It has been five years since Canada legalized recreational cannabis. Has this dramatic policy change been a success? How much of the illegal market has been displaced? Have the goals of the Cannabis Act been achieved?

We have a legal market bloated with mass production of largely low-quality cannabis with a big environmental footprint. The frenzy to establish and grow the market has created a surplus sitting in warehouses across the country and many producers are struggling to survive.

The federal government is in the midst of a legislative review of this nascent industry. What needs to change?

In this series, we explore the shortcomings of the cannabis market, which was designed to protect the health and safety of Canadians, keep cannabis away from young people, and divert profits from criminals and organized crime.

Little has been done to repair the harms that prohibition inflicted on marginalized communities. Black and Indigenous people remain noticeably absent from leadership positions in the industry.

We compare Canada’s legalization path with California’s, which is two years older, and we delve into the lessons of Quebec’s centralized approach.

The series examines the path forward toward a sustainable, equitable cannabis market that still protects the health and safety of Canadians.

Articles in this series:

Ontario Cannabis Store earned $234 million but taxpayers got nothing, by Michael J. Armstrong

A course-correction on cannabis equity : the moment is now, by Nazlee Maghsoudi, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Tahira Rehmatullah. (See related event below.)

A tale of two cannabis legalization experiments, by Daniel Bear and Joshua Meisel

A clean-cannabis manifesto, by Andrew Hathaway and Clayton McCann

A still-hazy picture of cannabis after five years of legalization, by Denna Berg, Rebecca Jesseman

What Quebec’s cannabis strategy shows, by Bertrand Malsch, Julie Loslier, Émilie Dansereau-Trahan


Fall Lecture by Akwasi Owusu-Bempah:

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah will present the keynote lecture at the IRPP’s Fall Lecture in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 8, 2023 at the National Arts Centre. Owusu-Bempah is a University of Toronto professor and co-author of the 2023 book Waiting to Inhale: Cannabis Legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice.

The lecture will be followed by a lively networking reception, offering the chance to mix and mingle with Canada’s dynamic policy community. We will also take the opportunity to officially launch a call for applications for our new IRPP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Support of Indigenous, Black, and Other Racialized Scholars.

Register here.

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