Thirty years later, we confirm this conclusion and add that continued
criminalization of cannabis remains unjustified based on scientific data on the
danger it poses.
Commission heard and considered the same arguments on the dangers of using
cannabis: apathy, loss of interest and concentration, learning difficulties. A
majority of the Commissioners concluded that these concerns, while
unsubstantiated, warranted a restrictive policy. Thirty years later, we assert
that the studies done in the meantime have not confirmed the existence of the
so-called amotivational syndrome and add that most studies rule out this
syndrome as a consequence of the use of cannabis.
Commission concluded that not enough was known about the long-term and excessive
use of cannabis. We assert that these types of use exist and may present some
health risks; excessive use, however, is limited to a minority of users. Public
policy, we would add, must provide ways to prevent and screen for at-risk
behaviour, something our policies have yet to do.
Commission concluded that the effects of long-term use of cannabis on brain
function, while largely exaggerated, could affect adolescent development. We
concur, but point out that the long-term effects of cannabis use appear
reversible in most cases. We note also that adolescents who are excessive users
or become long-term users are a tiny minority of all users of cannabis. Once
again, we would add that a public policy must prevent use at an early age and
Commission was concerned that the use of cannabis would lead to the use of other
drugs. Thirty years' experience in the Netherlands disproves this clearly, as do
the liberal policies of Spain, Italy and Portugal. And here in Canada, despite
the growing increase in cannabis users, we have not had a proportionate increase
in users of hard drugs.
Commission was also concerned that legalization would mean increased use, among
the young in particular. We have not legalized cannabis, and we have one of the
highest rates in the world. Countries adopting a more liberal policy have, for
the most part, rates of usage lower than ours, which stabilized after a short
period of growth.
years later, we note that:
Ø Billions of dollars have been sunk into enforcement without any greater effect. There are more consumers, more regular users and more regular adolescent users;
Ø 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
Ø 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.
of the current approach
clearly defined federal or national strategy exists. Some provinces have
developed strategies while others have not. There has been a lot of talk but
little significant action. In the absence of clear indicators accepted by all
stakeholders to assess Canadian public policy, it is difficult to determine
whether action that has been taken is effective.
that policy is geared to reducing demand (i.e. drug-use rates) and supply (by
reducing the availability of drugs and pushing up drug prices), both these
indicators may be used. A look at trends in cannabis use, both among adults and
young people, forces us to admit that
current policies are ineffective. In Chapter 6, we saw that trends in
drug-use are on the increase. If our estimates do indeed reflect reality, no
fewer that 2 million Canadians aged between 18 and 65 have used cannabis at
least once over the past 12 months, while at least 750,000 young
people between the ages of 14 and 17 use cannabis at least once per month, one
third of them on a daily basis. This proportion appears, at least in the four
most highly-populated provinces, to be increasing. Statistics suggest that both
use and at-risk use is increasing.
course, we must clearly establish whether the ultimate objective is a drug-free
society, at least one free of cannabis, or whether the goal is to reduce at-risk
behaviour and abuse. This is an area of great confusion, since Canadian public
policy continues to use vague terminology and has failed to establish whether it
focuses on substance abuse as the English language terminology used in several
documents seems to suggest or on drug-addiction as indicated by the French
all very well to criticize the “trivialization” of cannabis in Canada, to
“explain” increases in use, but it must also be established why, if this is
indeed the case, this trivialization has occurred. It is also important to
identify the root cause of this trivialization against a backdrop of mainly
anti-drug statements. The courts and their lenient attitude might be blamed for
this. Perhaps the judiciary is at the forefront of those responsible for
cannabis policies and the enforcement of the law. It must also be determined
whether sentences are really as lenient as some maintain. A major issue to be
addressed is whether harsher sentences would indeed be an effective deterrent
given that the possibility of being caught by the police is known to be a much
greater deterrent. Every year, over 20,000 Canadians are arrested for
cannabis possession. This figure might be as high as 50,000 depending on how the
statistics are interpreted. No matter what the numbers, they are too high for
this type of conduct. However, even those numbers are laughable number when
compared to the three million people who have used cannabis over the past 12
months. We should not think that the number of arrests could be significantly
increased even if billions more dollars were allocated to police enforcement.
Indeed, such a move should not even be considered.
at the availability and price of drugs, forces
us to admit that supply-reduction policies are ineffective. Throughout
Canada, above all in British Columbia and Quebec, the cannabis industry is
growing, flooding local markets, irritating the United States and lining the
pockets of criminal society. Drug prices have not fallen but quality has
improved, especially in terms of THC content – even if we are sceptical of the
reported scale of this improvement. Yet, police organizations already have
greater powers and latitude – especially since the September 11, 2001
tragedy – in relation to drugs than in any other criminal matter. In addition,
enforcement now accounts for over 90 % of all spending related to illegal drugs.
To what extent do we want to go further down this road?
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.
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.
what role should the State play? It should neither abdicate responsibility and
allow drug markets to run rife, nor should it impose a particular way of life on
people. We have opted, instead, for a concept whereby public policy promotes
and supports freedom for individuals and society as a whole. For some, this
would undoubtedly mean avoiding drug use. However, for others, the road to
freedom might be via drug use. For society as a whole, in practice, this concept
means a State that does not dictate what should be consumed and under what form.
Support for freedom necessarily means flexibility and adaptability. It is for
this reason that public policy on cannabis has to be clear while at the same
time tolerant, to serve as a guide while at the same time avoiding imposing a
single standard. This concept of the role of the State is based on the principle of autonomy and individual and societal responsibility.
Indeed, it is much more difficult to allow people to make their own decisions
because there is less of an illusion of control. It is just that: an illusion.
We are all aware of that. It is perhaps sometimes comforting, but is likely to
lead to abuse and unnecessary suffering. An ethic of responsibility teaches
social expectations, expectations not to use drugs in public or sell them to
children and responsible behaviour, recognizing at-risk behaviour and being able
to use moderately, and supports people facing hardship by providing a range of
this concept of government action ensues a limited role for criminal law. As far
as cannabis is concerned, only behaviour
causing demonstrable harm to others should be prohibited: illegal
trafficking, selling to minors and impaired driving.
policy shall also draw on available knowledge and scientific research but
without expecting science to provide the answers to political issues. Indeed,
scientific knowledge does have a major role to play in supporting decision-making, at both the individual and government
levels. But science should play no greater role. It is for this reason that the
Committee considers that a drug and dependency monitoring agency and a research
program should be set up to help future decision-makers.
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. Of course, co-ordinating bodies do exist, but lack real tools and
clear objectives, each focusing its action according to its own particular
priorities. This state of affairs has resulted in a whole series of funded
programs being developed without any tangible cohesion.
stakeholders have expressed their frustration to the Committee at the apparently
vanishing pieces of the puzzle and at the whole gamut of incoherent decisions,
that cause major friction on the front lines. Various foreign observers also
expressed their surprise that a country as rich as Canada, which is not immune
to psychoactive substance-related problems, did not have a “champion”, a
spokesperson or a figure of authority able to fully grasp the real issues and
obtain genuine cooperation from all of the stakeholders.
for this reason that we are recommending the creation of the position of
National Advisor on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency to be attached to the
Privy Council. We do not envisage this as a superstructure responsible for
managing budgets and action related to psychoactive substances. We favour an
approach similar to that of the Mission
interministérielle à la drogue et à la toxicomanie in France over one
modelled on that of the United States’ Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The Advisor would have a small dedicated staff, the majority of whom would be on
assignment from various federal departments and bodies involved in drug issues.
Advisor would be responsible: for advising the Cabinet and the Prime Minister
on national and international psychoactive substance-related issues; for
ensuring coordination between federal departments and agencies; for overseeing
the development of federal government psychoactive substance-related objectives
and ensuring these objectives are satisfied; and to serve as a Canadian
government spokesperson on issues related to psychoactive substances
at an international level.
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.
by adequate ressources and tools
federal policy and strategy do not in themselves make a national strategy.
Provinces, territories, municipalities, community organizations and even the
private sector all have a role to play in accordance with their jurisdiction and
priorities. This is necessary and this diversity is worth encouraging. However,
some harmonization and meaningful discussion on practices and pitfalls, on
progress and setbacks, and on knowledge are to be encouraged. Apart from those
provided by the resource-starved piecemeal actions of the Canadian Centre on
Substance Abuse, there are all too few opportunities and schemes to promote
exchanges of this type. The current and
future scale of drug and dependency-related issues warrants that the Canadian
government earmark the resources and establish the tools with which to develop
fair, equitable and considered policies.
majority of Canadian and foreign observers of the drug situation, we were struck
by the relative lack of tools and measures for determining and following up on
the objectives of public psychoactive substance policy. One might not agree with
the numbers-focused goals set out by the Office of National Drug Control Policy
for the reduction of drug use or for the number of drug treatment programs set
up and evaluated. However, we have to admit that at least these figures serve as
guidelines for all stakeholders and as benchmarks against which to measure
one might not feel totally comfortable with the complex Australian
goal-definition process, whereby the whole range of partners from the various
levels of government, organizations and associations meet at a conference every
five years to review goals. However, at least those goals agreed upon by the
various stakeholders constitute a clear reference framework and enable better
harmonization of action.
European monitoring system with its focal points in each country of the European
Union under the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction umbrella
might seem cumbersome; and the American system of conducting various annual
epidemiological studies might appear expensive. We might even acknowledge that
there are problems with epidemiological studies, which are far from providing a
perfect picture of the psychoactive substance use phenomena. However, at least
these tools, referred to and used throughout the western world, permit the
development of a solid information base with which to analyse historical trends,
identify new drug-use phenomena and react rapidly. In addition, it allows for an
assessment of the relevance and effectiveness of action taken. No system of this
type exists in Canada, which is the only industrialized western country not to
have such a knowledge structure.
for these reasons that the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada
support various initiatives to develop a genuine national strategy. Firstly, the
Government should call a national conference of the whole range of partners with
a view to setting out goals and priorities for action over a five-year period.
This conference should also identify indicators to be used in measuring progress
at the end of the five-year period. Secondly, the Canadian Centre on Substance
Abuse needs to be renewed. Not only does this body lack resources but it is also
subject to the vagaries of political will of one Minister, the Minister of
Health. The Centre should have a budget in proportion with the scale of the
psychoactive substance problem and should have the independence required to
address this issue. Lastly, a Canadian Monitoring Agency on Drugs and Dependency
should be created within the Centre.
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
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.
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.
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. Half a century
later, the Le Dain Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Non-Medical Use of
Drugs held a more rational debate on cannabis and took stock of what was known
about the drug. Commissioners were divided not so much over the nature and
effects of the drug but rather over the role to be played by the State and
criminal law in addressing public health-related goals. Thirty years after the
Le Dain Commission report, we are able to categorically state that, used
in moderation, cannabis in itself poses very little danger to users and to
society as a whole, but specific types of use represent risks for users.
addition to being ineffective and costly, criminalization leads to a series of
harmful consequences: users are marginalized and exposed to discrimination by
the police and the criminal justice system; society sees the power and wealth of
organized crime enhanced as criminals benefit from prohibition; and governments
see their ability to prevent at-risk use diminished.
add that, even if cannabis were to have
serious harmful effects, one would have to question the relevance of using the
criminal law to limit these effects. 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. However, current scientific knowledge on cannabis, its
effects and consequences are such that this issue is not relevant to our
available data indicate that the scale of the cannabis use phenomenon can no
longer be ignored. Chapter 6 indicated that no fewer than 30% of Canadians
(12 to 64 years old) have experimented with cannabis at least once in their
lifetime. In all probability, this is an underestimation. We have seen that
approximately 50% of high school students have used cannabis within the past
year. Nevertheless, a high percentage of them stop using, and the vast majority
of those who experiment do not go on to become regular users. Even among regular
users, only a small proportion develop problems related to excessive use, which
may include some level of psychological dependency. Consumption patterns among
cannabis users do not inevitably follow an upward curve but rather a series of
peaks and valleys. Regular users also tend to have a high rate of consumption in
their early twenties, which then either drops off or stabilizes, and in the vast
majority of cases, most often ceasing altogether in their thirties.
this does not in any way mean, however, that cannabis use should be encouraged
or left unregulated. Clearly, it is a psychoactive substance with some effects
on cognitive and motor functions. When smoked, cannabis can have harmful effects
on the respiratory airways and is potentially cancerous. Some vulnerable people
should be prevented, as much as possible, from using cannabis. This is the case
for young people under 16 years of age and those people with particular
conditions that might make them vulnerable, for example those with psychotic
predispositions. As with alcohol, adult users should be encouraged to use
cannabis in moderation. Given that, as for any substance, at-risk use does
exist, preventive measures and detection tools should be established and
treatment initiatives must be developed for those who use the drug excessively.
Lastly, it goes without saying that education initiatives and severe criminal
penalties must be used to deter people from operating vehicles under the
influence of cannabis.
any other substance, there is at-risk use and excessive use. There is no
universally accepted criterion for determining the line between regular use,
at-risk use and excessive use. The context in which use occurs, the age at which
users were introduced to cannabis, substance quality and quantity are all
factors that play a role in the passage from one type of use to another.
Chapters 6 and 7 identified various criteria, which we have collated in
table form below.
Proposed Criteria for Differentiating Use Types
Period of use
Experimental / Occasional
A few times over lifetime
in a group
A few joints
Less than one gram per month
A few times per month
Spread over several years but rarely intensive
Recreational and occupational (to go to school, to go to
work, for sport…) Alone, in
Under 16 years of age
Between 0.1 and 1 gram per day
A few times per week, evenings, especially weekends
Spread over several years with high intensity periods
Occupational and personal problems
No self regulation of use
Over one gram per day
More than once per day
Spread over several years with several months at a time of high
cannabis itself poses very little danger to the user and to society as a whole,
some types of use involve risks. It is time for our public policy to
recognize this and to focus on preventing at-risk use and on providing treatment for excessive
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.
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.
might believe that an alternative policy signifies abandoning ship and giving up
on promoting well-being for Canadians. Others might maintain that a regulatory
approach would fly in the face of the fundamental values of our society. We
believe, however, that the continued prohibition of cannabis jeopardizes the
health and well-being of Canadians much more than does the substance
itself or the regulated marketing of the substance. In addition, we believe that
the continued criminalization of cannabis undermines the fundamental values set
out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms and confirmed in the history of a country based on diversity and
not want to see cannabis use increase, especially among young people. Of note,
the data from other countries that we compared in Chapters 6 and 20
indicate that countries such as the Netherlands, Australia and Switzerland,
which have put in place a more liberal approach, have not seen their long-term
levels of cannabis use rise. The same data also clearly indicate that countries
with a very restrictive approach, such as Sweden and the United States, are
poles apart in terms of cannabis use levels and that countries with similar
liberal approaches, such as the Netherlands and Portugal, are also at opposite
ends of the spectrum, falling somewhere between Sweden and the United States. We
have concluded that public policy itself has little effect on cannabis use
trends and that other more complex and poorly understood factors play a greater
role in explaining the variations.
exemption regime making cannabis available to those over the age of 16 could
probably lead to an increase in cannabis use for a certain period. Use rates
would then level off as interest wanes and as effective prevention programs are
set up. A roller coaster pattern of highs and lows would then follow, as has
been the case in most other countries.
approach is neither one of total abdication nor an indication of abandonment but
rather a vision of the role of the State and criminal law as developing
and promoting but not controlling human action and as stipulating
only necessary prohibitions relating to the fundamental principle of respect
for life, other persons and a harmonious community, and as supporting
and assisting others, not judging and
wish for a drug-free world, fewer smokers or alcoholics or less prescription
drug dependency, but we all know that we shall never be able to eliminate these
problems. More importantly, we should not opt to criminalize them. The Committee
believes that the same healthy and respectful approach and attitude should be
applied to cannabis.
for this reason that the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada
amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act to create a criminal exemption scheme, under which the production and
sale of cannabis would be licensed. Licensing and the production and sale of
cannabis would be subject to specific conditions, which the Committee has
endeavoured to specify. For clarity’s sake, these conditions have been
compiled at the end of this section. It should be noted at the outset that the
Committee suggests cigarette manufacturers should be prohibited from producing
and selling cannabis.
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.
The Committee recommends that
the Government of Canada declare an amnesty for any person convicted of
possession of cannabis under current or past legislation.
Chapter 9, we noted that cannabis has not been approved as a medicinal drug
in the pharmacological sense of the word. In addition to the inherent
difficulties in conducting studies on the therapeutic applications of cannabis,
there are issues arising from the current legal environment and the undoubtedly
high cost to governments of conducting such clinical studies.
we do not doubt that for some medical conditions and for certain people cannabis
is indeed an effective and useful therapy. Is it more effective than other types
of medication? Perhaps not. Can physicians currently prescribe cannabis at a
known dosage? Undoubtedly not. Should persons suffering from certain physical
conditions diagnosed by qualified practitioners be permitted to use cannabis if
they wish to do so? Of this, we are convinced.
regulations made in 2001 by Health Canada, even though they are a step in the
right direction, are fundamentally unsatisfactory. They do not facilitate access
to therapeutic cannabis. They do not consider the experience and expertise
available in compassion clubs. These regulations only govern marijuana and do
not include cannabis derivatives such as hashish and cannabis oils.
for these reasons that the Committee recommends that Health Canada amend the Marihuana
Medical Access Regulations in order to allow compassionate access to
cannabis and its derivatives. As in the previous chapter, proposed rules have
been compiled at the end of this chapter.
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.
Chapter 8, we discussed the fact that research has not clearly established
the effects of cannabis when taken alone on a person’s ability to operate a
vehicle. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to suggest that operating a
vehicle while under the influence of cannabis alters motor functions and affects
a person’s ability to remain in his or her lane. We have also established that
the combined effects of cannabis and alcohol impair faculties even more than
does alcohol taken alone. Epidemiological studies have shown that a certain
number of cannabis users do drive under the influence of the substance and that
a large proportion of these people, mainly the young, appear to believe that
cannabis does not impair their ability to drive.
chapter also indicated that no reliable and non-intrusive roadside detection
tools exist. Saliva-based equipment is a promising development but for the time
being, provide random results. We have also established that a visual
recognition system, which has mainly been developed and assessed in the United
States, is a reliable way of detecting drug-induced impaired driving faculties.
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.
on psychoactive substances, and particularly on cannabis, has undergone a boom
over the past 20 years. The Committee was able to fully grasp the actual extent
of this increase since we faced the challenge of summarizing it. Not all
research is of the same quality and the current political and legal climate
governing cannabis hampers thorough and objective studies. Nevertheless, a solid
fact base was available to the Committee, on which to establish its conclusions
more research needs to be done in a certain number of specific areas. In Chapter 6,
we established that a lack of practical research on cannabis users has resulted
in only a limited amount of information on contexts of use being available. It
is also currently difficult to establish criteria on the various types of
cannabis use in order to guide those responsible for prevention. The Committee
suggests that cannabis use of over one gram per day constitutes excessive use
and that between 0.1 and one gram per day equates to at-risk use. We also
suggest that any use below 16 years of age is at-risk use. This is of course
enlightened speculation, but speculation nevertheless, which remains to be
Chapters 16 and 17, we referred to the fact that we know very little about
the most effective prevention practices and treatment. Here also, the current
context hindered. As far as prevention is concerned, the more or less implicit
“just say no” message and the
focus on cannabis use prevention are strategies that have been dictated by the
prohibition-based environment. In terms of treatment for problem users,
abstinence-based models have long been the dominant approach and continue to sit
very poorly with harm-reduction-based models. Thorough assessment studies are
Canadian Centre on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency must play a key role
in co-ordinating and publishing the results of studies. The Centre does not have
to conduct research itself. This can and indeed must sometimes be carried out by
academics. The Health Research Institutes are also natural players. However, it
is important to clearly identify a single central body to collect research
information. This will enable the information to be distributed as widely
possible and, we hope, used.
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.
Committee is well aware that were Canada to choose the rational approach to
regulating cannabis we have recommended, it would be in contravention of the
provisions of the various international conventions and treaties governing
drugs. We are also fully aware of the diplomatic implications of this approach,
in particular in relation to the United States.
keen to avoid replicating, at the Canada - US border, the problems that marked
relations between the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany over the issue of
drug tourism between 1985 and 1995. This is one of the reasons that justifies
restricting the distribution of cannabis for recreational purposes to Canadian
aware of the fact that a proportion of the cannabis produced in Canada is
exported, mainly to the United States. We are also aware that a considerable
proportion of heroin and cocaine comes into Canada via the United States. We are
particularly cognisant of the fact that Canadian cannabis does not explain the
increase in cannabis use in the United States. It is up to each country to get
its own house in order before criticizing its neighbour.
Canada will either have to temporarily withdraw from the conventions and
treaties or accept that it will be in temporary contravention until the
international community accedes to its request to amend them. The Committee opts
for the second approach, which seems to us to be more consistent with the
tradition and spirit of Canadian foreign policy. In addition, we have seen that
international treaties foster the imbalanced relationship between the northern
and southern hemispheres by prohibiting access to plants, including cannabis,
produced in the southern hemisphere, while at the same time developing a
regulatory system for medication manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry in
the northern hemisphere. Canada could use this imbalanced situation to urge the
international community to review existing treaties and conventions on
can and indeed should provide leadership on drug policy. Developing a national
information and action infrastructure would undoubtedly be key to this. Canada
must also play a leading role in the Americas. We believe that Canada enjoys
a favourable international reputation and that it can promote the development of
fairer and more rational drug, in particular cannabis policies. We also contend
that Canada should strive for the creation of a European observatory style Drug
and Dependency Monitoring Agency for the Americas within the Organization of
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.
Proposals for implementing the regulation
and recreational purposes
Amendments to the
Marijuana Medical Access Regulations
(Production and sale of cannabis for therapeutic purposes)
(Production and sale of cannabis for therapeutic purposes)
affected by one of the following: wasting syndrome; chemotherapy treatment;
fibromyalgia; epilepsy; multiple sclerosis; accident-induced chronic pain; and
some physical condition including migraines and chronic headaches, whose
physical state has been certified by a physician or an individual duly
authorized by the competent medical association of the province or territory in
question, may choose to buy cannabis and its derivatives for therapeutic
purposes. The person shall be registered with an accredited distribution centre
or with Health Canada.
resident may obtain a licence to distribute cannabis and its derivatives for
therapeutic purposes. The resident must undertake to only sell cannabis and its
derivatives to eligible persons; to only sell cannabis and its derivatives
purchased from producers duly licensed for this purpose; to keep detailed
records on the medical conditions and their development, consumption and the
noted effects on patients; to take all measures needed to ensure the safety of
the cannabis products and to submit to departmental inspections.
resident may obtain a licence to produce cannabis and its derivatives for
therapeutic purposes. The resident must undertake: to not hold a licence to
produce cannabis for non therapeutic purposes; to take the measures necessary to
ensure the consistency, regularity and quality of crops; to take the measures
necessary to ensure the security of production sites; to know and document the
properties and concentrations of each harvest with respect to Delta 9 THC; to
sell only to accredited distribution centres and to submit to departmental
that expenses relating to the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes will be
eligible for a medical expenses tax credit;
a program of research into the therapeutic applications of cannabis, by
providing sufficient funding; by mandating the Canadian Centre on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency
to co-ordinate the research program; and by providing
for the systematic study of clinical cases based on the documentation available
in organizations currently distributing cannabis for therapeutic purposes and in
future distribution centres; and
that the advisory committee on the therapeutic use of cannabis represents all
players, including distribution centres and users.
Amendment to the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA)
(Production and sale of cannabis for non therapeutic purposes)
(Production and sale of cannabis for non therapeutic purposes)
General aims of the bill
reduce the injurious effects of the criminalization of the use and possession of
cannabis and its derivatives;
permit persons over the age of 16 to procure cannabis and its derivatives at
duly licensed distribution centres; and
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
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.
Production for personal use
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.
Consumption in public
in public places frequented by young people under 16 years of age shall be
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.
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.
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
be mandated to collect best treatment practices and ensure an exchange of
information on effective practices and their evaluation.
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
be mandated to collect best prevention practices and ensure an exchange of
information on effective practices and their evaluation.
available to police and customs to fight smuggling, export in all its forms and
cross-border trafficking should be increased.
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