Canada’s proposed Cannabis Act: What restaurateurs need to know

By Matt Maurer and Whitney Abrams

In April 2017, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, (the “Act”) which will legalize the recreational use of cannabis nationwide. The Federal government has committed to a legal market taking effect by July 1, 2018, which will surely impact many Canada Day celebrations.

The Act sets out much of the legal regime, including limits on possession, the licensing regime, personal cultivation limits and rules for advertising and promotion for cannabis. The Federal government has left it to the provinces and territories to form their own legislation and regulations on several key issues. The provinces and territories were granted powers to determine how and where cannabis will be sold, distributed and consumed, in addition to establishing the minimum age for purchase and possession (so long as it is above the Federal minimum of 18 years).

Many of the provinces and territories took to legalization plans by sourcing opinions of residents. Online surveys, studies and reports were prepared and hearings were held, giving business owners and other stakeholders an opportunity to provide input in shaping this new ground.

As of October 2017, only Ontario and New Brunswick have revealed concrete plans for legislation and regulations. In Ontario, recreational cannabis will be exclusively sold by the provincial government at retail storefronts and online. New Brunswick has indicated that it will establish a Crown Corporation to oversee sales. The announcement however did not rule out private retail.

So, what will this mean for existing restaurateurs and others in the foodservice industry?

The sale of edibles

For those who don’t know, “edibles” are cannabis-infused food products that are an alternative to smoking or vaporizing cannabis and come in a wide range of products. From truffles to brownies to soda beverages and pizza sauce, edibles are versatile and many Canadians hope to see them permitted in the legislation. In the restaurant business, edibles could potentially drive new lines of business once the recreational market comes into effect.

As it stands at the Federal level, the Act does not provide for the sale of edibles. However, the federal government has stated that once the appropriate regulatory oversight has been put in place, and unique health risks and harms associated with edibles are understood, regulations will come into force permitting the commercial sale of edible products. In particular, the government is concerned with standardizing serving sizes, potency, and health warnings, and ensuring that proper child resistant packaging is available.

At the Provincial level, only Ontario has commented thus far on edibles and that they will not be offered for retail sale in the province initially. Ontario also stated that it would revisit the topic, presumably after it is satisfied of the same Federal concerns described above.

Cannabis Act

On-site consumption

The way that cannabis can be consumed will fall to the provinces and territories. As such, the Act has not set out any rules for on-site consumption. Many restaurateurs have considered the possibility of on-site cannabis offerings and consumption the same way that wine is served to compliment certain meals or flavors.

Thus far, only Ontario has stated concretely what consumption will look like. There, consumption will be limited to private residences, which will eliminate any possibility of consumption at bars or restaurants for the time being. For the remainder of the provinces, both time and pressure by local business owners on legislatures will determine what will unfold.

Cannabis in the workplace

Cannabis in the workplace is a hot topic, especially in environments like kitchens and dining rooms where many hazardous tools and materials are used.

Restaurant-owner employers can prepare for the recreational market by updating drug and alcohol procedures and policies. Although employers cannot regulate what employees do outside of the workplace, impairment on the job can be addressed by the implementation of proper procedures. Employers will be up against a unique challenge of monitoring their employees, as there is no breathalyser equivalent to measure cannabis intoxication currently on the market.

Employers must simultaneously be sensitive to those employees who are afforded accommodations under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ˆthe “ACMPR”). Employees that are patients under the ACMPR are legally entitled to possess and consume cannabis for medical purposes. Employers and business owners need to ensure that they meet the legal obligations to accommodate these employees under applicable Human Rights legislation.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is made available for educational purposes only. It offers general information and a general understanding of the law. The article was provided for free and is intended to provide users with general information only. The content of this article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion. If you wish to obtain legal advice, please contact a member of the Minden Gross LLP Cannabis Law Group or your own qualified legal professional.

About the authors:

Matt and Whitney are Cannabis lawyers at Minden Gross LLP, a Canadian law firm and a leader in the Cannabis Industry. The lawyers in the Cannabis Law Group at Minden Gross LLP bring together broad experience in a variety of skill sets to offer cannabis industry stakeholders a complete range of legal services. For further information please e-mail Matt ([email protected] or Whitney ([email protected]), or connect with them on Twitter @MattPMaurer and @whitneyeabrams.