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Health Canada gets backlash from industry experts for cannabis act review panel member selection

The panel will be composed of 3 substance use and addiction experts and 2 lawyers

From Mugglehead Magazine by Natalia Buendia Calvillo November 25 2022

Canadian health ministers have announced the experts that will be part of the panel on the legislative review of the cannabis act.

However, some experts in the industry say they are disappointed with the constitution of the panel as it lacks public health and industry expertise representation.

On Thursday, Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health Carolyn Bennett announced the five members that will provide the ministers with updates on the act’s review progress and identify potential areas for improving the legislation.

The independent panel will be led by Morris Rosenberg and composed of Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde, Dr. Patricia J. Conrod, Lynda L. Levesque and Dr. Peter Selby. 

“It’s my great pleasure to begin working with the members of the expert panel. Each member brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, which will be essential as we conduct a thorough, independent review of the cannabis act,” said Rosenberg.

Health Canada says the Ministers have selected individuals to represent and advocate for Canada’s diversity, with significant public sector experience, expertise in public health and justice, and experience engaging with Indigenous communities and organizations.

The agency says the ministers have taken a number of factors for deciding on the panel such as geography, expertise and demographic representation.

Read more: Canadian craft producers call for tax reform push ahead of Cannabis Act review

Read more: Ministers release statement on 4th year anniversary of adult use Cannabis Act

Panel has no cannabis industry or public health expert

The panel member announcement sparked conversation on social media among experts and other stakeholders in the industry who expressed concerns over social media about the selection arguing more experts in the pot industry are needed.

BrazeauSeller.LLP cannabis lawyer Trina Fraser said that while the expertise on harms was needed, public health and industry expertise is lacking.

“Public health objectives will not be achieved if the industry doesn’t ‘work’. Policy decisions must take into account the corresponding effects of regulation on the illicit market and its harms.”

“A mindset that ‘more regulation = better protection’ is based upon an artificial construct where we think we have any meaningful control over people’s ability to access cannabis,” said Fraser.

“I hope that the panel will heavily engage with stakeholders and public health experts to fill the perspective gaps in the panel and prevent it from becoming an anti-cannabis echo chamber,” she added.

Other members mentioned how the panel needed more experts in economics that understood the industry.

Read more: Canadian craft producers call for tax reform push ahead of Cannabis Act review

Read more: Ministers release statement on 4th year anniversary of adult use Cannabis Act

Panel members will engage with the public, governments, Indigenous peoples, youth, marginalized and racialized communities, cannabis industry representatives, and people who access cannabis for medical purposes to gather their perspectives on the act.

They will also meet and consult with experts in relevant fields including public health, substance use, criminal justice, law enforcement, Indigenous governance and rights and health care.

Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde. Photo via Health Canada

Rosenberg, who will be leading the panel is a lawyer and formerly served positions such as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Minister of Health, Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada

Dr. Ayonrinde is an associate professor in the psychiatry and psychology departments at Queen’s University. He is also a consultant psychiatrist and clinical director at Providence Care. Previously, he was a consultant at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals (UK) and lectured at the Institute of Psychiatry for nearly 20 years.

He has done research focused on gestational cannabis use, cannabis and psychosis as well as safety issues with cannabinoid-based medicines.

Dr. Conrod is a registered clinical psychologist, a full professor in the department of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Montreal.

She is a researcher at the Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital Centre (CHUSJ), where she holds a Tier 1 Canada research chair in preventative mental health and addiction. She also runs a lab focusing on neurodevelopmental risk factors and consequences of substance use and misuse.

Lynda L. Levesque. Photo via Health Canada

Levesque is a nehiyaw iskwew and member of the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba, Treaty Five territory.

She is a criminal lawyer and since 2018, she has worked as a Crown prosecutor in Calgary and surrounding rural areas. Previously, she worked as a duty counsel lawyer with Legal Aid Ontario in Toronto.

Dr. Selby is the vice chair of research, and head of the mental health and addiction division in the department of family and community medicine, University of Toronto. He focuses his research on understanding and treating addictive behaviors and their comorbidities within a learning environment through technology.

Selby has received 100 million dollars in grants from different institutions such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Institutes of Health, the Ministry of Health and others.

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