Bill C-45, the Cannabis Federal Act, received Royal Assent on 21 June 2018. The Bill legalizes and regulates the production, distribution and sale of recreational cannabis across the country. The Act is expected to enter into force on 17 October 2018. 


Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, promised to legalize cannabis during his election campaign in 2015 to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system since more than half of reported drug offenses are related to cannabis possession. The new legislation is also intended to protect young persons (under age 18) from accessing cannabis and to promote public health and safety by creating a legal framework and imposing strict criminal penalties to ensure compliance. 

Key details

Cannabis Federal Act 

The Act prohibits the sale or distribution of cannabis to young persons (individuals under age 18) and any promotion, packaging or labelling that would encourage cannabis consumption. The Minister of Labor is allowed under the new legislation to authorize and revoke authorization of the possession, production, distribution, sale, importation and exportation of cannabis. The Minister of Labor is also allowed to fix by order, fees related to the administration of the Act.  

The Act also authorizes persons to possess, sell or distribute cannabis if they are authorized under a provincial act. Employees are not allowed to possess, sell or distribute cannabis unless it is authorized under a provincial act and by the employer as part of their employment duties and functions.

Ontario – Cannabis Provincial Act 

The government of Ontario is the only province that passed a Cannabis Provincial Act. The Act is expected to enter into force at the same time as the Cannabis Federal Act, Bill C-45. Young persons are defined under the provincial act as any individual under the age of 19. The Provincial Act prohibits impairment and recreational cannabis consumption in the workplace. 

Impact on employers

Smoking tobacco and cannabis in the workplace including any indoor and outdoor spaces in which employees perform their employment duties, is prohibited by the new Act – unless there is designated smoking room or area authorized by the employer.

Further guidance on the application of the Acts may create a legal obligation for employers to accommodate employees’ consumption of medical cannabis in the workplace as well as the recognition and support of employee disabilities resulting from dependence on the use of recreational cannabis.

Employers are advised to seek legal guidance regarding their drug and alcohol testing policies before taking any disciplinary actions or terminations resulting from the use of cannabis.

Next steps

Employers should monitor the implementation timeline of the Acts and ensure compliance with the new regulations in a federal and provincial level.

Useful resources

Full-text of the Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts

Ontario – Provincial Cannabis Act, 2017