Canada’s Senate has voted 52-29 to approve the government’s latest version of the long-debated legal marijuana legislation on Tuesday evening, paving the way for Bill C-45 to pass into Canadian law. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have announced today that marijuana will be legal in Canada starting Oct. 17, 2018.
Bill C-45 has now been approved by both Houses of Parliament, however before it officially becomes law it must pass through the Royal Assent – the final step in the legislative process – which is expected on Thursday.
The government had intended for the Bill to be passed by both houses of Parliament in time for retail sales to begin by July 1, however that date was extended when the Senate requested more time to review the new bill and proposed 46 amendments. The Liberal government rejected 13 of the amendments, and after much debate the newest version of Bill C-45 was finally agreed upon.
Amendments Stripped Away
There were a number of significant Senate amendments stripped from the Bill after being rejected by the government. Among these amendments were a proposal from the Senate to allow provinces and territories to ban home grown marijuana, to create a public registry of investors in cannabis companies, and to ban the distribution of branded “swag” by pot companies, such as T-shirts, hats and phone cases that display a company logo.
“I’m feeling just great,” said Sen. Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “We’ve just witnessed a historic vote for Canada. The end of 90 years of prohibition. Transformative social policy, I think. A brave move on the part of the government.”
“Now we can start to tackle some of the harms of cannabis. We can start to be proactive in public education. We’ll see the end of criminalization and we can start addressing Canada’s $7-billion illegal market. These are good things for Canada.”
It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate.
Not all Senators were happy with the new legislation
“We have a bill that has an overarching goal to reduce the marijuana use among young people in this country and what it does right off the get go is normalizes it,” said Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, former Speaker of the Senate.
“There’s nothing in this bill that indicates to me that we’re tackling the problem, which is increased marijuana use among young people.”
“The message for me is be very cautious, just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right. Educate yourself, and take cautious steps because what you do today will invariably have an impact on your life for years to come.” Tory Senator Leo Housakos said.
Individual Province Laws
Once passed, the new law will allow adults to buy and consume small amounts of cannabis, however edibles won’t be legalized until sometime after next year. Each jurisdiction in Canada plans to regulate weed according to their own laws once sales begin later this year. The Senate suggested the federal government support each provinces’ right to regulate the use of marijuana in the Cannabis Act.
Despite the federal government’s desire to allow four plants per household, Quebec, Manitoba and Nunavut all want to ban the growing of recreational marijuana at home.
A majority of Canadian provinces have set the legal age to buy and consume marijuana as 19 years of age or older, and public consumption is considered illegal in most jurisdictions with the exception of provinces such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia, where limited public consumption is permitted.
Impaired driving Bill C-46 introduces further complications
Bill C-46, the government’s second marijuana bill linked to drug-impaired driving brings further complications. The bill grants more rights for police and harsher penalties for drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, similar to Bill C-45, it contained some elements that the Senate disagreed with, specifically the law which would allow police to force drivers to submit to random breath tests without any reasonable suspicion of impairment. The Senate removed that mandatory screening provision, which Justice Minister Jody-Wilson Raybould dubbed the “centrepiece” of the legislation, and sent C-46 back to the House of Commons. The government then rejected the Senate’s changes. As of Tuesday, the issues surrounding Bill C-46 remain unresolved.
Marijuana is not yet legal in Canada, and is not expected to be until October 17, 2018. Bill C-45 comes with a provisional buffer period of eight to 12 weeks to give provinces time to prepare for sales of recreational marijuana.
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