Article by Yamri Taddese, Canadian Lawyer Magazine
As Canada’s federal government gets the ball rolling on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, there’s a lot of fertile ground for legal work across practice areas. On the eve of pot’s big leap into the mainstream market, lawyers tellCanadian Lawyer they’re fielding calls from clients in various sectors, all inquiring about legal ways to do work in a once underworld industry.
“It really is a new frontier,” says Debbie Weinstein of LaBarge Weinstein LLP, who acted for Tweed Marijuana Inc. during its merger with Bedrocan Cannabis Corp last year. That merger was the first one in Canada’s budding medical marijuana industry, and it solidified a sizable market share for two of the biggest players in the game. Now that legalization is coming, Weinstein expects consolidations in the cannabis industry to surge up in the years to come, offering plenty of work for corporate commercial lawyers like her.
Adam Szweras, a securities law partner at Fogler Rubinoff LLP, says Canada is on the verge of the “birthing of a new industry” teeming with opportunities for investors and legal professionals alike.
“Whether you’re making packaging for a product or [you’re] a courier company delivering boxes of products, or a trucking company, there’s going to be implications up and down the industry,” Szweras says. “You’re really creating a whole new industry. It’s all of the legal work that’s normally entailed in commercial transactions plus all the regulatory layers on that.”
A government advisory task force on legalization, chaired by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, is in the midst of contemplating the rules around this new industry. The feds are expected to introduce a legalization bill by 2017. Much will depend on how the regulations shake out and what type of barriers there will be for entry into the industry.
Whatever the task force and the government design, it will be unprecedented. Full, countrywide regulatory systems for recreational use of marijuana are so uncommon even Holland doesn’t have one, Szweras says. “The reality of the matter is that this will be the first legal program that any OECD country has brought in,” he says.