Coast to Coast Provincial Cannabis Legislation Update

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While it is still early days with the Cannabis Act having only been tabled less than two weeks ago, we thought it would nevertheless be beneficial to provide you with a quick coast to coast provincial cannabis legislation update and give you an idea as to what the provinces are doing and where they might be headed.

We’ll start on the West Coast where things appear to be getting conservative after we move past British Columbia and which continue to liberalize as we move further East.  At our last stop we heard rumours that Willie Nelson and James Franco are in a dead heat to become the next Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Stay tuned in the coming days and months as we provide new updates as things start to develop further at the provincial level.

British Columbia

Out on the West Coast, British Columbia is known around the world for its cannabis but getting a sense for how liberal the law might be in B.C. is challenging at the moment.  The existing government, as well as opposition politicians, aren’t saying much about where B.C. might be headed.

The province does have a cross-ministry group working on legalization issues and at a municipal level Victoria and Vancouver have taken steps to license cannabis businesses, notwithstanding that recreational cannabis remains illegal at the federal level (until next year).  It appears that the municipalities are getting a bit fed up with the silence from their big provincial brother with Victoria Council formally resolving to ask the province when it anticipates publishing draft regulations and legislation relating to cannabis.

With a provincial election set to be held on May 9, 2017 it looks like we might not get an indication where B.C. is headed until some point this summer.

Alberta

Alberta is historically known as a conservative province and the message coming from its provincial government fits the historical narrative well.  The Government of Alberta has taken a page from the federal script and has indicated that the province’s three main areas of focus are to keep cannabis away from kids, keep profits away from criminals and protect roads and workplaces.

However, it appears that the residents of Alberta will have a say on the provincial system as Alberta has indicated that it will be seeking the input of its citizens on issues such as minimum age, health and safety and where cannabis will be sold, among others.

The cities of Edmonton and Calgary are gearing up at the municipal level.  Edmonton city staff is already working on draft municipal by-law amendments and is looking at issues such a licensing fees and the possibility of businesses such as cannabis lounges.  Calgary has established a panel of experts to assist in getting the ball rolling towards establishing its own municipal framework.

Saskatchewan

Not a lot to report out of Saskatchewan yet.  The Justice Minister and his staff are in the process of reviewing the Cannabis Act.  The province has indicated that it will work with both the federal government and other provinces in implementing its legislation.

Manitoba

Manitoba jumped the gun on the federal announcement of the Cannabis Act, putting forward the Cannabis Harm Prevention Act which was met with a lot of criticism, especially from medical cannabis users.  The Cannabis Harm Prevention Act would list cannabis as an intoxicant and would ban people from consuming it in a vehicle.

When the Cannabis Act was unveiled, the Justice Minister stated that she has “lots of concerns” with the legislation.

While it appears that Manitoba may ultimately be home to one of the more conservative set of cannabis laws across the country, for the time being the provincial government is not commenting publicly on what the province’s next steps are, aside from indicating that they want to consult with, and listen to, Manitobans.

Ontario

Canada’s biggest province isn’t showing its cards yet when it comes to cannabis legalization.  Both Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Attorney General have said that Ontario is looking at “all options on the table”.  In fact, even attempting to ascertain when some sort of announcement may be made is proving difficult with the Finance Minister stating that the government will make its announcements “when the time is right”.

What we do know is that Premier Wynne has previously voiced support for a government operated retail system, that a working group has been struck with the Ministries of Finance, Health and the Attorney General, and that Ontario has agreed to work together with Quebec in rolling out its legislation.

Quebec

Quebec has struck a new cabinet committee which includes officials from several different ministries to discuss possible policies relating to cannabis.

Quebec hasn’t said much about where it might be headed, aside from the fact that it plans to work with Ontario on common topics.  Hockey fans in Montreal and Toronto are irate at hearing this news.

New Brunswick

The political statements coming out of New Brunswick demonstrate that it will likely be far and away the most cannabis friendly province.  New Brunswick views the cannabis industry as an important creator of jobs and revenues and announced back in March that cannabis would be a pillar of its economic strategy.  New Brunswick’s cannabis friendly ways pre-date this recent announcement.  The province has given financial incentives to attract licensed producers and has developed a community college program for cannabis technicians.

The provincial government has been working since 2015 to prepare for the inevitable legalization of the recreational market and plans to be fully ready by the anticipated July 1, 2018 federal roll-out date.  The province has created a multi-departmental committee which will provide its recommendations on issues such as distribution and retail sales by September, 2017, with an interim report set to be released this coming summer.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has indicated that his province will be ready to start selling recreational cannabis by the anticipated July 1, 2018 federal roll-out date.  The provincial Liberal party has repeatedly stated that a set of unified rules, which would include those relating to age, pricing and distribution ought to be implemented across Atlantic Canada.  Mr. McNeil has also indicated that all four premiers from the Atlantic provinces are on the same page with respect to working together to create a set of unified rules.

Prince Edward Island

With a population of under 150,000, P.E.I. has said it has no intention of taking the lead when it comes to setting rules relating to recreational cannabis.  In fact, Premier Wade MacLauchlan has stated that P.E.I. will likely wait and see what other provinces do first.  Mr. MacLauchlan has also indicated that he would like to see a clear and consistent approach among the provinces and territories, especially so among the four Atlantic provinces.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Andrew Parsons, who holds the positions of Minster of Justice and Public Safety, Attorney General and Government House Leader, among others, has indicated that he expects consultations with the public and stakeholders to commence within the next month.

The Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories has established a multi-departmental cannabis working group and has indicated that it intends to be ready for the federal roll-out date of July 1, 2018.

The Yukon has indicated that it supports legalization and regulation.  The territory has also established a working group and has indicated that it intends to work closely with other provinces and territories in setting its legislation.

Meanwhile, in Nunavut things will likely be on hold for the time being.  The legislative assembly dissolves on September 24, 2017, with a new election being held on October 30th.  Sometime around mid to late November, a Premier, Speaker and the Cabinet will be elected.  December to January brings a lengthy holiday period for the government.  As such, the civil service is not expecting to receive any meaningful direction until at least February, 2018, if not later.

Photo courtesy of the Financial Post

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