Federal Marijuana Legislation Introduced

The federal government tabled its highly anticipated marijuana legislation with the introduction of Bill C-45 on April 13, 2017. As much as the legislation provides some clarity with respect to Canada’s new framework for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, it leaves a myriad of questions to be answered.

Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts advances the federal government’s goal to keep marijuana away from children by setting clear age restrictions on marijuana possession. The proposed legislation also provides penalties of up to 14 years in jail for those who provide or sell marijuana to minors, or using a minor to commit a marijuana-related offence.

The legislation assigns the federal government responsibility for establishing the following:

  • Requirements for the production and manufacturing of marijuana, including a federal licensing regime.
  • Rules and standards with respect to:

-Types of products that will be available.
-Packaging and labelling.
-Serving sizes and potency.
-Prohibition of certain ingredients.
-Production practices.
-Displaying, packaging, labelling and promoting products.

  • Establishing a seed to sale registry to track and ensure marijuana is from a legal source.
  • Restrictions on adult access to marijuana (purchasing, sourcing and growing at home).
  • Criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework.
  • Minimum conditions that provincial legislation for distribution and retail must meet, to ensure consistent framework to promote safety.
  • Federal measures for distribution and sale in any province or territory that does not enact such legislation.
  • Enforcing laws at Canadian borders.

However, the federal government has placed responsibility for much of the regulation of marijuana in the hands of provinces and territories, including:

  • Licensing and oversight of the distribution and sale of marijuana, (subject to federal restrictions), as well as any associated compliance and enforcement.

-This includes determining where marijuana may be sold (e.g. dispensaries, liquor stores, other retailers).

  • Ability to modify certain limits within their jurisdictions.

-Increasing the minimum age (federally set at 18).
-Lowering the personal possession limit (federally set at 30 grams for adults, 5 grams for youth age 12-18).
-Adding rules for home growers, such as lowering the number of plants allowed (federally set at 4 per residence) or where marijuana may be cultivated.

  • Establishing zoning rules for marijuana businesses.
  • Restricting where adults can consume marijuana.
  • Addressing marijuana-impaired driving through provincial traffic safety laws.

In anticipation that many regulations would be left to the provinces and territories, and the possible impacts to local governments, UBCM has requested engagement with the Province of BC. In an April 10, 2017 response, Minister Mike Morris indicated that the Province would be willing to engage with UBCM once federal legislation was tabled and the Province had an opportunity to conduct its own analysis.

The federal government has also tabled Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, to create stronger enforcement measures surrounding alcohol and marijuana. In particular, if a peace officer has reason to suspect that an individual has operated a motor vehicle within three hours of consuming marijuana, the individual may be required to provide a sample of a bodily substance (e.g. saliva, urine, or blood). Also in Bill C-46 are tougher rules around impaired driving, including the ability for a peace officer to require an individual, under any circumstances, to provide a breath sample for analysis.

Although Bill C-45 outlines much of the federal government’s plan, it does not provide clarity around several key issues, including how marijuana will be taxed, policed and packaged, and when edibles will be introduced into the legal system. UBCM will continue its federal advocacy, respecting endorsed resolutions 2016-A2 (Marijuana Regulations) and 2016-A3 (Marijuana sales and Distribution Tax Sharing for Local Governments), to ensure local government interests are represented as these important issues are settled.

Marijuana production, distribution and possession outside the medical marijuana program remain illegal until new laws are in place. The federal government has set a deadline of July 2018 for marijuana to be legalized.

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