Lawyer Trina Fraser on What to Expect From the Cannabis Act

Trina Fraser has been watching the Cannabis Act bounce around the legislature like it’s must-see TV. The lawyer at Brazeau Seller Law in Ottawa live-tweeted bill C-45’s progress as it meandered from the House of Commons to the Senate last week, where it was slapped with a staggering number of amendments.

The cannabis industry lawyer talked to Hempster about leading her law firm into the wild west of cannabis consultation and, before C-45 returns to the House tonight, why Senate amendments will foster a thriving black market.

I just identified it as a business opportunity. I thought, “This industry is going to be huge.” The regulatory framework is complicated and dense and they are going to need advice and there is no one doing this work. I spoke to my partners [at Brazeau Seller Law] and said, is there any concern that this might create a reputational risk for the firm? I thought I knew what the answer would be and I was right. They said, “We see this as an immense opportunity too. Go for it.”

It was a slow and gradual growth but after a year I knew that the potential was still massive and as a very early participant in the industry I had a leg up on people. I did develop an expertise in this area and I stuck with it and now it is most of my practice. The fact that there is so much uncertainty in the space and it’s so complicated, that has actually contributed to my practice.

Everyone is looking for strategies to mitigate risk. They are looking for guidance and insight into what I see coming.

On June 13, the House of Commons discussed a series of amendments to the Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, made by the Senate.

There were more amendments then I was expecting. They really dissected the bill. I thought there would be a handful of things they really seized upon as fundamentally important to them. My number one most concerning amendment was the disclosure of beneficial owners of these companies. I think that is just an egregious privacy violation and I think it would have a very chilling effect on the availability of capital for new entries into the industry.

The second one is the promotional ban. People are chiding me for getting excited about t-shirts and stuff, but it’s part of a larger concern I have. For this industry to really thrive and succeed in its objective of displacing the black market, we need to let these companies build brands and promote their products in a responsible way.

They passed an amendment that says whenever you want to introduce any kind of new cannabis product, including any edible, you can’t just follow the normal regulatory process. You have to come back and present it to the house and present it to the senate and give them 30 days to study it. It is this whole convoluted hyper-regulatory development process. To me there is no reason to go to these strange lengths. I feel that it is important for the industry’s support for the objective of displacing the black market that we get these products on the market as soon as we possibly can.

With the world looking at us as an example, the potential to export to other markets is great, because they really see Canada as the gold standard. The frustrating part is that the security requirements [for a licensed producer] from the outset were much too high. They were higher than a nuclear facility.

The government now has started to pull back. They’ve now pulled back on the amount of cameras that you need in the grow room. Up until last year, you had to have enough cameras all over your grow room so that you could see every nook and cranny in the room, even if you have very tall plants. There were literally no security breaches at any of these facilities. I think they realized maybe you don’t need to build a concrete bunker vault to put your cannabis in.