Cannabis in 2018: What to Expect
As we ring in the new year, all eyes are on Canada. 2017 was a big year for the Canadian cannabis industry, but 2018 will be one for the history books. This summer, Canada will become the first advanced industrialized nation to legalize and regulate cannabis from production to consumption.
Governments and organizations across the country are in the process of passing new laws and regulations, creating new policies and programs, and developing the framework to ensure the safe transition to legal cannabis.
So, what can we expect in 2018? Here’s a look at where things stand and some of the key dates ahead of us on the path to legalization.
The Government of Canada
Ottawa sure is cold in the winter, but expect Parliament to heat up as MPs and Senators continue to debate Bills C-45 and C-46 inside and outside the Chambers.
The federal government is currently seeking feedback on its proposed approach to the regulation of cannabis. There’s an online questionnaire and you can also send your feedback via email. But, you should act fast because the deadline for submissions is Jan. 20, 2018.
On February 6, 2018 the Senate is holding a special televised hearing on the Cannabis Act to question the slate of Liberal ministers responsible for legalization. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada will be in the hot seat and the meeting is sure to spark an interesting debate.
But, of course, the big news in Ottawa takes this Summer when the government of Canada will legalize cannabis and bring the Cannabis Act into effect.
Provinces and Territories
Here’s a quick recap on what the landscape will look like in each of the Provinces and Territories. For starters, Ontario is the only province that has passed its cannabis law. Saskatchewan and Nunavut are the farthest behind, and have not released even a partial plan for regulation.
In every province and territory, the federally-mandated public possession limit of 30 grams of dried cannabis has been maintained, but you can keep more at home if you’re in Quebec and Alberta.
All jurisdictions, except Manitoba, have decided to keep the legal age to possess, purchase and consume cannabis in line with drinking alcohol.
You’ll be able to grow up to four marijuana plants per residence, but not in Manitoba or Quebec because they plan to ban home cultivation.
Provincial and territorial plans vary widely on whether you’ll be able to smoke in public and also differ on whether pot shops will be publicly or privately owned. For those opting for publicly-owned stores, these will be operated by provincial Crown corporations that sell liquor.
Here’s a synopsis of the current situation from Coast to Coast:
British Columbia The Province has announced its proposed framework for cannabis regulation, but must still introduce legislation that regulates the sale and distribution of cannabis and update impaired driving laws. The government says further details will be released in early 2018.
The Alberta government introduced two pieces of legislation in Fall 2017: Bill 26: An Act to Control and Regulate Cannabis and Bill 29: An Act to Reduce Cannabis and Alcohol Impaired Driving.
In the new year the province will develop regulations about the sale of cannabis, including licensing criteria and other rules for private retailers and introduce legislation in early 2018 around taxing authority, and further measures to address workplace safety issues, if required.
The government is in the process of reviewing the responses it received through consultation and developing legislation and regulations for cannabis. The province says it will be releasing its framework document outlining the future of legalization in the near future.
Manitoba has introduced its Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act and put out a request for proposals for the private sector to operate retail stores. The Manitoba government has also introduced The Cannabis Harm Prevention Act to address impaired driving and other road safety issues.
Ontario's Cannabis Act passed in December 2017. The legislation will regulate the lawful use, sale and distribution of cannabis. Other details of Ontario's approach will be set out in regulations developed over winter 2018.
Ontario will build on the federal government's public awareness campaigns by launching a campaign in spring 2018 to increase awareness of Ontario-specific rules.
The Quebec government tabled its cannabis legislation in November 2017, laying out details about how the sale and distribution of legal pot is to unfold in the province. While Quebec's legalization plans are moving ahead, the province is still urging the federal government to give provinces more time to prepare.
The New Brunswick government has introduced the legislative framework for cannabis. The framework includes three new acts: Cannabis Management Corporation Act; Cannabis Control Act and the Cannabis Education and Awareness Fund Act.
The government has also made amendments to two existing acts: the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation Act and the Motor Vehicle Act.
The province announced key decisions about the legalization of cannabis in December 2017. However, details of online sales and location of retail stores will be announced later.
The province plans to make additional announcements about the legalization of cannabis as decisions are finalized. The government will continue to review the feedback it received through consultation as it develops the plans and strategy going forward.
The province has outlined three significant directions related to cannabis. But, the government says there are additional decisions to come related to keeping roads safe, ensuring informed choice including keeping cannabis away from children, public health, and enforcing the laws and regulations that will come along with legalization.
They are launching a comprehensive health and safety public awareness campaign in January 2018.
Newfoundland and Labrador have announced their three key policies around legalization and have introduced legislation.
Additional legislation to enact the policy announcements and to support other elements of the overall framework will be introduced in spring 2018.
Yukon was accepting feedback until Dec. 20, 2017 on its proposed framework for the legalization of cannabis, which will form the basis of new territorial legislation to regulate cannabis in Yukon.
In November, the government released The Cannabis Legalization in the Northwest Territories: The Way Forward report.
This legislation will be introduced in the Legislative Assembly and is expected to be dealt with in the February/March session. Additionally, departments have been working to ensure that policies and programs necessary to support this legalization are developed to be ready for the July 2018 deadline.
The government has released the results of its online cannabis survey and will continue to seek input on legalization in early 2018 through public consultations in all three regions.
There are a few unknowns that will likely get a lot of attention in 2018. These include testing drivers for impairment, workplace impairment and edibles.
The federal government has said that edibles won’t be commercially available until about one year after legalization, and there is still a lot of debate and discussion about how that sector of the industry should be regulated and what the framework should look like.
So, 2018 is shaping up to be a very busy and exciting year. Even news outlets like the Rolling Stone are stating that the ‘Canadian cannabis industry seems poised to dominate the globe’.
But, while world domination may be a goal for some, it’s important that we also get it right. Legalization is an unprecedented change and, in some cases, will have a profound impact on communities. We need appropriate regulation, thoughtful policies, public education and government leaders who are willing to seize the opportunities and address the issues.