Montreal – Canada’s Senate has approved a bill to legalise recreational cannabis, but proposed amendments that may delay Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s plan of making cannabis legal countrywide by July.
In a marathon session that lasted over six hours on Thursday, the Senate voted 56 to 30, with one abstention, in favour of a version of Bill C-45 that includes several dozen amendments.
Those changes mean the bill must now go back to the House of Commons, where the prime minister’s Liberals hold a majority. They will decide what changes get approved, or rejected, before sending the legislation back to the Senate.
This sets the stage for a possible back-and-forth between the two houses of parliament if they can’t agree on the exact content of the bill, also known as the Cannabis Act.
Passed in the House in November 2017, Bill C-45 would make it legal for adults to possess and share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis for recreational purposes across Canada.
Before the Senate vote, the country’s Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the government was looking forward to seeing the amendments, and would evaluate them over the weekend.
“At the beginning of next week, we’ll be ready to finally provide more information about what amendments we will accept,” Petitpas Taylor told reporters on Thursday afternoon in the capital, Ottawa.
I’m very happy to see that Bill C-45 has passed third reading in the @SenateCA. We’re one step closer to a sensible, responsible policy on cannabis – taking profits away from criminals and protecting our youth. #C45
— Ginette Petitpas Taylor (@GPTaylorMRD) June 8, 2018
Senators challenge home growing
Bill C-45 regulates who will be able to legally produce and sell recreational cannabis and cannabis products. It also makes it illegal to distribute cannabis to minors or keep more than four cannabis plants in your home, among other restrictions.
On Thursday, the Conservative senators all voted against the bill, despite having pushed for the amendments, which included a measure that would allow provinces to ban residents from keeping any cannabis plants at home.
At least two provinces – Quebec and Manitoba – have already said they intend to make home growing illegal.
Another amendment would put stricter rules in place on advertising for cannabis companies.
Trudeau promised to legalise recreational cannabis during his 2015 election campaign, and his government had promised that cannabis would be legal countrywide by July 1.
However, it could take as long as three months from whenever Bill C-45 passes for cannabis to be available for sale in stores, Canada’s health minister said earlier this year.
If the legislation gets approved, Canada would become only the second country in the world to legalise recreational cannabis, after Uruguay did so in 2013.
Recreational cannabis is also legal in nine US states.