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The federal Cannabis Act came into force on October 17, 2018. The Cannabis Act required the Minister of Health to review the Act three years after it came into force. While the review is approximately one year overdue, it is now underway, giving the Minister 18 months from the review commencement to table the results in both Houses of Parliament. Bader Law will continue to monitor this legislative review and any potential changes to Canada’s cannabis regulation that result from it.

What is the Cannabis Act?

The Cannabis Act is the federal law that regulates the use, growing, buying, and selling of cannabis in Canada, as well as imposing penalties for non-compliance. The Cannabis Act is the legislation that made it legal to purchase, possess, and use cannabis and cannabis products under certain conditions. For instance, to buy, possess, or use cannabis, an individual must be of the age of majority, which may vary depending on the province or territory.

The Cannabis Regulations and Industrial Hemp Regulations both operate under the Cannabis Act. These regulations set out the rules and standards that apply to the production, distribution, sale, importation, and exportation of cannabis by federal license holders.

The Cannabis Act’s stated purposes are:

  • Protecting the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis and from inducements to cannabis;
  • Providing for the legal production of cannabis to reduce illegal activities;
  • Providing access to quality-controlled cannabis;
  • Enhancing public education about the risks of cannabis;
  • Deterring illegal cannabis-related activities through penalties and enforcement; and
  • Reducing the burden on the criminal justice system regarding cannabis-related offences.

Who will lead this review of the Cannabis Act?

The Minister of Health has announced that an independent expert panel will lead the legislative review of the Cannabis Act. The expert panel is composed of five members who were selected for their expertise in public health and justice, as well as experience engaging with Indigenous communities. These members are:

  • Morris Rosenberg. A lawyer by training, Mr. Rosenberg is the Chair of the Expert Panel and has held various high-level positions in the federal government, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Minister of Health, Deputy Minister of Justice, and Deputy Attorney General of Canada. He retired from government in 2013 and spent four years as the President and CEO of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
  • Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde. Dr. Ayonrinde is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Queen’s University and a Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director at a community mental health centre. He has published peer-reviewed articles focusing on the risks of gestational cannabis use, cannabis and psychosis, and the risks of cannabinoid-based medicines.
  • Dr. Patricia J. Conrod. Dr. Conrod is a Professor of Psychiatry and Addiction at the University of Montreal and a registered clinical psychologist. She holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Preventative Mental Health and Addiction and co-leading the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Canadian Cannabis and Psychosis Research Team.
  • Lynda L. Levesque. Ms. Levesque is a criminal lawyer and a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba, Treaty Five territory.
  • Dr. Peter Selby. Dr. Selby is the Giblon Professor, Vice Chair of Research, and Head of the Mental Health and Addictions Division in the Department of Family Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, with cross-appointments to the Departments of Psychiatry and Public Health.

What is the mandate of the expert panel’s review of the Cannabis Act?

The expert panel’s work is governed by a Terms of Reference. The expert panel’s mandate is to assess the legislative regime, engage with stakeholders and provide expert advice to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction regarding Canada’s progress toward achieving the objectives of the Cannabis Act.

What is the scope of the expert panel’s review of the Cannabis Act?

The expert panel has been tasked with identifying priority areas for action to improve the effectiveness of the Cannabis Act.

The Cannabis Act itself identifies several areas for the legislative review, which are:

  • The health of young persons and their cannabis consumption patterns;
  • The impact of cannabis on Indigenous persons and communities; and
  • The effect of the cultivation of cannabis plants in the context of housing.

The expert panel will review the three areas above, in addition to the following focus areas:

  • The economic, social, and environmental impacts of the Cannabis Act;
  • Development of access to regulated cannabis and cannabis products for adults;
  • Effectiveness of deterrents to criminal activities and progress in ousting the illegal cannabis market;
  • Effects of the Cannabis Act on access to cannabis and cannabis products for medical uses; and
  • Impacts on Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, and women, and in particular, to look at those who may have greater barriers to entry into the legal industry based on identity to socio-economic factors.

What is the process for the expert panel’s review of the Cannabis Act?

The expert panel will undertake two phases of work during its review. In the first phase, the expert panel will complete a factual assessment of the Cannabis Act’s performance and impact since it came into force in October 2018. The expert panel will gather information from stakeholder engagement, including the public and other levels of government, as well as engagement with Indigenous peoples and communities and other evidence-gathering activities.

Information will be collected through in-person sessions and online feedback. The expert panel will publish a report outlining critical outcomes from its consultations with stakeholders, Indigenous peoples and various communities.

The second phase will entail distilling advice and priorities, informed by the results of phase one and the Cannabis Act’s objectives, to the Minister of Health and Minister of Mental Health and Addiction. This may identify areas for improvement or amendments within the existing Cannabis Act and could lead to legislative reform in this area.

Contact the Mississauga Business Lawyers at Bader Law for Experienced Advice on Cannabis Business and Licensing Matters

Bader Law helps businesses navigate the complexities of the cannabis industry in Ontario. Our knowledgeable business lawyers assist clients in obtaining Retail Store Authorizations and ensuring ongoing compliance with the shifting changes in cannabis regulation. We create dynamic, creative legal solutions for cannabis and experienced operators. We also assist clients with corporate financing and information technology law, amongst other areas. Our firm proudly serves clients in Mississauga and throughout the Greater Toronto area. To schedule a consultation, call us at 289-652-9092 or reach out to us online.