The federal government’s slow move toward a controlled market for legal marijuana in Canada is set to take a step forward this week with the delivery of a task force report that includes advice on a minimum age, product warnings and measures to prevent drug-impaired driving.(Globe and Mail, “Report on Canada’s marijuana legalization due this week”, Nov. 27, 2016)

Currently, production and possession of marijuana is illegal unless it has been authorized for medical purposes. The government estimates the illegal marijuana industry’s size at $7-billion, annually.  (National Post, “Growing Opportunities”, November 2016)

The task force was also asked to consider where marijuana will be sold, how to keep profits out of the hands of organized crime and how to continue access to quality-controlled marijuana for medical use.

Legal uncertainties and risk continue for marijuana dispensaries

In the past several months the police have raided marijuana dispensaries across Canada, including busts in Barrie, Toronto, and Ottawa. Until the current laws are reformed, medical marijuana dispensaries and their workers continue to run the risk of criminal charges. (“Ottawa police put illegal pot shops on notice following Friday raids”, CBC News, Nov. 4, 2016)

The federal government has promised to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana by the spring of 2017. Despite the seeming tolerance for dispensaries in some areas, those running dispensaries can be subject to criminal charges such as:

  • Trafficking marijuana
  • Production of marijuana
  • Possession of proceeds of crime
  • Conspiracy to traffic marijuana

The funds and properties related to dispensaries may also be subject to forfeiture under Ontario’s Civil Remedies Act.

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