The Federal Cannabis Bill Has Been Adopted – Next Step: Implementation

Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, was officially adopted by the Senate on June 19, 2018, by a vote of 52 to 29, with two abstentions.

The Senate had proposed several amendments to the bill, which the House of Commons could either approve or reject. While many observers originally thought that a long back-and-forth process would pit the Senate against the House of Commons, given their diametrically opposed positions on certain aspects of the legislation, the resolution of their differences ultimately took less than two weeks. The Senate accepted all of the House of Common’s decisions on the proposed amendments, thus deciding not to engage in an interminable tug-of-war with the lower chamber.

The most important amendment proposed by the Senate would have allowed the provinces and territories to prohibit growing cannabis at home. The draft legislation allowed up to four cannabis plants to be grown within a household. Quebec, Manitoba and Nunavut had already decided to prohibit home cultivation before the Senate proposed this amendment, which would have effectively eliminated the possibility of challenging the power of the provinces and territories to prohibit federally sanctioned home cultivation. The House of Commons, however, refused to approve this particular amendment.

The Senate, as a non-elected governing body, decided by a vote of 45 to 35, with one abstention, not to contest the government’s rejection of its proposed amendment. Thus, the final version of Bill C-45 will allow Canadians to cultivate up to four cannabis plants at home. However, residents of Quebec, Manitoba and Nunavut will still be subject to the laws of the province or territory in which they reside. It is therefore very probable that the courts will soon be called upon to decide the issue of provincial jurisdiction over this particular aspect of the legal framework for recreational cannabis.

The legalization of cannabis in Canada has thus reached its final stage. Bill C-45 having received royal assent, the provinces will now be given several weeks to prepare for and implement the retail sale of cannabis for recreational consumption, as the Trudeau government has announced that the federal legislation will come into force on October 17, 2018.  Canada is thus only a few weeks away from effectively legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes, thereby ending a prohibition that has lasted more than 90 years. 

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