ADR, Mediation

New centre dealing with cannabis-related disputes

By Rob Lamberti, Contributor

The recently launched Canadian Cannabis Dispute Resolution Centre is an "excellent way" to confidentially resolve disputes involving cannabis without attracting the attention of foreign governments, says Toronto litigator and commercial arbitrator Marvin Huberman, who is certified as a specialist in civil litigation by the Law Society of Ontario.

Huberman joined forces with lawyer/mediator Jonathan Jacobs to launch the Centre to deal with conflicts involving cannabis in the workplace, between retailers, or in the home.

Huberman tells that some nations, including the United States, are threatening to block anyone who uses or is involved in the manufacture and retailing of cannabis from entering their country.

For example, that could be problematic for those Canadians who have vacation property or businesses south of the border, he says.

"There's the private justice system which most people don't hear much about," Huberman says. "Disputes before the Centre will be handled and decisions made — and it will all be private and confidential, which is the way it was intended to be operated."

He says those private arbitrations have the advantage of being confidential and quicker than traditional court cases, and foreign governments won't know anything about them.

"There's an additional risk that has to be managed," Huberman says. "Getting a public profile, or gaining the attention of American authorities, may negatively impact a person's right to enter or remain in the United States, and maybe other countries as well."

Some countries have warned their nationals living in Canada not to use cannabis. The Canadian government has also made it clear that laws about entering or leaving the country haven't changed.

That’s why there are many advantages to keeping disputes and their outcomes private, Huberman says.

He says it’s becoming apparent that there are conflicts around cannabis in a wide range of places.

"You've got disputes in the workplace, and there are landlord and tenant issues, both residential and commercial. All can be effectively handled by the Cannabis Dispute Resolution Centre, Huberman says."

Blanket prohibitions in residential areas, in particular for those who have medical clearance, could be considered discriminatory based on possible human rights violations, he says.

Huberman says, as the industry matures, he expects growth in intellectual disputes at the arbitration level relating to trademarks, marketing and intellectual property.

"You may have questions about which kinds of cannabis products can be protected, issues about plant breeders' rights" in protecting new strains of plants, and industrial designs, which deal with accessories, Huberman says.

"I also predict that there’s going to be conflict in the area of competition law, in terms of anti-competitive behaviour, conspiracies, price-fixing and unlawful marketing," he says. "There's going to be some big disputes, and they will need the services we're offering to prevent, resolve and, if necessary, to adjudicate in private arbitration or go to litigation."

Huberman expects the Cannabis Dispute Resolution Centre will focus a significant amount of its time on municipal laws, such as planning and zoning in production and retail, taxation, leasing property, police enforcement issues, taxation, regulation of home-grown plants and disposal of waste materials.

"There are a whole host of areas where the changes in Canadian cannabis laws are definitely having an impact, and it’s inevitable that parties are going to need advice, education and training about the new laws," he says.

"We can offer advisory services as to how to best prevent, resolve or adjudicate disputes," Huberman says.

"I'm sure that in the near future, there will be cases I will assign that will need mediation and arbitration," he says.

"Canada is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that has legalized recreational marijuana," Huberman says. "There really isn't any legal history that we can draw on, but having said that, at its core, they relate to other substantive law. It may relate to criminal, competition, employment, First Nations, or intellectual property law."

While cannabis law is relatively new, he says the Centre has the experience to deal with a wide range of issues.

"We definitely have the network to service whatever the particular mandate," Huberman says.

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