Op-Ed: A postponed legalization is good


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Legalization is going to happen — it’s just not going to happen for July 1st.

Written by John Fowler

Canada will be the first G7 country to legalize cannabis, which is a complicated process involving decades of activism, years of consultations, and months of legislative work. Like fine wine (or great cannabis), sometimes it takes time to do something right.

In 2015 Canadians provided a clear democratic mandate to legalize cannabis. This was followed with robust consultation at all three levels of government where Canadians nationwide were invited to provide input on what legalization should look like in Canada. Bill C-45, which is known as the Cannabis Act, was introduced in our House of Commons early in 2017 and passed through the required three readings and successful votes by November, at which time the Bill was referred to the Canadian Senate.

Today, the Cannabis Act sits with the Canadian senate with a third reading expected in early June.

Five committees are reviewing the Bill: the social affairs committee, Aboriginal people’s committee, legal and constitutional affairs committee, security and defence committee, and the foreign affairs committee. Responses are expected back May 28, with a deadline for a final vote set for June 7, which would include any amendments proposed by the Senate.  

Political theatre aside, I believe we will see cannabis legalized in 2018 through the passage of the Cannabis Act. I expect any amendments by the Senate to be minimal, allowing the House of Commons to move quickly to Royal Assent in June. Final regulations to the Cannabis Act should follow shortly thereafter. This is in line with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent statements confirming the “summer schedule” for legalization. 

After the Cannabis Act becomes law, our government has stated that eight to 12 weeks would be provided to provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to complete necessary legislation and regulation to prepare for the sale of adult-use cannabis in Canada. This means a busy summer for legislators and regulators nationwide. Although every day that cannabis remains illegal, Canadians continue to be harmed by prohibition, it is important that provincial, territorial and municipal governments are given time to respond to the final language of the Cannabis Act and its regulations before sales begin this fall.  

Legalization is an opportunity for Canada to take a position of global leadership in moving towards more sensible drug policy and create better political, social and economic outcomes for all Canadians. The world is watching and will be judging our successes and failures, as an industry, as we roll out the world’s largest federally regulated, commercial adult-use cannabis marketplace.

To be successful, our industry must successfully transition consumers into the legal market.  

This means the co-ordination of hundreds of businesses, dozens of crown corporations and government agencies, and essentially every government from coast-to-coast.  This is a Herculean task to achieve over a few months from today until initial sales this fall, and every day will be critical. While I am certain our industry will not be perfect on day one, and will require improvement, amendment and evolution over time, I am equally confident in our ability as a nation to come together and achieve a successful launch with the world’s eyes on us.

This fall, Canadians will have an opportunity to do something never done before: enter a fully legal retail environment for high-quality, commercially produced cannabis.  

I, for one, will be proud to walk into a legal cannabis store and I hope my fellow Canadians will feel the same pride, whether they choose to consume cannabis or not.

John Fowler is the CEO of The Supreme Cannabis Company Inc. He has spent over a decade in the medical cannabis sector as a cultivator, patient’s rights advocate, and attorney.