A bill to to legalize marijuana in Canada passed a crucial step on Thursday, with the Senate approving the legislation at third reading. If ultimately implemented, Canada would become the first G7 nation to fully legalize cannabis.
The bill, C-45, represents a key campaign promise of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party—and it was sponsored by Independent Senator Tony Dean. The bill passed the traditionally conservative Senate 56-30, with one abstention.
Dean said he “would rather not let those harms [of prohibition] continue both on the social side and the health side,” in a closing statement. “I would like to join other jurisdictions—like those in the U.S.—that have seen signification diversion” of marijuana from the black market to a regulated system.
The vote took place one day after the prime minister announced the appointment of two Independent senators to vacant seats, sworn in hours before the vote, which some saw as an effort to ensure the legalization bill passed.
Appointment of 2 new Independent Senators announced last night. Swearing in ceremony announced for today. It’s almost as if Trudeau govt knows how they’ll vote on Pot Legislation tonight. #C45
— Senator Linda Frum (@LindaFrum) June 7, 2018
So these Conservative Senators both opposed #C45 but are going to profit from it because of impending investments in the industry? That does not really sound like “opposition” to me. Sounds more like mouthing the party line despite realizing it is stupid. https://t.co/dIhWavbxAb
— KirkTousaw (@KirkTousaw) June 7, 2018
Because the Senate also approved almost 50 amendments throughout the debate process—including one that would let individual provinces prohibit home-grown cannabis and another to limit cannabis companies’ ability to use products like t-shirts and hats to advertise their brands—the legislation must first go back to the House of Commons. Should the House accept the amended language of the bill, legalization would “technically” be the law of the land, CTV News reported.
The reason for that technical stipulation is that the government estimates that it will take as many as 12 weeks before the retail sales system is implemented. The bill must also be approved by “Royal Assent,” which is generally a formality where a representative of the Canadian monarchy sanctions the legislation.
A technical amendment approved during the third reading on Thursday would require a committee review of the legislation five years after implementation.
A minor technical amendment to #CannabisAct passes in a vote of the full Senate.
It was to require a committee of the Senate and the House of Commons to conduct a comprehensive review of the act after five years.
Passes without opposition.#Cannabis #C45
— Glen Korstrom (@GlenKorstrom) June 7, 2018
What C-45 would accomplish
The bill would legalize the sale, use, possession, and limited cultivation of marijuana for adults 18 and older. Under the legislation, the government would create a regulatory system designed to reduce youth marijuana use and imposes taxes on retail sales, among other responsibilities.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Policarpio.
Here’s When Canada’s Legal Marijuana Sales Will Begin
Watch Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discuss marijuana legalization live:
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) June 20, 2018
Marijuana will officially be legal in Canada on October 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a speech before the House of Commons on Wednesday.
In Question Period, PM Trudeau announces that cannabis will be legal in Canada as of October 17, 2018; cites requests from provinces for more time to implement. #QP #cannabis #C45 #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/K61NUDCLXT
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) June 20, 2018
His minister of health also tweeted the news.
Cannabis will be legal in Canada beginning on October 17, 2018.
I’m so proud of the Cannabis Act – this historic legislation will end prohibition and replace it with a sensible, responsible and equitable cannabis policy.
— Ginette Petitpas Taylor (@GPTaylorMRD) June 20, 2018
The announcement comes one day after the Senate passed the government’s legalization bill, C-45, in a 52-29 vote, with two abstentions. After about a year of studies and debate over the legislation, the Senate ultimately accepted the amended bill, which was previously approved by the House of Commons, 205-82, on Monday.
The passage represents the fulfillment of a major campaign promise from the Liberal prime minister. Trudeau has argued that the establishment of a regulated cannabis system would prevent underaged youth from accessing marijuana and also deprive criminal organizations of profits from black market sales.
It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate. #PromiseKept
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 20, 2018
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould cautioned Canadians to refrain from indulging in cannabis use until the law is officially implemented at a press conference on Wednesday, The Times Colonist reported.
“I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force.”
There is one final step before the marijuana legalization bill is officially sanctioned: Royal Assent. Governor General Julie Payette, a representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, must also sign off on the legislation. Victoria Deng, communication advisor for Liberal Sen. George Furey, told Marijuana Moment that the Royal Assent ceremony will take place on Thursday at 9:30am ET.
Details on Royal Assent pic.twitter.com/cVQNRaZFTS
— Chloé Fedio (@cfedio) June 20, 2018
There have been calls from legalization advocates and certain lawmakers to follow up on the cannabis reform bill with legislation that grants amnesty for Canadians previously convicted of marijuana offenses. But those conversations are on hold, pending the implementation of the recreational marijuana system, Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government’s point person on cannabis legalization, said.
Wilson-Raybould says she has had 'conversations' with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about amnesty for past marijuana crimes. Says he may have something to say about that down the road. Blair stresses no in-depth discussions can take place until past pot laws repealed.
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) June 20, 2018
New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Don Davies attempted to get unanimous consent for a measure to “immediately provide pardons for those burdened by criminal records for cannabis offenses that will soon be legal” on Wednesday, Globe and Mail reporter Laura Stone tweeted.
NDP MP @DonDavies tried to get unanimous consent after QP for a motion to “immediately provide pardons for those burdened by criminal records for cannabis offences that will soon be legal.”
The motion did not receive unanimous consent, and failed.
— Laura Stone (@l_stone) June 20, 2018
“The motion did not receive unanimous consent, and failed,” she said.
How we arrived at this historic moment.
It’s been a long, winding road to legalization in Canada, which is set to become the first G7 nation to fully legalize marijuana. The first reading of the bill in the House of Common took place more than a year ago, in April 2017. It’s since gone through rigorous debate, with multiple committees submitting reports that offered recommendations and outlined concerns about the legislation.
One of those issues concerned international travel for Canadians who use cannabis. Conservative lawmakers said that Canadians who admitted to consuming marijuana would be at risk of being permanently barred from entering the United States, where marijuana is federally illegal. The Canadian government issued guidelines emphasizing that traveling across international borders with cannabis will remain illegal under the new law.
— travel.gc.ca (@TravelGoC) June 20, 2018
More recently, the Senate proposed 46 amendments to the bill—including one that would allow individual provinces to ban home cultivation. The House rejected that proposal and 12 other amendments, sending it back to the Senate for a final, decisive vote. Numerous Conservative senators voiced opposition to the bill—and Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan offered up an amendment to include the home grow provision only to be shut down in a 35-45 vote, with one abstention.
And with that, the bill came to a standing vote on Tuesday. Here’s what it would accomplish.
The Cannabis Act legalizes the possession, use, cultivation and sale of marijuana for adults 18 and older. Individuals will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and grow up to four plants.
The bill also outlines criminal penalties for illegal distribution and sales of cannabis, crossing international borders with cannabis and possession over the legal limit.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Policarpio.
Senate Could Vote On Marijuana Research This Week
The U.S. Senate has before it an amendment that would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study the medical benefits of marijuana for military veterans.
Under the measure, introduced by Sen. John Tester (D-MT), VA would conduct research using whole plant marijuana as well as extracts, and the studies would examine “varying methods of cannabis delivery, including topical application, combustible and noncombustible inhalation, and ingestion.”
The proposal would require VA to issue a report to Congress within 180 days that includes a plan for implementation of research and to preserve all data collected from the studies.
Tester is seeking to attach the provision to a bill on the Senate floor this week that would fund several parts of the federal government, including the VA, for Fiscal Year 2019.
That large-scale legislation already includes language approved this month by the Senate Appropriations Committee to end the department’s ban on VA physicians recommending medical cannabis to veterans. The bill would also protect veterans who use marijuana in accordance with state laws from being denied their VA benefits because of such activity.
Many veterans use medical cannabis to treat PTSD, chronic pain and other war wounds related to their military service.
The new amendment’s language is similar to a standalone bill that Tester filed last month with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK). The two are members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. House companion legislation is being sponsored by the top Democrat and Republican on that chamber’s Veterans’ Affairs panel.
The House bill became the first-ever standalone marijuana reform legislation to be approved by a congressional committee last month.
Last week, however, the House Appropriations Committee blocked a floor vote on a similar marijuana research amendment.
It is not clear if Tester’s filed amendment will receive a vote on the Senate floor. His office did not respond to a request for comment prior to this story’s publication.
See the full text of Tester’s marijuana research amendment below:
SA 2933. Mr. TESTER submitted an amendment intended to be proposed to amendment SA 2910 proposed by Mr. Shelby to the bill H.R. 5895, making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:
At the end of title II of division C, add the following:
SEC. 2__. CONDUCT OF RESEARCH INTO EFFECTS OF CANNABIS ON HEALTH OUTCOMES OF CERTAIN VETERANS.
(a) Research Required.–In carrying out the responsibilities of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under section 7303 of title 38, United States Code, the Secretary may conduct and support research relating to the efficacy and safety of forms of cannabis and methods of cannabis delivery described in subsection (c) on the health outcomes of covered veterans diagnosed with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions the Secretary determines appropriate.
(b) Data Preservation.–Research conducted pursuant to subsection (a) shall include a mechanism to ensure the preservation of all data, including all data sets, collected or used for purposes of the research required by subsection (a) in a manner that will facilitate further research.
(c) Forms of Cannabis and Methods of Delivery to Be Researched.–The forms of cannabis and methods of cannabis delivery described in this subsection are–
(1) varying forms of cannabis, including–
(A) full plants and extracts;
(B) at least three different strains of cannabis with significant variants in phenotypic traits and various ratios of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol in chemical composition; and
(C) other chemical analogs of tetrahydrocannabinol; and
(2) varying methods of cannabis delivery, including topical application, combustible and non-combustible inhalation, and ingestion.
(d) Implementation.–Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall–
(1) develop a plan to implement this section and submit such plan to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives; and
(2) issue any requests for proposals the Secretary determines appropriate for such implementation.
(e) Reports.–During the five-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit periodically, but not less frequently than annually, to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives reports on the implementation of this section.(f) Covered Veteran Defined.–In this section, the term “covered veteran” means a veteran who is enrolled in the patient enrollment system of the Department of Veterans Affairs under section 1705 of title 38, United States Code.
GOP Silences Congressional Apology For War On Drugs
The House of Representatives will not be allowed to vote on a measure apologizing to “the individuals and communities harmed through the War on Drugs” because Republican leadership has blocked it from advancing.
“The War on Drugs is a racially charged policy that has led to the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, disproportionately affecting communities of color, stigmatized these communities as the cause of the drug problem, and has economically, politically, and socially crippled these communities for decades,” reads the proposal, filed by Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).
The House Rules Committee, under Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) has made a practice of blocking marijuana and drug policy reform amendments over the course of the past several years. Last week, for example, the panel prevented a measure on medical cannabis research for military veterans from reaching the House floor.
And that was the case with Coleman’s drug war apology measure as well, which was not approved for consideration by the full body when the Rules panel met on Tuesday night.
“Actions by this body have demonized and criminalized addiction for more than 80 years instead of accurately treating it as a health concern,” reads the blocked measure, which Watson Coleman was seeking to attach to an opioid recovery and treatment bill.
Last week, Watson Coleman filed a separate standalone resolution that also calls on Congress to apologize for discriminatory and harmful drug law enforcement. It has not been scheduled for any hearings or votes.
See the full text of Watson Coleman’s blocked drug war apology amendment below:
AMENDMENT TO RULES COMMITTEE PRINT 115- 76
OFFERED BY MRS. WATSON COLEMAN OF NEW JERSEY
Add at the end the following new section: SEC. lll. SENSE OF CONGRESS ON THE FAILURE OF THE WAR ON DRUGS.
It is the sense of Congress that—
(1) the War on Drugs has failed to achieve its goal of reducing drug use;
(2) the War on Drugs has created conditions in the United States that has allowed the opioid epidemic to be as deadly as it is;
(3) the War on Drugs is a racially charged policy that has led to the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, disproportionately affecting communities of color, stigmatized these communities as the cause of the drug problem, and has economically, politically, and socially crippled these communities for decades;
(4) in order to help those impacted, drug use has to be seen as a health issue and not a criminal issue;
(5) Congress should seek to hereby reconsider all laws associated and consistent with the War on Drugs, and prioritizes effective, evidence-based health policy solutions for individuals and communities suffering from addiction;
(6) Congress should enact civil remedies and restorative justice for any individual who has been incarcerated or otherwise punished through the Federal criminal justice system due to laws associated and consistent with the War on Drugs;
(7) Congress affirms that all individuals suffering from the disease of addiction be treated humanely, with equity and respect as all people struggling with any other health matter; and
(8) Congress hereby apologizes to the individuals and communities harmed through the War on Drugs and acknowledges that actions by this body have demonized and criminalized addiction for more than 80 years instead of accurately treating it as a health concern.
Photo courtesy of David.