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Highlights of Legalization in Canada

A year has passed since Cannabis was fully legalized in Canada. In that time, there have been some major achievements and unexpected hurdles for both consumers and industry workers. To celebrate this important milestone, we would like to share some of the more positive highlights from the first year and what we look forward to in this second year of legalization.

One positive effect of legalization is that general stigma about consumption has started to reduce as normalization begins to take hold. Opening legal stores across the country started a conversation between average people, about the freedom of choice and the hypocrisy of prohibition. People from all sectors of society are now able to experience Cannabis in a professional and safe environment. From mothers to seniors, Cannabis is connecting people in a world which is deeply divided.

The most obvious benefit of legalization is that individuals of legal age can now access regulated Cannabis products in Canada, without the need for a medical prescription. Now that the overall supply has stabilized, the increasing availability of new strains and product types in the market has been exciting to witness, after almost 100 years of strict prohibition. Another desirable effect of legalization is the acceleration of growth within the Cannabis community, now that people are less afraid to participate and are actively seeking knowledge about the plant.

Another interesting benefit of legalization is that The Cannabis Act currently permits adults to cultivate up to 4 cannabis plants per household, for personal use. These guidelines are specific to the province or territory you live in and on your local laws. For some consumers, this is a great opportunity to cultivate their supply more cost-effectively and allows full control over the quality of the crop. This opportunity also benefits entrepreneurs who can provide equipment and guidance to customers in this ‘growing’ niche.

The employment and entrepreneurial opportunities created by this new industry have been the biggest highlight of legalization so far. These sectors include:

  • Agricultural Technology (AgTech)
  • Biotechnology
  • Consumption Devices and Technology
  • Cultivation & Retail
  • Hemp Products Production and R&D
  • Infused Products such as edibles and beverages
  • Product Testing and Quality Control, including testing devices
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Real Estate
  • Compliance and Licensing Consulting
  • Professional services such as branding, packaging, bottling, physical security, and transportation
  • Tech & Media

A cnbc.com article shares that in the USA, Cannabis manufacturers and distributors created as many as 296,000 jobs by 2018. As of January 2019, Canada’s unemployment rate increased to 5.7%, due to several traditional industries which are suffering. The Cannabis industry does provide some hope for our economy. However, time will tell how much of an improvement there will be, as more data is compiled.

This second year of legalization is expected to be just as remarkable with the introduction of more regulated products which will begin to hit shelves by January 2020, as Health Canada will not permit the manufacturing or sale of these products until Oct 2019. These products will be released in stages, with a full rollout by the summer of 2020.  Below is a shortlist of the types of products consumers can expect once available:

  • Edibles (eating/drinking): hard and soft candies, chocolate, teas, pop and non-alcoholic beverages such as spritzers, etc. *Available by Jan 2020 and ongoing.
  • Extracts or concentrates:  Phase one:  vape cartages and pens.  *Available by Jan 2020 and ongoing.  Phase two: Concentrates such as hashish or kief, bubble hash, wax or budder, terp sauce, live resin and rosin, shatter or taffy, honeycomb, distillate, isolate, jelly hash, etc.  *Available in the later part of 2020.
  • Topicals/external: lotions or creams, balms and personal lubricants, other beauty products. *No firm availability, possibly by the end of 2020.

The amended Cannabis Regulations include the following summary of the legislation:

  • Standardized quantity with limits on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, with a maximum of 10 milligrams per edible package and 1000 milligrams for concentrates (vape cartages) and topicals.
  • Products cannot be appealing to youth. *Health Canada will assess products on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as shape, colour, branding, packaging and overall presentation.
  • Health warning messages are required on packaging.
  • Must be child-resistant and be in plain packaging.
  • Must not make dietary, health or cosmetic claims.

Even though the industry had to endure an initial supply shortage earlier this year, many challenges interpreting vague regulations, backlogs in licensing, slow amnesty policies and more, there is still plenty to celebrate. Canada is far ahead of the rest of the world, setting a good example for citizen-driven social reform.

References:  Health Canada, Health Canada, CTV NewsDAVIES WARD PHILLIPS & VINEBERG LLP, CTV NewsMarket RealistCannabis Compliance Inc, Mondaq, mccarthy.caHealth CanadaThe Marijuana Indexontario.ca, CNBC, Leafly.

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