By Ismail Shakil
OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada on Thursday launched a review of the country’s legalization of recreational cannabis use four years ago to evaluate its impact on youth, indigenous minorities and others, and analyze its effect on the economy and the illegal marijuana market.
Canada became the first developed nation to legalize use of recreational marijuana in October 2018. It has since also passed a law allowing citizens with a criminal record for marijuana possession to be pardoned quickly and without cost.
Canada’s health minister was required to conduct a review of the legislation, its administration, and operation three years after coming into force, so the review is coming a year later than had been planned.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said it took longer than expected to begin the review because the government wanted to “make sure things were done right” and plan a review broader than what is mandated by law.
While a study of the law’s safety was a priority, Duclos said the review also would look at Canadian cannabis industry complaints about high taxes, sale limitations and advertising restrictions.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce welcomed the review, saying its broad scope would help facilitate growth of the legal cannabis sector.
“However, to effectively displace the illicit market and protect the public health and safety of all Canadians, law enforcement, businesses, industry and all levels of government will need to continue to work together,” the Canadian Chamber of Commerce National Cannabis Working Group said in a statement.
The review will evaluate the law’s impact on young Canadians and progress toward the legislation’s aim of providing adults with access to regulated, lower-risk and legal cannabis products, according to a statement from the government.
It will also analyze what progress has been made in deterring criminal activity and displacing the illicit cannabis market.
Through this review, “we will strengthen the (Cannabis) Act so that it meets the needs of all Canadians while continuing to displace the illicit market,” Duclos said in a statement.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)