As Canada prepares itself for the imminent legalization of marijuana, Health Canada has released the Liberal government’s “Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis.” These proposals are up for public consultation for the next 60 days (or until January 20, 2018), at which point the government will review and incorporate feedback into its final decision. The lengthy list of regulations in all its glory and fine print can be found here on the government’s website: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-proposed-approach-regulation-cannabis/proposed-approach-regulation-cannabis.html.

First a tiny bit of background: The government introduced Bill C-45 on April 13, 2017. This Bill, largely based on the advice of an assigned Task Force, was created as a proposed Cannabis Act that would establish a comprehensive framework for the regulation of legalized marijuana by the July 2018 deadline. The Act would also empower provinces and territories to regulate the distribution and retail aspects of the cannabis supply chain, with the ability to tailor certain rules in their respective jurisdictions.

Certain regulations need to be in place in a number of areas, however, in order to support the implementation of the proposals listed under the Act. These areas include licensing, security clearances, cannabis tracking, cannabis products, packaging and labeling, medical marijuana, and health and cosmetic products that use cannabis. For example, cannabis is currently subjected to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and the Food and Drugs Act (FDA).  The proposed Act, however, would remove cannabis from the CDSA, subjecting it to its own regulations. Cannabis would continue meet the definition of a drug under the FDA, which means that there needs to be a coordination between the application of regulations of both the FDA and the Act in order to guarantee that health products under the FDA that are made with cannabis can continue to be made and sold under the appropriate rules.

The proposed Act would also prohibit the sale of products that appeal to minors. To this end, it is recommended that there be mandatory warnings on all cannabis product that are much like the ones on tobacco products. These warnings would inform about the risks associated with combining weed with alcohol, consuming while pregnant, and driving while under the influence. Labels and packaging would also be prohibited from using colors and graphics that would appeal to children, while packages would be required to be childproof.

Another proposal a system of licenses, permits, and authorizations that is intended to:

  • Allow a range of different activities with cannabis (such as cultivation or research);
  • Enable a diverse, competitive legal industry comprised of both large and small players in regions across the country;
  • Reduce the risk that organized crime will infiltrate the legal industry; and
  • Provide for legal cannabis products that meet high quality standards.

What’s interesting is that there doesn’t appear to be any real restriction on the number of licenses one can obtain, depending on the activity and scope of a given business. For instance, a license for standard cultivation would also authorize associated or supplemental activities related to those core activities, including possession, transportation, research and development, storage, and destruction. The proposed Act also enables the participation of micro-cultivators. These small-scale growers would be able to mimic the craft beer industry by creating their own strains of craft cannabis, creating a niche market for an already growing trend.

Furthermore, anyone with a license for cultivation or sale will require security clearance by the Minister of Health. The minister would be able to refuse to grant security clearances to individuals who are associated with organized crime, or those with past convictions for drug trafficking, corruption or violent offences. The biggest news here though is that is that Health Canada is willing to acknowledge that there are individuals who have histories of non-violent, lower-risk criminal activity like the personal possession of marijuana. The government is asking for Canadians to weigh in on whether or not it should grant these individuals security clearance and allow them to be a part of the industry.

Finally, in the government’s effort to thwart the black market, the proposals also pave the way for new types of cannabis product to become available for sale. These products may include pre-rolled cannabis and vaporization cartridges manufactured with dried cannabis, as well as cannabis oil products like capsules, oral sprays and topical oils. Edibles and concentrates would be enabled within one year of the Act being put into play.

As Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in her statement, “This proposed regulatory approach is informed by the extensive consultations to date, and it supports our overarching goal of protecting public health and safety. We look forward to hearing the views of Canadians from across the country.” The sole purpose of this consultation paper is to gain public insight and input on the proposed regulations. If you are a Canadian citizen who wants your voice to be heard, you can complete your consultation here:

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-proposed-approach-regulation-cannabis.html

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