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Teaching a growth industry: UOttawa offering classes on cannabis law

Powered By Canadian LawyerConsequences of Legalization||Written By Michelle Cuthbert
Teaching a growth industry: UOttawa offering classes on cannabis law
Megan Wallace says she believes there’s going to be an 'explosion' of business in the cannabis industry in Canada’s future.

The University of Ottawa Faculty of Law will be offering two courses on cannabis law this fall — the first Canada, offered in both French and English.

Megan Wallace of Perley-Robertson Hill & McDougall LLP will be co-instructing the English course in January with Joël DuBois, a partner at the same firm. Diane Labelle, who is general counsel at Health Canada Legal Services, will teach the French version in the fall. Wallace says it’s important for any law student consider learning about cannabis law because it touches on a wide breadth of legal areas, including business law, human rights, impaired driving laws, and more.

“If you’re a business law lawyer you have some files on the topic, if you’re an employment law lawyer you have some files that deal with the topic,” says Wallace. “So I think it will impact most people’s practices in some way.”

Uof Ottawa dean of law Adam Dodek says the university decided to offer the courses to prepare students for the changing face of law in Canada, and offer more opportunities after they graduate.

“Already there are lawyers starting to practise, whether it’s cannabis law or having to become experts in the regulation of cannabis in anticipation of this new legal reality,” says Dodek. “So this is going to become, I think, a real growth area in the practice of law.”

Wallace says that her course will cover a different area of law affected by cannabis law and cannabis regulation each class for 12 to 13 weeks. She and DuBois plan to use the help of legal professionals who work in each area to instruct the students.

“They’re going to be getting information on what’s actually happening in the legal practice in these areas right now,” says Wallace.

There are plans for both classes to visit a cannabis producer in the Ottawa area. While the details of the French course’s excursion are still hazy, UOttawa grad and president of Canopy Growth, Mark Zekulin, will have Wallace and DuBois’ students visit his company’s facility in the winter semester.

Zekulin says the students will have the opportunity to see the farming process and speak to the legal team at Canopy Growth, which will give them a unique view into the cannabis industry and the legal issues production companies face.

“We’re a business like any other, we have the same issues that other businesses have, you know corporate law, M&A activity and marketing,” says Wallace. “But there are very specific nuances to our business.”

As a corporate and commercial lawyer, Wallace says she is particularly excited for the field trip. She believes there’s going to be an “explosion” of business in the cannabis industry in Canada’s future. She hopes it will help her students understand cannabis law from the client’s perspective.

“You want to be familiar with the business of your clients and how they operate so you can communicate with them effectively on the topic,” says Wallace.

Bill C-45, the act to amend many cannabis laws, is currently before Senate. They will vote on the bill by June 7. Students in UOttawa’s new courses will have the opportunity to learn about cannabis regulation in real-time and Wallace says she’s excited to experience this along with her students.

“It’s exciting from the student perspective obviously,” she says. “But it’s also exciting for us because it’s also giving us an opportunity to bite off a big chunk of a substantive change.”