Canada is moving forward in its plans to legalize marijuana. A nine-member task force finalized its report on recommendations for the government as it weighs a regulatory framework. Pictured: In this file photo, a cash register is adorned with a Canadian flag and imitation marijuana leaves at the BC Marijuana Party Headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Jae C. Hong, AP)

Canada marijuana legalization takes big step with federal report now complete

Analysts predict Canada could have $4.5 billion industry by 2021; marijuana task force wraps up extensive report that is expected to include recommendations on everything from age limits to medical marijuana, safety and home grows

Canada’s marijuana task force announced Wednesday that it has fulfilled its mission and soon will deliver a final report to the government outlining recommendations for the country’s legal cannabis framework.

The report is being translated and will be provided to federal ministers and the public by mid-December, once it is in both official languages of English and French, according to a statement released Wednesday by Anne McLellan, chair of the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation.

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“It has been an honour for us, along with the other members of the Task Force, to have had the opportunity to engage with Canadians across the country who generously shared their expertise and perspectives on how the government should approach the legalization and regulation of cannabis,” she said in the statement. “We are pleased to announce that the Task Force has completed our work.”

The report — which is expected to include recommendations on a variety of topics such as age limits, medical marijuana, safety and home grows, according to CBC News — follows five months of research and consultations that included 30,000 responses to an online questionnaire, meetings with provincial and territorial governments, interviews with experts across a variety of fields, conversations with medical patients, and visits internationally to states such as Colorado and Washington.

Earlier this week, McLellan told the Globe and Mail that adapting to marijuana legalization will take a significant psychological shift by law enforcement, governments and residents:

Right now, production and possession of marijuana is illegal unless it has been authorized for medical purposes, but the government estimates the illegal marijuana industry’s size at $7 billion ($5.2 billion U.S.), annually.

Ottawa has committed to introducing legislation in the spring that will move marijuana “from a criminal regime, where this was an illegal substance with criminal sanctions – some of them very serious – to a legalized product in a regulated marketplace,” Ms. McLellan said. It’s important to move slowly, and deliberately, in implementation, she added.

“Most Canadians think it’s time to move away from the system we have. But they are less clear about words like ‘decriminalization’ and ‘legalization.'”

As Canada marches closer to legalizing marijuana, the country could have a $4.5 billion industry on its hands by 2021, financial analysts project.

Canaccord Genuity analysts Matt Bottomley and Neil Maruoka published a note this week estimating that by 2021, Canada will have 3.8 million legal recreational marijuana users and a demand for 575,000 kilograms, or roughly 1.27 million pounds, of recreational and medical marijuana, according to a Bloomberg report.

If Canada legalizes in 2017 and sales begin in 2018, the initial demand is estimated to be about 400,000 kilograms, or 882,000 pounds, the analysts said.

Canaccord’s Bottomley and Maruoka did not respond Wednesday to a request from The Cannabist for further comment.

Canada is poised to become the second country in the world to legalize marijuana, behind Uruguay, which legalized in 2013. Colorado was the first locale to allow legal sales of recreational marijuana, starting in 2014.