Canada's Draft Cannabis Act — Unprecedented in Every Way

The Senate passed Canada's draft Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) on June 7 but the Bill still faces a number of hurdles before it receives Royal Assent. With the Senate making an unprecedented number of amendments to Bill C-45, the House of Commons now has to decide on what to do with those amendments.

What You Need To Know

  • The Senate proposed numerous amendments to Bill C-45. The amendments adopted by the Senate include those proposed during the Senate's third reading of the Bill. This is highly unusual.
  • The House has three options:
    1. approve Bill C-45 as amended by the Senate;
    2. reject some of the amendments of the Senate and send the Bill back to the Senate; and
    3. reject all of the amendments of the Senate and send the Bill back to the Senate.
  • If the House chooses options two or three, the Bill may not receive Royal Assent before the House is scheduled to retire for the summer on June 22.
  • An amendment proposed by the Senate—which the industry expects the House may reject and send back to the Senate—is the prohibition of branding on non-cannabis items. No prohibition exists, for example, in relation to branding of alcohol on non-alcohol items.

What Happens Next?

The Senate passed the Bill—as amended by the Senate—on June 7 which now goes back to the House of Commons for approval. Both the Senate and the House have to agree on a final version of the Bill before Royal Assent can occur.

The number of amendments and type of substantive amendments proposed by the Senate is unprecedented. The House is scheduled to sit until Friday, June 22. Hours for sitting on Mondays through Thursdays have been extended to midnight up until June 21 (the date before the House is scheduled to retire for the summer).

At the time of publication, the Bill is not on the agenda for the week commencing June 11.1


The substantive amendments adopted by the Senate to Bill C-45 include:

  • Licensed producers will be prohibited from using their brands on non-cannabis items.
  • Licensed producers and others in the supply chain (e.g., provincially authorized retailers) will be authorized to buy, sell and transport cannabis to prepare the market between the date of Royal Assent and implementation of commercial sale.
  • Provinces will be allowed to prohibit home cultivation, even though the Bill allows up to four cannabis plants per dwelling.
  • The Minister of Health will publish the names of officers, directors and shareholders of each licensed producer as well as the people who control each licensed producer, either directly or indirectly.
  • Contractors of provincial retailers will be exempt from the prohibition against possession, distribution, and sale of cannabis under the Act during the performance of their contracts. In addition, contractors of federal licensed producers will be further permitted to conduct import, export and production activities within the scope of their contracts. In both cases, contractors must conduct these activities in a manner that is consistent with the conditions that apply to the licensed entity with whom they are contracting (i.e., either the federal licensed producer and/or the licensed provincial retailer).
  • The definition of "cannabis accessory" will no longer include things to be used in the production of cannabis.
  • In addition to the power to grant, refuse, suspend or cancel security clearances, Health Canada can now require additional personnel to hold a security clearance at its discretion including in instances where such clearance is not prescribed by regulation.
  • Changes to certain criminal provisions for cannabis distribution to minors. The changes include allowing cannabis to be distributed to individuals who are 16 years of age or older by their parents or guardians in their dwelling-houses; and preventing prosecution by indictment in relation to the distribution of less than five grams of cannabis to minors if the person distributing the cannabis is less than two years older than the person receiving it.

Torys lawyers have written extensively on cannabis.


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