Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation

On June 30, 2016, the federal government announced the creation of a Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation (the Task Force), with a mandate to consult and provide advice on the design of a new legislative and regulatory framework for legal access to cannabis.

The Task Force engaged with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, indigenous governments and organizations, youth, patients and experts in relevant fields, including public health, substance use, criminal justice, law enforcement, economics and industry. The general public was also engaged through an online consultation that attracted nearly 30,000 submissions.

The Task Force’s final report, A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada (the Report) was released on December 13, 2016 and made a series of recommendations for a regulatory framework for cannabis, centered on minimizing harms of use, creating a safe and responsible supply chain and safeguarding medical access.

Bill C-45 – the Cannabis Act

On April 13, 2017, the Government of Canada introduced legislation to legalize, regulate and restrict access to cannabis – Bill C-45 – the Cannabis Act and Bill C-46 – An Act to amend the Criminal Code. 

The Cannabis Act is expected to come into force by July 2018.

The Cannabis Act incorporates many of the recommendations of the federal Task Force, and attempts to ensure access to a safe, regulated supply of cannabis, while minimizing harms of use.

Key elements of the Cannabis Act are:

  • Minimum age: Adults 18 and over will be able to legally buy, possess, grow, and use cannabis. It will continue to be a criminal offence to sell cannabis to a young person;
  • Personal Cultivation: Adults will be allowed to grow a maximum of four plants per household, up to 100 cm. each;
  • Personal Possession: The adult public possession limit will be 30 grams; the youth possession limit will be 5 grams. While there is no legal way for youth to obtain non-medical cannabis, this 5 g limit ensures that youth can’t be criminally prosecuted for possessing small amounts
  • Production: The federal government will regulate production and product standards;
  • Retail and Distribution: Provincial and territorial governments will regulate retail and distribution within their jurisdictions;
  • Promotion/advertising: will be prohibited, with limited exceptions;
  • Seed-to-sale tracking: A seed to sale tracking system will support product safety and compliance and enforcement activity.

As some provinces may not have their own cannabis regimes established and implemented by July 2018, the federal government will establish a mail order retail system so that adults will have access to legal non-medical cannabis.

The current program for access to cannabis for medical purposes would continue under the proposed Cannabis Act.

A short, plain language overview of Bill C-45 is available.

Bill C-46 – An Act to amend the Criminal Code

An additional piece of legislation, Bill C-46, will amend the Criminal Code to, among other things:

  1. Enact new criminal offences for driving with a blood drug concentration that is equal to or higher than the permitted concentration;
  2. Authorize the Governor in Council (the federal Cabinet) to establish blood drug concentrations (e.g. maximum levels of THC in blood samples); and
  3. Authorize peace officers who suspect a driver has a drug in their body to demand that the driver provide a sample of a bodily substance for analysis by drug screening equipment.

For cannabis, the federal government proposes penalties starting at 2 nanograms or more of THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) per millilitre of blood. Penalties would depend on the level of THC in blood and the presence of alcohol or another drug in addition to cannabis at or above set levels.

Bill C-46 is expected to come into force as soon as it is enacted.

Further information regarding Bill C-46 and impaired driving laws.