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Liberals to announce marijuana will be legal by July 1, 2018

The Liberal government will announce legislation next month that will legalize marijuana in Canada by July 1, 2018.

CBC News has learned that the legislation will be announced during the week of April 10 and will broadly follow the recommendation of a federally appointed task force that was chaired by former liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan.

Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief who has been stickhandling the marijuana file for the government, briefed the Liberal caucus on the roll-out plan and the legislation during caucus meetings this weekend, according to a senior government official who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity.

Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, briefed the Liberal caucus on new marijuana legislation, which leaves the provinces to decide how marijuana is distributed and sold, according to a senior government official. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Provinces to control sales

The federal government will be in charge of making sure the country's marijuana supply is safe and secure and Ottawa will license producers.

But the provinces will have the right to decide how the marijuana is distributed and sold. Provincial governments will also have the right to set price.

While Ottawa will set a minimum age of 18 to buy marijuana, the provinces will have the option of setting a higher age limit if they wish.

4 plants per household

As for Canadians who want to grow their own marijuana, they will be limited to four plants per household.

Legalizing marijuana was one of the more controversial promises Justin Trudeau made as he campaigned to become prime minister.

 

But in their platform the Liberals said it was necessary to "legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana" in order to keep drugs "out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals."

The Liberals had promised to introduce legislation by the Spring of 2017. Announcing the legislation the week of April 10 will allow the party to hit that deadline.

Raids raise questions

Trudeau referred again to that rough timetable a few weeks ago when he said the legislation would be introduced before the summer. But at the same time he also warned that it wasn't yet open season for the legal sale of marijuana.

"Until we have a framework to control and regulate marijuana, the current laws apply," Trudeau said in Esquimalt, B.C. on March 1.

That warning became more concrete a week later, when police in Toronto, Vancouver and other cities carried out raids on marijuana dispensaries and charged several people with possession and trafficking, including noted pot advocates Marc and Jodie Emery.

Trudeau's promise to legalize marijuana was seen as one of the reasons for the Liberals' strong showing among youth voters in the 2015 election. 

But at the NDP's leadership debate in Montreal Sunday, which was focused on youth issues, several of the candidates pointed to marijuana legislation as an example of a broken Liberal promise.

"I do not believe Justin Trudeau is going to bring in the legalization of marijuana and as proof that ... we are still seeing, particularly young, Canadians being criminalized by simple possession of marijuana," said B.C. MP Peter Julian.

Federal marijuana legislation to be introduced in spring 2017, Philpott says

Original Article By David Cochrane, CBC News Posted: Mar 26, 2017 9:00 PM ET

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A former Liberal cabinet minister who recently chaired a panel guiding Ottawa’s push to legalize cannabis says police everywhere should enforce the existing prohibition of marijuana, despite several communities in British Columbia choosing to regulate – not raid – illegal pot shops.

Anne McLellan, head of an official task force that submitted recommendations to Ottawa on how best to legalize cannabis, said Thursday that Vancouver crafted Canada’s first municipal marijuana bylaw in response to what was a “growing difficult situation for them.”

But the former minister of public safety, health and justice in the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin said other cities should not follow suit before the current laws change, echoing what the federal government has repeatedly said when asked about the rise of illegal dispensaries.

“Nobody would deny that there are some practical problems at street level, absolutely, nobody denies that,” said Ms. McLellan, who was in Vancouver speaking at Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus on the work the task force did last year.

“Cities should wait until the law changes instead of making their own rules now and hoping to adapt them to a federal framework later on,” she said. “I cannot advocate that anybody break existing laws. We are a nation of law-abiding citizens.”

Ottawa is expected to table legislation this spring that will legalize and regulate recreational marijuana over the next two years. While the stores are still illegal under federal law, they have proliferated in cities such as Vancouver and Victoria, where local politicians argue their rules can eventually be adapted to any national framework regulating the storefront sale of the drug.

All dispensaries and compassion clubs across Canada still operate outside the federal government’s medical-marijuana program, which permits about 30 industrial-scale growers to sell dried flowers and bottles of cannabis oil directly to patients through the mail.

The federal government has said its two core priorities behind legalizing the recreational sale of marijuana are: to keep the drug out of the hands of young people and to stop the flow of money to organized criminals involved in the production and sale of the drug on the black market.

Vancouver’s approach to regulating its dispensaries stands in stark contrast to Toronto’s, where police and politicians say a continuing crackdown has become more urgent as these pot shops have become a magnet for violent thieves because some owners are reluctant to report robberies.

Civic and provincial politicians across the country are waiting on the coming legalization bill to give some guidance as to where the drug may be sold once it is legalized.

Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang, architect of the local dispensary bylaw, said he was disappointed in Ms. McLellan and Ottawa’s rhetoric, noting they both appear to be eschewing the public-health approach of his city, and that of other communities in B.C. also licensing these illegal stores.

“It’s sort of like we’re in purgatory,” he said Thursday. “And when you’re in purgatory, it’s not about allocating our resources, it’s about advocating what’s right for our citizens – that’s what Vancouver has done.”

He said he wants Ms. McLellan to push federal ministers to implement the new legislation faster because local governments across the country are wasting millions of dollars containing the grey cannabis market.

“When it comes to resources, the federal government better provide good resources for us to help enforce and help manage what they want us to do,” said Mr. Jang, a clinical psychiatrist. “Otherwise, we’re going to be back to square one.”

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has long advocated that cities deserve to receive some of the eventual tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales if they are expected to enforce federal cannabis laws.

The federal Liberals have said any pot proceeds would be directed to addiction treatment, mental-health support and education programs, and that provinces and territories will also have a significant say in how cannabis revenues are spent. A recent study from the parliamentary budget watchdog predicted that about 60 per cent of marijuana taxation will flow to the provinces.

Ms. McLellan, now in the public-policy division of Bennett Jones, one of the Canada’s leading law firms operating in the cannabis sector, said different communities have different concerns about the drug, as evidenced by Toronto and Vancouver’s contrasting approach to dealing with illegal dispensaries.

Original article by: MIKE HAGER, VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail. Published Thursday, Mar. 23, 2017 10:04PM EDT

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As investors flock to Canada’s burgeoning marijuana sector, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is signaling recreational pot sales aren’t imminent.

Lawmaker Bill Blair -- the former Toronto police chief leading Trudeau’s legalization effort -- confirmed a bill is due in parliament this spring, but it won’t be the last hurdle as ample regulatory work remains. The federal government will take its time and work with provinces, territories and cities to build a framework and develop specific regulations, he said.

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The government is also looking for ways to control production, distribution and consumption of legalized marijuana, while testing it for quality and keeping it out of the hands of minors, Mr. Blair said.

“We will take as much time as it takes to do it right,” Mr. Blair, the parliamentary secretary to Canada’s justice minister, said in an interview Monday. “I’m pretty reluctant to suggest a specific time frame, frankly, because I don’t know how long this will take in each of our 10 provinces and three territories.”

Mr. Blair’s comments come as Canada’s nascent marijuana industry balloons, with investor optimism being fueled by analyst estimates that recreational sales could start as early as 2018.

The government’s plan to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 “could pave the way for the legal sale of recreational cannabis by 2018,” Canaccord Genuity analysts Matt Bottomley and Neil Maruoka said in a November research note. Canada’s recreational pot industry has the potential to reach $6-billion in sales by 2021 if legalization occurs along “expected timelines,” according to the note.

Canopy Growth Corp. became the first marijuana unicorn in 2016 and had a valuation of $1.9-billion on Monday. Other producers, including Aurora Cannabis Inc. and Aphria Inc.Inc., have seen their share prices surge more than 400 per cent in the past 12 months.

Canopy shares fell as much as 7.5 per cent in Toronto while Aurora tumbled 5.1 per cent and Aphria slid 3 per cent.

Dampened Buzz

“If they delay, there’s going to be a lot of eggs that are going to break in this business,” Chris Damas, an analyst at BCMI Research in Barrie, Ont., said by phone Monday. “The valuations are extreme.”

Licensed marijuana producers are in the midst of expanding their capacity and there will be a “huge amount” of excess cannabis if Canada delays legalization, Damas said. The analyst said Mr. Blair’s previous comments suggest it’s unlikely the government will introduce a bill by June and companies with huge valuations “won’t have any serious business” if the recreational market takes longer to come to fruition.

“There could be a lot of disappointment,” he said.

In a separate interview Monday with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Mr. Blair said the government was going to design a legalized marijuana system that included measurement and testing of products, as well as enforcement. While the proposed legislation is due this spring, “it’s not sufficient to simply come forward with a bill,” he said.

The government may also explore ways to direct revenue from marijuana sales to funding additional drug treatment, including for fentanyl as Canada grapples with an opioid crisis, he added.

Since taking a position on legalization ahead of the 2015 election, Trudeau has gradually turned toward emphasizing safety, saying regularly it shouldn’t be easier for youth to buy marijuana than to buy beer. Putting the file in the hands of a prominent law-enforcement veteran is another signal the government is approaching legalization with an eye to tight regulation.

Blair declined to comment on whether the regulations could be finalized by 2018 -- an expected election year in Ontario, home to Canopy and other companies -- or 2019, when the next federal election is scheduled.

The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation issued a report in December that recommends the Canadian government regulate the production of marijuana while provinces control the distribution and retail sales, including through dedicated storefronts with well-trained staff or by mail.

Original Post: JEN SKERRITT AND JOSH WINGROVE

Bloomberg News, Published Tuesday, Mar. 07, 2017 2:10PM EST

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Marijuana Investments: A Word to the Wise

With more cannabis retailers and dispensaries entering the market, marijuana entrepreneurs are having an increasingly difficult time distinguishing their brands and product lines. The need to stand out is not only necessary to secure to new customers (once the company is up and running) but more importantly, to initially entice investors and convince them that the business model is sufficiently unique to succeed.  Indeed, raising capital from investors is absolutely critical for many marijuana entrepreneurs and as a corollary, an exciting proposition for investors looking to capitalize on this popular and growing industry. 

Cannabis Investors or Cannabis Lenders?

Cannabis investors may provide capital to cannabis entrepreneurs in (generally speaking) one of two ways; equity or debt.  A simple capital-for-equity model is fairly straightforward - investors buy into the company at a given valuation and in return, own a part of the company.  The second option, debt, is often a much more complex transaction and involves the "investor", who may not be an investor in any pure sense of the word, loaning the company money at a high rate of interest. Unfortunately, many smaller investors (or lenders, depending on your perspective) are not sufficiently equipped to protect their interests in the event that the marijuana business goes under.   

What happens when the invested in cannabis defaults on the loan? Here are your two options:

(1) Renegotiate the Marijuana Startup's Debt

Promissory notes that are well drafted typically contain a statement regarding an uncured event of default, which causes the debt to accelerate. Thus, if the cannabis business you have invested in misses a payment and does not make a late payment by a cure date, that company’s entire debt is due. When this happens, partners tend to negotiate an extension, and you as the financer can extract concessions from your borrower (i.e. security interests, personal guarantees, or pledges of ownership in the company). This generally happens so that your borrower can avoid you obtaining a judgment against them.

(2) Get A Judgment Against Your Cannabis Borrower

If you have the money to obtain a judgment against your borrower, you can use that judgment to levy on the borrower’s business assets.  The idea here of course is to seize assets of your borrower that are sufficiently valuable to cover your losses.  In many states, if you are indeed awarded a judgment against your marijuana borrower, you may also be eligible to be reimbursed for attorney fees and other associated costs.

A Note of Caution: Fraudulent Transfers

Unfortunately, it is not too uncommon for companies in debt to do everything in their power to avoid paying it.  Once such method used to this end is the employment of a fraudulent transfer. A fraudulent transfer occurs when a borrower transfers the company’s property to a third party, without receiving something back of equal value, in order to deplete the company of the funds required to repay the financer. This is undoubtedly a dirtier tactic and if intent can be established may rise to the level of criminal liability.

Be Proactive in Protecting Your Assets

Ultimately, if you are planning to finance or lend to a cannabis company, it is important to develop a contingency plan that accounts for the possibility of a failed business. Is your agreement with the marijuana company tight and drafted in such a way as to maximize your protections?  If the business goes under, can you sustain the loss of your entire investment? Do you have funds to litigate in court?  Unfortunately, the legalization of cannabis does not guarantee businesses financial success.

Blog Provided By: Abe Cohn is COO of THC Legal Group, a Marijuana Law Firm specializing legal protection for the cannabis industry.  For more information, please visit their website at http://www.THCLegalGroup.com

For more information on THC Legal Group, view the company directory listing on Invest In MJ

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Germany Legalizes Medical Cannabis

Germany’s lower house of parliament passed a bill legalizing the production, sale and use of medical marijuana Thursday, Jan. 19 in Berlin.

The bill limits the sale and use of cannabis to those patients “in very limited exceptional cases,” such as with patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic pain, and lack of appetite or nausea related to cancer treatments. Those patients will not be allowed to grow their own medicine at home.

As restrictive as this program might sound, it is an improvement to what existed. Until this law was passed, medical cannabis was only available on a case-by-case basis, as allowed by German authorities. This bill allows patients to get a prescription from their doctor, which can be filled at local pharmacies.

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