It looks like the federal deadline of July 2018 for legal, recreational cannabis in Canada will be delayed.
On Thursday, the government announced that Senate leaders have agreed to a legislative timetable that will lead to a final vote on Bill C-45, legislation that would legalize and regulate of cannabis, on or before June 7.
“This should give stakeholders, governments, businesses, law enforcement agencies and other Canadians a timeline for how and when the bill will be ultimately dealt with by the Upper Chamber,” said Sen. Peter Harder, the Government Representative in the Senate.
So why the delay beyond July?
According to Federal Health Minister Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, “provinces and territories have made it very clear” to the government that “they are going to need eight to 12 weeks for implementation.”
As a result, she said in a press conference on Thursday, that if one takes into account that a vote wouldn’t happen until around June 7, “you can certainly see that it [legalization] won’t be July 2018.”
The agreement, the government said, removes the “immediate need for a time allocation” vote on the bill. Harder had previously suggested time allocation to give Canadians more clarity on the bill’s timeline through the Senate.
The agreement also stipulates that a vote on second reading will take place on or before March 22, after which the bill would move to the committee stage, where bills receive focussed scrutiny and benefit from witnesses and outside experts.
The Senate leaders also established key dates for completion of committee study on the bill and agreed to leverage the expertise of five Senate committees for an in-depth consideration of the legislation.
Harder had initially proposed to have the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee review the legalization framework in its entirety, while the Aboriginal Peoples Committee would zero in on Indigenous issues and the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee would focus on criminal measures.
After a discussion with leadership, he amended his motion to include two additional committees to the study: the National Security and Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee. The Senate adopted the motion on Thursday.
The cannabis bill has been in the Senate since November 28.