Congratulations to Canada for passing Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, which received royal assent on June 21 after being passed in the country’s Senate by a vote of 52 to 29 (with two abstentions). According to Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, adult-use recreational cannabis in Canada will officially become legal on October 17, 2018. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we’re thrilled to see such sweeping reform.
How did Canada achieve this milestone? Many attribute the progress to Trudeau and the Liberal Party’s platform during the 2015 election promising to “legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana.”
After Trudeau’s victory, the Canadian government formed the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation to research and develop its recommendations for legalizing recreational cannabis. The group consulted with the public, as well as government leaders across the country’s provinces and territories.
Based on their findings and initial groundwork, Bill C-45 was introduced to Parliament in April 2017 and sponsored by Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Along with the obvious goal of legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis in Canada, the bill aims to deter the criminal black market and to keep cannabis out of the hands of children.
During the back and forth between legislators, numerous changes were made to the bill. Ultimately, out of 40 amendments proposed by the Senate, 13 were rejected by federal Liberals. This pushback stopped outright bans on home cultivation and the ability of cannabis producers to brand their merchandise.
Upon the passing of the Cannabis Act, Wilson-Raybould stated, “I am proud of the work accomplished by our Government, Parliamentarians, and all Canadians who contributed to this important shift in our country’s approach to cannabis.”
What Does the New Cannabis Act Allow?
Though dependent on limitations implemented by territory and province, the new law allows adults to:
- Buy cannabis from authorized dispensaries, including fresh, dried, oils, seeds and plants;
- Publicly possess up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis or the non-dried equivalent;
- Share (not sell) up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis with other adults;
- Cultivate up to 4 cannabis plants (per household) no taller than 1 meter in height;
- Consume cannabis in authorized locations, determined by territory and province; and
- Prepare various cannabis products, such as edibles, in their homes provided that no dangerous organic solvents are used in the process.
All cannabis provided to provinces and territories will come from federally licensed producers. Now that the Royal Assent has been granted, purchasing may begin so that distributors and retailers can prepare to open in October. No sales will be legal until the official date.
In addition, recreational cannabis in Canada must remain within its borders. It is currently illegal and will remain illegal to take cannabis out of the country, as well as bring it back from other countries.
Provinces and Recreational Cannabis in Canada
While cannabis will be federally legalized, territories and provinces will also have the power to enact certain restrictions and laws. Here are a few highlights:
Adults age 19-years or older will be able to buy cannabis from government-operated storefronts or websites. You’ll be able to cultivate up to 4 plants and consume on private property (residences) only – however, landlords will be able to restrict use.
Like Ontario, cannabis purchases must be made via government-run websites and retail locations. The minimum legal age here will be 18, and smoking will be allowed in the same areas as tobacco, except for university and CEGEP (vocational college) campuses.
Growing at home will not be permitted. Whether this will be enforceable remains to be seen. According to Wilson-Raybould, because homegrown cannabis will be legal at the federal level, citizens will be able to challenge the province’s ban in court.
Here, the legal age will be 18 and Canadians will be able to buy cannabis in both retail stores and online from government-run sites. You’ll be able to grow your own, but landlords can restrict it. Smoking will be prohibited in cars, near children and where tobacco is not allowed.
The minimum age in this province will be 19. You’ll be able to buy at stores or websites operated by either the government or private companies. You can grow up to 4 plants, but they must be hidden from public view. Smoking will have the same restrictions as Alberta.
New Laws for Youths and Impaired Driving
The Cannabis Act also creates new criminal offenses designed to protect Canadian youths from using cannabis. New and significant penalties will be imposed for selling or providing cannabis to youths, as well as involving them in the distribution, sale, import/export or production of cannabis.
Many of the advertising restrictions currently used for tobacco products will also apply, and selling, packaging or labeling cannabis products to appeal to youths will be prohibited.
As for drug-impaired driving, Bill C-46, the Impaired Driving Act, was passed at the same time as recreational cannabis in Canada. This parallel legislation includes harsh punishments for both drug and alcohol-related driving offenses. According to the new law, Canadians having 2-5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood within two hours of driving would be subject to a $1,000 fine. For 5 or more nanograms, hybrid offenses (drugs and alcohol), and repeat offenders, a maximum of 10 years in jail is not out of the question.
Most alarmingly, C-46 gives police the power to demand and perform mandatory alcohol screening on drivers without reasonable grounds to suspect impairment. They can simply pull you over at any time.
Legalized recreational cannabis in Canada will go into effect on October 17, ending nearly 100-years of prohibition and making Canada the first of the G7 countries to enact this type of federal-level policy. At Medicine Man Technologies, we’re excited for such a huge victory and hope that the United States and other nations will soon follow. We’ll be sure to keep you updated.
If you want to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.