Brock experts comment on cannabis task force findings

A Brock University researcher says the federal government’s approach to legalizing marijuana is similar to how post-prohibition alcohol sales were treated.

A task force studying recreational cannabis use has released a framework that it says the government should follow.

Among its recommendations are:

  • Sales should be restricted to those 18 and older, with provinces and territories able to set age restrictions older than 18
  • The personal possession limit should be set at 30 grams
  • Cannabis should be sold in storefronts, but not in locations also selling alcohol and tobacco products
  • Products should be sold in plain packaging
  • The number of stores should be regulated, and kept away from schools, community centres and parks
  • Tax revenues should fund public education campaigns and research on the effects of marijuana consumption

Brock University has two experts commenting on the recommendations.

Department of Health Sciences associate professor Dan Malleck is an expert on Canadian drug and alcohol policy and history. Department of Sport Management associate professor Curtis Fogel is an expert on drug control policy and sport law.

“My initial reaction was it was fairly comprehensive,” Malleck says. “Some elements are surprising and some are what we expected. I think it’s a completely reasonable report. It’s incredibly dull in it’s lack of anything shocking, but that’s what you’re looking for in a policy like this.”

Malleck says one thing that stands out is the age limit being set at 18 years: “With all the rhetoric they got from various stakeholders, it is a surprising limit. However, it makes sense to leave it to the provinces because liquor law ages vary across the country.”

He says the recommendation against selling cannabis alongside alcohol and tobacco was also unexpected: “It’s going to create a whole new administration around cannabis.”

Malleck thinks this is a strategy to deal with bad optics: “The best people to manage access to controlled recreational substances are those whose job already is to control access to controlled recreational substances, like a liquor control board.”

He says the idea of locating cannabis stores away from parks and schools is also a measure to calm public anxiety: “It’s this idea of persistent moralism. This is right out of the LCBO playbook from the 1920s and 30s that locating it near a school or church had this imbedded fear or guilt by association into it.

“The distribution system should be able to deal with kids coming in trying to buy pot. So if you think your system of who’s selling this stuff is so bad that you have to worry about it being too close to a school, then you have to rethink your system of distribution. It’s clearly the optics of having it near a school that is the real issue here.”

Fogel, an associate professor in Sport Management, recently published a paper with Geraint Osborne from the University of Alberta specifically examining the use of recreational cannabis use. “Perspectives on Cannabis Legalization Among Canadian Recreational Users” focuses on working adults and grad students who use cannabis recreationally.

“One interviewee was a star student who reportedly smokes 10 joints a day and maintains near perfect grades while another was an award winning musician,” Fogel says. “We looked at challenging some of the myths and stereotypes on the responsible, and potentially productive, use of marijuana.”

He says the research is changing on what cannabis use looks like.

“It’s very different than the early research on marijuana that said it makes people lazy or unproductive.”

Fogel has been researching the issue for nearly a decade since he was an undergrad student at the University of Alberta.

“At that time, the Jean Crétien government was in place and they were moving toward de-criminalization of it, but that came with other issues. Our argument was to move toward legalization. This is definitely an important step.”

Read more stories in: Applied Health Sciences, News, People, Research
Tagged with: , ,