The legalization of marijuana will affect your practice more than you think // sponsored content

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Canada has an elaborate patchwork of cannabis regulations. This book makes sense of it all

By Law and Style Media Inc.

On Wednesday March 11th, 2020

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Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you work in intellectual property law. One of your clients, a cannabis producer, is eager to trademark the name of particular strain of its product (“Orange Kush,” for example), but it must contend with the complicated set of rules that govern the marketing and labeling of cannabis. As their lawyer, you’ll need to help them make sense of those restrictions.

This isn’t the only area of law that’s affected by the legalization of cannabis. Last year alone, cannabis companies in Canada sold over $900 million worth of products. As the industry continues to grow, it will touch a wide range of practice areas: privacy, labour, banking, and human rights, to name a few. But figuring out the exact rules around cannabis is surprisingly difficult. For one thing, the regulations differ across provinces, municipalities and Indigenous communities. Making sense of this patchwork of laws is a real challenge.

Thankfully, three top lawyers have written two books that guide lawyers through this legislative chaos. The first one is Cannabis Law, which is a practical guide to all aspects of the Cannabis Act. The second is a companion text, Cannabis Law: The Legislative Framework, which lists all of the cannabis laws currently on the books. “The more we dug into it, the more we realized that this was a huge area,” says Bruce MacFarlane, former deputy attorney general of Manitoba. He co-wrote the book with Robert Frater, the chief general counsel with the federal Department of Justice, and Croft Michaelson, a former senior federal prosecutor who is now the chief legal officer and head of global investigations for the Bank of Montreal. “It was quite breathtaking for us to get a sense of how broad the implications were going to be.”

Tax lawyers, for instance, now have to know the special record-keeping requirements for cannabis companies. Immigration lawyers, meanwhile, need to advise clients on whether there’s a risk of being banned from the United States if they invest in cannabis (the answer is yes, but it depends how they answer questions at the border).

In the realm of labour law and human rights, the major issue is how a company can administer drug tests on its employees. When it comes to cannabis, that’s a challenge for two reasons: the drug can stay in someone’s body for days, and some people have the right to use it for medical purposes.

This is an issue in the airline industry, where pilot sobriety is a top priority. “Some airlines say you can’t consume cannabis within 28 days of flying,” says MacFarlane. “That is tantamount to saying you can’t use it at all.” A workplace has a duty to accommodate a disability, and the airline is in a pickle if a pilot needs to use medical cannabis to overcome a disability. To figure it out, they’ll need good advice from a labour lawyer.

For years, Canadian lawyers looked to American states that had legalized cannabis — such as Colorado, Washington and Oregon — to understand the issues that could arise. Now that cannabis has been legal for more than a year, it’s time to look at the issues that arise in Canada. And the books prepared by MacFarlane, Frater and Michaelson do so with clarity. “We have to focus,” MacFarlane says, “on giving sound advice on the law, policy and practice that arise specifically in Canada.”


Cannabis Law is a practical guide to all aspects of the new Cannabis Act and regulations as well as the complementary provincial laws and regulations.  Cannabis Law: The Legislative Framework, 2020 Edition is a companion to Cannabis Law with all significant cannabis-related statutes and regulations from across Canada.

To buy both books and redeem an exclusive 10% discount for Precedent readers, email Thomson Reuters here.


Photography via iStock