Beyond the Ballot: Cannabis What to Expect in the Months to Come
This is part of a series of regional updates by our cross-country team, who are in-jurisdiction experts regarding the on-the-ground dynamic of the Federal Election.
This season may be an auspicious one for the cannabis sector. Cannabis policy development under the incoming governing party will include managing the ongoing administration of the Cannabis Act, overseeing the introduction of new product forms, the development of cannabis health product regulations, adopting a position on United Nations treaty amendments, and managing the review of the Act.
Cannabis policy is not included in the campaign platforms of the Liberals or the Conservatives. This indicates that the evolution of cannabis policy may not be communicated by the governing party as a key deliverable during its mandate. Instead, the governing party may position the cannabis file as an ongoing responsibility of the government to manage. Any incoming government is expected to uphold the priorities of harm reduction, consumer safety, and public safety. The Ministers of Health, and Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, will continue to be responsible for the administration of the Act unless otherwise designated by Cabinet.
The Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations (New Classes of Cannabis) came into force on October 17th 2019, permitting the sale of new product forms by license holders as early as December 16th, and more likely into 2020. Health Canada provided the industry with guidance on the Notice of New Product (NNP) process, which is a crucial requirement of market access for new product forms. Aligned with it’s mandate to protect the health and safety of Canadians, the regulator may use the NNP process to approach certain license holders and enquire about the safety of the new product. It is the discretion of the department whether to permit or recall the product based on a risk assessment of safety for consumers.
This winter the incoming Health Minister may allow the department to proceed as planned with obtaining advice from external experts on the creation of Cannabis Health Product regulations. This action would mark a second step in the regulation-making process to permit a market for consumer cannabis health products, as indicated in Health Canada’s Forward Regulatory Plan. The consultation will seek outside expertise on the therapeutic benefit of cannabis and its derivatives. The consultation will help determine submission requirements for a manufacturer to obtain an approved health claim before the product is permitted in the market.
Internationally, Canada will need to formulate its position on the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations to loosen International Drug Control Conventions on cannabis and cannabis-related substances. A vote on the recommendations can occur as early as this winter.
Finally, the Cannabis Act states that its provisions will be reviewed three years after coming into force. If the election results in a minority government, it will be interesting to see if the incoming government’s mandate endures until the Act’s scheduled review in 2021. Amendments are expected and will be informed by several factors, including the guiding principles of the governing party.