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The Importance of the 2021 Cannabis Act Review

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the legalization of Cannabis in 2018, a very important detail was passed over by most of the media. That was the three-year review written into the original legislation.

The government knew it was going into uncharted territory by legalizing cannabis for recreational use on a national level. Politicians knew they would face strong opposition and fear from socially conservative Canadians. But they also knew that the initial turmoil created by the legalization would settle down.

So perhaps the wisest part of that legislation was ensuring that in three years we would be in a position to review and amend the legislation once we had some experience, some empirical information, and a real feel for how cannabis would influence our society and communities.

October 2021 is when the legislation is slated for review and change. Some associations and working groups are already coming together to work on this important opportunity. The industry should be joining the discussion to ensure that our voice is heard by government during this legislative review.

1. Review the Current State of the Industry

It is hard to know where we want to go if we don’t know where we’re coming from. To be honest, most people have not read the Federal Cannabis Act. That’s okay. It’s not a terribly exciting document to read, but understanding the core spirit of this legislation will help direct the wording of any changes to the original spirit of the legislation.

2. Identify Changes and Improvements

Now that we have nearly three years of experience behind us, we are well-equipped to write a lasting and effective piece of legislation that will allow for a strong legalized industry, reasonable regulation of product, and protection of the strong social values that make Canada great.

As industry members, we have to recognize that a key role of any regulatory legislation is the protection of the public, so we have to accept that certain restrictions will be in place. At the same time there is ample opportunity to loosen some of the initial restrictions to allow for an open and competitive industry that can innovate and grow in the coming years and decades.

Since we now have experience in the industry, we are better equipped to find that reasonable balance.

3. Educate Legislators

Once we identify the changes and improvements that will benefit the industry, while still allowing for the regulation of the industry, the hard work will be educating the legislators about those recommendations, and the need to include them in October’s review of the Cannabis Act. There is a lot going on in Ottawa, and getting the attention of Parliament on a non-emergency legislative review will be a challenge. Educating them about the long-term benefits of this sector, not just for jobs and economic benefit, but also for the safety of consumers, is very important.

Ultimately we have to remember that we’re all focused on the same goal, which is the legalization of cannabis in Canada to create safe and legal jobs for Canadians, safe product for consumers, and a sustainable industry for future generations. It’s with that goal in mind that we can all work together to grow the federal Cannabis Act into what it needs to be.

John Carle is Executive Director, Alberta Cannabis Council.