Toward the legalization, regulation and restriction of access to marijuana: Discussion paper – 1. Introduction

1. Introduction

In the 2015 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada committed to legalizing, regulating, and restricting access to marijuana.

The current approach to marijuana prohibition is not working:

  • Youth continue to use marijuana at rates among the highest in the world.
  • Thousands of Canadians end up with criminal records for non-violent drug offences each year.
  • Organized crime reaps billions of dollars in profits from its sale.
  • Most Canadians no longer believe that simple marijuana possession should be subject to harsh criminal sanctions, and support the Government's commitment to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.

The Government understands the complexity of this challenge and the need to take the time to get it right.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, supported by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Health, has created a Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation (“the Task Force”). The Task Force is mandated to engage with provincial , territorial and municipal governments, Indigenous governments and representative organizations, youth, and experts in relevant fields, including but not limited to: public health, substance abuse, criminal justice, law enforcement, economics, and industry and those groups with expertise in production, distribution and sales. The Task Force will provide advice on the design of a new framework. The Task Force will receive submissions from interested parties, including individual Canadians, consult widely, listen and learn, and commission any necessary focussed research to support its work. It is supported by a federal secretariat and will report back to the three Ministers on behalf of the Government in November 2016, on a date to be determined by the Ministers.

This Discussion Paper is designed to support consultations led by the Task Force. Its goal is to support a focussed dialogue.


The Government of Canada believes that the new regime for legal access to marijuana must achieve the following objectives:

  • Protect young Canadians by keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and youth.
  • Keep profits out of the hands of criminals, particularly organized crime.
  • Reduce the burdens on police and the justice system associated with simple possession of marijuana offences.
  • Prevent Canadians from entering the criminal justice system and receiving criminal records for simple marijuana possession offences.
  • Protect public health and safety by strengthening, where appropriate, laws and enforcement measures that deter and punish more serious marijuana offences, particularly selling and distributing to children and youth, selling outside of the regulatory framework, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
  • Ensure Canadians are well-informed through sustained and appropriate public health campaigns, and for youth in particular, ensure that risks are understood.
  • Establish and enforce a system of strict production, distribution and sales, taking a public health approach, with regulation of quality and safety (e.g., child-proof packaging, warning labels), restriction of access, and application of taxes, with programmatic support for addiction treatment, mental health support and education programs.
  • Continue to provide access to quality-controlled marijuana for medical purposes consistent with federal policy and Court decisions.
  • Conduct ongoing data collection, including gathering baseline data, to monitor the impact of the new framework

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