It’s been a busy week for cannabis news.
Earlier this week, the Cannabis Act underwent changes at two meetings held by the Standing Committee on Health in Ottawa, where members conducted a clause-by-clause review of the legislation.
An amendment to regulate the sale of edible cannabis products was passed by the committee, but will not be implemented until July 2019. Policy makers said the extra year would give them more time to decide on how to regulate edibles.
The committee also opted to remove the 100-centimetre limit on homegrown plants.
Yesterday, the province of Alberta announced its proposal for a legal cannabis framework following a lengthy public consultation.
As expected, policy makers in our neighbouring province want to set the minimum age for cannabis consumption at 18, to put it in line with Alberta’s legal drinking and smoking age.
The distribution of cannabis will be regulated by the province, and will mirror its existing alcohol distribution system.
Cannabis will not be sold in conjunction with tobacco, pharmaceuticals, or alcohol, and retail outlets that sell cannabis will be subjected to rules that will limit hours of operation and location.
The province will continue to seek feedback from Albertans until October 27 on whether or not it should introduce government-owned and operated retail stores, licensed and regulated private sales, or a mix of both.
Late last week, the Montreal Gazette reported that Quebec will set the legal age for consuming cannabis at 18, a decision questioned by some policy makers because neighbouring Ontario has set the legal age to 19. (It’s quite common for young Ontarians to cross the border to Quebec to purchase alcohol, and some are concerned that the same will occur for cannabis.)
Like Ontario, Quebec has said it will create a Crown corporation that leans on the preexisting framework of its liquor board to oversee all cannabis distribution.
While convenience store owners in Quebec lobbied heavily to be included in the province’s framework, all retail sales of cannabis will be under the control of the province.
Neither Alberta or Quebec have indicated what their provincial tax structure might look like, but at Monday’s First Ministers Meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proposal for a shared federal and provincial tax structure ruffled the feathers of a few premiers—including our own.
Premier John Horgan told media in Victoria yesterday that while ministers had a ‘rigorous’ discussion about cannabis legalization, he had not expected the PM to bring up taxation.
‘We were surprised to learn that the federal government also believes, not only do we need to control and regulate the distribution of marijuana, but they see it as an opportunity to raise revenue, and that was a shock to everyone at the table,’ he said.
Horgan added that premiers ‘made it abundantly clear’ that they were concerned with the costs of legalization for provinces and local governments, and that they ‘didn’t see a role for the federal government’ when it came to taking revenues from cannabis—especially when they could potentially fund public education, distribution systems, and other priorities associated with implementing legalization.
While undecided provinces continue to grapple with options for the retail sale of cannabis, 12 Canadian licensed producers have joined forces to create the Canadian Cannabis Co-op in hopes of implementing a private retail system in provinces that don’t go the “Ontario” route.
In a press release, the Co-op stated that it was prepared to ‘make a significant investment in Alberta to create a turn-key retail solution to address the challenges of safe, regulated supply and socially-responsible cannabis retailing.’
The co-op seeks to act as “one of many” private retail channels in Alberta, should the province opt to include private retailers in its framework.
Current members of the Co-op include ABCann (Napanee, Ontario), Aphria (Leamington, Ontario), Bonify (Winnipeg, Manitoba), CannTrust (Vaughan, Ontario), Cronos Group (includes Peace Naturals in Simcoe County, Ontario; Original B.C. in the Okanagan Valley; and Whistler Medical Marijuana Company in Whistler), Emblem (Paris, Ontario), Emerald (Victoria, B.C.), Hydropothecary (Gatineau, Quebec), MedReleaf (Markham, Ontario), Newstrike (includes Up Cannabis in Oakville, Ontario), Organigram (Moncton, New Brunswick) and Tilray (Nanaimo, B.C.).
Any Canadian licensed producers are welcome to join the Co-op.