If a bill needs to mushroom and grow into a binding law in Canada, it must get an approval from both the House of Commons and the Senate. Later, it must receive the Royal Assent, currently, a mere protocol inherited from the days, long gone, when Canada was a British colony.
The Cannabis Act has passed major hurdles both in the House of Commons and the Senate. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the recreational use of marijuana is destined to be legal nationwide in Canada on Oct. 17.
Queen Elizabeth II, who can be seen on Canada’s $20 notes, is simply a figurehead or a symbol but has no overarching authority in the North American commonwealth country.
Lena on Twitter wrote: “Someone on Marijuana legalization in Canada: ‘Royal Assent. Is that when we get the queen high?’”
Erik Magraken had to explain what Royal Assent means to Americans, whose federal government is against legalizing medical, leave alone recreational marijuana in spite of many U.S. states have long followed the legalization route.
“Recreational marijuana will be legal as of October 17, 2018 in Canada. The law awaits ‘royal assent’,” Magraken wrote on Wednesday.
“To my American friends, this means we Canucks humbly await the queen‘s blessing of our little law.”
Brits express furor
For non-North American users, one Britisher chose to express his furor over the UK’s prohibition.
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” he wrote on Twitter, adding “our Queen Elizabeth has just agreed on Canada’s legalization whilst we are jailed for the same offense!
“And there it is. The Queen’s representative gives formal approval (“royal assent”) for Canada’s marijuana legalization bill.”
Joshua Carr also lamented Britain’s unforgiving current status on marijuana. “Meanwhile Britain is dragging its heels over the medicinal properties. We have the same Queen,” he wrote, commenting on a news piece that says Canada has legalized recreational marijuana.
Maybe there is some legitimacy to the UK citizens’ wrath. According to a U.N. report, the UK was the largest exporter of so-called legal medicinal marijuana worldwide in 2016.
Angry or not, people on social media continued to link Queen Elizabeth with Canada’s choice to legalize.
For instance, William Henry Morgan on Twitter also missed the idea that Queen Elizabeth is a figurehead. He wrote on Wednesday: “Will Queen Elizabeth “Approve” Canada’s Legal Marijuana??? THIS LEGITIMATE KING and ROYAL DOES!”
For history junkies, it must be noted that the last time Royal Assent was given by the sovereign in person was in the reign of Queen Victoria at a prorogation on 12 August 1854. In Canada, King George VI gave royal assent in person to bills passed by the Canadian Parliament in 1939 during a visit to Canada.
However, there were calls since the 1980s to modernize Canada’s last step to pass a bill, considered antiquated by many. In June 2002, the Canadian Parliament passed a bill to allow for a new written declaration procedure to be used for royal assent.
But Canada is still behind many other Commonwealth countries who have modernized their political engine. In both Australia and New Zealand, a Royal Assent ceremony has not been used in several decades.