Canada: Governments Turn To Public To Develop Cannabis Laws

With the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada targeted to come into force July 1, 2018, provincial and territorial governments are developing laws on retail distribution in their respective provinces. The draft Cannabis Act1 outlines broad policy objectives with respect to the regulatory framework and indicates that provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments will have the power to shape the consumer and business landscape.

These governments are now setting to the task of developing laws on retail sale and distribution, pricing, licensing, and age limits. Many are asking the public and industry stakeholders to provide input.

What You Need To Know

  • Alberta recently released a public consultation survey asking the public to provide input on legal age of purchase, points of distribution and sale, use of cannabis in public, and impaired driving and workplace safety laws.2 Alberta residents, residents of other Canadian provinces, companies, local governments and U.S. stakeholders are all invited to participate. The consultation will be open until July 31, 2017.
    • Albertans are also invited to send in written submissions to develop the Cannabis Framework until July 31, 2017. These submissions can be sent to the Cannabis Secretariat of Alberta through an online portal and will be made available to the public.3
    • These are the first initiatives in a planned series of stakeholder engagements. Further opportunities for consultation will be provided once the Framework has been developed and released.
  • The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador recently launched a short questionnaire, which will remain open until June 30, 2017, asking the public to provide input on the sale and regulation of cannabis.4
  • Québec recently announced that public consultations will begin this summer. An expert forum was held in Montréal on June 19 and 20, 2017 and further local and web-based consultation opportunities are planned for the end of August to late September.5 Legislation is expected to be tabled in the fall. New Brunswick has established a governmental working group to seek input from stakeholders and the public. The working group plans to submit recommendations to the government by September 2017.6
  • Governmental working groups and departments in Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut7 are in the preliminary stages of reviewing the federal legislation8 and developing their respective provincial plans. However, no details regarding plans for formal public consultations have been announced at this time.9
  • In Manitoba, legislation amending various acts addressing harm reduction and public safety with respect to cannabis received Royal Assent on June 2, 2017.10
  • First Nations across Canada have indicated that they intend to engage in public consultations regarding their involvement in the legalized cannabis market. A need to be included in further consultations regarding the federal legislation has also been expressed.11
  • Some municipal governments and public health authorities have also commenced discussions regarding municipal zoning and by-laws related to cannabis if such regulation is permitted by the federal legislation.12

What's Next?

While Alberta and Newfoundland are the first provinces to commence formal consultations, there will be upcoming consultation opportunities in the remaining provinces and territories, including opportunities to submit comments in person. Interested stakeholders will want to decide whether and how to participate by the applicable deadlines.13


1 Released by the federal government on April 13, 2017. Further details available at:

2 The survey is available online at:

3 The written comments can be submitted at:

4 Newfoundland's questionnaire can be accessed at:

5 Details regarding Québec's consultation process can be found online in French and English.

6 Details regarding New Brunswick's working group process can be found in New Brunswick's press release.

7 Details regarding the working groups can be found online in British Columbia's fact sheet, Yukon's press release and the Northwest Territories' press release.

8 Updates on the federal government's cannabis legalization bill are available online.

9 As of the date of publication.

10 The Bill can be accessed online.

11 Statements from several First Nations can be found online.

12 Notably, discussions have been commenced by Toronto City Council and Toronto Board of Health, Calgary City Council and Edmonton City Council.

13 Various provinces have lobbyist laws and these laws will need to be consulted to determine whether registrations are necessary.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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