On October 17, 2018, the Government of Canada’s Cannabis Act came into force, establishing a new framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada.

The Cannabis Act is also designed to prevent youth from accessing cannabis, displace the illegal cannabis market, and ultimately protect public health and safety by:

  • Establishing serious criminal penalties for those who sell or provide cannabis to youth
  • Setting rules for adults to access quality-controlled cannabis
  • Creating a new, tightly regulated supply chain

The Province of British Columbia also established a framework for non-medical cannabis in British Columbia and passed legislation to provide for legal, controlled access to non-medical cannabis in British Columbia.

Medical cannabis continues to be provided exclusively through Health Canada’s program.

At its November 2018 meeting, the College Board decided that phytocannabinoids (s.g. Sativex) and synthetic cannabinoids (e.g. Nabilone) that have been classified as prescription drugs by Health Canada will be added to the DSR in order to align with the Prescription Drug List and the Schedules to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

It should be noted that the Prescription Drug List only regulates the prescription status of health products containing cannabis and not other types of cannabis products such as cannabis for non-medical purposes.

While those using cannabis for medical purposes are expected to comply with BC’s cannabis laws, the province has included some exemptions for the use of Health Canada authorized medical cannabis in otherwise prohibited areas, as long as specific requirements are met.

Cannabis (for medical or non-medical purposes) will not be available through pharmacies in BC.

Private retail stores licenced through the Province will also be prohibited from using a business name that includes the words (in traditional or non-traditional spelling) “pharmacy,” “apothecary,” or “dispensary.” Graphics associated with a pharmacy, including for example a green cross, are also prohibited.

In preparation for these changes, Mary Shaw, Executive Director of the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat presented to the College Board in September 2018 on British Columbia’s approach to cannabis legalization, providing information on the new Cannabis Control and Licensing Act and the Cannabis Distribution Act, as well as amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act.

The College also published the ReadLinks article on Cannabis Legalization in Canada in October 2018, as well as a Guest Post written by the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre.

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