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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

(8) Federal withdrawal. The federal government could resolve to completely abandon cannabis control rather than attempt to pursue its policy objectives through criminal sanctions or by negotiating uniform legalization arrangements with the provinces. The federal authorities could simply decide that the legal complexities and political liabilities of the issue were such that its most prudent course would be to surrender legislative jurisdiction to the provinces by withdrawing all federal cannabis controls. Parliament might generate revenue from the application of its customs and excise legislation, and it would co-operate, where possible, with provincial governments in expediting or frustrating, as the particular province so directed, the importation of cannabis products; but it would take no leadership or even active role in the development or execution of cannabis policy. Cannabis control would become, in the words of the British North America Act, a "matter of a merely local or private nature in the province."

Each province, then, would be free to determine its own cannabis policy. In time, some would probably institute carefully regulated legalization schemes, allowing for the commercial distribution of cannabis products by licensed retailers or government-operated outlets. Others would introduce proscriptive statutes modeled after the current Narcotic Control Act. Still others would demand that the federal government reassert its authority through new criminal legislation. It is impossible to predict the direction of provincial enactments, but one can confidently speculate that there would be a wide divergence of approaches, a generally increased use of cannabis, and a level of criminal adventurism reminiscent of the heyday of alcohol prohibition.

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