On June 5, Manitoba’s cannabis law received Royal Assent, giving the province a green light to sell legalized recreational cannabis.
Royal Assent is given by the Governor General or a deputy, and endorses a bill that has passed through both houses of parliament in an identical form, making it one of the laws of the land.
Officially known as Bill 11: The Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act, the new regulation will usher in legalized sales of recreational cannabis, provided by licensed producers and retailers.
Highlights of the Bill
Research on cannabis could push ahead as the act allows cultivation, possession and consumption of cannabis for educational purposes, but only in prescribed circumstances. Any cannabis sold at a store must have been purchased from the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MLLC), which distributes and sells liquor and provides entertainment and gambling experiences.
A retail cannabis licence may be one of two categories:
Controlled access – This authorizes the holder to operate a retail location where cannabis, packages and labels are stored behind a counter or shelving. They must be covered so they cannot be seen, and customers are not allowed to view or access them until after they purchase the products.
Age restricted – This licence authorizes the retailer to have a store, but prohibits young people from entering, or even viewing the interior of the premises, and there must be no consumption within the store itself. This falls in line with one of the main concerns of legalized recreational use: protecting youths. Selling product to intoxicated people is also prohibited.
A separate licence is required for each location, and a retailer may receive written authorization to hold a licence for a temporary location for a specified period. It’s possible that this could apply to pop-up stores at some point in the future.
The bill ensures that businesses will have a part to play in informing customers of the possible consequences of cannabis use. A licensed retailer may have to post public service notices on subjects such as responsible use and driving while high, if directed to. These would be in-store and on any website owned by the business.
Businesses will have a part to play in informing customers of the possible consequences of cannabis use.
Budtenders will also have to undergo a training course set out by the province, and will only be allowed to work in a store upon successful completion of the course.
Zoning and Imports
Nothing in the act prohibits a person from consuming or possessing cannabis that has been lawfully imported or brought into the province.
The bill also treats distribution and retail in a similar way to liquor licences when it comes to zoning. A licence will be granted if the executive director is satisfied that municipal zoning requirements are met, and that an applicant has all the other necessary permits and approvals.
All cannabis and associated packaging must abide by the rules set out in the Cannabis Act (Canada), and similar to liquor stores, sales will be allowed on a Sunday.
LGA to be Renamed
The Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba will change its name to include cannabis. It will now be known as the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba, and its duties will include regulating the people who sell and distribute cannabis as well as advising and informing the minister on all activities regarding the substance.
In February, the province put out a call for applications to run retail locations, and conditionally accepted four:
1. Delta 9, which operates an 80,000 sq. ft. production facility in Winnipeg, and Canopy Growth, which has numerous production sites across Canada totaling 700,000 sq. ft.
2. National Access Cannabis, which has a well-established medical cannabis model and will adapt it to the legalized recreational market.
3. Tokyo Smoke, a company that is looking to increase its presence across Canada.
4. 10552763 Canada Corporation, an as yet unnamed corporation that is described in the province’s press release as “a new entity featuring Avana Canada Inc. of Ontario, Fisher River Cree Nation of Manitoba, Chippewas of the Thames of Ontario, MediPharm Labs of Ontario, Native Roots Dispensary.”
This decision reflects the desire to involve companies that are established in the province’s cannabis retail sector.
Although the four retailers will be involved, the province will still exercise a degree of control. For example, it will decide upon the number of retail stores to operate in the province, as well as their location.
Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen said in a press release that Manitoba is “on track” to have its retail cannabis stores operational by July 2, which would have aligned perfectly with the government’s aim of a signed, sealed and delivered Bill C-51 on July 1. However, as this date starts to look unlikely—it will more than likely be in September—the province should be well prepared to meet the surge in demand for cannabis. As the licensing framework is still in development, the LGA has given assurances that it will provide more information once the fine details of compliance, social responsibility, and licensing are confirmed.