Normally, no one blinks an eye at the sector-specific legal services offered by Canada’s leading firms. We expect firms to promote their banking, communications, or public sector expertise and law groups, but recently a new category has appeared on firm websites: cannabis. As the October 17 date for legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada fast approaches, the MBLA thought it fitting to consider how traditional firms are adapting their practices to serve this new market.
BLG’s multi-disciplinary cannabis industry focus group estimates that the combined adult use and medical markets are estimated to reach $2.5 billion CAD by 2020.
Fasken, for example, outlines that their firm is equipped to advise on all commercial aspects of the cannabis industry; their clients range from “start-up cannabis production and distribution companies to Canada’s largest investment dealers involved in capital raising”.
McCarthy Tétrault is a founding member of the Global Cannabis Partnership, a group working towards creating a worldwide standard for the safe and responsible production and use of legal recreational cannabis.
The Blakes Cannabis group provides clients with the full range of services required to navigate the fast-moving and evolving cannabis market in Canada.
Intellectual property is also implicated as entrepreneurs and inventors seek protection of their strains, branding and even trade secrets.
As a multi-billion-dollar market opens, it’s no surprise that firms are adapting and specializing in this previously prohibited space. But it seems that these new law groups are framing the cannabis industry in traditional business terms, offering M&A, taxation, and regulatory services just as they would to any other industry.
In addition to recognizing the immense potential of the cannabis market, firms also acknowledge the health and safety measures that must be addressed in the cannabis industry as its products are introduced to the public, and into workplaces. The Cannabis Act outlines its purposes as including the deterrence of illicit activities, protection of health, and the provision of quality-controlled cannabis products. Firms appear to be echoing the measured approach outlined in the Federal legislation; Blakes has published overviews of Health Canada’s Regulatory Framework on their Cannabis group webpage. The Fasken Institute has hosted events exploring the health, legal and market issues of cannabis since mid-2014 and emphasize the need for employers to develop appropriate use guidelines.
Overall, the societal and economic impact cannabis legalization will have on Canada is hazy. When the smoke clears, will cannabis law groups be the new normal, or will they remain a unique strain in the legal practice?
 See BLG's Cannabis Law Group Page here.
 See Fasken's Cannabis Law Group Page here.
 Newswire.ca: "Global Cannabis Partnership Announces Founding Members".
 See Blakes' Cannabis Law Group Page here.
 Blakes: "Protecting Cannabis Strains in Canada".
 Cannabis Act Section 7, "Purpose"
 Blakes: "Health Canada Releases Proposed Regulatory Framework For Cannabis.