Cannabis has been legal in Canada for more than a year now, and according to industry players, there are still some kinks in the system.
Earlier this month, the Cannabis Council of Canada sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging the federal government to consider recommendations to relieve “pain points” in the legal pot framework.
Here’s what the organization wants the government to act on:
1. Replace provincial/territorial cannabis excise stamps with a national one.
The group says creating stamps for each province and territory where marijuana products are sold is an “expensive resource burden on the cannabis industry.” A national stamp could help get products to in-demand areas quicker and “help mitigate supply issues,” they say.
2. Get rid of excise taxes on medical cannabis products.
Medical cannabis patients have expressed concern with the costs associated with legal pot, and scrapping the excise tax for medical users would help bring down the price. The council notes legal cannabis still costs more than what’s available on the black market, and advocates for medical users say they’re still turning to illegal distributors because of the difference in price. Addressing this cost difference would help diminish the black market and ensure the viability of the legal cannabis industry, the group adds.
3. Crack down on illegal brick-and-mortar and online pot dispensaries.
Legalization has not eliminated producers and distributors who are operating illegally in Canada. The organization says the government should “actively seek out and shut down” illegal operators by working with provinces and territories to boost enforcement.
In Toronto, police have been playing a game of whack-a-mole on unlicensed cannabis retailers. Police have gone so far as blocking storefronts with giant concrete blocks, only to see shops pop up elsewhere. There are also illegal options for Canadians looking to buy pot products online.
Cannabis industry insiders say the federal government could work more closely with local governments, law enforcement officials and the banking sector to “remove competitive barriers” for the legal industry while protecting youth from the illicit market. The group says they want to see the feds prioritize shutting down illegal sellers, which threaten the viability of the legal market.
4. Create a plan to export regulated cannabis products to Europe for medical use.
The federal government should work towards developing a “comprehensive, commercial medical cannabis export framework” that would help Canada become a global leader in the medical pot market, the council says. It recommends having a plan ready for launch by November 2020 in order to “realize the existing potential for regulated cannabis products in European markets and beyond.”
In February, a major shift took place when the European Parliament voted to increase access to legal medical marijuana. Politicians had been urging the European Union to take medical pot use seriously, especially since the World Health Organization has recommended CBD not be considered a controlled substance.
5. Review Health Canada’s service standards to decrease approval delays.
The council says the government should be looking for areas of improvement when it comes to Health Canada’s regulations. A review of service standards could help address delays and other issues in the legal industry, according to the organization. The time it takes for licence amendments and research applications to be approved has been a sore spot for some in the business.
Last month, a University of Manitoba associate professor told CBC News that strict regulations from Health Canada are creating barriers for researchers seeking to study cannabis.
The Cannabis Council of Canada says it would like to see a review of the service standards to find “tangible actions” that could address delays and other issues.