OTTAWA — Here are five key issues the federal government faces on the marijuana file:
1. Laws are already changing:
On Wednesday, a Federal Court judge struck down legislation that barred medical marijuana patients from growing their own cannabis. Health Minister Jane Philpott said the government is reviewing the ruling, adding that it recognizes ill Canadians need access to medicinal marijuana if it is prescribed.
2. A joint federal-provincial-territorial task force on legalizing marijuana will have to be assembled:
The first step to legalization will be to establish a joint federal-provincial-territorial task force to bring together experts in public health, substance abuse and law enforcement to help design a new system for marijuana sales and distribution. Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief now parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, is taking a leading role on the pot file for the government and says the task force will be set up soon.
3. Canada's experience with tobacco and alcohol will have to be considered:
Public health experts including Mark Haden, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, believe changes to marijuana regulation will require a detailed analysis rooted in the experience Canada already has with tobacco and alcohol. He wants to see the government look at legalization from a public health standpoint.
4. Amnesty for those charged with pot possession is a consideration:
The government has been pressured by critics, including marijuana activists like Jodie Emery, on the need to explore amnesty for those facing simple possession charges. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair believes the government should decriminalize marijuana immediately by removing criminal sanctions on the books. Blair says the law is the law until it is changed.
5. The impact of marijuana use on driving is a factor:
Blair told a Senate forum on Wednesday that marijuana use and driving is already an issue and this will need close examination as the government considers a regulated regime.
By The Canadian Press