One of the hot topics in 2017 was the legalization of cannabis for recreational adult use in Canada. Understanding the regulation of laughing grass can leave you in a haze, but looks like organizations may have more time to figure it out. The Canadian government had initially stated that legalization would happen no later than July 1, 2018; however, the Government has just announced that implementation may be delayed until later in the summer so that the provinces can have a transition period to ensure their retail sales are prepared and compliant.

Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (the “Cannabis Act”) was introduced in the House of Commons on April 13, 2017. The Cannabis Act would legalize recreational marijuana consumption and sales in Canada. Much of the legislation is specifically targeted at limiting potential exposure to young people, as well as ensuring public health and safety and reducing the burden on the criminal justice system.

The Cannabis Act allows, among other things, for provinces and territories to take responsibility for the sale and distribution of cannabis. Over the past several months, we’ve seen several provinces put forth a legal framework or announce their plans for the regulation, distribution and sale of cannabis for recreational purposes. You can read our overview of provincial legislation here. Generally speaking, the legal age for purchase, sale and use of cannabis aligns with the existing legal age for alcohol in each province (i.e., either 18 or 19 years old) and distribution will be handled by government entities or by a mix of government and private retailers. Consumption will also be regulated, including prohibitions in certain places such as in cars and public spaces, particularly ones frequented by children.

We have previously discussed the key elements of the Cannabis Act, and our international obligations as they relate to certain international drug control conventions. We have also written about the Cannabis Act as it relates specifically to branding and packaging and labelling.

Looking ahead to 2018, businesses in the industry will face an uncertain and challenging environment while the legislation and application thereof is figured out. If businesses want to smoke the competition, they may wish to use the next several months to understand the strict regulatory framework that governs the production, distribution and sale of cannabis for both medical and recreational use in Canada.