Legalization of Cannabis: Implications, Resources, and Research for Federation Members

At the October Conference, we hosted an Open Space session focused on concerns about the legalization of cannabis. Members hosted sessions focused on HR implications, practice implications, the history of how Canada got to this place, and what the future might look like. Following that session, The Federation committed to two follow-up actions: an informational webinar and the haring of resources. 

We are working with our partners at CSSEA to prepare a webinar focused on HR implications. Join us on November 27th from 2:00-3:00 pm PST to ask questions, share resources, and more.

>> Webinar URL:
>> Dial-in Number: 1-855-234-6506
>> Conference Code: 4940689#

For more info about the webinar, contact

Information and Resources for Members

Below you will find a range of resources on the implications of cannabis legalization. They include feedback from public engagement consultations, changes to legislation, government regulations, and useful websites. 

BC’s Approach to Legalization

The provincial government recently passed legislation to guide the legal, controlled access to non-medical cannabis in British Columbia. A number of regulatory decisions have been included in amendments to existing legislation and new policies have also been added. Here is an overview of the new Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA) and Cannabis Distribution Act (CDA) as well as the important changes to the Motor Vehicle Act

You can also view amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act (Section 21.1) and a government fact sheet on public consumption.

WorkSafeBC has released an information sheet on workplace impairment related specifically to cannabis legalization as well as a helpful guide offering an overview of employer obligations regarding impairment and the workplace. The latter also includes a series of links to additional resources that are available for employers.

Finally, you can also review MCFD’s policy document outlining the expectations for foster caregivers in light of legalization (see Definitions, and sections D 6.5, D 6.14, E 2.18, E 2.27, E 2.28). 

Federal Information and Resources

This Government of Canada website contains information on impairment and cannabis in the workplace, the responsibilities of employers, the duties of employees, and accommodations related to substance dependence. (It also has a number of additional tools and resources.)

For additional background information, this page contains summaries about why cannabis was legalized, the process that led to the decision, quick facts about the Cannabis Act and its implications, and links to other resources (such as public education strategy and informational pamphlets available in multiple languages).

Policy Summaries

Earlier this year, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction released their review of workplace substance use policies. After conducting an environmental scan, a national survey, and numerous interviews they put together an expansive report highlighting strengths, gaps, and key considerations related to such policies.

While they found that few organizations have comprehensive substance use policies, they offer some encouraging findings as well as key implications for employers and the most important components for substance use policies.

Background Information and Research

One of the largest open space groups at the conference focused on the current understanding of short- and long-term health effects, therapeutic effects, emerging research and how these things informed the federal government’s framework for legalization. Members interested in learning more and continuing this discussion can check out the following in-depth resources: 

Next Steps: More Info & Policy Sharing

As we receive more resources or policies we will be sure to share them with members. (The Federation has reached out to both CLBC and BC Housing and we are waiting to hear back.)

Additionally, if you have any organizational policies or resources you would like to share with your colleagues please contact so we can pass them on to other Federation members.

Rebecca Ataya-Lang
Federation Director of Programs and Services

Charities and Political Activities: Update and Next Steps

Last month, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled a motion in the House of Commons that would, among other things, amend Canada’s Income Tax Act in order to “remove the limits on political activities for charities, so that they may pursue their charitable purposes by engaging in non-partisan political activities and in the development of public policy.”

The proposed changes to the Income Tax Act most relevant to our sector are new definitions of charitable organizationcharitable purposes, and political activity (see Clause 17) and the subsequent removal of current restrictions on the political activities of charities including the development of public policy.

Background and Next Steps

Since 2012, the threat of losing charitable status has been hanging over the heads of social and environmental organizations as a result of the Canada Revenue Agency’s Political Activities Audit Program. In 2016, Canada Without Poverty (a national anti-poverty and human rights organization) challenged the CRA’s restrictions as well as the distinction between “charitable” and “political” activities.

These advocacy efforts resulted in an Ontario Superior Court ruling earlier this year that the application of certain sections of the Income Tax Act and the oft-mentioned 10% rule (the extent to which a charity can focus on political or policy-related advocacy) are unconstitutional.

Many organizations—the Ontario Nonprofit Network, Imagine Canada, and Canada Without Poverty—have positively responded to the proposed changes. The next and final step is for the federal government to introduce legislation to officially implement the measures tabled in Minister Morneau’s motion.

Make Sure Your Voice is Heard

This announcement does not mean our work is over. In January of this year, the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector was created in order to review the impact of Canada’s charitable and non-profit sector and the various rules governing them.

Submissions to the committee have been sent from across the country over the past 10 months and the next phase of the committee’s work involves an online survey specifically designed to collect information about the challenges and opportunities facing Canada’s charitable sector.

The deadline to complete the survey is November 16th. I urge you all to participate and help us make sure the federal government understands the issues we are facing—funding, donations and compensation; recruitment and retention; restrictive federal regulations. (All data is confidential and no identifying information will appear in the final report or any related publications.)

The committee’s final report will help determine the next phase of regulatory and legislative amendments that our sector needs in order to serve our communities and contribute to good governance and social policy development. The survey is simple and requires no preparation—the questions will be easy for Federation members to answer. You can submit your feedback here.

The Federation has already made a submission and we believe that it is very important for our sector to respond. Our feedback specifically noted challenges related to procurement and our concerns about the impact current procurement practices have on the sustainability of community-based organizations that are grounded in local knowledge and relationships.

Research Bulletin October 2018: Substance Use, Treatment, and Recovery

This month’s research bulletin focuses on research and reports related to substance use, treatment, and recovery as well as perceptions and stigma related to drug use and the ongoing overdose crisis.

The articles and reports below discuss strategies for improving recovery services and treatment programs, recommendations to guide drug policy reform, as well as ways to reduce stigma and counter misinformation about substance use programs and policies. And they include a number of practical implications and ideas for a range of audiences—service providers, community leaders, policy makers, and politicians.

  1. Strategies to Strengthen Recovery in BC: The Path Forward
  2. Methadone maintenance treatment and mortality in people with criminal convictions: A population-based retrospective cohort study from Canada
  3. The World Drug Perception Problem
  4. 2018 BC Overdose Action Exchange Report

For more information, additional research, and/or if you have feedback about how we can make this service more useful, please contact The Federation’s Research and Policy Coordinator. Subscribe to get future Research Bulletins sent directly to your inbox!

1. Strategies to Strengthen Recovery in BC: The Path Forward

This report by the BC Centre on Substance Use builds on findings from the 2017 Survey of Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada (by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and the National Recovery Advisory Committee). The goal of this report is to outline a “new path” toward recovery by taking a systems-wide approach to analyzing and addressing gaps in substance use policies and services in BC.

The authors echo calls from direct service providers and other recent reports (such as those by the BC Coroner’s Service) by highlighting the need for long-term recovery-oriented services in addition to life-saving measures and acute treatment options.

Also included are the leading factors in starting and maintaining recovery, the most common barriers to starting recovery, as well as leading recovery resources and programs. The report concludes with a range of suggested ways to strengthen recovery in BC—from education and awareness to drug policy and enforcement.

2. Methadone maintenance treatment and mortality in people with criminal convictions: A population-based retrospective cohort study from Canada

This article reports on a longitudinal cohort study (1998-2015) that looked at the relationship between methadone maintenance treatment programs and overdose deaths (as well as other causes of mortality).

The authors main finding was a significantly lower risk of mortality during periods when methadone was dispensed. However, in spite of increasing evidence that prevention and treatment options such as methadone may prevent deaths, they note significant barriers remain for offenders and those with criminal histories (in addition to an underutilization of substitution treatments by the same populations).

The findings in this report will be helpful for anyone trying to create or support community-based treatment programs. The practices discussed can increase methadone adherence among opioid-dependent offenders (i.e., making treatment more accessible, integrated, and comprehensive) and can help prevent premature death in populations with complex health and social challenges including those involved in the criminal justice system.

3. The World Drug Perception Problem: Countering prejudices about people who use drugs

This report, by the UN’s Global Commission on Drug Policy, examines how existing perceptions and language about substance use (and the people who use substances) create and sustain harmful responses such as criminalization and prohibition.

It includes analysis of the most common myths that inform drug policies and provides facts to counter these while also showing the key distinctions between perception-based and evidence-based policy development. The 25-member commission argues that shifting policies and laws away from criminalization and abstinence to harm-reduction and decriminalization will remain difficult unless we can change our perceptions of drug use and people who use drugs.

The report concludes with six recommendations (and four principles) to guide drug policy reform in the future and can be a valuable tool for service providers and policy-makers. It contains ways to counter public condemnation and fear about programs and policies, offers ways to correct misinformation and harmful language, suggests frameworks for reviewing and designing drug policies, and illuminates the roles we all play—community leaders, politicians, practitioners, media, religious figures—in shaping, supporting, and changing public perception.

4. 2018 BC Overdose Action Exchange

This report is the result of the third meeting of the BC Overdose Action Exchange—created by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2016 to help guide the provincial response to the overdose crisis.

The latest session brought together representatives from a wide range of stakeholder groups (including people with lived experience, policy-makers, community organizations, public health leaders, government, academia, emergency health services, law enforcement, researchers and medical experts).

An array of recommendations were expressed by participants (ranging from practical to provocative) and were organized into six themes to make them relevant and useful for all those responding to the opioid crisis: drug policy, safer drug supply, drug use prevention, overdose-prevention services, naloxone, and treatment and recovery.

The report was also explicit about the importance of Indigenous engagement (given overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in overdose figures and the TRC Calls to Action) and the importance of “peers”—people with lived experience of substance use. Participants agreed that peers should increasingly be considered experts in the field, should be embedded in research, service delivery, and prevention efforts, and should be supported and compensated accordingly.