Members of the Canadian Senate yesterday voted 56-30 in favor of Bill C-45 sweeping legislation amending the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that those over the age of 18 may legally possess, purchase, and grow personal use quantities of cannabis. Members of the Canadian House of Commons had overwhelmingly voted in November in favor of the measure, which also establishes licensing for the retail production and sale of marijuana.
Once House members sign off on Senate changes to the bill, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who campaigned on a pledge to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana sales, is expected to move promptly to enact the historic legislation. Legal cannabis retailers, acting in compliance with the forthcoming law, are anticipated to be operational by late summer/early fall.
“We applaud Canada for showing federal legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy. Our elected officials should follow in their footsteps and finally put an end to our own disastrous and discriminatory prohibition on cannabis,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.
Under the forthcoming law, those age 18 and older will be legally permitted to possess and purchase personal use amounts of marijuana. Households will also be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use, though provinces are empowered to establish alternative limits.. Those who possess greater amounts will face civil sanctions. Commercial marijuana production will be licensed by the federal government, while retail distribution of marijuana will be regulated by individual provinces. The new law will not amend Canada’s existing medical cannabis access regulations, which permit registered patients to grow or purchase cannabis from authorized licensed producers.
Separate legislation, Bill C-46, to address traffic safety concerns remains pending.
In 2016, a federal task force recommended that lawmakers move to legalize and regulate the use and sale of marijuana. The task force concluded that legalization “will maintain and improve the health of Canadians by minimizing the harms associated with cannabis use.”
“Those wanting to see what a rational federal marijuana policy looks like need look no further than to our north. America’s leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, who are replacing their archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis rapidly changing cultural status,” said Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
The bill was amended so it will now return to the lower chamber for a final vote.