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Senate passes pot bill, paving way for legal cannabis in 8 to 12 weeks

Tuesday - 19/06/2018 22:26
Federal government's bill legalizing recreational cannabis passes 52-29
Sen. Peter Harder, the government representative in the Senate, laughs in response to a reporter's question about his outfit, after the vote on Tuesday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
Sen. Peter Harder, the government representative in the Senate, laughs in response to a reporter's question about his outfit, after the vote on Tuesday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Senators have voted to pass the federal government's bill legalizing recreational marijuana by a vote of 52-29, with two abstentions, paving the way for a fully legal cannabis market within eight to 12 weeks.

"I'm feeling just great," said Sen. Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. "We've just witnessed a historic vote for Canada. The end of 90 years of prohibition. Transformative social policy, I think. A brave move on the part of the government."

Dean said he thought the Senate functioned well throughout the process and he was proud of the work the Red Chamber did.

"Now we can start to tackle some of the harms of cannabis. We can start to be proactive in public education. We'll see the end of criminalization and we can start addressing Canada's $7-billion illegal market. These are good things for Canada."

Initially, the government had planned for the bill to be passed by both houses of Parliament in time for retail sales to begin by July 1. That timeline was pushed back after the Senate requested more time to review the bill.

Now that the bill has passed, it's up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet to choose the actual date when the legalization of recreational marijuana becomes law of the land. Bill C-45 comes with a provisional buffer period of eight to 12 weeks to give provinces time to prepare for sales of recreational marijuana.

The Senate and the House of Commons battled over the bill for months.

The Senate had proposed 46 amendments to the Cannabis Act. The Liberal government rejected 13 of those proposed changes last week — including one provision that would have affirmed the provinces' right to ban home cultivation of marijuana.

Quebec, Manitoba and Nunavut all want to forbid their citizens from growing recreational marijuana at home, even after cannabis is legalized federally. The Senate suggested the federal government affirm the provinces' right to do so in the Cannabis Act.

"We have a bill that has an overarching goal to reduce the marijuana use among young people in this country and what it does right off the get go is normalizes it," said Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, former Speaker of the Senate.

"There's nothing in this bill that indicates to me that we're tackling the problem, which is increased marijuana use among young people."

News of the bill's passage drew immediate response from some of the government's critics on social media.

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