The Government of Canada has issued the most comprehensive
roadmap in the world for legalizing and regulating recreational cannabis.
In November 2017, Health Canada announced their proposed new legalization framework for cannabis in Canada, which launched Canada to the forefront of the global cannabis market. The proposed framework was built on a 112 page task force report following a considerable amount of discussion with stakeholders and Trudeau’s government. A summary of comments received during consultation on the November 2017 proposal can be viewed here. As of April 2018, the proposal hasn’t yet passed into law and the accompanying regulations haven’t been published, but the framework is expected to pass largely unaltered, and the responsibility for distribution and retail of recreational cannabis has been awarded to provincial and territorial governments.
For recreational cannabis, the current medical model of cultivation in terms of security requirements and quality controls was largely adopted. In order to legally cultivate medical and recreational cannabis, a producer must follow very stringent security requirements (clearances, monitoring, theft prevention, storage), record keeping / inventory management, and very rigorous quality controls similar to the pharmaceutical industry. Health Canada has proposed a range of cultivation and other licenses specific to cannabis activities. New to the cannabis cultivation industry, the proposal allows for outdoor farming and “micro-cultivation” (i.e. craft growing), the latter of which is exempt from some of the heavier security requirements in exchange for operating within a prescribed maximum production limit.
Perhaps the most significant step forward, however, is in the provision of storefront retail sales of recreational cannabis. Retail stores are also subject to regulation, and must meet prescribed requirements for security, record-keeping, reporting, and advertising. The retail component of the cannabis industry cannot be underestimated. While retail sales are “permitted” in various US states, by contrast, such storefronts are still federally illegal. The Canadian proposal is to provide a 100% legitimate retail business model for the sale of recreational cannabis. Such “pot shops” will be licensed by the provincial and territorial governments, and they will also be required to achieve additional licences from their municipalities.
Cosmetics, natural health products (NHPs), pharmaceuticals, and veterinary health products (vNHPs) containing cannabis will all be permitted under the new proposal with licensing processes expected to start concurrent with the legalization of cannabis (August, 2018). Edibles should follow a year or so after that, but the other categories will have licensing pathways laid out much sooner. After all, NHPs’s and vNHPs’s already have established regulatory frameworks. The distribution channels for health products and edibles containing cannabis have not been laid out and, to start, legal cannabis sales will be limited to the currently allowed forms of cannabis: dried and fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis plants, and cannabis seeds.