The Legalization of Recreational Cannabis

Cannabis is an inherently harmful substance, and we need to treat it as such if we are going to enable its recreational use through legislation and state-sponsored distribution.

Most analysts’ expectations are that cannabis will be treated much like alcohol and tobacco from a regulatory perspective. Some regulatory jurisdiction over its creation, production and manufacturing is at the federal level, but regulation concerning its advertising and distribution will fall to provincial hands.

This paper seeks to establish the position of New Brunswick’s doctors not on “medical cannabis,” nor the validity of moving to a legalised distribution system for cannabis, but rather on the ways in which the provincial government can successfully reduce the harm associated with the sale of recreational cannabis. It has been sent to the Premier, and multiple government bodies in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick’s doctors are not debating whether the legalisation of cannabis should go ahead. It is going ahead. Our issue is how we can reduce the potential harms and help government find the right balance. We continue our work to improve the health of New Brunswickers, and our work to influence government on this issue continues. Expect to see more from us in a public manner throughout the fall as the government creates its plan to legalise cannabis. We will draw attention to the importance of keeping a healthy population at the centre of government policy.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. Recommendation: After a year under the new regulatory system, the Province should double its investment in the New Brunswick Contraband Enforcement Unit to expand its focus to cannabis.
  2. Recommendation: The Department of Public Safety and the New Brunswick Police Association should partner to protect the safety of New Brunswickers by ensuring law enforcement have adequate training, professional development, and the tools necessary to successfully detect and deter driving while under the influence of cannabis.
  3. Recommendation: The Department of Public Safety should partner with groups like MADD Canada to educate the public about cannabis impairment while behind the wheel, and work with the Department of Motor Vehicles and driver education firms to make awareness of the issue a feature of driver licensure and training.
  4. Recommendation: While the province should not ignore the economic potential of cannabis production, it should speak about such economic potential in a cautious manner.
  5. Recommendation: The Province needs to examine carefully the costs of gaming, alcohol, and tobacco to the health, education, and social systems versus their revenues to gain a clearer picture of what inference could be drawn to the use of cannabis and its economic impact on the province.
  6. Recommendation: The Province needs to outline plans for investment in cannabis-control measures, such as law enforcement and retailer training, to address the spike in issues created by the coming legalisation of cannabis. If we have some expectation of potential revenues created by the legalisation of cannabis, we should have an equally good idea as to its cost.
  7. Recommendation: We believe a Crown corporation should have a strict monopoly to manage the sale of cannabis in the province.
  8. Recommendation: If NB Liquor is chosen to be that supplier, that monopoly must be overseen differently than the current sale of alcohol with an eye to the above issues. To begin with, we believe no Crown corporation can be subject to a profit target when it comes to the sale of cannabis.
  9. Recommendation: Whatever is decided regarding the distributor of cannabis, we believe distribution points should not co-locate the sale of cannabis, alcohol, or tobacco through its stores or affiliated outlets.
  10. Recommendation: Government should approach public education campaigns with caution. While the public certainly needs education on cannabis, including driving while high and the co-use of cannabis and alcohol, it must take such education to the public in a way that does not unintentionally encourage its use.
  11. Recommendation: Cannabis should be subject to the marketing bans and plain package initiatives of tobacco from Day One.
  12. Recommendation: From a medical perspective, we believe cannabis should not be sold to young adults under 25, but balancing societal access and preventing illicit purchase by young adults may necessitate an age of legal sale at 21.
  13. Recommendation: If the age for legal cannabis purchase becomes 21, we believe the age of legal purchase for tobacco should also be set at 21 for anyone born in the year 2000 or later.
  14. Recommendation: Tobacco should be sold in plain packaging at the earliest available opportunity.