The federal law in Canada permitting the personal use of marijuana is known as Bill C45 mandating the provinces and municipal government to fill in the spaces. Imagine for a moment a blank quilt and the pieces are provided by the federal government, with the other two levels of government giving their own interpretations and answers, none of which are wrong, but not uniform in the manner in which they are spelled, pronounced. Get the drift? Post contributed by C.J. #Cannabis #Marijuana Bill#C-45
Implementation of Bill C-45
It’s been only two months since Bill C-45 was enacted as a federal law across Canada, legalizing the distribution, possession and personal use of marijuana, with medical marijuana use remaining intact. The federal government amended the Criminal Code enabling Canadians to buy, sell and consume cannabis and cannabis products.
The current Canadian federal government enacted Bill C-45 on October 17, 2018 after many months of consultations with the provinces, police forces, committee hearings, public information sessions and town hall meetings at the local level regarding the implementation of the bill.
However, the implementation of the law is controlled not only by each respective provincial government, but also with the local/municipal governments, which has led to an inconsistent approach in the way in which the personal use of marijuana is sold or NOT sold throughout the country, as municipalities can put in place additional regulations, stipulations or by-laws forbidding store front, retail operations.
This article will review the dissimilarities in the manner in which they’ve been implemented, along with the various retail sale and distribution model of cannabis, distribution methods, as well as examples of how some local municipal governments are wrestling with Bill C-45.
Provincial Distribution Standards
Some provinces allow private sector retail stores, or via online sales, whereas others are controlled by government monopolies. For example, in British Colombia at the time Bill C-45 went into effect, there was just one government cannabis store available for legal purchases, but there were a number of online retailers already operating. In the neighboring Territory of Nunavut sales were offered by telephone.
- The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation created their own online ordering system, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), the equivalent to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. However, the legislation to permit private retailing is still awaiting approval and most likely will be Q2 or Q3 2019.
- Nova Scotia conducts most of its personal use cannabis sales inside existing liquor stores, known as NSLC (Nova Scotia Liquour Corporation), with twelve existing locations having a “store within a store” offering pot sales.
- New Brunswick permits one to smoke in your own private residence, but if you’re in another person’s residence, you require the owner’s permission, so renters take note, and condominium rules are set by the board of directors on a location by location basis.
Provinces and territories also differ as well on how much you can possess and where you can legally consume cannabis as for most provinces, one can possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, but in Quebec you can have up to 150 grams of dried cannabis at your residence.
Internet/Social Media Sales = No Physical Boundaries
Now here’s something interesting, despite all the controls, best made plans/intents under the respective Bill C-45, the internet has blurred the landscape regarding the purchase of cannabis and products.
My wife and I have had our medical marijuana licenses for two years, we reside in Ontario and summer vacation in Nova Scotia. We use CBD based products, but on many occasions both our medical marijuana providers have been out of stock on the items we needed. A long time friend introduced us to an internet site based out of another province that retailed virtually all the CBD only, CBD/THC blend, and THC only products that our medical providers sold! We ordered from them and within two business days we had our CBD products, meaning no more aches and pains!
While summering in Nova Scotia our medical suppliers ran out of the products we needed, so we hopped on the web, did a Google search for medical marijuana dispensaries within an hour drive of our location and found three! A search on social media pointed us to a local company that made ‘non-medical’ infused baked goods and DELIVERED to our area THE NEXT BUSINESS DAY!
We stayed in Ottawa Ontario, Canada’s national capital last summer; we discovered a local, non-medical cannabis and products online ordering store that provided local, next business day delivery! The products were ordered and paid for online via the internet using Interact email payment. The point is that we procured products via the internet and social media which were available months prior to the Bill C-45 being enacted!!
Online Order Delivery Results
Not all is perfect with online ordering! In Ontario people who ordered products via the OCS website, had their delivery backlogged, as demand exceeded supply, plus Canada Post, the national post office, went on work slow downs and rotating strikes further delaying the delivery windows. Some online retailers offered private couriers such as FEDEX or DHL to deliver the order, but at a higher rate.
Bill C-45 sets out that provincial and local governments deal with implementing the laws at their respective levels. Across Canada municipal governments are caught between a rock and hard place as in many provinces the laws authorizing private store front retailers have yet to pass in the respective legislature, and may just opt out, but that depends on the provincial laws.
For this discussion, I’m focusing on the Province of Ontario and the local municipal governments that have made their decisions or considering stances on private retail store locations within their boundaries. Ontario is introducing Bill-36 to address the private sector stores, which is expected to go into law in the spring of 2019.
Please review the AMO report that municipalities in the Province of Ontario use as a guide for details on the issues currently facing municipalities.
ONTARIO’S APPROACH: The key proposed amendments in Bill 36 are:
i) to allow private sector retail stores where a municipal government has not opted out of retail sales;
ii) establish the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (ACGO) as the retail store licensing body.
The key phrase here is ‘has not opted out‘ of retail sales…as some local governments are now doing this.
Toronto, the capital city of Ontario, has ‘opted in’ for private sector retail stores, with a maximum number of licenses being made available for Q2 2019, as it’s their belief there’s a compelling need for the sales tax revenues to assist with legal/policing/funding/social services agencies needs.
However, Scarborough, a municipality that’s part of the GTA, has ‘opted out’ as the provincial legislation authorizing them to do so and are taking a ‘wait and see’ stance. Similarly, the City of Mississauga has ‘opted out’, and declined to approve private sector retail stores applications from companies wishing to.
There are compelling ‘pro and con’ positions, platforms and reasons for municipalities to allow or not permit the local licensing of private, store front retail locations. But as history has shown, municipalities that push back against provincial or federal legislation tend to wind up in court defending a Supreme Court challenge brought on by a class action suit from affected parties.
Municipalities and local governments in Ontario refer to the Municipal Act in order to guide them when dealing with existing federal and provincial legislation, but in this case, the Province of Ontario has yet to enact the law governing the control of private sector retail stores.
Many municipalities argue that they have official plans drawn up based on specific types of retail and commercial use businesses, and when the plans were developed, private sector retail stores for marijuana sales were NOT on the horizon, which means local governments are ‘opting out’ to approve locations, until such time the provincial legislation is in place or ‘opting out’ permanently.
One of Canada’s fastest growing communities, with its member population that leads the nation, has a council membership sitting on the fence about ‘opting in or out.’ A few private store front operations have opened in shopping malls, one of which is across the street from a public educational institution. The illegal shops can be shut down immediately and the building unit owners sued, but then a short time later, the store is back open under another name and operating company. The legal processes take up time and money, and resources might exceed the existing legal and policing budget, so the ‘opt in’ position would be attractive with the new tax revenues and budgets being used for policing, etc.
Training and equipping police forces, with the knowledge and tools to effectively deal with drivers high behind the wheel are evolving, but will cost more money, which most local governments do not have in their budgets, thus causing influence for them to ‘opt in’ and use a portion of the tax revenues to foot the bill.
Social services agencies require training and tools to assist families and members of society with drug rehabilitation programs, as drug abuse is not just for prescription drugs or meth, heroin or cocaine.
Regardless of whatever laws are or are not in place, those citizens that wish to acquire cannabis and products for their private enjoyment will find a way to do so.
For residents in those ‘opt out’ communities, internet based vendor/sites make it easy to obtain product. It stands to reason that those citizens who wish to use marijuana for personal use could do so by ordering from the internet, and have it shipped to their residence.
Everyone knows when you’re high, it’s really difficult to get off the couch…and thank goodness there are food delivery apps at one’s fingertips on their phone!
What I hope you’ve taken away from this article is that:
- No single piece of legislation and subsequent laws are perfect.
- Municipalities and local governments have a lot to deal with when deciding whether to ‘opt in/out’ on private retail store front operations.
- Tax revenues motivate governments at all three levels.
- Those who are legally entitled to it, will obtain it…..
I would love to hear your thoughts on these issues. Please leave a comment below.
About the Author:
C.J. is a Canadian baby-boomer aged comedian, who does not do winters, enjoys playing tennis, laying on the beach soaking up the sun, and watching the world go by. C. J has been using CBD based products for managing his aches and pains for over two years.