Proposed changes to Cannabis Law are heading in the right direction: advocates

Proposed changes to Cannabis Law are heading in the right direction: advocates

While the proposals have generally received a positive reception, retailers are hoping to see an end to the “incredibly high” $1 per gram excise tax on cannabis.

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OTTAWA – Proposed changes to Canada’s cannabis regulations are being met with cautious optimism from those within the industry, who say more still needs to be done to make the market fair for everyone.

The proposed changes, published late last week in the Canada Gazette, address everything from industrial hemp to growing rules and packaging regulations, and aim to make life a little easier for sellers while still keeping time public health concerns.

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“Health Canada recognizes that there may be regulatory measures that could be made more efficient and simplified without compromising the public health and public safety objectives of the (Cannabis) Act,” reads a Department of Health synopsis.

“This is supported by the findings and recommendations of the independent expert panel that completed the legal review of the law.”

That review, led by Morris Rosenberg, a retired senior federal bureaucrat and former executive director of the Trudeau Foundation, recommended that the government work to reduce the administrative and regulatory burdens placed on those within Canada’s legal cannabis industry, something that interested parties have long asked for.

“For the most part, (the proposed changes) are just practical for what the regulations already are and, effectively, how things should behave,” said Jennawae Cavion, owner of the Calyx+Trichomes dispensary in Kingston, Ont., and executive director of NORML. Canada.

“It eliminates a lot of redundancy in a lot of ways.”

Among the proposed changes are plans to legalize the sale of cannabis pollen among licensed producers, a means of allowing greater access to domestic plant genetics.

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Others include relaxing packaging regulations to allow screw caps to be a different color than the jar they are attached to, clear windows on cannabis packaging and the ability for producers to add QR codes to their products.

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While the response to the proposals is largely good, some are disappointed that no dosage changes have been proposed for edibles.

Earlier this year, a petition was introduced in the House of Commons asking the government to increase THC limits in edibles from 10 mg to 100 mg, a cause championed by Cavion and NORML Canada.

Sam Gerges, owner of Toronto-based dispensary chain MaryJane’s Cannabis, described the proposals as a good first step.

“But without a change in excise taxes, it’s all for nothing,” he told the National Post, a point Cavion agrees with.

“The feds charge $1 per gram in excise taxes, which is incredibly high considering the average cost of the products, then the provincial wholesalers increase the destination price, including the federal tax. It is a tax on a tax.”

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While many of the items involving physical retail stores would require additional approvals at the provincial level, Cavion said she is pleased with many of the proposals.

“The biggest benefit is that it will allow more options, more information to make purchasing decisions and it will allow us as retailers a little more variety,” he said.

Omar Khan, director of communications for High Tide, owner of Canna Cabana, Canada’s largest cannabis retail chain, was more cautious.

“While we welcome the proposed changes to federal cannabis rules and regulations, they could still take up to a year to take effect and are far from a game-changer,” he said.

“When it comes to supporting cannabis job creators, the federal government is tinkering while bankruptcies and job losses rise.”

Khan encourages the federal government to follow the lead of several provincial governments and take greater steps to eradicate the illicit market.

While Canada was in a rush to be among the first in the world to legalize cannabis, there is still a lot to learn from the mistakes the government has made along the way, Gerges said.

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“The government should not be the most profitable cannabis business in the country,” he said.

“We have become an example of what not to do.”

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