Intellectual Property

Trademark issues remain as cannabis legalization approaches

By Staff

The federal government was right not to rush the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, Toronto intellectual property lawyer Taras Kulish tells

Kulish, a senior associate with Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP, recently addressed a group of students at Toronto’s Lambton College, talking them through the status of cannabis law as legalization draws closer.

Although the Senate recently passed Bill C-45, which sets out the government’s framework for regulation of the drug, Kulish points out that non-medical forms of marijuana will remain illegal until the bill comes into force, currently expected around mid-October.

Following his election in late 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was initially aiming for legalization by Canada Day 2018, and Kulish says many of the students wondered what caused the holdup.

“The government not only wants to get this right, but they have to get it right because there are real public health and safety risks associated with the drug’s use,” Kulish says. “If that takes a little longer than just hitting a political target, it’s better for everyone.”

A large majority of the private college’s student body is international, with the biggest proportion coming from South Asian countries. Many of the students in attendance were in financial, business and marketing programs, and Kulish says they were particularly interested to hear about the branding and marketing opportunities associated with legal cannabis, as well as the impact of trademarks when performing due diligence in advance of investments

“There are big issues regarding branding and advertising, in particular when there is a worry that they are appealing to children,” Kulis says. “The cannabis lobby groups have expressed concerns that if they’re not allowed to use their branding, it would put them at a disadvantage to current players in the market, which are the illegal operators.

“In order for legal vendors to be able to compete on even footing, they are arguing that they need to be able to use their branding and trademarks,” he adds.

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