Dr. Eileen de Villa urges Ottawa to immediately decriminalize possession of recreational marijuana until legislation to legalize it comes into force in July 2018.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health wants Ottawa to immediately decriminalize possession of recreational pot until legislation to legalize and regulate cannabis comes into force in July 2018.
“Given that cannabis possession will soon be lawful in Canada, it is recommended that the Board of Health urge the federal government to immediately decriminalize the possession of non-medical cannabis for personal use,” says a new report by Dr. Eileen de Villa.
Her report on approaches “to protect health and minimize harms of use” notes how the criminalization of cannabis use and possession impacts the social determinants of health.
As well, people arrested and convicted of pot possession can face long-term consequences, including access to employment, housing, social stigmatization and economic status.
Unless the federal government acts, young Canadians will be disproportionately affected during this intervening period, the report states.
“Based on current rates, there will be approximately 59,000 charges and 22,000 convictions for simple possession before cannabis is legalized in Canada.”
The recommendation is one of about a dozen contained in the report that will be discussed at next Monday’s board of health meeting.
The other recommendations include asking the federal government to:
- Set the minimum age of purchase for cannabis at 19 to align with the minimum age for legal purchase of alcohol in Ontario. Ottawa has set 18 as a minimum age for buying pot, but has given the provinces and territories the authority to increase the age but not lower it.
- Require comprehensive “plain packaging” and labelling rules for all cannabis products, as are currently being proposed in the federal legislation.
- Establish measures for cannabis law enforcement such as equity training, to ensure fair treatment of groups disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.
- Strengthen regulations on marketing and promotion of cannabis with more comprehensive prohibitions that address advertising in movies, video games and other media accessible to youth.
The medical officer of health also believes the province should establish a provincially controlled agency for the retail sale and distribution of recreational pot, separate from the LCBO, and establish a social responsibility program.
She would also like Queen’s Park to prohibit smoking and vaping of cannabis in public places and prohibit pot use in motor vehicles.
Under the proposed legislation, the federal government will be responsible for the production of cannabis. The provincial and territorial governments are responsible for developing, implementing, maintaining and enforcing systems to oversee the distribution and retail sale of cannabis, the report notes.
The provinces may develop legislation requiring additional conditions on matters such as use in public places, growing cannabis at home, minimum age of purchase, and drug-impaired driving, it says.