Implementing a New Federal Framework for the Legalization and Strict Regulation of Cannabis

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Implementing a New Federal Framework for the Legalization and Strict Regulation of Cannabis

Legalization and Strict Regulation of Cannabis

At the time of publication of this horizontal initiative, Bill C-45, the proposed Cannabis Act, is undergoing review by Parliament. The objective of the horizontal initiative is to implement and administer a new federal framework to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis, should the Act receive Royal Assent and be brought into force. The initiative is designed to follow through on the Government’s key objectives of protecting public health, safety, and security. More specifically, the initiative aims to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework.

The federal partner organizations will establish and implement ongoing delivery of a new regulatory framework including licensing, compliance and enforcement, surveillance, and research; national public education and awareness activities; and framework support.

The initiative will also increase law enforcement capacity to collect and assess intelligence on the evolution of organized crime’s involvement in the illegal cannabis market and other related criminal markets.

Activities are organized by five high-level themes:

  1. Establish, implement and enforce the new legislative framework;
  2. Provide Canadians with information needed to make informed decisions and minimize health and safety harms;
  3. Build law enforcement knowledge and engage partners and stakeholders on public safety;
  4. Provide criminal intelligence, enforcement and related training activities; and,
  5. Prevent and interdict prohibited cross-border movement of cannabis while maintaining the flow of legitimate travelers and goods.

Governance Structure

The Government of Canada has put in place a robust governance structure to facilitate whole-of-government coordination in implementing and administering the new federal framework to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis. At the federal level, this governance structure includes: regular engagement among Deputy Ministers of Health, Justice and Public Safety to provide strategic direction and oversight on implementation activities; an assistant Deputy Ministers Committee that serves as a forum for government-wide coordination of policy and implementation activities; a Directors-General committee which is responsible for coordinating policy, regulatory development, and implementation activities across federal departments and agencies; an interdepartmental Communications Working Group to lead cannabis communications, public awareness and education efforts; and a Federal Partners Cannabis Data Working Group to promote horizontal collaboration and support evidence-based policy and program development.

Health Canada’s Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch will assume a central coordinating role in tracking key project milestones and in reporting to federal Ministers.

The Government is committed to ongoing collaboration and consultation with provincial and territorial partners. In May 2016, the Federal/Provincial/Territorial (F/P/T) Senior Officials Working Group on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation was struck, to enable F/P/T governments to exchange information on important issues about the legalization and regulation of cannabis throughout the consultation, design and implementation of the legislation, regulations, and non-regulatory activities. Supporting F/P/T working groups and committees have also been established to facilitate ongoing engagement in key priority areas, including public education and awareness, data development and information sharing, national inventory tracking, ticketing and drug-impaired driving. In addition, existing F/P/T bodies are also considering the implications of cannabis legalization, including F/P/T Deputy Ministers responsible for Justice, Public Safety, Finance and F/PT Ministers responsible for Labour.

Total federal funding allocated (start to end date) (dollars)

Total federal actual spending to date (dollars)
Not applicable

Total federal planned spending to date (dollars)
Not applicable

Date of last renewal of the horizontal initiative
Not applicable

Total federal funding allocated at the last renewal and source of funding
Not applicable

Additional federal funding received after the last renewal (dollars)
Not applicable

Funding contributed by non-federal and non-governmental partners (dollars)
Not applicable

Fiscal year of planned completion of next evaluation

Shared outcome of federal partners (1/2)

  1. Cannabis is kept of out of the hands of Canadian children and youth

Performance indicator (PI)
PI 1. % of Canadians (aged 15-17 and 18-24) who have used cannabis in the last 12 months [Health Canada]
T1 Target: To be established in 2020 (baseline: 17.5% of Canadians aged 15-17 and 28.4% of Canadians aged 18-24, data from 2015)

Shared outcome of federal partners (2/2)

  1. Criminal involvement in the illegal cannabis market is reduced

Performance indicator
PI 2. Qualitative assessment on trends related to criminal involvement in the illicit cannabis market [RCMP]
PI 3. # of cannabis import interdictions at the border (CBSA)

T2 Target: To be established in 2020 (baseline to be established in 2018-19)
T3 Target: To be determined once CBSA establishes a monitoring and reporting framework, which will also identify an appropriate baseline. CBSA could be in a position to report on this indicator in 2020.

Expected outcome of non-federal and non-governmental partners
Not applicable

Name of theme
Not applicable

Planning Highlights

In April 2017, the Government introduced the proposed Cannabis Act to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale. The objectives of the Act are to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework. The Act is also intended to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.

Health Canada

Should the Cannabis Act receive Royal Assent and come into force, the following are associated planned initiatives:

  • Establish and administer a program to license the cannabis industry, take compliance and enforcement actions as necessary, and maintain a national Cannabis Tracking System. This will help ensure that the new industry is compliant with regulatory requirements and prevent diversion of cannabis into, and out of, the legal market;
  • Undertake public education and awareness activities, targeting youth and young adults in particular, to provide Canadians with the information they need to make informed decisions and minimize health and safety harms associated with cannabis use;
  • Maintain a distinct medical cannabis system to provide ongoing access to cannabis for Canadians with a medical need. This includes allowing registered individuals or their designated persons to produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical purposes; and,
  • Implement systematic data collection and surveillance activities to evaluate the success of the cannabis framework and inform evidence-based decision making. A key component of these activities is the Canadian Cannabis Survey, an annual survey that will provide information on Canadians’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to cannabis use, including frequency of use, products used, and methods of consumption.

Canada Border Services Agency

In 2018-19 CBSA will continue to advance initiatives that support the identification and interception of high-risk people, goods, and conveyances that pose a threat to the security of Canadians, including with respect to the illegitimate cross-border movement of cannabis. In anticipation of the proposed legalization of cannabis, CBSA will develop border-related compliance strategies to assist in preventing prohibited cannabis and cannabis-related products from crossing our borders.

CBSA will work to implement a cannabis monitoring and reporting framework in 2018-19 and beyond that will enable reporting on the Agency’s capacity to prevent and interdict prohibited cross-border movement of cannabis while maintaining the flow of legitimate travellers and goods. Other planning highlights for 2018-19 include:

  • Promote public education and awareness activities, and port of entry processing efforts, to ensure public awareness of the fact that illegal importation and exportation of cannabis will remain a serious criminal offence after legalization;
  • Implement measures to maintain and monitor border integrity, which includes working with the RCMP to update interdepartmental cooperation protocols related to the illegal cross-border movement of cannabis; and,
  • Ensure that appropriate training, policies, and guidelines are in place within the Agency to inform enforcement efforts.

Public Health Agency of Canada

To support the role of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, PHAC plans to undertake the following in 2018-19:

  • Tailor and promote the Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines with and for public health professionals;
  • Develop and promote messages and resources to help build resilience and prevent/reduce problematic cannabis and other substance use for youth with educators and public health professionals; and,
  • Tailor and promote messages with and for families and pregnant women participating in the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program and the Canadian Action Program for Children.

Public Safety Canada

Should the proposed Act receive Royal Assent and come into force, Public Safety Canada will work to implement the new cannabis framework in 2018-19 and beyond:

  • To ensure law enforcement is well-informed to apply the new legislation, Public Safety Canada will work with the RCMP and the Department of Justice to develop information packages and training materials on the new legislation by using existing online platforms. The Department plans to finalize these materials upon Royal Assent;
  • To provide policy assistance and support as a means to inform operational law enforcement efforts, PS will undertake research activities related to cannabis. This includes developing new indicators and collecting baseline data on organized crime in conjunction with Health Canada and the Department of Justice; and,
  • Public education and awareness: leading up to Royal Assent, partnership opportunities will be identified with provinces and territories and non-government organizations such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to establish networks to disseminate details of the laws and regulations to target groups. Following Royal Assent, awareness products will be developed and disseminated.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The RCMP will focus on several awareness, learning and education activities, as well as the collection and assessment of intelligence in 2018-19, in support of this horizontal initiative:

  • Design and develop training activities and materials to increase the knowledge and ability of RCMP employees to enforce the new cannabis regime. providing the legislation currently before Parliament receives Royal Assent.;
  • Develop and publish lesson plans on substance misuse and addiction for the Centre for Youth Crime Prevention, and release a new drug-impaired driving video. Launch Operation TOM (Think of Me), an awareness campaign to educate adults and young drivers on the risks and impacts of driving while impaired;
  • Review and amend the RCMP National Youth Officer Training Course, to include a section on cannabis awareness. Add a module to the Youth Leadership Workshop to educate on cannabis myths and facts;
  • Play a key coordinating role in partnership engagement, develop and share national awareness products to ensure consistency and support for stakeholder outreach;
  • Support lead department’s decisions on security clearances, which will include verifications of information from  law enforcement agencies, by identifying criminality or associations to criminal organizations; and,
  • New positions will also be created and staffed for intelligence, research, guidance and subject matter expertise.

There are number of diverse risks associated with this initiative. Broadly, these include capacity risks, financial risks, legal risks, and risks related to the complexity of the cannabis framework, with the history of the issue, and with the pace of cannabis-related criminal activity as cannabis legalization and regulation moves forward. Many of these risks are linked to the uncertainty related to the level of interest from industry and how this industry will evolve.

Contact information

Eric Costen
Director General
Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat
Telephone: 613-941-0355

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