On April 13, 2017, the federal government introduced the Cannabis Act (Act), the much-anticipated legislation to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. The Act received first reading on April 13, 2017 and, if passed, is expected to take effect on or before July 2018. The two main policy objectives cited by the federal government in enacting the legislation are to restrict access to cannabis by children and youth and keep profits away from organized crime.
The Act largely conforms to the recommendations of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation (Task Force), creating a highly regulated landscape for businesses looking to produce, distribute or deal in cannabis products. However, the Act does not address in detail a number of key issues, including relating to labelling, transition, licensing requirements and taxes. These will need to be addressed by the federal government in regulations and rules over the next year or more, and the federal government will also need to work out issues with the provinces and municipalities.
Until the Act passes the House of Commons and the Senate and is declared in force, existing laws (including criminal sanctions) will continue to apply.