This second installment of the breakdown of the Canadian Cannabis task force report will look more deeply into the statements of the task force regarding the current Canadian attitude toward Cannabis and whether or not it should be legalized as well as statements about the need for research and evidence.
Throughout the information gathering process, the members of the task force stated that they had “heard anxiety about such things as driving, youth access and ‘sending the wrong message,’ but [they] also heard a desire to move away from a culture of fear around cannabis and to acknowledge the existence of more positive medical and social attributes.” They went on to state that they knew there are law enforcement challenges that have happened due to medical Cannabis dispensaries in Canada that are currently doing business that needed examining, as well as new research findings that have come about that have to be addressed.
The report points out that “the current paradigm of cannabis prohibition has been with us for almost 100 years. We cannot, and should not, expect to turn this around overnight. While moving away from cannabis prohibition is long overdue, we may not anticipate every nuance of future policy; after all, our society is still working out issues related to the regulation of alcohol and tobacco. We are aware of the shortcomings in our current knowledge base around cannabis and the effects of cannabis on human health and development. As a result, the recommendations laid out in this report include appeals for ongoing research and surveillance, and a flexibility to adapt to and respond to ongoing and emerging policy needs.”
The task force further showed its understanding about the lack of full scientific Cannabis knowledge when it made the following statements:
"[A]ll of our recommendations would be based on clear, well-documented evidence. However, we recognize that cannabis policy, in its many dimensions, lacks comprehensive, high-quality research in many areas. On many issues throughout our discussions and deliberations, we have found that evidence is often non-existent, incomplete or inconclusive.
Being mindful of these limitations is imperative. It is more appropriate to refer to our recommendations as "evidence-informed" rather than "evidence-based", given that the relationship between evidence and policy is complex and that our recommendations were influenced by the concerns, priorities and values expressed by stakeholders and members of the public, as well as by the available scientific evidence.
Moreover, a clear reality underpins our discussions and deliberations: encouraging and enabling more research and ensuring systematic monitoring, evaluation and reporting on our experiences is essential to good public policy in this area."
Currently it seems that many times American policy-makers allow the lack of a full understanding through scientific research to be the reason that no proactive policy should happen. In comparison, our Canadian counterparts clearly have determined that even though there is lacking evidence, policy must move forward. Then, after this happens, the government should also strive to push for more research. This difference in viewpoint is now allowing the Canadian government to move forward toward country-wide legalization whereas the United States federal government is pushing back heavily against legal Cannabis use country-wide.
The Canadian task force did not continue without first seeking as much in the way of reasoned research as it could find. For example, the task force stated that it determined the following potential risks that Cannabis legalization could pose to Canadians:
The panel hoped to avoid substantial risks associated with consuming Cannabis at too early an age. It did this by setting a minimum age for consumption of Cannabis at 18 federally and allowing individual provincial governments to set higher minimum ages if deemed necessary. It did this even though it determined that there was “no clear scientific evidence to identify a ‘safe’ age of consumption, but agreed that having a minimum age would reduce harm.”
It also determined that setting Cannabis legalization as an adult activity would reinforce the need for someone to use their own reasoned adult decision-making abilities when deciding whether or not to use Cannabis. When determining the minimum age, the task force was apparently told most often by healthcare professionals that a minimum age of 21 was best. The task force ended up setting the age at 18 instead because it was determined that provincial “governments should do all that they can to discourage and delay cannabis use” through “[r]obust preventive measures, including advertising restrictions and public education”.
In the end, the task force was able to adequately determine from the currently available research and evidence that Cannabis is safe to legalize nationally and was able to find specific best practices like the minimum legal age for consumption. This model is something that government officials in the United States should look to as a way to get past the fear of Cannabis in general and the excuse of there not being enough research to go forward specifically.
Source: Government of Canada: Final Report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation