On June 7, the Senate voted 56 to 30 in favour of Bill C-45, officially bringing Canada one step closer to being the first G7 country to legalize recreational cannabis.
The bill now sits with the House of Commons which has rejected 13 of the Senate’s amendments.
The Senate proposed 46 amendments to The Cannabis Act, most of which were technical in nature.
Bill C-45 allows for up to four cannabis plants to be grown per household, but Quebec, Manitoba, and Nunavut want to ban home cultivation. This sentiment has been echoed by condo boards across the country who are worried about mould and negative impacts cannabis gardens will have on property values.
The House of Commons has opposed the home cultivation ban, stating “the government has been clear that provinces and territories are able to make additional restrictions on personal cultivation but that it is critically important to permit personal cultivation in order to support the government’s objective of displacing the illegal market.”
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Earlier this year, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said that while provinces will be able to impose restrictions on homegrown cannabis, citizens would be able to challenge them in court and the federal government would have to uphold federal law which trumps the home cultivation ban.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas told reporters in a press conference that the House would not be accepting this amendment, stating “it is already possible for Canadians to grow cannabis for medical purposes and we absolutely believe that the legislation should be consistent when it comes to recreational cannabis.”
Branding and marketing limitations have been a major concern for Licensed Producers, who feel that the restrictions will inhibit their ability to have a competitive retail advantage.
The House responded to the Senate’s amendment that would ban all promotional merchandise stating it “respectfully disagrees with amendment eight because the Cannabis Act already includes comprehensive restrictions on promotion.”
Conservative Senator Judith Seidman has been particularly vocal about the amendment, arguing that Canadian youth will be negatively impacted by exposure to cannabis marketing efforts through ancillary products like hats and t-shirts.
In an effort to discourage organized crime from entering the legal recreational market, senators voted in favour of an amendment that would require cannabis companies to publicly register their investors.
The rationale was that criminal organizations could funnel money from offshore accounts into Canadian companies, and having a public investor registry would discourage this activity.
The House rejected this amendment, stating it “would present significant operational challenges and privacy concerns.”
A message from Trudeau
Canadians were expecting to celebrate legalization alongside Canada Day, but it’s clear we won’t be meeting the July 1 deadline.
“Andrew Scheer, the conservative leader, has been telling his Senate caucus — the senators that he still controls — to play games, to slow this down, to interfere with the will of the House,” Trudeau said in a press conference. “It’s time that he stopped using his senators this way.”
The House and Senate will need to agree on a draft of Bill C-45 before it passes royal assent and becomes a law. Even after the final phase of legalization, it will be another eight to twelve weeks for the law to be implemented, meaning it might not come into effect until October.