News / Toronto

Details hazy but good first step, licensed marijuana producers say

Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., on April 14, 2016. Marijuana producers say the federal government's proposed legal-pot regime needs more details to clarify issues like permissible advertising and distribution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Ward

Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., on April 14, 2016. Marijuana producers say the federal government's proposed legal-pot regime needs more details to clarify issues like permissible advertising and distribution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Ward

TORONTO — The federal government's proposed marijuana legislation lacks key details, such as rules governing advertising, distribution and even how much THC will be allowed in each product, licensed producers say.

Vic Neufeld, CEO of Aphria Inc., said he was hoping for greater clarity when the highly anticipated Cannabis Act was introduced Thursday.

"I think it's a very good first beginning — little high level at this point in time and a lot of blanks to be filled in," Neufeld said.

The legislation aims to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, a change that would have a profound impact on the nascent cannabis industry, which to this point has been limited to the medical sector.

Under the law, it would be illegal to sell marijuana packaged or labelled in a way that could be construed as appealing to young people, to include testimonials or endorsements, or to depict a person, character or animal.

Neufeld said he is confident the rules will evolve ahead of July 2018, when the law is expected to take effect. But he anticipates there will still be "some fairly significant restrictions on how to reach out to customers."

Cam Battley, executive-vice president with Aurora Cannabis Inc., said he fully supports the government's stance on not promoting marijuana to young people, though he also expects the restrictions outlined Thursday to change over time.

"What we will see is that the regulation surrounding cannabis will become harmonized with those surrounding alcohol," Battley said.

The legislation would also hand provinces, territories and municipalities the right to set their own distribution rules, which could be a headache for producers dealing with a patchwork of regulations.

The federal government also did not specify what levels of THC — the psychoactive compound in marijuana —would be acceptable under the law.

"Very curious how they're going to maximize or place a cap on the level of THC," Neufeld said.

The president of Canada's largest publicly traded marijuana company said a balance needs to be struck when it comes to discouraging overconsumption, not promoting to minors and ensuring customers receive information on varieties, brands, and how to properly consume the product.

"There's obviously a lot more detail to come out and the devil's always in the details," said Canopy Growth Corp. president Mark Zekulin.

"But first blush, I think this is a great first step forward for cannabis policy in Canada."

Stocks in most marijuana producers were down for the day. Canopy Growth (TSX:WEED) fell 38 cents or 3.69 per cent to $9.93, while Aphria shed (TSX:APH) 65 cents or 8.27 per cent to $7.21.

 

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