Yesterday, we reported that Canada’s House of Commons has passed the Cannabis Act – or Bill C-45 – with a 205-82 vote. The bill, which will end almost a century of prohibition and allow the purchase, use, and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes, was then sent back to the Senate for approval.
On Tuesday night, the Cannabis Act passed its final hurdle with the Senate approving it in a 52-29 vote. This historic vote makes Canada the first G7 nation to entirely legalize the drug.
(G7 or Group of Seven is a group composed of the seven most powerful industrialized countries in the world: the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy.)
The Cannabis Act will likely receive Royal Assent this week. Royal Assent is the Sovereign’s formal approval of a bill passed by both houses of the nation’s Parliament in identical form. This is the process by which a bill becomes part of the nation’s law. In Canada, Royal Assent is given by the Governor General or the Governor General’s deputy.
After the Royal Assent is granted, the government is then expected to pick a date when the new law comes into full force and effect. It is expected that the government will give the provinces and the territories eight to 12 weeks to establish their new cannabis marketplace. Moreover, this timeframe will allow police and industry forces to get ready for the new legal framework.
As such, Canadians won’t be able to legally obtain adult-use cannabis until September. Canadians are likely able to purchase cannabis from licensed producers at various retail locations by mid-September.
The Cannabis Act
Aside from being able to purchase cannabis oil and other products manufactured by licensed producers and sold at retail stores, Canadians will also be able to order cannabis online.
Under the bill, adults can possess up to one ounce or 30 grams of dried cannabis in public.
Cannabis edibles and cannabis-infused food items will not be available for purchase immediately. They will, however, be available within a year of the law taking effect. This is in order to give the government time to establish regulations that are specific to these products.
Federally, the minimum legal age limit for buying and consuming cannabis has been set at 18. However, some provinces deem 19 years old to be more appropriate.
The provinces can also decide on how cannabis will be sold. They also have the power to establish other limits regarding the use of the drug within their jurisdiction, such as where smoking is allowed.
The federal government has already set guidelines with regard to packaging. Cannabis products should have plain packaging with little branding, yet with strict health warnings on the label. It will also impose strict restrictions on promotions through sponsorships, promotions that target young people, or depictions of animals, characters, or celebrities in advertisements.
Near-century-old prohibition has ended
The possession of cannabis was first prohibited in Canada in 1923. In 2001, however, the country allowed the use of the drug for medical purposes.
Despite cannabis being entirely legal now, the possession of more than 30 grams of the drug remains illegal. Growing more than four cannabis plants per household is also not allowed, as well as buying from an unlicensed cannabis dealer.
Those who are caught in violation of these rules will face severe penalties. For one, those caught selling cannabis to a minor could be locked up in jail for up to 14 years.
Some of the bill’s critics contended that these penalties are too harsh or are not proportional to similar laws, such as those related to the act of selling alcohol to minors.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s promise fulfilled
The legislation fulfills Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2015 campaign promise. He has argued that Canada’s laws criminalizing the use of cannabis have been ineffective, considering that Canadians were among the world’s heaviest pot users.
According to polls, a solid majority of Canadians support the move.