Posted: October 16 2023
New Report Outlines Recommendations for Achieving Equity and Social Justice in Canadian Cannabis Policies
Toronto, Canada – A report released today by the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation (CDPE) offers recommendations for advancing equitable cannabis policies in Canada.
Released to respond to the ongoing legislative review of the Cannabis Act, this new report provides a guide for improving equity and social justice after five years of Canada’s legalization and regulation of non-medical cannabis markets. A top line recommendation is that the purpose of the Cannabis Act be expanded to include the promotion of social responsibility and social equity in connection with cannabis.
“Canada has a transformational opportunity with the legislative review of the Cannabis Act to build cannabis policies that prioritize racial and social justice,” said Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto and senior author of the report. “An essential first step is formally adding equity as a key goal of Canada’s cannabis policy alongside public health and safety objectives.”
Black and Indigenous people, who have been disproportionately negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition in Canada, as well as women, are notably absent from leadership positions within the Canadian cannabis industry. In comparison to many jurisdictions in the United States, Canadian legalization efforts have done little to explicitly address the harms caused by drug prohibition and to foster equity in the legal cannabis industry.
“More work is needed in Canada to begin rectifying the injustices experienced by racialized groups disproportionately targeted and punished under cannabis prohibition,” emphasized Tahira Rehmatullah of Highlands Venture Partners, a leading cannabis investment and advisory firm, who was not involved in the research project. “If we don’t proactively work towards social justice within the industry, we will perpetuate inequitable legal cannabis industries, with those who have historically been marginalized continuing to be unfairly excluded.”
Recommendations across three domains are made in the report to structurally address inequities in Canada’s cannabis policy, namely:
- Inclusion of people from underrepresented racial groups and genders – with a focus on people adversely affected by cannabis prohibition – in the employment and economic opportunities emerging from the legal cannabis industry,
- Full amnesty for people with previous cannabis convictions, and
- Reinvestment of cannabis taxes into social and economic programs aimed at repairing the harms of cannabis prohibition.
The new report’s recommendations align with those made by stakeholders consulted by the independent Expert Panel conducting the legislative review of the Cannabis Act, as described in their report published last week summarizing perspectives heard. Stakeholders called for an expansion of cannabis policy’s objectives to include social equity and diversity, the adoption of social equity programs to facilitate greater industry diversity, a more accessible amnesty process, as well as the allocation of revenues for social equity initiatives.
As the Expert Panel considers the input they gathered and prepares to release their recommendations by March 2024, their inclusion of tangible actions for advancing racial and social justice priorities, like those outlined in the CDPE’s new report, will be critical to the development of more equitable cannabis policies in Canada.
About the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation
The Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation (CDPE) strives to improve community health and safety by conducting research and outreach on best practices in drug policy. We work collaboratively with governments, affected communities, and civil society to guide effective and evidence-based policy responses to substance use. The CDPE is housed within the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, in Toronto, Canada.
For more information or to arrange a media interview, please contact:
Manager, Policy Impact Unit
Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation
+1 (647) 702-7825