Don't expect legal pot stores by Canada Day 2018, industry, Ottawa lawyer Trina Fraser says. Legalization will probably begin with online sales
By Jacquie Miller
Thursday, June 15, 2017 8:04:36 EDT PM
Recreational marijuana may be legal by Canada Day 2018, but Canadians will probably be buying it online, says Ottawa lawyer Trina Fraser.
She and some others in the cannabis industry doubt whether legal pot stores will be open in most provinces by the federal government’s target date for legalization.
There is a massive amount of regulatory work to be done, says Fraser, who advises clients on obtaining licenses to grow marijuana.
“There are so many aspects to this. Every level of government is affected. There are a lot of moving parts. It’s going to take some time to make sure everything is a coordinated, functioning regulatory regime.”
Legalization of marijuana is a process, not an event, says Fraser, echoing a frequent comment among those in the industry.
“There’s a (mistaken) impression by the public that we’ll just flip a switch, and suddenly all these products that were previously illegal are going to be legal,” Fraser says.
She ticks off the tight timeline. The federal cannabis legislation has passed second reading and will be debated by a House committee in the fall. It must pass the House and Senate, with regulations written, before the provinces can finalize their legislation. If stand-alone cannabis stores are adopted, they must be built and a distribution network created.
“To say that in the course of eight or nine months, (the provinces) are going to introduce and pass legislation and regulations and implement an entirely new industry that doesn’t exist today, I just don’t see how that will happen.”
Legalization will probably begin with online sales, says Fraser, a prediction shared by some others in the industry. Online sales will be easier to implement immediately, since medical cannabis growers already sell products that way.
Vic Neufeld, the CEO of Aphria, a large Ontario cannabis grower, says the federal government pledged to make recreational marijuana legal by July 2018, but did not promise that stores would be open by then.
The rollout of stores will probably happen gradually, he predicts. “This journey, with three levels of government, is so complex, and there is no template they can steal from. They have to start from scratch.”
Eric Klein, the communications manager for cannabis company The Cronos Group, agrees it would be difficult to have new stores in place by July 2018. However, if a province decides that cannabis will be sold in existing stores, such as pharmacies, it may be possible to have those in operation by then, says Klein.