Canada's new Prime Minister continues to make waves on the
global stage. During the lead up to the October 2015 election he
made a marked departure from the Tory government by announcing the
Liberal Party's commitment to "legalize, regulate and
restrict access to marijuana" noting that Canada's current
"system of marijuana prohibition does not work". The
Liberal Party platform promised to "design a new system of
strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal
and provincial excise taxes applied."
After sweeping the federal election to victory, the Liberal
government is making good on its promise. In April, 2016, the
federal Minister of Health announced at a special session of the
General Assembly of the United Nations that Canada planned to
introduce a new federal marijuana law in the Spring of 2017. The
date of the announcement could not have been more perfect: 4-20,
which celebrates the consumption of marijuana.
The present laws are complex. Dried marijuana is not an approved
drug or medicine in Canada but reasonable access for medical
purposes is permitted with the authorization of a healthcare
practitioner. The production, distribution, sale and use of
marijuana are regulated by the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act and Narcotic Control Regulations
("NCR"). In June 2013, Marihuana for Medical Purposes
Regulations ("MMPR") came into force and introduced
among other things more choices of marihuana strains and licensed
Despite not being broadly "legal" yet, over the last
couple of years, there has been a surge in the medical marijuana
industry. Companies specializing in the production and sale of
medical marijuana have sprouted across Canada – some are even
publicly listed on the TSE-Venture Exchange. Trademark filings in
connection with marijuana have also increased exponentially from 8
in 2011-2012, to 43 in 2012-2013, 162 in 2013-2014 and 187 in
2014-2015. And dispensaries have proliferated like the plants that
they dry and sell.
Presently, "advertising" is restricted. The MMPR, the
Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the NCR define advertisement
to include any representation by any means whatever for the purpose
of promoting directly or indirectly the sale or disposal of a drug
(in the case of the FDA) or a narcotic (with respect to the NCR).
Presently licensed producers must comply with the general
prohibitions on advertising found in both the FDA and the NCR. The
restrictions do not apply to the dissemination of
"non-promotional information". To determine if a message
is "advertising", which is restricted, or non-promotional
information which is not, one must consider the purpose of any
message by a licensed producer, its content, its context, and its
intended audience. While the Tory government was still in office it
announced in an August 1, 2015 press release that it would actively
monitor advertising activities in print, radio, television and on
websites for various businesses including dispensaries. It is not
clear whether the new Liberal government will take proactive
advertising enforcement measures in the lead up to the new law.
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