Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set off the countdown clock when he announced last month that cannabis would be legal in Canada by the summer of 2018, however there are still plenty of issues to sort out before Canadians can legally light up, and some that will linger even after that. Legislation introduced by the Liberal government legalizing and regulating marijuana use and possession must still pass through the less partisan structured Senate, and provinces, cities, and law enforcement organizations are still rushing to prepare themselves to sell and tax marijuana, and contend with a new set of laws on its use. Legalization will also pave the way for the rise of an expectedly multi-billion dollar cannabis industry, with Health Canada and provincial and territorial counterparts tasked with developing the rulebook for this new corporate domain. And then there's renewed calls to pardon Canadians previously convicted of petty possession offences, and lingering questions about public education and awareness campaigns warning of the health risks of marijuana use. Where we are now Under two separate but connected pieces of legislation introduced last year, the Liberal government set the national blueprint, or baseline, for the legalization of marijuana. In the bills, the Trudeau government set the minimum legal age to purchase marijuana at 18 years old, though the provinces and territories are still allowed to set higher age thresholds, and introduced stiffer penalties for distributing marijuana to underage users and for driving while stoned, among other regulatory measures. Also, a new agreement stipulates that Ottawa will receive 25 per cent of tax revenue from legal marijuana, with the provinces and territories keeping the rest. Total revenue for the federal government is capped at $100 million annually, based on projections of $400 million of pot revenue generated across Canada each year. A gram of pot will be priced around $10 to ensure competitiveness, according to the agreement between the feds and provinces. The burgeoning cannabis industry will be governed by new regulations and safe and responsible production that will be enforced by Health Canada inspectors. As of Jan. 12, there are 85 licensed producers, more than doubling the total from May, calming fears that legalization would result in a supply crunch because of the lack of licensed producers. The Senate The Senate, pictured, is the site of the final legislative debate over marijuana legalization. The Hill Times file photograph The Cannabis Act, or Bill C-45, was tabled in the House of Commons in April 2017, and would changes part of the Criminal Code to legalize marijuana and allow the federal government’s proposed rules to come into effect. It passed through the House on Nov. 27, with support from the governing Liberals, the NDP, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.), and Conservative MP Scott Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, Ont.). It was opposed by the rest of the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois caucus. In the Senate, the bill is expected to face opposition from the 33-member Conservative caucus, who have largely come out against legalization and have expressed concerns that the Liberal government is moving too fast. But the biggest concern for Sen. Peter Harder (Ontario), the government’s representative in the Senate, will be winning over the largest group in the Upper Chamber, the Independent Senators Group. The ISG holds 39 seats in the 105-member Senate, but does not function as a traditional partisan caucus, with members not given explicit instructions on a piece of legislation. The Senate Liberal caucus, which has no formal ties to the governing Liberals in the House, make up another 15 votes. There are also seven non-affiliated Senators and 11 vacancies, as of Jan. 19. The Upper Chamber will hold a special ‘committee of the whole’ meeting on Feb. 6, to bring all senators together to consider the legislation and question the three cabinet ministers responsible for the cannabis file and Liberal MP Bill Blair (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.), the government’s point man on pot. A Conservative attempt to amend the motion to include four more ministers for questioning throughout February was narrowly voted down, hinting that some senators may try to extend debate on the Bill C-45, which ISG Sen. Tony Dean (Ontario) is sponsoring. CBC reported on Jan. 13 that time allocation was being considered for the cannabis bill. Creating a regulatory framework Liberal MP Bill Blair and Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, pictured during an announcement in the House foyer on Nov. 21, are critical players on the cannabis file. The Hill Times photo by Andrew Meade Last May, Health Canada promised to streamline its regulatory approach for marijuana production, which producers had long complained was too slow and complex. Health Canada released its latest proposed regulatory framework on Nov. 20, opening it up to feedback through a 60-day consultation period that ended Jan. 20. The department’s proposals include categorizing licensing between processing, cultivation, testing, sales and trade—meant to accommodate for “micro-growers” and different business niches—security clearances, supply chain monitoring, and informative packaging and labelling. From there, Health Canada will publish a summary of feedback received and then decide its final regulations before publishing it at time of legalization. Health Canada has also hired more inspectors and moved to inspect the use of pesticides by producers, after industry concerns with the quality of the department's regulators. However, Canadian researchers still need to apply for a special exemption to work with cannabis, and there have been few details from Health Canada on what it will do to expand the country’s pot research capacity, as it has already pledged to do. Provinces and territories Ontario, its Premier Kathleen Wynne pictured at a first ministers' meeting in 2016, has been ahead of the pack with passing pot legalization. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia Ontario passed its cannabis law on Dec. 12, the first province in Canada to do so. With Ontario being the most populated province, and plans to sell pot in the same manner as the LCBO, it may very well make the province the world’s largest marijuana dealer. Six provinces and territories plan to sell pot through government-run stores. The rest want either have a mix of private stores and government-operated online sales. Nine provinces, including Ontario, have set the minimum age for purchase at 19. Alberta and Quebec have set it at 18. Provincial governments are likely to face criticism from cities and First Nations communities and their police forces, who will have to bear the brunt of servicing and enforcement costs. First Nations are not satisfied with the consultation the federal and provincial governments has had with Indigenous communities. Cities are demanding a piece of the revenue pie from provinces to help fund needed service programs. Doctors and nurses will have to be educated on cannabis, and patients are expected to ask many questions on its therapeutic potential. After legalization But once the smoke settles and pot becomes legal, there will still be work to do on the cannabis file for policymakers in Ottawa and across the country. A smoker on Parliament Hill during the 2017 4/20 rally. The Hill Times file photograph Thanks to an NDP amendment to Bill C-45, the the Liberal government must introduce legislation on the legality of marijuana edibles and concentrated pot within a year. As well, regulations are likely to be tweaked to reflect unanticipated challenges, and responsible federal, provincial, and territorial departments will likely need to staff up to meet new service needs. Then there's the state of play in the cannabis industry. What will it look like? Will it be dominated by big corporate entities? Or will there be a vast and competitive corporate landscape? And what role will Ottawa play in structuring the cannabis production industry? Then, there's the future of the marijuana education and awareness campaigns. What shape will they take once cannabis is legal to purchase? Health Canada received millions in funding last fall to launch a public education campaign, though nothing has sprung up since. Finally, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale (Regina-Wascana, Sask.) recently confirmed that department officials are examining possible pardons and criminal record suspensions for certain cannabis possession crimes. What will that look like? email@example.com The Hill Times Pot's big players in 2018 Ginette Petitpas Taylor—As Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor will oversee Health Canada's new role regulating cannabis. Jody Wilson-Raybould—As Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould will oversee the legal administration and impact of legalization. Ralph Goodale—As Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale will oversee the enforcement of new laws related to the use of cannabis and possible granting of pardons to past pot offenders. Bill Blair—As the government’s point man on pot, Bill Blair is the parliamentary secretary to both the justice and health ministers, will need to continue navigating the legalization initiative. Peter Harder—As the Liberal government’s representative in the Senate, the ball is in his court to ensure legislation legalizing marijuana reaches the finish line. Larry Smith—As the Conservative Senate Leader, he will likely lead the fight against cannabis legalization in the Upper Chamber. Yuen Pau Woo—As the ISG’s facilitator, he has power to sway the flow of debate on the Cannabis Ac and its chances of passage in the Senate. Bruce Linton—As CEO of Canopy Growth, the largest cannabis grower in North America, Bruce Linton has a high chance of elevating to becoming one of Canada’s top corporate players. Marc and Jodie Emery—As Canada’s two top pot activists, they’ll likely be among the Liberal government’s strongest critics after legalization occurs. Charles Sousa—As Ontario’s finance minister (for now), Charles Sousa oversees the largest provincial pot economy in Canada and possibly the world’s biggest commercial seller of marijuana.