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Cannabis Act Unveiled

On April 13, 2017 Bill C-45, the draft Cannabis Act  (the “Act”) was unveiled by the federal government as it passed through first reading of the House of Commons. According to the Government of Canada, Cannabis will remain illegal as the bill moves through the legislative process. However, if the bill is approved by Parliament, it could become law with a target date of no later than July 2018.

A summary of the draft Act states that it will be enacted to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale. In addition, the Act’s stated objectives are to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework. The Act has also been drafted with intentions of reducing the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.

The Government of Canada had also stated that the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation, a Regulation made under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, will continue to exist to provide access to individuals who have the authorization of their healthcare practitioner to use cannabis for medical purposes. The Government intends to monitor and evaluate patients’ reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes during the implementation of the new law, and then evaluate the medical access framework within five years of implementation of the Act.

The federal Government notes that implementing cannabis legalization and regulation will require action by the provinces, territories and municipalities. The Act provides that the provinces may take responsibility for developing, implementing, maintaining and enforcing systems to oversee the distribution and retail sale of cannabis, in close collaboration with municipalities. Further, the proposed Act would require provinces and territories to enact legislation that contains minimum conditions so that public health and safety objectives are consistently addressed across the country.

Provinces and territories would also have the ability to increase but not lower the minimum age, lower the possession limit, and impose additional requirements on personal cultivation. Finally, provinces and territories, acting on their own authorities, can set additional restrictions and local requirements related to cannabis, such as setting zoning restrictions for cannabis-related businesses and restricting where cannabis can be consumed in public.

Blog post written by Matteson DeLuca