Canadian senators have ratified Bill C-45, aka the Cannabis Act, in a 56-30 vote with one abstention, according to a CBC report. The vote was true to party lines, with Conservatives dissenting and Liberals and most Independents falling in line under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made legalization a large part of his 2015 running platform.
The bill now returns to the House of Commons, where members of Parliament will need to decide what to do about the dozens of changes made by the Senate. MPs can now either approve, reject, or modify the Senate’s changes — doing so, however, would return the bill to the Senate floor for another vote.
Health Minister Petitpas Taylor said that once the bill is fully approved, it could take up to 12 weeks of preparation before retail cannabis sales actually launch.
Some of the Senate’s biggest changes include an amendment allowing provinces to prohibit the home cultivation of the plant (overriding the federal allowance of four plants per household) and another amendment imposing harsh restrictions on cannabis companies’ advertising efforts, preventing them from selling self-promotional swag such as hats or T-shirts. Another amendment, recognizing that cannabis use is commonly a social activity, eases penalties for providing cannabis to a minor when the offender’s age is within two years of said minor — this amendment would also make it legal for parents to share cannabis with their kids, similar to beer and wine.
Sen. Judith Seidman, one of the outnumbered Conservative senators, accused the government of conducting a “grand experiment on the Canadian people” and predicted that Canadians will someday regret the move to legalize cannabis.
“Legalization should be a last resort if incremental approaches to address cannabis-related harms fail.” — Sen. Judith Seidman, via the CBC
However, other senators pointed out that, despite nearly a century of prohibition, illegal cannabis use has only increased and it has led to a massive, unregulated marketplace that benefits criminals and cartels.
“Do we take a deep breath, close our eyes and stick with a demonstrably failed, hypocritical, unhealthy, prohibitionist approach of the past or do we move forward, eyes wide open, and choose the alternative? … I choose to open my eyes, rather than put on blinders.” — Independent Sen. Andre Pratte, via the CBC