Spring is upon us and so is the legalization of recreational cannabis, currently on track for a late summer 2018 arrival.

By way of background, Bill C-45 (the “Bill“), An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, also known as the Cannabis Act (the “Act“) will legalize the consumption and possession of cannabis amongst adults for recreational purposes. On March 22, 2018, the Bill had its Second Reading with the Senate and was passed with a 44-29 victory. The Bill has now been referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for study, ahead of the final vote by the Senate on June 7, 2018. The original target month of July 2018 for legalization will likely be pushed back until August or September, assuming royal assent immediately follows the June 7 vote.

The Act will allow for previously prohibited activities relating to cannabis. For example, these activities include possessing up to 30 grams cannabis in public, growing up to four cannabis plants at home, purchasing cannabis and its derivatives from a provincially licensed retailer, and using cannabis or its derivatives recreationally. The Act will prohibit the sale of cannabis to anyone less than 18 years of age. Provincial and territorial legislation can set the legal age higher and provinces and territories with a drinking age of 19 are expected to legislate the same age for cannabis consumption. Manitoba is an exception having stated the legal age for cannabis consumption will be 19. British Columbia and Saskatchewan have advised that the legal age will be 19 whereas Alberta has indicated the minimum age will be 18.

The provinces and territories will work with the federal government by enacting their own legislation pursuant to the Act. The various legislations will provide a framework at the provincial level for the distribution and sale of cannabis, increase (but not decrease) the minimum age, decrease the personal possession limit, enact additional restrictions surrounding homegrown cannabis, and restrict where cannabis can be consumed.

As of the date of publication, cannabis is still illegal in Canada until the Act is brought into force; cannabis (including its preparations and derivatives) remains a Schedule II controlled substance under the federal Controlled Drug and Substances Act, unless otherwise regulated for production and distribution for medical purposes.

This is a gentle reminder that it is not too late for employers to review internal drug and alcohol policies and contact legal counsel to make the necessary amendments ahead of summer 2018.