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Cannabis in Canada: The State of the Law

October 17, 2018, marks a historic day in the evolution of cannabis regulations both domestically and abroad. As the first state in the G20 to regulate recreational cannabis, Canada has become the international leader in the development of sensible and progressive policies governing the cultivation, processing, sale and possession of cannabis.

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British Columbia Introduces Regulatory Framework for Cannabis

On April 26, 2018 the Government of British Columbia announced the introduction of its proposed regulatory framework for recreational cannabis. The province’s proposed framework includes Bill 30, the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (Bill 30), which itself includes consequential amendments to other statutes including the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, the Residential Tenancies Act, the Police Act, the Community Safety Act, and the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, among others, Bill 31, the Cannabis Distribution Act (Bill 31), and Bill 17, the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2018 (Bill 17). Collectively, Bills 17, 30, and 31, if passed, would establish a comprehensive legislative framework for regulating the licensing, distribution, purchase, sale, consumption, and enforcement of non-medical cannabis in British Columbia.

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Cannabis in Canada: The State of the Law Today

UPDATE: As of April 13, 2018, every province and territory in Canada had tabled legislation outlining their plans for regulating cannabis. Our primer has been updated to include proposed legislation details from across the country.

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Federal Government Releases its Proposed Approach to Cannabis Regulations

On November 21, 2017, Health Canada released its proposed approach to the regulation of cannabis in anticipation of legalization in July 2018. The proposal addressed seven broad areas relating to cannabis activities: (i) licensing and permitting; (ii) security and security clearances; (iii) cannabis tracking; (iv) cannabis products; (v) packaging and labelling; (vi) cannabis for medical purposes and (vii) health products and cosmetics with cannabis. 

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Standing Committee on Health Approves Amendments to Bill C-45 Regarding Cannabis Edibles and Concentrates

On Tuesday, October 3, 2017 the Standing Committee on Health (the HESA) approved a number of amendments to Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act (the Act).Two specific amendments will likely have a considerable impact on the recreational cannabis market:  

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Federal Government Introduces its Cannabis Tax Proposal; Alberta Unveils Proposed Provincial Framework

On Tuesday, October 3, 2017 the Government of Canada unveiled its proposal for a federal excise tax on the sale of cannabis. Under the proposal, a $1 tax would be levied on prices up to and including $10 per gram and a 10% tax would be levied on prices over $10 per gram. The proposal is for the tax revenues to be evenly split between the Federal and Provincial Governments.

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Liquor Control Board to Distribute Cannabis in Quebec

On September 29, 2017, government sources confirmed to Radio-Canada that Quebec's liquor board, the Société des alcools du Québec or Quebec Alcohol Corporation (SAQ), will oversee the distribution of recreational cannabis in the province following legalization in July 2018. Sources also confirmed that the legal age to purchase cannabis in Quebec will be set at 18, aligning it with both the mandatory minimum age proposed by the Government of Canada in Bill C-45 and with the province’s minimum drinking age. 

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Have Your Say on Possible Changes to the Food and Drug Regulations: Generic Drug Equivalence and Related Terminology

Health Canada is soliciting input on possible changes to the Food and Drug Regulations regarding establishing pharmaceutical equivalence between a proposed generic drug product and the Canadian Reference Product ("CRP"). These proposed changes are intended to better harmonize the framework with the practices of other major regulatory bodies. Consultations, which are the first in a series of consultations, will be open until October 13, 2017

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Major changes to Canada's intellectual property and patent landscape with the implementation of CETA

September 21, 2017 marks the provisional entering into force of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement ("CETA") between Canada and the European Union, and concurrently the coming into force of Bill C-30, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act  (the "CETA Implementation Act"), an act which implements Canada's obligations under CETA.

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LCBO to Control Retail and Online Cannabis Sales in Ontario

Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General, Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance and Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced Ontario’s planned approach to the federal legalization of cannabis as proposed by Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, this morning. Bill C-45 left significant discretion to the provinces for determining the appropriate distribution, sale and retailing of cannabis.

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Ontario Conducts Public Consultation on Cannabis Legalization

On April 13, 2017, the Government of Canada released Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, which, as discussed in a prior blog post, deferred significant discretion to the provinces with respect to the distribution, sale and retailing of cannabis.

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Alternative Financing Options in the Cannabis Industry

The recent developments in Canadian cannabis policy and legislation have sparked significant investment in licensed cannabis producers. Until recently, equity financing has been the primary form of financing, with Canadian cannabis companies raising approximately $1 billion over the past twelve months.

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Regulatory Change to Address Antimicrobial Resistance

On May 17th 2017, Health Canada announced changes to the Food and Drug Regulations regarding the use of antimicrobial drugs in animals. These changes, along with other ongoing initiatives, aim to address the increasing health concern posed by antimicrobial resistance. Microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites) could develop resistance after exposure to antimicrobial drugs and render medicines ineffective against infections. This resistance increases the risk of infections in many important medical procedures such as organ transplantation, chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery.

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Disclosure Requirements for Non-Venture Issuers Regarding Women in Board and Executive Officer Positions – A Review

On June 7, 2017, the Canadian news cycle addressed cannabis industry insider criticism at the dearth of women on boards and in senior management positions at Canadian cannabis companies, with reports suggesting that 5% of board seats at publicly traded marijuana producers are occupied by women.

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Major Changes Proposed to Canada's Patented Medicines Regulations

On May 16, 2017, the Federal Minister of Health, the Hon. Jane Philpott announced a number of proposed regulatory changes to the Patented Medicines Regulations (the "Regulations"). The proposed regulations are being implemented with the primary intent of "protecting Canadians from excessive drug prices"1. The proposed modernization framework constitutes the most significant suite of regulatory changes in twenty years. As noted in our blog post dated July 1, 2016, these proposed changes are part of ongoing reform to Canada's regulatory framework relating to patented drug prices. 

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Health Canada Improvements to the Licensing of Cannabis Production under the ACMPR

On May 26, 2017, Health Canada announced significant developments to the licensing process under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). As the medical cannabis industry continues to evolve, the Government of Canada has updated its licensing regime in order to streamline the process and enable increased production.

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Growing Pains: The emerging role of IP in selling Canadian cannabis

Licensed producers and others looking to enter Canada’s medical or recreational cannabis industry should be thinking about how they will distinguish their business, products and services from others, in what will undoubtedly become a crowded and competitive marketplace. Intellectual property protection available under Canadian and foreign laws should be an important part of that strategy.

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Health Canada Implements Mandatory Pesticide Testing of Cannabis

Health Canada has announced that it will require licensed cannabis producers to conduct mandatory testing of all cannabis products destined for sale for the presence of unauthorized pesticides.

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New Proposed Regulations Would Establish Mechanism to Import and Sell Unauthorized Drugs For an Urgent Public Need

Health Canada has recently proposed amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations to allow the importation and sale of drugs for an urgent public health need.  These proposed amendments would allow the importation of drug products that are not yet authorized for sale in Canada in the following circumstances:

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Draft Cannabis Act Released by Canadian Federal Government

Today the federal government released Bill C-45, the draft Cannabis Act. If enacted, this will make Canada the first G7 country to legalize recreational cannabis. Cannabis will remain illegal as the bill moves through the legislative process. If it is approved by Parliament, the bill could become law with a target date of no later than July 2018, according to the Government of Canada.

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Judge Phelan’s Comments for the Pharmaceutical Industry: Apotex Inc. v Canada (Minister of Health)

In Apotex Inc. v Canada (Minister of Health) (“Apotex”), the Federal Court (the “Court”) provided some guidance with respect to the procedure pharmaceutical companies should undertake to obtain a Notice of Compliance (“NOC”). Overall, the Court’s findings suggest that pharmaceutical companies should put their best foot forward in their application or on appeal in front of expert panels considering or reconsidering their applications because overturning an expert panel’s decision is often difficult with Courts showing deference to expert panels.

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