Now that the Canadian Parliament has passed the Cannabis Act (C-45) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set October 17th as the official start day of legalization, the cannabis community awaits the rollout of rules and regulations that may differ from province to province. With just under four months to spare, how many Canadian provinces will be ready, and what will their systems look like? Some provinces will allow private retail stores while others will only permit government-operated outlets, at least initially.
While Canada can learn a bit from Uruguay and U.S. states with cannabis commerce, Canadians are true pioneers and regulatory decisions will shape the Canadian industry and impact future frameworks for other nations. If Canada’s experience is anything like states such as Colorado and Oregon, we can expect many changes over time as administrations grapple with testing, licensing, land-use regulations, packaging, advertising, and other issues.
“It is our hope that as of October 17, there will be a smooth operation of retail cannabis outlets operated by the provinces, with an online mail-delivery system operated by the provinces, that will ensure that this happens in an orderly fashion,” Prime Minister Trudeau stated in his press conference announcing the official start of legalization.
The National Post reported:
There are an assortment of models in place as provinces prepare for the legal sale of cannabis. The western provinces will allow at least some private retailers to operate, while eastern provinces (including Ontario but excepting Newfoundland) are restricting sales to government-run stores.
Some provinces, however, are far ahead of others. Trina Fraser, a cannabis business specialist at Brazeau Seller Law, said New Brunswick is nearly ready to start stocking its store shelves, for example, while B.C. hasn’t even started accepting applications for licenses to operate private stores. Ontario has so far announced locations for only four of its government-run stores; the former Liberal government planned to have 40 open by year’s end, but with incoming premier Doug Ford having mused during the election campaign about opening sales to the private sector, plans in the country’s largest province could still change.
“There’s going to be a wide array of how quickly the retail storefronts actually roll out across the country,” Fraser said. At the very least, provinces will want to ensure they have online retailing ready to go in case there are few physical stores ready by the legalization date.
Rolling out online retail sales is a forward-thinking policy as more consumers utilize web-based sales every day. There will certainly be those that attempt to be the “Amazon of cannabis.” Over time it will be interesting to see how many consumers choose the usual brick-and-mortar stores and how many will prefer ordering their favorite strains in the comfort of their own homes (while still in their pajamas even.)
Hopefully, whatever choices the consumers make, it is because they made the decision willingly, not because government officials forced their hand. The only impediment to a successful Canadian cannabis market is government overregulation. If restrictions remain reasonable, the Canadian industry is set to thrive.
The International Cannabis Business Conference is bringing its trademark combination of business, politics, and culture to Vancouver this June 24th-25th and you won’t want to miss learning the latest information, networking with top professionals, and being a part of history. If you are in the cannabis industry, or are thinking of joining, the ICBC is THE event of the year. Hurry and get your tickets before they sell out!