Le­gal Weed 101: Class on cannabis law of­fered

Univer­sity of Ot­tawa course to be first of its kind

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - MAG­GIE PARKHILL ma­parkhill@post­media.com

A new law school class on mar­i­juana that’s bud­ding at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa is be­ing touted as the first of its kind in Canada.

Two pro­fes­sors will be teach­ing a brand-new course called Cannabis Law in the Jan­uary 2019 se­mes­ter. A sim­i­lar course will be of­fered in French in Septem­ber.

“When we looked at this, we saw one of the most im­por­tant pub­lic pol­icy is­sues un­fold­ing in our time,” says Adam Dodek, the dean of law at uOt­tawa.

The aim of the course is to pre­pare fu­ture lawyers for com­pli­ca­tions that may arise from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s planned le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana.

“It’s go­ing to be af­fect­ing the ev­ery­day lives of Cana­di­ans,” said Joël M. Dubois, who will be teach­ing the in­ten­sive two-week course with Me­gan D. Wal­lace. Both are Ot­tawa lawyers at Per­ley-Robert­son, Hill & McDougall LLP.

“It’s im­por­tant for law stu­dents to un­der­stand those im­pacts, be­cause clients will have ques­tions,” Dubois said. “They al­ready do have ques­tions.”

Ev­ery­day le­gal im­pli­ca­tions of the chang­ing law could in­clude reper­cus­sions for driv­ing under the in­flu­ence, how com­pa­nies can deal with high em­ploy­ees, and new by­laws on where and when smok­ing will be al­lowed.

“The course will not be able to con­tain the whole host of is­sues that will likely arise as the new leg­is­la­tion un­folds,” Dodek said.

Even so, he said he ex­pects there will be a lot of stu­dent in­ter­est in tak­ing the course.

Matthew Gragt­mans will be en­ter­ing his third and fi­nal year at uOt­tawa’s law school in Septem­ber and said he would be in­ter­ested in tak­ing Cannabis Law.

“A lot of the laws we study are based on fairly old doc­trines and poli­cies,” he said. “It would be an in­ter­est­ing way to learn about how new laws are made and will be in­ter­preted.”

It’s im­por­tant for law stu­dents to un­der­stand those im­pacts, be­cause clients will have ques­tions. They al­ready do have ques­tions.

Gragt­mans said he hopes the course will cover how cannabis has pre­vi­ously been reg­u­lated, how the law is chang­ing and how the courts will likely in­ter­pret these changes.

Mykelti St-Louis, who is start­ing law school at uOt­tawa in the fall, said he’s glad the school has taken the ini­tia­tive to start teach­ing about this is­sue. But as the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion de­vel­ops, he also sees the po­ten­tial to get too far in the weeds.

“On one hand, we don’t want to be teach­ing law stu­dents faulty or eas­ily-out­dated in­for­ma­tion in a con­stantly mu­tat­ing field,” said St-Louis, who started a dis­cus­sion about the course on an on­line fo­rum for law stu­dents in Canada. “But on the other hand, we also need to be proac­tive to min­i­mize the gap be­tween the time laws come and the time that it will take lawyers and the le­gal com­mu­nity to catch up.”

Bill C-45, the pro­posed Cannabis Act, is cur­rently be­fore the Sen­ate, where it will be read and re­viewed for a third time no later than June 7.

Adam Dodek

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