Earlier this month, Canada’s Senate has approved the Cannabis Act, or Bill C-45, which lifts the country’s prohibition on recreational cannabis. The Senate passed Bill C-45 with a 56-30 vote, but along with the approval are nearly four dozen amendments.
The bill was sent back to the House of Commons, where members of Parliament would decide whether to pass or reject it, or propose some more amendments.
On Monday, the House of Commons has voted 205 to 82 in favor of C-45.
The bill will now make its way back to the Senate, and senators will further discuss amendments to it and vote. The Senate is expected to sit for one more week, if necessary, so they could resolve any issues related to the bill before taking a break for the summer.
Once both Houses agree on the same versions of the Cannabis Act, it will be granted royal assent.
However, if the two Houses fail to agree on exactly identical provisions, more amendments and more voting will have to take place. The bill will be volleyed back and forth between the House of Commons and the Senate, with the potential to be passed into law by the federal government regardless of the support of the Senate.
The Parliament was originally set to vote on the bill on June 14, Thursday. However, it was delayed after a marathon session lasted well into Friday when discussions on Bill C-45 were stalled by budget issues.
Currently, the amendments being debated include:
- the insistence of the federal government that provinces allow private individuals to grow up to four marijuana plants at home
- whether or not to ban branded cannabis merchandise and so-called cannabis “swag”
- the creation of public registries for licensed producers
Opposition from the Conservative MPs
Conservative MPs were strongly against the bill and wanted to stop the bill from passing.
Conservative Rosemarie Falk, for instance, described the bill as an “irresponsible legislation.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to forge ahead with the legalization despite facing opposition from conservative legislators and despite the calls to delay a vote in order to allow a more comprehensive study.
Needless to say, Bill C-45 has already gone a long way. An earlier version of the Cannabis Act had cleared the Senate despite conservative members warning that authorizing recreational cannabis would lead to a barrage of unintended consequences.
Earlier this month, Senator Judith Seidman argued that legalization should be a last resort in case incremental approaches to address harms related to cannabis have failed. Instead, she stressed out, the government wants to conduct a grand experiment on the public, an experiment with irreversible effects.
Why is the Cannabis Act groundbreaking?
While a number of states in the U.S. have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, Canada would break new ground in entirely lifting the cannabis prohibition nationwide.
Cannabis is also still banned in the U.S. under federal law. So this means that once the Cannabis Act is officially made into law, Canada will become the first G7 nation to legalize recreational cannabis at federal level.
Once passed, the Cannabis Act would allow Canadian adults to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and would allow every household in the country to grow a maximum of four cannabis plants.
The other specific elements of the proposed law, including minimum allowed age for purchase, where cannabis products would be sold, and others pertaining of the retail market, are up to the provinces and the territories to decide.
If the Cannabis Act becomes law, people will need to wait up to 12 weeks before they can obtain adult-use marijuana from retailers. This estimated waiting period will allow the provinces to set up their new cannabis marketplace.
If all goes well from this point, it is expected that Canadians will be able to get recreational cannabis legally by late August or early September.