Government announces marijuana legalization task force

The Task force will include experts in law enforcement, public health, cannabis research, mental health issues, and much more

The Federal government announced their official Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation at a press conference this morning.

The task force will be chaired by Anne McClellan. Mark Ware will be the Vice Chair. The rest of the task force is Susan Boyd, George Chow, Marlene Jesso, Perry Kendall, Rafik Souccar, Barbara von Tigerstrom, Catherine Zahn.

These appointments give yet more guidance on which direction the government is taking their legalization efforts, with an emphasis on public health and safety. Every task force member has a connection to the cannabis ticket in some way, from research and medicine, to law enforcement and international law. 

Below is some background on the panelists.

Anne McClellan - McClellan has served as minister of justice and minister of health under Jean Chretien, as well as Paul Martin’s public safety minister. With this experience alone, McClellan is well suited to chair the group. She also has a long and storied history around cannabis, legalization and decriminalization.

Marc Ware - Associate Professor in Family Medicine and Anesthesia at McGill University. Director of Clinical Research of the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). Co-Director of the Quebec Pain Research Network. Executive Director of the non-profit Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids.

Dr. Ware’s primary research interests are in evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medicines derived from cannabis (cannabinoids). He is involved in population-based studies of the impact of pain on the population, and the evaluation of complementary therapies in pain and symptom management. Dr. Ware’s research is supported by the FRQ-S, CIHR, the Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation, and grants from pharmaceutical companies.

Susan Boyd - A University of Victoria professor who specializes in drug law and drug policy and co-Author of Killer Weed: Marijuana Grow Ops, Media, and Justice. Boyd is a longtime outspoken advocate for cannabis law reform, and has been critical of prohibition and the government’s discourse around cannabis. She is also the author of Hooked: Drug Films in Britain, Canada, and the US; From Witches to Crack Moms: Women, Drug Law, and Policy; Mothers and Illicit Drugs: Transcending the Myths; and Raise Shit! Social Action Saving Lives; and co-editor of With Child: Substance Use During Pregnancy: A Woman-Centred Approach. She collaborates with harm reduction and drug user organizations and is a member of the steering committee, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

George Chow - Is a former Vancouver City Councillor and member of Vision Vancouver. Vision Vancouver has played a key role in Vancouver’s dispensary licensing program (MMRU). Chow is on the Vancouver Board of Variance that has been hearing zoning variance for medical marijuana dispensary applicants in the city.

Marlene Jesso - Superintendent at Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Working with the RNC, Jesso has been the lead spokesman on many drug busts in his region, including cannabis. She has over 30 years of policing experience, including ten years in a leadership role enforcing the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA)

Dr. Perry Kendall - Dr. Kendall has been BC’s first and only Provincial Health Officer since 1999, and has recently called for the decriminalization of all drugs. He has also advocated for the legalization of marijuana.

Prior to his appointment as BC’s PHO, Perry spent six years as Medical Officer of Health for The City of Toronto, where he helped pioneer programs for HIV/AIDS and drug abuse prevention and established harm reduction as city policy for substance abuse, as well as city tobacco control by-laws. He also helped establish Canada’s first needle exchange program in the late 1980’s.

In 2012 Dr Kendall, along with his counterpart, Nova Scotia Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Robert Strang, released a paper that called for a ‘health-based strategy’ to legalization, rather than criminalization. The paper said prohibition was ineffective at preventing people from using cannabis and that the then-Harper government should look at taxing and regulating instead.

“The fact cannabis is illegal doesn’t diminish access rates. The so-called war on drugs has not achieved its stated objective of reducing rates of drug use. It’s universally available in B.C. and the supply is controlled largely by criminal enterprise,” Kendall told The Sun in 2012.

Rafik Souccar - Former RCMP deputy commissioner Rafik Souccar. He has experience in the Drug Awareness and education for youth and at risk individuals. Mr. Souccar also led the development of the Drug Impaired driving legislation and the creation of the Drug Recognition Expert training for police officers.

Barbara von Tigerstorm - A Professor at the University of Saskatchewan who has worked on health care reform Previously she worked at the Supreme Court of Canada, the University of Alberta Health Law Institute, and the University of Canterbury School of Law. She holds a PhD in law from the University of Cambridge. Her main areas of teaching and research are health law, public health law and policy, pharmaceutical regulation, administrative law and international law. She currently holds the position of Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies at the college.

Dr. Catherine Zahn, C.M. - President and Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Addiction  and Mental Health CAMH. Zahn has been calling for legalization for some time.

You can read more about their bios here

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1 comment

  1. Stephen Campbell Reply

    I found it amusing that the 1st question was 'A task force now? What have you been doing all this time?'