A young man smokes a marijuana joint during a rally in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 20, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Health Canada hints at government’s plans for legal pot

Health warnings, plain covers for pot packs under proposed regulations

Health Canada offered hints Tuesday about the government’s plans for legal pot, including, plain packaging and stern, stark health warnings like those found on tobacco products.

The department released a set of proposed regulations that, among other things, would limit colours and graphics on cannabis packs and establish a system to trace pot through the distribution system.

It said the warnings should highlight risks, including the dangers associated with cannabis use during pregnancy, drug-impaired driving and what can happen when alcohol is mixed with marijuana.

The department’s so-called consultation paper is now open to public feedback for the next two months.

Speaking outside the House of Commons, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the government is studying other proposals including a tracking system to monitor the cannabis supply chain and help prevent pot being diverted into and out of the legal market.

Health Canada also said Tuesday the proposals seek to elaborate on elements including what can be displayed on a package and what can’t, including anything that might entice youngsters.

“Text and graphics used in brand elements could not be appealing to youth and would be subject to the packaging and labelling restrictions in the proposed Cannabis Act,” the department said.

“Health Canada is also considering establishing standards (such as limiting use of colour and size) of these brand elements.”

Government officials said late Tuesday the proposals attempt to elaborate on what can be displayed on a package to ensure the legal industry can keep itself distinct from the black market, while competing with it.

Producers would be allowed to display brand elements, the officials confirmed, saying they are talking to legal producers about packaging.

The officials also said Health Canada sees its plans as consistent with what the federally appointed task force on pot legalization recommended: plain and standard packaging.

The proposed regulations would also require that cannabis workers get valid security clearances issued by the minister of health. Individuals with connections to organized crime, or criminal records or shady associates could be denied clearances.

Earlier Tuesday, Statistics Canada said it plans to start measuring the economic and social impacts of recreational pot — even before it becomes legal.

The agency said it wants to gradually develop the capabilities to capture and report information on non-medical cannabis.

It says collecting data both before and after marijuana becomes legal will allow Canadians, governments and businesses to form a clearer picture of the economic and social consequences of lawful pot.

The Liberals also faced criticism from the opposition Tuesday for limiting debate on their cannabis legislation, which is currently before the House of Commons.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould defended the move, saying the government has long been up front with the House and with Canadians about the plan to legalize pot by July 2018.

—with files from Andy Blatchford

Kristy Kirkup , The Canadian Press

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