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National Cannabis Working Group Update

In October 2021, Canada’s Minister of Health marked the three-year anniversary of the legalization of cannabis in Canada by initiating a legislative review of the Cannabis Act. In order to assist the federal government with its review, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s National Cannabis Working Group (the NCWG) launched an industry-led review of the Cannabis Act (the Review) in October 2020.

The objective of the Review was to develop broad stakeholder-supported recommendations for the federal government on how Canada’s legislative and regulatory framework for cannabis can be improved for the benefit of all Canadians.

The Review conducted by the NCWG was comprehensive and involved significant stakeholder engagement across the industry, including from cultivators, processors, retailers, law enforcement, academia, and government.

Following the Review, the NCWG identified the following six material issues for the federal government to consider:

  • Overly restrictive marketing, promotional and packaging provisions of the Cannabis Act;
  • The prescribed THC limit for certain cannabis products under the Cannabis Act is too low;
  • The lack of defined service standards and timelines under the Cannabis Act or within the industry;
  • The lack of consistency in validation procedures among analytical testing labs and in delivering lab-testing results;
  • The economical and administrative burden of the inefficient excise stamp process; and
  • The economical burden of the inefficient 60-day listing process.

Based on its comprehensive Review, the NCWG presented Health Canada with the following six recommendations which, if implemented by the federal government, would help alleviate some of the considerable burdens facing the Canadian cannabis industry. The NCWG and other industry stakeholders are united that implementing these recommendations will result in a cannabis regulatory regime that will allow the Canadian cannabis industry to further thrive while still preserving the health and safety objectives of the Cannabis Act.


1.      Amend and relax certain marketing, promotional, packaging, and labeling restrictions under the Cannabis Act. This will allow cannabis companies to increase consumer engagement with the regulated market, develop a distinct brand, and compete with (and draw consumers away from) the illicit market.

2.      Increase the prescribed limit of THC in edible cannabis products and other concentrated products under the Cannabis Act. This increase should be supported by medical research and increased consumer education to ensure that the government’s health and safety objectives are preserved.

3.      Implement legislative timelines to provide defined service standards for: (i) the license application process, including security clearance; (ii) the approval of license transfers and other transactions that require Health Canada approval; and (iii) approvals in respect of the import and export of cannabis products.

4.      Implement standardized lab testing, validation procedures, and proficiency testing programs, as well as an enhanced framework regarding labeling requirements across different cannabis classes to improve product consistency. This may be done by addressing the labelling framework under the Cannabis Act and enacting standards under the regulations or disseminating them as a guideline for the industry to use.

5.      Develop a single national excise stamp across Canada and eliminate the need for having to manually apply a new stamp every time a product enters a new jurisdiction.

6.      Amend the listing process to bring new products to market from 60 days to 30 days and also require Health Canada to provide its comments or raise any issues within that same time frame.

Industry participants are excited for the federal government to consider certain changes to the Cannabis Act, but it is anticipated that the federal government will take a cautious approach and may stagger any amendments over a lengthy period of time as the industry grows and matures.  Although it is unclear if there will be wide-sweeping changes to current regulatory regime, the work being done by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and other industry advocacy groups is vital to ensuring the success of the Canadian cannabis industry.

Eric Foster and Emeleigh Moulton are lawyers practicing with the Dentons Canada cannabis practice. Dentons has one of Canada’s largest and leading cannabis practices and is one of only two Canadian law firms to receive a Tier 1 Ranking for Cannabis Law from each of Chambers & Partners and Legal 500.

Tags: Canadian cannabis industry (23), Cannabis Marketing (38), cannabis packaging (2), cannabis testing (5), Health Canada (52), National Cannabis Working Group (6), review of the Cannabis Act (1), THC limits in products (1)