Canada’s cannabis legalisation enters into force

This news item was published in the EMCDDA’s Cannabis drug policy news on 16.11.2018

In Canada, a law to legalise recreational use of cannabis, which had been proposed in the Liberal party’s election manifesto in 2015 and passed in June 2018, entered into force on 17 October 2018. The declared objectives of the law are to protect the health of young people, to reduce and deter illicit activities with cannabis, to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system, and to control the quality of cannabis supplied. It is a national law but many aspects such as age limits, driving limits, and who supplies the shops are regulated at the level of each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. The delay between passing and entry into force of the law was to allow the regions to decide on such issues. Canada already has a national law permitting production and use of cannabis for medical purposes since 2014.

Cultivation

The new law permits cultivation and production by licensed private companies. In most provinces, private citizens may also grow some plants at home. Initial cultivation and production will mainly be by those companies already producing cannabis preparations for medical use. Producers will usually supply a provincial authority, who then manages distribution to the retail outlets. The number of suppliers in each province varies; while some provinces have reported agreements with only one supplier, there are currently 14 licensed suppliers in Manitoba and 31 in British Columbia.

Sales outlets

Sales outlets will be regulated at provincial level. Distribution from producer to outlet will be usually managed by a government-run provincial body, often the body responsible for alcohol (liquor) distribution. In some provinces, the outlets will be publicly owned, such as the networks of state liquor shops, in others they will be privately owned. Some provinces intend to limit the number of outlets, others will not. Sales and delivery are also possible online. Canada already has experience of this with cannabis for medical use being delivered to remote areas. Ontario, the most populous province, will currently only sell cannabis through the government online shop, though physical outlets are expected in spring 2019.

Product limits

Herbal cannabis and cannabis oil can be sold, but not edible products containing cannabis, such as cookies and chocolate. The federal law limits possession in public to 30 g of dried herbal cannabis or its legally defined equivalent. Pre-packaged products are limited to 1 g dried cannabis or 10 mg of THC per unit, and maximum concentration of 30 mg THC/ml for oil. Packaging is expected to be plain and will carry a standardised symbol for THC and health warnings. Health Canada anticipates that cannabis-containing edible products will be permitted within the next year.


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