By Alan Kilpatrick
Canada’s official cannabis legalization date is set for October 17th, 2018. Legally, how did we get here?
In 2015, the Federal Government proposed legalizing cannabis. Without a blueprint or roadmap to follow, the Government strove to explore the available evidence and balance a variety of health-related goals. Behind their desire to consider legalization, the Government acknowledged that cannabis use is widespread, that criminalization has become a burden on the justice system, that organized crime benefits from criminalization, and that support for change is high among Canadians.
In December 2016, the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization issued its recommendation report, A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada. After extensive consultations with domestic and international experts, Canadians, and interest groups, the Task Force brought forward almost 100 recommendations. The report suggested a legislative framework for cannabis legalization in Canada. Almost 30,000 submissions were made during the Task Force’s public consultations.
Five short months later in April 2017, the Government introduced Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act and Bill C-46, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code in the House of Commons. Bill C-45 legalizes cannabis and advances several public health objectives. They include protecting youth and controlling access. More information about the Cannabis Act can be found here.
Bill C-46 amends the Criminal Code by creating new tools to identify drug impaired driving. Identifying drug impaired driving is one of the larger challenges that has arisen due to legalization. Several concerns still exist about the roadside screening procedures for cannabis use.
In the rapid leadup to legalization, each province has been required to draft its own cannabis legislation. Legally, the Federal Government holds authority for cannabis production, licensing, tracking, and medicinal purposes. Each Province is responsible for drafting a legislative framework to handle cannabis retail, distribution, public use, home cultivation, and minimum age limits. You can learn more about the division of Federal and Provincial responsibilities here.
In the leadup to Saskatchewan’s own cannabis legislation, the Provincial Government conducted a province-wide survey in October 2017. Notably, this survey received the highest response rate of any Saskatchewan Government survey ever. Introduced in March 2018, Bill 121, The Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Act passed quickly through the Legislature and received royal assent in May 2018.
Saskatchewan’s bill aims to curtail criminal cannabis, protect youth, advance public health, and regulate legal use. The legal age for cannabis use in the province has been set at 19. Use in public spaces has been prohibited. A zero-tolerance policy is in effect for driving. Finally, the Province has established a private retail model for cannabis retailers that will be regulated by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA). Last month, the SLGA held a lottery to grant 51 cannabis retail permits to potential retailers. SLGA has indicated that additional permits may be made available if demand warrants it. You can read more about Saskatchewan’s Cannabis Framework here.
This post was inspired by a session at CALL/ACBD 2018: Cannabis Panel presented by Myrna Gillis, Matt Herder, Robert Strang, and Bob Purcell.
Gillis, M., Herder, M., Purcell, B., & Strang, R. (2018). Cannabis panel. Plenary Session at CALL/ACBD 2018.
Government of Canada (2018). Cannabis legalization and regulation. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/cannabis/
Government of Canada. (2016). A Framework for the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/task-force-marijuana-groupe-etude/framework-cadre/alt/framework-cadre-eng.pdf
Government of Canada. (2018). Introduction of the cannabis act: questions and answers. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/campaigns/introduction-cannabis-act-questions-answers.html#a2
Government of Saskatchewan. (2018). Canada’s cannabis act. Retrieved from https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/cannabis-in-saskatchewan/canadas-cannabis-act
Government of Saskatchewan. (2018). Saskatchewan’s cannabis framework: framework and survey results. Retrieved from http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/13/106026-SK-Cannabis-Framework.pdf