They said ‘cannabis’ 9 times in the federal budget

Published on April 8, 2022 by David Wylie

Photo: Instagram/@chrystiafreeland
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland presented the budget. “Budget 2022 is about growing our economy, creating good jobs, and building a Canada where nobody gets left behind,” she says.

It may not seem like a lot, but cannabis was mentioned a total of nine times in the 2022 federal budget document.

That’s eight more times than in 2021.

The proposed budget, unveiled Thursday in Ottawa by the Liberal Party, hints toward a more open and productive relationship with the cannabis industry.

In the nearly four years since legalization in 2018, the Liberals have practically worn oven mitts while handling the hot potato of pot policy. Cannabis has been seen only through the lenses of public health and crime.

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This latest budget puts the growing weed industry as an important economic consideration, nationally and internationally.

Called: ‘A Plan to Grow Our Economy and Make Life More Affordable,’ the budget includes a section titled ‘Engaging the Cannabis Sector.’

What does that entail?

“As a relatively new sector of the Canada economy, it is important that the federal government and all stakeholders have a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities that are facing Canada’s legal cannabis sector,” says the budget document.

“Budget 2022 proposes launching a new cannabis strategy table that will support an ongoing dialogue with businesses and stakeholders in the cannabis sector.”

Health Canada elbowed aside

The cannabis strategy table would be led by the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

That’s a notable departure from Health Canada handling the file and overseeing the creation and interpretation of the rules that regulate everything—including licensing, growing, packaging, medical, and marketing.

The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development’s overall mandate is “to improve conditions for investment, enhance Canada’s innovation performance, increase Canada’s share of global trade and build a fair, efficient and competitive marketplace.”

The federal strategy table will create opportunities for the government to hear from industry leaders and identify ways to work together to grow the legal cannabis sector in Canada, says the budget document.

This new formalized engagement would be in addition to proposed changes to the cannabis excise duty framework that were detailed in the Tax Supplementary Information.

Cannabis also appears further on in the budget in relation to a previous commitment on jurisdiction for Indigenous governments.

“As committed in Budget 2021, the government will work with Indigenous groups and organizations on a potential fuel, alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco (FACT) sales tax framework as an additional option for Indigenous governments to exercise tax jurisdiction,” says the budget document.

“The government has a continued interest in facilitating taxation arrangements between interested provinces or territories and Indigenous governments.”

So what does this actually mean?

The nine mentions of the word ‘cannabis’ in the 300-plus-page Canadian budget document signal that the government is acknowledging pot as a growing global opportunity that requires federal strategy. (In the 2021 budget document, it was mentioned only one time in relation to an Indigenous tax option.)

The new cannabis strategy table is a long-overdue invitation for the pot industry to sit at the table.

But wait there’s (probably) more.

One of the most talked about social justice issues in cannabis has been the criminal records that have dogged people over small cannabis crimes.

The newly minted Liberal-NDP deal carries potential for further changes to cannabis regulations—notably on the issue of expungements. The NDP championed expungements over pardons during its last election campaign and may use its new position to push that forward.

David Wylie is publishing editor of the oz., a cannabis magazine based in the Okanagan. The Spring 2022 edition is now available. Email [email protected].

UPDATED: This has been edited since its publication in the April 8 newsletter for style.