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Criminology researcher praises Canada’s cannabis reform bill

Judith Grant, PhD, says we can learn from other countries’ experiences

Cannabis plant

Canada’s great debate on legalized adult-use cannabis will enter a key phase in the coming months. On the political front, the federal government aims to legalize marijuana by July 2018. As legislation marches forward in Parliament, health officials and addiction experts remain cautious. Some groups are proposing guidelines to help minimize the various health and sociological risks associated with cannabis consumption.

An April Angus Reid Institute poll shows that even though Canadians are skeptical on how effective the proposed law will be at deterring marijuana use (especially by young people), 60 per cent support the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45). University of Ontario Institute of Technology criminologist and sociologist Judith Grant, PhD is among them.

“I believe it is about time,” says Dr. Grant, an Assistant Professor with the university’s Faculty of Social Science and Humanities. “There is one other country in the world that has legalized cannabis and that is Uruguay. Portugal has also decriminalized all illicit drugs—we can learn a lot from such countries.”

Bill C-45 addresses the legalization and regulation of cannabis and sets out guidelines for the licensing and production of the plant as well. As Dr. Grant sees it, the legislation may be the beginning in a series of other reforms aimed at targeting illicit drugs.

“I would hope that, in time, all drugs will be legalized. I believe that, if this happens, fewer people will die from overdoses and/or ‘bad’ drugs.”

Proposed elements of Bill C-45:

  • Possession, distribution and production outside of the regulatory system would still be illegal.
  • Sale of cannabis permitted only to people age 18 and older.
  • Possession of cannabis limited up to 30 grams.
  • Sale of edibles (food products containing cannabis) will come later, once regulations are developed.

As part of the legislative process, the government mandated a series of roundtable discussions across the country to gather input and address public concerns. Dr. Grant was among those invited to a May roundtable in Durham Region. Also in attendance were mayors from various communities around Toronto, such as Pickering and Uxbridge.

“Many of them were concerned with how the federal and provincial governments were going to finance the legalization, who was going to pay for what, and how it was going to play out overall,” says Dr. Grant. “It was a thorough discussion as everyone had a chance to be heard.”

Dr. Grant points to the fentanyl and opioid epidemic as a sign that reform needs to happen.

“How do you fix something like this other than make it safe for everyone?” she says. “No matter what we do, people will continue to use or abuse drugs of all types. We need to take out the criminal element and focus on doing all we can to ensure public safety.”

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