Canada’s senators have approved the landmark legislation lifting the country’s near-century-old prohibition on recreational cannabis. However, the approval comes with nearly four dozen amendments.
The Cannabis Act, also known as Bill C-45, was passed by the Senate with a 56-30 vote, with one abstention. The senators have been studying the legislation for six months.
Now, the bill will be sent back to the House of Commons and members of Parliament will decide whether they will accept, reject, or modify the amendments added by the Senate. Afterwards, it will be returned to the Senate for yet another vote.
The amendments to the bill
Most of the amendments outlined by the Senate are minor. However, there are about a dozen amendments that are significant.
These significant amendments include one that would give provinces the freedom to prohibit home cultivation if they choose to. Manitoba and Quebec, for instance, have already chosen not to allow home-grown weed. However, the amendment would take away the possibility of legal challenges to these provinces’ constitutional authority to do so.
Another amendment is aimed at recognizing that cannabis is shared socially in most occasions. It would make the act of sharing five grams or less of cannabis by a young adult to a minor that’s no more than two years younger a summary or ticketing offense. It would also allow parents to share cannabis with their kids, in a way that they can with alcohol or wine.
The amendments also include the imposition of even more stringent restrictions on cannabis advertising, preventing companies from promoting their products on swags like T-shirts and ball caps.
Before voting on the bill, senators had spent nearly six hours giving impassioned pitches in favor of and against legalization.
The Trudeau government had moved to shore up support by promising indigenous senators that it would address their significant concerns regarding the bill. This included committing more funds and more resources to mental health and addiction services for the country’s indigenous people.
It can be recalled that in the Senate Aboriginal People’s committee’s report, it had asked the Liberal government to delay the legalization of recreational cannabis for up to a year so it could address the legislation’s potential harmful effects to Canada’s indigenous communities. During this period, the government can hammer out a policy with Indigenous communities that relate to key issues such as public health, taxation, and public education programs.
What happens next?
If the members of Parliament approve the amendments and the Senate gives its final approval of the Cannabis Act, Canada becomes the first G7 nation to legalize recreational cannabis at federal level.
Specifically, the Cannabis Act would allow adults in the country to possess and share up to 30 grams of weed and would allow every Canadian household to grow a maximum of four cannabis plants.
The other specifics of the proposed law, such as the minimum allowed age for purchase and where cannabis products can be sold, as well as other elements of the retail market, have been left for the provinces and territories to decide.
If the bill finally becomes law, Canadians will have to wait up to 12 weeks before they can obtain recreational cannabis from retailers. This is the estimated amount of time needed for provinces and territories to set up the new cannabis marketplace.
It is expected that if all goes well from this point forward, Canadians will be able to avail of recreational pot legally by late August or early September this year.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Tony Dean, had already said earlier that the slow progress is just how things should be going and if the new legislation in its final form takes until October to be enacted, then that is the way it is. He had said that a cautious approach is always the best approach.