All eyes on Canadian parliament following Senate changes to Cannabis Act

Canadians are now waiting for the House of Commons to issue a response on whether it will accept the changes the Senate made to the Cannabis Act.

Late last Thursday, the Senate sent the Trudeau government’s Cannabis Act or Bill C-45 back to the House of Commons with dozens of proposed amendments that could delay passage of the Canadian marijuana law.

The House of Commons has yet to respond to the amendments proposed by the Senate. As of Monday, there have been no updates from the House regarding the bill. If the House of Commons approves the bill, Canada will be the first G7 country to do so.

Nearly four dozens amendments

The Senate easily passed the bill last week by a vote of 56-30 with one abstention, but with nearly four dozen amendments that the House may not entirely accept. But many still see this as an opportune moment.

“It’s a historic night for Canada in terms of progressive health policy and social policy,” said independent Sen. Tony Dean, the bill’s sponsor in the upper house.

“We know that prohibition doesn’t work. I think this is a brave move on the part of the government, frankly, to take on a tough and controversial issue.”

Some amendments problematic

Most of the amendments are minor, but there are a few that might ruffle some feathers, like the one that allows provinces, at their discretion, to inhibit users to grow their own plants instead of accepting the four marijuana plants can be grown per dwelling.

Quebec and Manitoba have already chosen to prohibit homegrown pot, and the amendment gives way for more controversy by eradicating the possibility of legal challenges by users to the constitutional right to grow their own weed.

Another amendment has to do with youth violations, which would create a ticketing offence for young people who share five grams or less cannabis with a minor. Sharing more than five grams of cannabis to a minor will result in an indictable offence under this proposed amendment.

The goal is to inhibit cannabis use by minors and the threat of becoming a criminal due to simple social sharing behaviours with their peers. But social-sharing behaviour isn’t explicitly defined in the bill and this neglect may be problematic once implemented.

Another amendment proposes more restrictions on the already restrictive conditions placed regarding branding and advertisement of cannabis. Senators voted to prevent marijuana from being promoted on swag items like t-shirts, caps, and hoodies.

Similar to tobacco, they wish to decrease the visibility of marijuana to protect vulnerable populations like children and minors. But the Senate also voted against banning all promotion of cannabis through telecommunication, which prompted some people to wonder if a loophole could emerge that would allow for aggressive cannabis advertisement using this technology.

With more suggestions like this, there are concerns that there could be delays in passing the law by the House of Commons.

Legalization date still up in the air

When Trudeau announced that the Liberal government would make recreational cannabis legal in April of 2017, many touted July 1, 2018 as the day the legislation would take effect.

However, in the months that followed Trudeau’s announcement, Bill C-45 has gone through many hurdles and delays, including the one currently facing it when it goes back to the House of Commons.

No one is certain when The Cannabis Act will be enacted, but many say we are still months behind due to slow administrative processes. Each branch of government – federal, provincial, and municipal, will have to roll out their own regulations before legalization, which can be time consuming.

While the date does loom closer, especially with Thursday’s historic Senate vote, many pundits advise caution and patience as laws and regulations first need to be put in place in a proper manner.