Cannabis - A Budding Industry

On April 13, 2017 the Government of Canada introduced a bill aimed at legalizing cannabis for non-medical users.

Just a moment - cannabis is already legal, no? Take a stroll through downtown Vancouver or Toronto. There are dispensaries on almost every block. Simply walk in, show your membership card or proof of age, and choose from the selection of oils, pills, flowers, or even dog treats. Operators and patrons will tell you there is a “grey area” in the law allowing these retail outlets to operate. However, as a matter of law this is simply incorrect.

Cannabis remains illegal pursuant to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The law restricts possession, production, possession for the purpose of trafficking, trafficking, and importing or exporting of cannabis throughout Canada.

There is, however, a current path to obtain cannabis legally. The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation, enabled by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, allows “licensed producers” to legally cultivate and disseminate cannabis around the country by mail to medical patients. In fact, it is a very large industry, and is operating in our backyard.

In late 2016, Aurora Cannabis began construction in Leduc, Alberta of what is anticipated to be the largest cannabis production facility in the world. If you are a savvy investor, you may know of the Canopy Growth Corporation and its ticker on the Toronto Stock Exchange – WEED. You may have already invested in the first exchange traded fund aimed exclusively at the medical cannabis industry.
In all likelihood, the cannabis industry will continue to grow exponentially in Canada. Bill C-45, to be known as the Cannabis Act, aims to allow legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale. Recreational cannabis may be available as early as July 1, 2018. There will be restrictions including possession limits, display and advertising, growth and distribution, and much more.

In the interim, Albertans have much to grapple with. In the workplace, how are we to manage employees currently using medical cannabis? In the corporate commercial context, how does one properly consider the risk of an investment opportunity? Can landlords knowingly allow tenants to lease premises for purposes of cultivating or selling cannabis? How can municipalities prepare for the recreational boom with effective policy and bylaws?

We are well positioned to assist in answering these, and any other, questions that arise in the area. Please do not hesitate to contact Dave Risling or Justin Krikler should you have any questions or require any advice.