The Cannabis Act, also known as Bill C-45, the proposed rules related to the legalization of cannabis in Canada, is the bill that will legalize cannabis nationwide in the country. The Act was passed by the House of Commons of Canada in late November 2017. On June 7 of this year, the Senate voted to pass Bill C-45. After reconciliation of the House and Senate bills, the Act will be effective later this summer, approximately ten to twelve weeks after the passage. Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said that provinces and territories will need two to three months to prepare before retail sales of legal cannabis are actually available. Bill C-45 passed in the upper house by a vote of 56-to-30 with one abstention, over the objections of Conservative senators. Bill C-45 is back with the House of Commons along with a series of amendments recommended by the Upper Chamber, where the government will decide whether to approve, reject or modify the changes before returning it to the Senate for another vote.
The Senate approved the Trudeau government’s legislation to lift Canada’s 95-year-old prohibition on recreational cannabis. Many of the amendments, including a ban on the Canadian home growing of cannabis, are considered controversial. Growing your own looks like it may be allowed, as long as it’s fewer than four plants, grown from legally acquired cannabis seeds, kept away from children and minors, and also as long as you’re not in Quebec, Nunavut, Manitoba, or any other province where Federal and Provincial laws don’t coincide with each other. Some of the many issues the Senate struggled with most is the proposed limits on THC potency, the psychoactive agent in cannabis responsible for the euphoric high most people associate with the plant, as well as one that would forbid branding non-cannabis products and swag, like T-shirts, tote bags and baseball hats displaying marijuana company logos and names.
Some aspects of The Act seem like a step backward culturally. Bill C-45 would make the giving or selling of cannabis to any person under the age of 18 a new criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in jail, a relatively harsh sentence that would be in line with facilitating a terrorist activity, torture and human trafficking. That means an 18 year old high school senior who shares a joint at a party with a 17 year old classmate might face over a decade of hard time and could share a cell with a dangerous terrorist, in a worst case-scenario.
One of Canada’s more conservative Senators, Dennis Patterson, who represents Nunavut, said “Easy availability of this mind-numbing drug will be devastating in remote areas where vulnerable Indigenous populations are already ravaged by addiction, mental health problems, violence and suicides.” Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada. Among the most remote, sparsely settled regions, it has a population of 35,944, mostly Inuit, spread over an area of just over 1,750,000 km. Indigenous senators, ended up supporting the bill when initial concerns were alleviated by a last minute written commitment by Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott to provide more funding for Indigenous mental health and addiction treatment services, and special help for Indigenous businesses to navigate the licensing process to grow cannabis.
The world is waiting to see what Canada does and how the Great White North handles making history when it comes to nationwide legalization. The Library of Parliament website has all 30 pages of Bill C-45 if you’re curious about all of the extensive details.