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Feds' marijuana task force rules out storefront weed

by papapuff » Mon Jul 04, 2016 10:28 am

NOW Magazine



FEDS' MARIJUANA TASK FORCE RULES OUT STOREFRONT WEED

High hopes among cannabis activists for an interim measure to decriminalize pot also goes up in smoke before serious work on legalization has begun

BY BARBARA SHAW JULY 4, 2016

With the feds scheduling a pot announcement on the day before the Canada Day long weekend, there were high hopes among cannabis activists. Last time the government made a major announcement on marijuana, it chose 420 as the date.

So when the feds sent out a tersely-worded media advisory June 29 about "an announcement regarding marijuana," it looked like the Trudeau government had finally listened to the advice of legal experts, and was set to decriminalize marijuana as an interim measure while it figures out what legalization looks like. The Criminal Lawyers' Association, among others, has been calling on the government to stay all marijuana-related charges now before the courts. Pressure has been building on the government to act.

Alas, the announcement was a re-announcement of sorts – the official launch of the nine-member federal task force headed by former Chretien-era justice minister Anne McLellan set up to hear public input on federal plans to legalize weed.


McLellan quickly put the decriminalization question to rest, making it clear in a media conference at that National Press Theatre in Ottawa that the government's goal is to "legalize, restrict and regulate access to marijuana." Protecting kids was a recurring theme at the conference attended by representatives for the ministers of health, public safety and justice. Quality, purity and potency will be a big focus of regulation, McLellan said.

The task force includes former members of the RCMP, academics and addiction experts, as well as Mark Ware, a respected pain researcher at McGill University Health Centre and executive director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, a federally incorporated non-profit. Ware, who also acts as an advisor to licensed medical marijuana producers, will sit as vice-chair of the committee.

While the task force will take into account lessons learned from other jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana, including Colorado, on the point of medical access, the announcement also seemed designed to emphasize the government's view that storefront dispensaries won't be a part of Canada's lucrative legal weed system, which is expected to generate revenues of some $2.5 billion a year.

Michel Picard, parliamentary secretary to Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale, went as far as to state that "These storefronts sell untested products that may be unsafe and of particular risk to kids and they are supplied by illegal growers." There's much debate over that assertion, including from legal medpot users who prefer product from storefront operations to that of licensed producers.

On that point, the Toronto Dispensaries Coalition (TDC), "the voice to medical cannabis patients and dispensaries that serve them across the Greater Toronto Area," issued a statement of its own to "clear up facts on dispensaries."

The statement quoting coalition volunteer Michael McLellan reminded the task force that "cannabis sold at medical dispensaries is tested for potency of active ingredients, as well as possible contaminants." Health concerns over the contents in marijuana edibles were the pretext for Toronto police raids on storefront dispensaries in May, which took place as the city was working on bylaws to regulate the operations.

TDC's statement goes on to say that dispensaries "welcome standardized rules governing testing requirements and labelling, which would ensure consistency across the industry."

But it seems unlikely Canada's legalization model will follow the lead of U.S. jurisdictions, the majority of which include storefront dispensaries.

Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould issued a firm reminder at last week's announcement that current marijuana laws will continue to be enforced.

"Production and possession of marijuana are illegal unless it has been authorized for medical purposes," said Wilson-Raybould.

The task force has set-up an online consultation until August 29. Its final report is expected in November.
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by papapuff » Mon Jul 04, 2016 10:32 am

CBC.ca



Marijuana impairment 'a big concern' as RNC officer starts work on pot legalization

CBC News Posted: Jul 04, 2016

A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer recently named to a task force on legalizing and regulating marijuana says one of the biggest hurdles they face is dealing with impairment.

"I do believe it's going to be a big concern," Supt. Marlene Jesso told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"That's something we'll have to look at as a task force, and see if we can come up with certain ways and different ways to be able to do that, because that, I think, may be a major issue in relation to the legalization of marijuana."

Jesso, a 33-year police veteran, is one of nine Canadians chosen to serve on the federal government`s task force for the legalization of the drug, an appointment she accepted last week from Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale.

"It's not everyday you get asked to change Canadian policy, so it is a big deal for me and I'll take the job very seriously," she said.

Add your voice

Jesso heads to Ottawa next week to hammer out her workload and schedule, which will include speaking to experts, special interest groups and ordinary Canadians.

A major component of the task force will be sifting through people's feedback on a discussion paper that asks numerous questions such as keeping marijuana away from minors, organized crime, and how to best regulate its distribution.

The discussion paper and feedback forms are posted on Health Canada's website.

"What we'll be doing is encouraging Canadians to go to the website, give us their perspectives and advice on the questions at hand, and we'll be doing consultations across Canada," she said.

At the end of her role, Jesso and the other task force members will submit a paper with their recommendations on the issue to the federal government, expected in November.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 05, 2016 10:24 am

Reason



Task Force Offers Hints of What Legal Pot Will Look Like in Canada

The regulations could be looser in some respects than rules adopted by U.S. states.

Jacob Sullum|Jul. 5, 2016

Delivering on a campaign promise, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to introduce legislation next spring that will legalize the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. In the meantime, a government-appointed Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation is supposed to hammer out the details, addressing the questions posed by a discussion paper it published last week. Although the paper gives no firm answers, it suggests that Canada's regulatory regime could be stricter in some ways than the rules adopted by the four U.S. states that allow recreational use of marijuana but looser in others. Here are some of the major issues the paper covers:

Production. Based on Canada's experience with licensed home cultivation and government-controlled production of medical marijuana, the task force concludes that "neither approach would be in the public interest in the context of the larger numbers of users expected in a legalized market." In other words, "some form of private sector production with appropriate government licensing and oversight" will be necessary to supply recreational consumers.

Distribution. The task force suggests that recreational marijuana, like medical marijuana, might initially be distributed exclusively through the mail (an option that is not allowed in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, or Alaska) but concedes that "allowing for some ability for the sale of marijuana to occur in a legal, regulated retail environment may be required in order to provide an alternative to the current illegal sellers that exist in certain Canadian cities."

Minimum purchase age. The paper says "the science indicates that risks from marijuana usage are elevated until the brain fully matures (i.e., when someone reaches about age 25)." But it also notes that Colorado et al. all picked a minimum purchase age of 21 (as did the backers of the legalization initiatives that are expected to be on the ballot in five other states this year), which corresponds to the alcohol purchase age that prevails throughout the U.S. In Canada, by contrast, the drinking age ranges rom 18 to 19.

Marketing. The task force says "the early experiences of Colorado and Washington State suggest very strongly that the Government should take steps to avoid the commercialization of legalized marijuana, including the active promoting and marketing of marijuana, leading to widespread use." Those steps include "advertising and marketing restrictions to minimize the profile and attractiveness of products." It's not clear that the limits would go further than the rules adopted by Colorado et al., although Canadian regulators have more legal leeway to restrict speech in the name of child protection and public health.

Taxes. The task force warns that "the use of taxation and pricing measures to discourage consumption must be properly balanced against the need to minimize the attractiveness of the black market and dissuade illegal production and trafficking."

Edibles. "It is understood that individuals may choose to create marijuana products, such as baked goods, for personal consumption," the paper says. "However, consideration should be given to how edibles are treated in the new regime in light of the significant health risks, particularly to children and to youth." No U.S. state where marijuana is legal has banned edibles, although Colorado recently imposed limits on the shapes of THC-infused treats, a symbolic measure that soothes the sensibilities of legislators without reducing the likelihood of accidental consumption.

Potency limits. "Higher concentration products have added risks and unknown long term impacts, and those risks are exacerbated for young people, including children," the task force says. "Given the significant health risks, maximum THC limits could be set and high-potency products strictly prohibited." No U.S. state has imposed such a limit so far.

Consumption locations. The task force says "consumption of marijuana could be restricted to private residences." Then again, "the system may need to be pragmatic to respond to the demand for venues to consume marijuana outside the home in order to avoid proliferation of consumption in all public spaces." To address that concern, "consideration could be given to identifying—and strictly limiting and controlling—allowable sites for use by adults." No U.S. state explicitly allows marijuana consumption outside the home, although some Colorado jurisdictions tolerate it and regulators in Alaska have left the door open to cannabis clubs.

Marijuana-impaired driving. The paper says "the government could establish an offence of driving while having a specified concentration of THC in the blood, similar to the offence of driving with a blood alcohol level." It does not mention that the science supporting such a standard, which Colorado and Washington have adopted, is much weaker than the science linking blood alcohol concentration to impairment.

Summing up the discussion paper, which carries the cautious title "Toward the Legalization, Regulation and Restriction of Access to Marijuana," National Post columnist Kelly McParland writes:

If anyone thought the breezy support for recreational pot offered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail would translate into neighbourhood "dispensaries" peddling a rich and varied assortment of products to passing clients, they will be deeply disappointed. The plan looks much more likely to be about control, policing and regulation. Fun has nothing to do with it.


The nine-member task force, which is chaired by a former health minister and includes five doctors, takes a "public health" approach, which in theory should consider the pleasure that people get from consuming intoxicants but in practice almost never does. Still, regulation aimed at minimizing morbidity and mortality is an improvement on uniform criminalization (which remains in place, even for possession of small amounts, until the new legislation is enacted), and it may ultimately prove more friendly to consumers than McParland expects—not because public health busybodies care about fun per se but because consumers do, and their demands must be taken into account by anyone hoping to replace the black market with something better.
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 05, 2016 11:32 am

Montreal Gazette



Opinion: New marijuana task force should recommend immediate decriminalization

byline iconMARCUS SIBLEY, SPECIAL TO MONTREAL GAZETTE

Published on: July 5, 2016

The Liberal government has appointed a nine-member task force that will develop recommendations for a comprehensive plan on marijuana legalization and regulation. The move to research and invest in sensible marijuana reform comes at a time when minor possession offences continue to be enforced and police raids on unlicensed pot shops have expanded across the country.

Unfortunately, the government has rejected the possibility of immediately decriminalizing marijuana possession.

Decriminalization is not full legalization, but it would eliminate criminal penalty for marijuana-related offences and relieve the strain on an already over-utilized criminal justice system. The decision to appoint this task force without immediately decriminalizing possession not only flies in the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate to implement meaningful moves toward “evidence-based policy,” it also betrays the cannabis culture Canadians have cultivated over the last 30 years.

Instead, the government maintains that taking the time to develop a plan to control marijuana distribution and sales through a legalized framework — without temporary decriminalization — better suits the concerns of Canadians. It suggests that the current legal infrastructure, which saw significant expansion under the government of Stephen Harper, can provide meaningful protections against organized crime and illegal pot sales.

This decision to continue enforcing marijuana offences encourages police to be heavy-handed in their enforcement while providing virtually no added safeguards to ensure that marijuana stays out of the hands of minors — a primary goal of Trudeau’s campaign toward legalization.

“Quite frankly, until those laws are repealed by Parliament through the appropriate processes, they should be upheld, they should be obeyed,” argues MP and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair. Blair’s comments are in reference to the growing number of unlicensed dispensaries, suggesting they are “reckless” and capitalizing on an ambiguous political climate to make a “quick buck” among recreational and other “unregulated” users.

Blair’s position presupposes that sales of illegal substances will skyrocket without the threat of criminal enforcement, though there is little evidence to support this. In their book, Killer Weed, Susan Boyd (a member of the task force) and Connie Carter argue that this understanding of decriminalization is misleading, suggesting instead that countries that have moved toward decriminalizing recreational drugs saw virtually no rise in drug use while also experiencing significant reductions in prison overcrowding.

It seems there is a fundamental disconnect between the Liberal government’s stance on pot versus what it is actually happening on the ground. Both Trudeau and Blair have suggested they are uncomfortable with the prospect that immediate decriminalization would make it easier for organized criminals to profit from marijuana sales. Their discomfort, however, evidently does not extend to the fact that countless non-violent cannabis users continue to face criminal records for an act that is soon to be legal.

Charging non-violent cannabis users and small store-front dispensaries with criminal sanction seems antithetical to this supposed ideological shift toward a seemingly softer, evidence-based approach to crime control. Rejecting the possibility of decriminalization before the task force has even had a chance to meet radically undermines the kinds of political interventions experts can make, especially when there has been a great deal of research in the field of drug policy.

The first and most important recommendation of the newly appointed task force should be to immediately decriminalize marijuana, removing the stigmas of criminal sanction and embracing an ethos of compassion toward cannabis users. The interim solution should not default to continued police enforcement and punitive sanctions.

While some police departments have refused to lay charges for possession, others continue to unevenly enforce the laws against some of their communities’ most marginalized groups. With an estimated $1.2 billion spent annually on marijuana enforcement, ruined lives bear the cost when we privilege punishment over evidence-based reforms.

Marcus A. Sibley is a doctoral student in the department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University. His research largely focuses on gendered-based violence and processes of criminal regulation in Canada.
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by papapuff » Wed Jul 06, 2016 5:42 pm

Edmonton Journal



Paula Simons: Deep in the weed: As Canada's cannabis queen, Anne McLellan faces daunting policy challenge

PAULA SIMONS, EDMONTON JOURNAL
Published on: July 6, 2016

“I’ve always been more interested in policy than politics,” says Edmonton lawyer and former Liberal deputy prime minister Anne McLellan.

That’s handy because late last week McLellan was named chairwoman of federal government’s new Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation. She’s going to need all of her policy-wonk passion — and all her expertise as Canada’s former minister of health, minister of justice and minister of public safety — to succeed.

McLellan’s nine-member panel has been charged with the coming up with a regulatory framework for legalized cannabis. Its mandate is sweeping.

Where should marijuana be marketed and sold? In pharmacies? In liquor stores? In special adult-only pot shops? Via mail order and websites?

Who should be able to grow marijuana? Should individuals be able to cultivate their own or should certain licensed growers be given a government monopoly?

Who should be able to buy it? Should it be against the law for people under 16? Under 18? Under 21? If so, what should the penalties be for consuming it while underage or providing it to minors?

Where should people be able to use marijuana? In the privacy of their homes? In their back yards? In special toking zones? While walking down the street?

How should marijuana be taxed? And how should those tax revenues be split between federal and provincial governments?

How do we test drivers or workers to see if they’re impaired? And can you test an employee for cannabis use if it’s legal?

How do we regulate and label marijuana and cannabis products so that people know example how much hash is in their brownies or how much THC is in their weed?

Those are just a few of the complicated legal, medical and social questions and quandaries the volunteer panel has to tackle.

“We’re all seized with the importance of this. We’re the first country to move in this direction. As a nation, we’re breaking new ground and that’s obviously a big challenge,” says McLellan. “But I think it’s clear now that the current situation is not working. We need to find a new way forward.”

“Pragmatic, useful, balanced recommendations — that is our goal.”

The illicit trade in marijuana, McLellan says, generates $7 billion in annual income for organized crime in Canada.

“We want to take the profit out of marijuana for those who would profit illegally.”

McLellan says the government isn’t imagining a future of cool cannabis bakeries, bistros and bars.

“The government is not in the business of encouraging use,” she says. “Most people who work and research in this area will tell you marijuana is not a benign substance. But alcohol is not a benign substance. Tobacco is not a benign substance.”

What she’s hoping for, instead, is a regulatory regime that safeguards consumers, protects children, squeezes out organized crime and basically makes pot as uncool as possible.

“We want to de-normalize marijuana use, analogous to tobacco in that regard.”

McLellan and her fellow panellists — who include doctors, criminologists, lawyers and law enforcement veterans — will hold roundtables with interested parties and policy experts across the country.

Some members may visit American states, including Washington and Colorado, to see how their different approaches to legalization are working. But they’re also looking for online input from the general public from anyone who has an informed opinion about what a legalized cannabis system should look like.

The marijuana task force isn’t proceeding at a stoner’s laid-back pace. McLellan hopes to have all the research and interviews completed by the end of August so the panel and its staff can spend the next two months coming up with a final public report by November.

“Now, at the end of the day, it will be up to the government to decide whether they’re going to accept all of our recommendations or some of our recommendations, or modify our recommendations.

“Obviously,” she adds with a slight chuckle, “I’ll be disappointed if they don’t accept any of our recommendations.”

Once the report is written, McLellan’s role shaping policy will be over.

It will then be up to the Trudeau government to finesse the pot politics, and convince provincial premiers and Canadians on all sides of the marijuana debate that whatever compromise the task force recommends will actually work.

psimons@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Paulatics

http://www.facebook.com/PaulaSimons
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by papapuff » Thu Jul 07, 2016 10:54 am

Lift



On the government’s legalization objectives

With the recent announcement of the final composition of the government’s Task Force, the corresponding discussion paper revealed the nature of the upcoming consultations, including the Task Force’s...

By Special to Lift
July 7, 2016

With the recent announcement of the final composition of the government’s Task Force, the corresponding discussion paper revealed the nature of the upcoming consultations, including the Task Force’s objectives. As stated in the document, these objectives are to:

1 – Protect young Canadians by keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and youth.

2 – Keep profits out of the hands of criminals, particularly organized crime.

3 – Reduce the burdens on police and the justice system associated with simple possession of marijuana offences.

4 – Prevent Canadians from entering the criminal justice system and receiving criminal records for simple marijuana possession offences.

5 – Ensure Canadians are well-informed through sustained and appropriate public health campaigns, and for youth in particular, ensure that risks are understood.

6 – Establish and enforce a system of strict production, distribution and sales, taking a public health approach, with regulation of quality and safety (e.g., child-proof packaging, warning labels), restriction of access, and application of taxes, with programmatic support for addiction treatment, mental health support, and education programs.

7 – Continue to provide access to quality-controlled marijuana for medical purposes consistent with federal policy and Court decisions.

8 – Conduct ongoing data collection, including gathering baseline data, to monitor the impact of the new framework.

The government record on each one of these objectives is abysmal, not only under Stephen Harper, but under the Liberals before him as well. While these objectives seem fairly common sense, many of them are inconsistent, either within themselves, or when in the context and tone of the government representative’s sound-bytes.

1 – Protect young Canadians by keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and youth.

We have data that, while correlational, certainly disputes the ‘facts’ touted by the opponents of Cannabis, and of dispensaries in general. Those of us older than dispensaries in Canada usually encountered cannabis for the first time in high school. This is becoming less the case in jurisdictions with dispensaries. While opponents of dispensaries have decried that dispensaries make it easier for youth to obtain cannabis, the facts do not bear this out. With an almost two-decade long experience with dispensaries in Vancouver (a hundred of them for the last few years) there have been 2? 3? raids on dispensaries due to complaints of selling to minors. The last time, Don Briere (often cited as an example of an irresponsible potrepeneur) fired the employee immediately. This has been a serious issue for most dispensary operators, and they have done an effective job of addressing it.

In 2009, the McCreary Institute began its Adolescent Health Surveys in British Columbia. While it noted that cannabis use among youth had already been declining for a decade before the survey, the results showed that 30% of youth in BC had used cannabis, and the most common age of first use cited as 13-14. In Vancouver however, the youth was lower, at 24%.

In 2013, with the number of dispensaries in BC well into double digits, that number had dropped to 17% in Vancouver, where youth were waiting a whole year longer to first try cannabis. While one could argue that this data does not prove the decline was due to the proliferation of dispensaries, it certainly shows that that proliferation did not lead to an increase in youth use. Of 17% of youth in Vancouver that tried cannabis, the survey did not specify authorized medical use, so the number of rec users may have dropped even lower.

Despite that, the Liberals have not sounded too friendly towards these dispensaries, and no offence to the country’s liquor stores, but most of us from coast to coast to coast tried alcohol both before we were legal, and before we tried cannabis.

2 – Keep profits out of the hands of criminals, particularly organized crime.

Organized crime is the highlight here, and this again is something that early dispensaries in particular have been very conscious of. What isn’t distinguished here is criminal records for cannabis offences, nor is there any attempt to compensate those that have been unfairly targeted by the war on drugs. It may be a separate point, but part of keeping profits out of ‘particularly’ the hands of organized crime first means you have to identify those organizations. This objective appears to skip that step. Instead, it lumps organized crime, and anyone with any record, into a group that will be excluded from what will be a legal industry. This is a nuance of Vancouver’s dispensary regulations that many missed: the security checks were not criminal record checks, they were police information checks. They weren’t looking for charges (which might have included cannabis ones) they were looking for known associates. Without this distinction, those groups who have been overly targeted during prohibition will continue to be unfairly treated because of it.

3 – Reduce the burdens on police and the justice system associated with simple possession of marijuana offences.

This is something some police have been asking for for a long time, and is a welcome change. Later in the paper though, the issue of possession limits is raised, and what those limits are may have a profound effect on the government’s ability to meet this objective. Regulations yet to be seen around personal cultivation may also impact the success of this point. In addition, while possession arrests decrease, there may well be an increase in public smoking tickets.

4 – Prevent Canadians from entering the criminal justice system and receiving criminal records for simple marijuana possession offences.

The government is already failing this objective, and they’re not even out of the gate. As has been the case all too often, of all our authorities, it is the courts that have provided the sanest voice on cannabis regulations. Their record holds on this issue, with some judges simply taking matters into their own hands.

5 – Ensure Canadians are well-informed through sustained and appropriate public health campaigns, and for youth in particular, ensure that risks are understood.

This might be serious a problem area. While it sounds fairly reasonable, the Harper messages on cannabis could have been summed up the same way. The devil is in the details, and given the Honourable Bill Blair’s confusion between cannabis and tomatoes (the tea of one will kill you, and it’s not the one that’s currently illegal), it may not be an easy one to gain consensus on. Cannabis is often compared to alcohol and tobacco, but very selectively. The harms it can cause are typically closer to caffeine, as is its addictive potential, and yet, the tone of these discussions usually continues to treat cannabis as tobacco and alcohol, and this discussion paper also does so expressly. This does not represent evidence-based policy, but selective-evidence-based policy.

6 – Establish and enforce a system of strict production, distribution and sales, taking a public health approach, with regulation of quality and safety (e.g., child-proof packaging, warning labels), restriction of access, and application of taxes, with programmatic support for addiction treatment, mental health support and education programs.

When they mention addiction treatment, it sounds like they are speaking of cannabis addiction. Mental health and education all focused on cannabis, and it seems to be missing the point. While there are no similar plans in place for dealing with coffee addiction (or sugar for that matter), there is a real fear that the task force may miss the boat on this. Cannabis has been used as treatment for serious addictions to truly dangerous substances, and this fear of its own addictive potential may put a serious crimp in any plans to more fully benefit from this knowledge.

This also raises the question of where the line on medical will be drawn. Does it remain the same so as to maximize tax revenue? Or will we truly put public health first and take full advantage of all the therapeutic benefits cannabis has to offer us? And what does this do for non-medical research? Canada’s hemp industry has been severely hampered by prohibition, and if we want to reap these benefits as well, this also needs to be addressed. Would education programs include cannabis skills training for underemployed sections of the workforce?

7 – Continue to provide access to quality-controlled marijuana for medical purposes consistent with federal policy and Court decisions.

The phrase ‘consistent with federal policy and court decisions’ is an oxymoron. Federal cannabis policy has only ever been consistent with court decisions between the time it is introduced, and the time the court first gets to decide on it. That’s it. In 2013 when the Liberals unveiled their legalization position paper, it was missing any discussion of medical cannabis.

Given that the rules around medical cannabis can make or break any restrictive legalization plan, this inconsistent advice appears to reflect a failure to understand the importance of this issue.

8 – Conduct ongoing data collection, including gathering baseline data, to monitor the impact of the new framework.

Review. Okay…Not much of a point on its own, but… yes please, check to see how whatever you came up with actually works. That would be nice.

Missing completely from these objectives is any mention of other Liberal campaign platforms. Will they discuss how cannabis legalization fits with their “New Plan for a Stronger Middle Class“? Will they discuss how cannabis can help them achieve some of their stated goals, such as ‘opening the door to prosperity’, ‘a more compassionate Canada’, and ‘expanding exports and opportunities’?

-Jamie Shaw
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by papapuff » Sat Jul 09, 2016 11:34 am

CBC.ca



Marijuana industry closely watches advertising rules

Producers say plain packaging would be a 'disservice' to customers

By Catharine Tunney, CBC News Posted: Jul 09, 2016

You might remember the smoking Joe Camel from magazine ads and the chesterfield-touting Joe Canadian from beer ads, but there's a chance you'll never meet Joe Marijuana.

As the Liberal government prepares to introduce legislation next spring to legalize cannabis, it has asked a nine-member task force to look at what restrictions should be in place when it comes to marketing marijuana.

"Since marketing, advertising and promotion of marijuana would only serve to 'normalize' it in society and encourage and increase usage, it has been proposed that these should be strictly limited so as to dampen widespread use and reduce associated harms," reads the government's discussion paper on the issue.

"Limitations could include products being sold in plain packaging."

That's tough for the industry to inhale.

Mark Zekulin, president of Tweed Inc. in Smiths Falls, Ont., believes a ban on advertising would "be a disservice to people who have to make a choice" between what strains of marijuana they want to buy.

Black market worries

Producers claim some strains give you a different high. A few puffs of one strain might make you feel tired, while a hit of another could give you an energetic burst.

"People are going to consume it. The question is do you give them the best information?" Zekulin said. "It is like wine. It is like whiskey. You have to be able to look at why they're different ... People have the right to find the variety that's right for them."

Denis Arsenault, of Moncton's OrganiGram, said he expects in the end the government will allow some advertising.

"The government has given a very direct messaging on this that they want to eliminate the black market. Then obviously part of eliminating that black market is creating a considerably enjoyable consumer experience at the retail point."

Zekulin said if he's not allowed to tell consumers what they're inhaling, the non-licensed seller will shill their "strawberry flavoured kush" harder.

Branding in a tough business

Besides health, there's also the issue of these businesses wanting to carve out an identity.

Health Canada already sets strict limits on how their products can be presented on websites and social media. It has already ordered some companies to stop making their products look so good.

The department offers a list of the 33 licensed providers across Canada, their location and number, but not much else. It's a plain list of "inc.", "corp." and "ltd."

But if you log on to the providers' individual websites, you get some personality. Some promote their long histories as a selling point, others have jumped on the "think local" train.

With their trendy font and business deal with weed ambassador and rapper Snoop Dogg, it's not that hard to guess who Tweed has in mind as a client.

Knockoff products already out there

"Tweed is different. We wanted to approach it in a more relaxed way … We don't want to pretend to be a pharmaceutical," Zekulin said.

He points to Tweed's sister company Bedrocon, whose website has a more clinical feel compared to his.

"It's why you have different brands in the first place."

Branding is so big in the marijuana industry, Zekulin said he's already seeing knockoff Tweed products and is in the midst of tracking them down.

Arsenault said while it would be nice to have a billboard promoting his product, he's fine with limiting marijuana marketing.

"I don't think it's a question as an industry that we should be encouraging the consumption of marijuana," he said.

Feedback over next few months

The Cannabis Canada Association, which represents the majority of licensed producers in Canada, said it's hoping to bring up advertising and plain packaging with the task force. It's also hoping to send in a written submission on behalf of producers.

Executive director Collette Rivet said she would like to see something similar to the restrictions the alcohol industry faces, and not the generic packaging the government is pushing for cigarettes.

"[Branding ] is very important. Of course it is. You do have a brand and you do have a reason for selecting the brand. It's a competitive business as well. The product should not be attracting children, that's for sure," she said.

"How can you inform people if you can't provide some of the features? How can you protect them?"

The task force is expected to deliver its report to the government in November.
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by papapuff » Mon Jul 11, 2016 10:16 am

ctvnews.ca



Legal weed market won't need billboard ads to thrive, says pot producer

VIDEO

Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, July 10, 2016 7:37PM EDT

Canada’s budding marijuana industry doesn’t expect Ottawa to embrace ads for weed on billboards or television screens once new legalization legislation is introduced next spring, according to the president of Canada’s highest-profile pot company.

Mark Zekulin of Tweed Marijuana Inc. says he would rather see the Liberal government’s task force on legalizing pot focus on packaging guidelines that will help Canadians enjoy legal weed safely.

“It certainly shouldn’t be advertised like a book or a box of cereal, but I think there is a need to ensure that producers can explain to the customers what they are getting, because it’s a very complex product,” Zekulin told CTV News Channel.

Different marijuana strains can produce a wide variety of physical effects depending on how they are consumed and the concentration of THC -- think of it as the difference between consuming a glass of wine versus a glass of whiskey.

Zekulin worries many first-time consumers won’t be able to tell the difference unless the labelling is clear.

“Some (marijuana) is made with high THC that will have a very psychoactive effect and others have much lower amounts,” he said. “Some will help you sleep and some will give you energy. Some will have a peppery flavour and others have a berry flavour. There is a bunch of information to get across.”

Anne McLellan, a former deputy prime minister under Paul Martin who also served as a health and justice minister, will lead the federal government’s newly announced nine-member Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation.

Advertising and packaging guidelines are said to be a central part of their dialogue, along with keeping pot out of the hands of children and youth, and profits out of the hands of criminals.

Licensed producers like Tweed are anxious to start plans to market their products to the general public, but remain hampered by current rules set up to manage the sale of a controlled substance rather than a legal one. Right now, Health Canada guidelines say producers can only provide basic information like the name and price.

Zekulin says there’s no need to actively encourage Canadians to purchase marijuana, since demand is already proven to be strong on the black market. He’s critical of overzealous weed advertising in places like Colorado where recreational use is newly legal.

“People think it went too far (in Colorado). I don’t know if there were billboards, but there was probably too much cannabis in people’s faces. I’m not sure Canadians necessarily want to see that,” he said.

While selling marijuana to the Canadian public may sound like an effortless task for marketers, Tweed isn’t sitting on its hands.

The Smiths Falls Ont.-based company, which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange through its parent company Canopy Growth Corp., recently signed a three-year branding deal with marijuana’s unofficial spokesperson, Snoop Dogg, for an undisclosed amount of cash and stock.

Snoop Dogg’s partnership with Tweed gives the company exclusive access to certain content and brands owned by the rapper’s company, LBC Holdings. Whether the new guidelines will allow gin-and-juice flavoured pot to be advertised in Canada has yet to be seen.

Zekulin’s hope for now is that the new packaging rules will allow the public to properly understand his product.

“A lot of Canadians are going to be exposed to cannabis like this for the first time and there needs to be the right information to have a conversation and dialogue to understand cannabis, make informed decisions, and ultimately have an enjoyable experience as opposed to a negative one.”
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 12, 2016 10:17 am

C-FAX 1070


BC's Health Officer named to federal marijuana panel

July 11, 2016 10:15 from Hilary Eastmure

BC's Health Officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, will have a key role in helping to shape Canada's new marijuana laws.

Kendall is one of nine people, including five doctors, named to a new panel that will take a close look at the issue.

"The panel has been convened to provide recommendations by November to the federal government on what the regulatory framework that they have announced will be in place in 2017 should look like." says Kendall.

Speaking on CFAX 1070, Kendall said they'll consult with numerous stakeholders, and recognized experts in public health, criminal justice and economics.

He says some of the government's top priorities include creating a regulatory system that will protect youth, and get the profits of marijuana growth out of the hands of criminal enterprises

Kendall also wants to see strict regulations around marketing and advertising marijuana.

"I think my recommendation to the task force will be to have the kind of ban on advertising that we have for tobacco products in Canada, and not to be nearly as promotional as we are with alcohol at the present time."
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 12, 2016 10:56 am

Ottawa Citizen



Marcus A. Sibley: Trudeau Liberals wrong to continue to criminalize pot use


MARCUS A. SIBLEY

Published on: July 12, 2016

The Liberal government has appointed a nine-member task force that will develop recommendations for a comprehensive plan on marijuana legalization and regulation. The move to research and invest in sensible marijuana reform comes as minor possession offences continue to be enforced and police have raided unlicensed pot shops.

Unfortunately, the government has rejected the possibility of immediately decriminalizing marijuana possession.

Decriminalization is not full legalization, but it would eliminate criminal penalty for marijuana-related offences and relieve the strain on an already over-used criminal justice system. The decision to appoint this task force without immediately decriminalizing possession not only flies in the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate to implement meaningful moves toward “evidence-based policy,” it also betrays the cannabis culture Canadians have cultivated over the last 30 years.

Instead, the government maintains that taking the time to develop a plan to control marijuana distribution and sales through a legalized framework – without temporary decriminalization – better addresses the concerns of Canadians. It suggests the current legal infrastructure, which saw significant expansion under the government of Stephen Harper, can provide meaningful protections against organized crime and illegal pot sales.

This decision to continue enforcing marijuana offences encourages police to be heavy-handed in their enforcement while providing virtually no added safeguards to ensure that marijuana stays out of the hands of minors – a primary goal of Trudeau’s campaign toward legalization.

“Quite frankly, until those laws are repealed by Parliament through the appropriate processes, they should be upheld, they should be obeyed,” argues MP and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair. Blair’s comments are in reference to the growing number of unlicensed dispensaries, suggesting they are “reckless” and capitalizing on an ambiguous political climate to make a “quick buck” among recreational and other “unregulated” users.

Blair’s position presupposes that sales of illegal substances will skyrocket without the threat of criminal enforcement, though there is little evidence to support this. In their book, Killer Weed, Susan Boyd (a member of the task force) and Connie Carter argue that this understanding of decriminalization is misleading, suggesting instead that countries which have moved toward decriminalizing recreational drugs saw virtually no rise in drug use, while also experiencing significant reductions in prison overcrowding.

It seems there is a fundamental disconnect between the Liberal government’s stance on pot versus what it is actually happening on the ground. Both Trudeau and Blair have suggested they are uncomfortable with the prospect that immediate decriminalization would make it easier for organized criminals to profit from marijuana sales. Their discomfort, however, evidently does not extend to the fact that countless non-violent cannabis users continue to face criminal records for an act that is soon to be legal.

Charging non-violent cannabis users and small store-front dispensaries with criminal sanction seems antithetical to this supposed ideological shift toward a seemingly softer, evidence-based approach to crime control. Rejecting the possibility of decriminalization before the task force has even had a chance to meet radically undermines the kinds of political interventions experts can make, especially when there has been a great deal of research in the field of drug policy.

The first and most important recommendation of the newly appointed task force should be to immediately decriminalize marijuana, removing the stigmas of criminal sanction and embracing an ethos of compassion toward cannabis users. The interim solution should not default to continued police enforcement and punitive sanctions.

While some police departments have refused to lay charges for possession, others continue to unevenly enforce the laws against some of their communities’ most marginalized groups. With an estimated $1.2 billion spent annually on marijuana enforcement, ruined lives bear the cost when we privilege punishment over evidence-based reforms.

Marcus A. Sibley is a doctoral student in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University. His research largely focuses on gendered-based violence and processes of criminal regulation in Canada. twitter.com/marcussibley
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by papapuff » Wed Jul 13, 2016 10:36 am

McGill Reporter



Mark Ware named to cannabis task force

Posted on Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Task force will consult across the country with experts in various fields

By Gilda Salomone, MUHC Public Affairs

World-renowned pain specialist and medical cannabis researcher Dr. Mark Ware, director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), has been nominated vice-chair of an important federal task force that will provide guidance to the Canadian government as it prepares to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana in spring 2017.

Dr. Ware, who is also an associate professor of Family Medicine and Anesthesia at McGill and a scientist in the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) Program of the Research Institute of the MUHC (RI-MUHC), has been studying the use, safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis for the last 16 years. He is also involved in population-based studies on the impact of pain and the evaluation of complementary therapies in pain and symptom management.
“As a physician and researcher, I am aware of the important issues that health professionals of Canada will have to consider regarding cannabis use,” says Dr. Ware. “I have a balanced view of the subject and a strong ability to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders.”

Led by former cabinet minister Anne McLellan, the task force, which was announced by the federal government today, will consult across the country with experts in various fields and make recommendations with respect to the production, distribution, retail and consumption of marijuana.

Dr. Ware praises Canada’s intention to take a leadership role on the world stage to regulate cannabis. “The model of prohibition has been unsuccessful in controlling cannabis use and in adequately identifying and preventing harms,” he said. “It has also created an enormous black market that is impossible to regulate. I think this a very positive and important step globally.”

To know more: Government of Canada moves forward on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation
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by papapuff » Thu Jul 14, 2016 3:16 pm

The Huffington Post Canada

Prad Sekar
Co-founder and COO, Lift Resource Centre


Patients' Voices Must Be Heard In Cannabis Legalization Debate

Posted: 07/14/2016

A quick survey of recent headlines around the legalization discussion, even the federal task force's press conference, reveals a conspicuous absence: medical cannabis and the patients who rely on it.

The current debate and coverage focuses on legalization and regulation combining the interests of everyone from recreational users to growers to government. Without the interests of patients represented in this debate, we run the risk of establishing a future framework that is set up to fail and will require further modification.

The debate about cannabis legalization is complex and encompasses many different aspects from distribution models, to the rights of medical patients, from Canadian's right to freedom of choice, to large-scale commercialization. When the legalization conversation does include medical issues, much of the focus is on medical cannabis users and dispensaries and, more to the point, the quality of medicine available at dispensaries. Fundamental to this discussion are the interests of the 450,000 Canadians who use medical cannabis and how best to monitor medical cannabis to safely and effectively treat them.

To understand medical cannabis, it helps to understand the path to choosing it. Medical cannabis can be a last line of treatment for those who have unsuccessfully tried pharmaceuticals. When pharmaceuticals are successful, the side-effects of treatments -- for more than a dozen diseases classified by Health Canada eligible for medical cannabis -- can be especially intense and unbearable causing patients to either seek other options, or incorporate cannabis into their regimen to ease these symptoms.

For example, a person living with multiple sclerosis (MS) may change treatments three or more times because the side-effects are excruciating, including reoccurring hot flashes, tissue degradation, digestive problems or hair loss. On the other hand, patients may eschew pharmaceutical treatments altogether, opting for a more "natural" option -- as is their choice.

The medical industry works hard to ensure treatments are safe and effective, but sometimes the results are not optimal and another option is prescribed. Throughout the process, physicians look after patients' best interests.

We need to define a model for medical cannabis that puts patients first as well, and allows their physicians to provide the same level of care with cannabis as they do with other medications.

Prohibition has largely denied the medical community the chance to study the effects this plant has on the human body so we have quite a bit of catch up to do. Canada has a system in place called Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) that has created a starting point to treat patients.

The logical next step is enhancing patient care and improving the collaboration between clinics, doctors, licensed producers and Health Canada. Access is a great start, but it's not enough. Patients need more trained nurses and health professionals with the ability to guide patients in the right direction, to sup-port them on their journey to wellness with medical cannabis.

Lastly, understanding where your medication comes from and what exactly is in it is critical. While it's understandable that the current legal landscape discourages dispensaries from disclosing their sources, this is one thing that must change in order for us to progress toward medical standardization. If we are to treat medical cannabis as a true medicine, then we must adhere to the same rules and regulations that all medicine is subject to.

Regulating the source of the drug allows physicians and patients alike to study and better understand how their medicine works in concert with other pharmaceuticals, or with various conditions and lifestyles. Medical cannabis has different effects on different people and treatments must involve not only the medicine, but education around the medication, personalized treatment plans and regular follow-up care.

Patients are critical to the success of future legalization and regulation of marijuana in Canada, and specifically medical cannabis. The needs of 450,000 Canadians who depend on medical cannabis are the fundamental criteria that will guide and help shape a positive trajectory for the Federal Task led by Anne McLellan.

These patients' needs and experiences regarding medical cannabis must be represented and fully considered by the task force and government as they make decisions on regulations for a legal cannabis marketplace for both marijuana and medical cannabis.
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by papapuff » Sun Jul 17, 2016 11:27 am

News1130



Smart Approaches to Marijuana wants minimum age of 25 for access to cannabis


by STEPHANIE FROESE
Posted Jul 17, 2016

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You have to be 19 to by alcohol here, but only 18 in next door Alberta; the minimum age for cannabis could also be different across the country once laws come into place.

One group wants to make sure weed isn’t offered to anyone below the age of 25.

That would be the minimum age, if SAM Canada was in charge.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana member Pamela McColl says she’s encouraged by a recent report to Canada’s task force on legalization and regulation.

“They’re also saying this should be a slow processs. The Canadian population is not educated on marijuana, the perception of risk is declining and so they may be well advised to take 10 years to do this,” says McColl, who believes this should be a health issue.

“One has ot simply look at logic. If you normalize a drug and say ‘hey, it’s okay for adults’, it’s more accessible, it’s available in stores, of course kids are going to get it. Twenty-three per cent of kids in Colorado get their marijuana from their parents.”

The task force is set to report back to the feds in the fall, with legislation expected to be drafted by the spring.
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by papapuff » Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:21 pm

The Globe and Mail



Marijuana task force faces ‘fascinating journey’ in crafting legal framework

DANIEL LEBLANC
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Jul. 18, 2016

Mark Ware was working with patients suffering from a painful blood disease in the late 1990s when he noticed that many of them were self-medicating. The sickle cell anemia research clinic where he was working was in Jamaica, and the pain reliever of choice for a growing number of his patients was cannabis.

The episode put the British-born, Jamaica-raised doctor on the path that has made him a world-renowned expert on the use of cannabis in pain management.

Now based at McGill University in Montreal, Dr. Ware will turn his attention in coming months to the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. As a key member of a new task force, he will help the federal government to create a legal regime for all adult pot users.


“The next six months will be a fascinating journey in understanding a different aspect of cannabis regulation than the medical model,” he said recently in his first media interview since being named vice-chair of the task force.

The government called on former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan last month to lead a nine-member task force on marijuana legalization and regulation. She was hired because of her political know-how and the expertise she gained as a minister of health, justice and public safety in the 1990s and 2000s.

The panel will provide its findings to the government and the public by November, with new legislation to come in the spring of 2017.

Dr. Ware, who was brought in as one of Canada’s foremost experts on the science behind marijuana, said he does not believe that cannabis is a “panacea” as a medical drug. He also said there should be strict controls on the quality and potency of recreational marijuana, especially as Canada starts research on the long-term impact of legalization.

“Under a regulated, non-medical model, the opportunity stands to learn in a much more informed way what is the true picture of cannabis use and its impact on health,” Dr. Ware said. “Unquestionably, from a medical standpoint, it’s crucial for patients using any drug that they know its origins, its quality, its potency.”

The issues that remain to be determined are numerous: Who will have the right to produce marijuana for recreational purposes; how will the product be distributed and sold; and what type of research will be needed to ensure that legalization meets the government’s public-health objectives?

The overarching question is whether the government will opt for a strongly regulated system that allows only a few producers and tightly controlled sellers, or whether it will allow home growers and a wide variety of dispensaries across the country.

While the task force’s final decisions are still months down the road, the background of the nine members on the panel suggests they will recommend a regime that will be more restrictive than liberal.

Another task force member, Catherine Zahn of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said the group will discuss regulations for issues such as the growth and production of marijuana, the minimum age for buyers and the allowable concentration of active ingredients in legal products.

CAMH issued a key report in 2014 that called for the legalization of marijuana in order to offer better protection to young users, frequent users and those suffering from mental illness.

“We know that like alcohol, like cigarettes, like gambling, there are individuals who may be at risk for more harms,” Dr. Zahn said in an interview.

Dr. Ware agreed on the need to place limits on the accessibility of the drug to protect the overall health of Canadians. In his research on marijuana for medical purposes, he studied the different uses for the drug and its effects on issues such as neuropathic pain. He concluded that the health effects related to the regular consumption of marijuana are not a cause for major alarm.

“In a nutshell, the side effects that we found were not unexpected; they were mostly mild to moderate in terms of severity,” Dr. Ware said.

Members of the committee state they are approaching the debate with an open mind. When the task force was announced, Ms. McLellan said her group would consult with all levels of government, as well as “youth and experts in relevant fields such as health care, substance abuse, criminal justice, law enforcement, economics, industry and those groups with expertise in sales, production and distribution.”

Dr. Zahn said the task force is looking forward to finding out the pros and cons of various legalization efforts around the world. Dr. Ware added that the government has received more than 20,000 submissions from across the country, showcasing how Canadians are taking the continuing process to heart.
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by papapuff » Wed Jul 20, 2016 11:21 am

The Huffington Post Canada



Bill Bogart
Professor of Law, University of Windsor


Use Marijuana Tax Revenues To Treat Related Public Health Issues

Posted: 07/20/2016

The Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation is up and running. And run it will in order to have a detailed set of recommendations for its November deadline. It has lots of issues to consider as indicated by its discussion paper and beyond. Protection of children in the shift from criminalization to regulation must be paramount.

Taxation raises a lot of questions. There's no doubt that marijuana, itself, and the industry and its employees, agents, etc. should be taxed. One of the main arguments for legalization and regulation is that it will impose levies on the cannabis industry, ending its illicit tax-free days. How much to tax is a critical issue: too low and the levies, even combined with other strategies, won't have much impact dampening harmful consumption; too high and the illicit market can creep back in (we've seen this happen with cigarettes).

At any rate, taxation produces revenue for governments. What should be done with the flow derived from marijuana? Monies from taxes on cannabis could simply be directed to the general revenue pool of government. However, for two compelling reasons, the task force should recommend that any legislation regulating marijuana should stipulate that funds should be earmarked for public health issues related to cannabis.

First, the goal of taxing drugs is to discourage harmful consumption. The money raised through those taxes will have more impact if it is used to support prevention and counselling than it will by becoming part of general revenues used for various purposes. Second, the taxes will more likely be supported by the public if they are used for these specific ends.

There are a number of interventions to reduce damaging consumption and respond to harmful use, such as educational and treatment programs, that require significant resources. One means to at least partially offset these costs is for legislatures to stipulate that the funds raised by taxes should be dedicated to these various efforts.

Targeting tax funds could also engender support for these levies. Evidence for such approval comes from efforts to impose taxes on junk food. For a number of reasons there has been a big push to tax sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Advocates of this levy suggest that public support will be further enhanced if it is known that the funds will be used to fight obesity and related purposes.

They cite a 2008 poll of New York State residents in which 52 per cent of respondents supported a soda tax; 72 per cent did so if the revenue was to be used to prevent obesity. A 2011 poll in Massachusetts revealed that 69 per cent would support a sales tax on soda if revenues went to schools or anti-obesity programs focused on children; results were split nearly evenly if respondents were not given information about how funds would be used.

Proponents underscore the point arising from this increased percentage: support is highest when the tax is viewed as promoting health (rather than raising revenue) and where the funds are dedicated to prevention programs. A similar position regarding use of tax funds for targeted public health purposes is taken by those urging increased levies on alcohol.

All that said, Transform, the English think tank dedicated to drug reform, makes a fundamental point in this regard. It acknowledges how resources from taxes on drugs can be linked to funding prevention, treatment, etc. However, it also makes a wise observation that policy makers must bear in mind: "Service provision should be determined by need and evidence of efficacy, not by the whims of tax revenue generation." True. But targeting tax funds, done properly, can both underscore the importance of and fund those very services.
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