Background – Legislative Review of the Cannabis Act
- On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Actcame into force, creating a legal framework for the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis in Canada.
- Parliamentarians recognized the need for an early assessment of the Government’s new approach to cannabis control and included a provision requiring a review in the Act. As a result, it is stated in the Act that, amongst other key areas, the review should focus particularly on the impact of cannabis on First Nations people and communities.
- On September 22nd, 2022, the federal Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions launched the review of the Cannabis Act. Additional information about the focus of the legislative review can be found here.
- While the legislative review of the Cannabis Act does not fulfill Health Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act; the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act will inform the Expert Panel’s work through out the legislative review process.
Overview of Federal Cannabis Act Legislative Review – Expert Panel
- An independent Expert Panel was convened to hear from Canadians to “help identify priority areas for improving the functioning of the legislation.”
- It includes a mix of public health and legal experts who also reflect the diversity of Canada’s population:
- Morris Rosenberg (Chair)
- Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde
- Dr. Patricia J. Conrod
- Lynda L. Levesque
- Dr. Peter Selby
- Additional information on the Panelists and their biographies can be found online, alongside further details related to the Cannabis Act Legislative Review.
Context for Engagement: Positions and Roles
Positions and Role of the First Nations Leadership Council
- The BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), and First Nations Summit (FNS), working together as the First Nations Leadership Council have advocated for the inherent right of First Nations in BC to govern the cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale of cannabis, including exercising powers related to licensing and taxation and have called on the federal and provincial governments to make the necessary changes to existing legislation to enable this.
- Numerous resolutions have been passed through the BC Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, which affirm this mandate. The resolutions refer to addressing jurisdiction, taxation, economic interests, and health and safety concerns, including the traditional and medicinal use of cannabis. Resolutions passed at the national level through the Assembly of First Nations also affirm and support the advancement of these rights and priorities.
- Staff of the BCAFN, FNS, and UBCIC have jointly worked with the Health Canada secretariat that is supporting the Expert Panel leading the legislative review of the Cannabis Act to organize an engagement session between First Nations in BC and the Expert Panel. On March 28th, FNLC executives and FNLC Cannabis Working Group members will engage with the Expert Panelists.
Role of the Expert Panel Leading the Legislative Review of the Cannabis Act
- As an independent body, the Expert Panel will lead a credible and inclusive review, including engagement with BC First Nations on March 28th, 2023.
- As independent advisors to the federal government, the Panelists are not representatives or employees of the federal government, and they will not be in a position to speak on its behalf.
Their intent is to listen to BC First Nations’ perspectives on the Cannabis Act and its impacts, including areas for improvement, particularly as they relate to BC First Nations peoples and communities.
- The discussion with BC First Nations on March 28th, will help inform the final report of the independent Expert Panel for the legislative review of the Cannabis Act, which will be tabled in Parliament in March 2024.
Position and Role of Health Canada
- Health Canada has no direct role in the conduct of the review, which is being undertaken by the Expert Panel and is independent of the department.
- Health Canada understands that BC First Nations did not consider the development of the Act to have included appropriate consultation. First Nations leaders have called on the Government of Canada to amend the Act to include provisions so that First Nations may govern activities with cannabis in their communities and participate and benefit from the emerging sector.
- Health Canada also understands that the cannabis legislative review is part of a broader, long-term, discussion with First Nations on the future direction of the Act and complementary federal legislation.
- In accordance with the independence of the Expert Panel, Health Canada will have no role in direct engagement with BC First Nations on March 28th. The Health Canada staff present at the meeting will be there to support the Expert Panel and work only at the direction of the Panel, not Health Canada.