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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Cannabis Control Policy

 Cannabis Control Policy: A Discussion Paper

 Health Protection Branch

Department of National Health and Welfare

January 1979

(7) Legalization (regulation). The legally sanctioned distribution of cannabis products could take many forms. The government could virtually abandon all concern for quality control or health and safety considerations, leaving market forces and general consumer protection and anti-combines legislation to determine the shape of the industry that is eventually established. Alternatively, a highly restrictive distribution regime could be introduced, incorporating such measures as consumer licenses, carefully rationed sales, potency controls, government-operated outlets, and narrowly limited retail sales hours. These are, in a sense, polar legalization models. The first, a laissez-faire approach, would undoubtedly precipitate a greater incidence of cannabis use, a consequent increase in health and safety risks, and the likely oligopolization of the market by a few industrial giants. The alternate model would lead, inevitably, to the black market distribution of high potency cannabis products to persons who, for reasons of time, license, age, rationing procedure or personal preference, were unable or unwilling to obtain their supplies through government channels.

The most practical legalization model undoubtedly lies somewhere between these two extremes. Although its precise contours would vary from province to province, it would, in effect, be a regulation regime akin to that which presently applies to alcohol. The federal government would retain customs and excise controls, but would withdraw all restrictions on the possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis products. Retail distribution arrangements would fall to the provinces which, as in the case of alcohol, would determine such issues as price, quality, hours, outlets, advertising, and minimum consumer age.

Should the federal government wish to introduce a regulated distribution regime, it would have to carefully negotiate the matter with the provinces to ensure that its broad policy objectives were realized with some degree of consistency. In addition, the federal government may wish to retain consumption and commercial offences for those provinces that refuse to enact regulation legislation. In this way a recalcitrant province could be effectively prevented from punitively proscribing the use of cannabis while its neighbour province aggressively marketed the drug. As well, the federal government would either have to renegotiate or withdraw from the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

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