On June 20, 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Cannabis Act would take force and legalize non-medical cannabis use on October 17, 2018, though it officially received Royal Assent on June 21, 2018. The delayed implementation is largely a result of pressure from provinces, who say that more time is needed to prepare for legalization. Ongoing concerns include the viability of roadside testing for cannabis impairment, and challenges associated with developing provincial distribution and retail sale frameworks in time for the date of legalization.
One day earlier, on June 19, the Senate passed the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) by a vote of 52 to 29, with 2 abstentions. The bill passed after intensive debate in the Senate. Senators had initially insisted on numerous amendments, but ultimately accepted the position of the House of Commons to leave the majority of the Cannabis Act unchanged. In particular, Senators dropped the amendment that would have expressly authorized provincial and territorial governments to prohibit home cultivation of cannabis plants.
Quebec, Manitoba, and Nunavut have chosen to ban home cultivation of cannabis despite the lack of explicit federal authority to do so, likely relying on constitutional division of powers legal principles which allow for overlapping regulations so long as no operational conflict is created. The federal government has indicated that it does not intend to challenge provincial bans. Whether individuals or cannabis interest groups will launch legal challenges against provinces, territories or municipalities who pass laws more restrictive than federal rules remains to be seen.
In the coming months, further detail on provincial regulation of distribution and sale will emerge. Federal regulations have yet to be released, and those will flesh out details on licensing processes for cultivators, manufacturers, and producers of recreational cannabis. Yet-unknown details with respect to federal and provincial licensing schemes may well have implications on the breadth of authority available to local governments for the regulation of recreational cannabis.
Please contact us should you wish to discuss the implications of this decision in more detail.