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
Trudeau held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the legalization bill and other pieces of legislation.
The prime minister confirmed the October 17 date to establish the country’s recreational marijuana system, citing the need to provide provinces with sufficient time to develop their own regulatory programs. He also fielded questions about the implications of the home grow provision, the prospect of pardoning former marijuana offenders, and the supply side of the country’s legal marijuana industry.
NEW: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau announced that marijuana will be legal nationwide on October 17. “We will soon have a new system in place, one that keeps cannabis out of the hands of our kids, and keeps profits away from organized crime.” https://t.co/PuL9LzkZPe pic.twitter.com/sxpTOPuoX1
— ABC News (@ABC) June 20, 2018
“I want to remind everyone that the reason we are moving forward on the legalization of marijuana is to better protect our kids, to better protect our communities and to remove the profits from the pockets of organized crime. Obviously the current approach—the current prohibition on marijuana—has not worked to protect our kids, to keep the money out of the pockets of organized crime—and that’s why we’re bringing in a new legalized framework around marijuana.”
Asked whether he expected “chaos” or an orderly rollout of the program on October 17, Trudeau said he was confident that “[i]t will be a smooth success.”
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.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Trudeau said that the government would look at the possibility of amnesty after the new law takes effect but that “[t]here’s no point in looking at pardons while the old law is on the books.”
— CTV News (@CTVNews) June 20, 2018
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.
Where Presidential Candidate Joe Sestak Stands On Marijuana
Joe Sestak, a former congressman from Pennsylvania and three-star vice admiral in the Navy, announced on Sunday that he is launching a relatively late run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Though his record in Congress doesn’t offer many insights into where Sestak stands on marijuana policy, he took one vote in support of shielding state medical cannabis laws from federal interference, and his current campaign site proposes reforming federal laws to facilitate research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Legislation And Policy Actions
Sestak served in Congress from 2007 to 2011. In that time, he did not proactively sponsor or cosponsor any cannabis-related legislation.
The congressman was present for a vote on just one marijuana amendment attached to a spending bill—one to protect states that have legalized medical cannabis from Justice Department intervention—and he voted in favor of the proposal, even though his state had not yet enacted its own medical marijuana law.
Quotes And Social Media Posts
It’s difficult to assess exactly where the candidate stands on marijuana in part because a scan for relevant terms on his social media posts turns up nil.
Adding to the confusion is the apparent lack of public comments about cannabis policy from Sestak—at least any comments that have been reported by media.
The Philadelphia Inquirer did publish an article in 2016 that described Sestak, a former U.S. Navy admiral, as a “longtime supporter of medical access [to marijuana]—especially for vets” but it did not quote the congressman directly. That piece also noted that his position on cannabis decriminalization is unclear.
Statements on his campaign site do provide a small window into his views on the drug war more broadly.
Sestak argued that President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would be ineffective because “most illicit trafficking of drugs, humans, and weapons, actually happens right under the noses of our border security agents” at legal ports of entry.
He also partially blamed “misguided US policies and the high demand for illegal drugs in the United States” for creating crises that leave many to flee their home countries to seek asylum in the U.S.
“Our country, which sends hundreds of millions in foreign aid to these countries, must do a better job of holding Central American officials accountable for seeing that our funds are spent effectively—and that they do not become fuel for the fires of corruption and instability,” he said.
One of the most revealing positions on drug policy that Sestak has offered also comes from his campaign site: he said that he supports efforts to combat mental health conditions and addiction, and one part of that plan involves changing “federal law to allow doctors and scientists to expand research into the potential of certain psychedelic drugs to complement traditional substance abuse and other mental health treatment.”
“Anti-drug laws should never be an impediment to sound scientific research, but especially not during a public health crisis such as this one,” he said.
Discussing veterans issues, Sestak said that the country “must learn from innovative approaches taken to reduce chronic veteran homelessness like Phoenix’s ‘housing first’ strategy in which homeless veterans are given housing before being required to prove sobriety or pass a drug test,” which also seems to indicate an openness to alternative approaches to drug policy.
Personal Experience With Marijuana
It does not appear that Sestak has publicly commented on any personal experience he’s had with marijuana.
Marijuana Under A Sestak Presidency
Though some reports indicate that Sestak supports medical cannabis reform, and he took one step to protect states that have implemented such programs during his time in Congress, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the candidate’s position on marijuana.
At the very least, his willingness to vote in favor of medical cannabis protections ahead of his state enacting a medical marijuana law should give patients in legal states some sense of comfort, although his limited record on the issue raises questions about whether he’d be willing to extend those protections to adult-use states—and whether cannabis reform would be a priority of his administration at all.
That said, the fact that he included a position on psychedelics reform on his campaign website signals that he’s cognizant of the issue and that his views on broader drug policy reform may have simply flown under the radar.
Hawaii Marijuana Decriminalization Will Take Effect, Governor Says
Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D), who has at times expressed serious concerns about marijuana policy reform, announced that he will allow a legislature-passed bill to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis to go into effect.
Ige didn’t include the decrim proposal in a list of legislation he intends to veto by Monday’s deadline.
Lawmakers sent the bill, which punishes possession of three grams of marijuana with a $130 fine instead of jail time, to the governor’s desk in April. As originally introduced, it covered greater amounts of marijuana in line with decriminalization policies in other states, but was watered down as it advanced through the legislative process.
Under current law, possessing cannabis is a petty misdemeanor that carries up to a $1,000 fine.
In a press conference to discuss his veto list, Ige called the marijuana legislation “a very tough call” and said went “go back and forth” on the issue before deciding to let the bill take effect.
The governor said he would have preferred if the decriminalization proposal included provisions aimed at “young people who we would want to get into substance abuse or other kinds of programs to help them deal with drug use.”
In the end, he said, he decided “it would be best not to veto that.”
Watch Ige discuss his decision not to veto marijuana decriminalization, about 23:35 into the video below:
Some legislative leaders have expressed interest in considering legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana.
Asked by a reporter about the possibility of broader cannabis reforms in Hawaii, Ige said that the state “can benefit from not being at the head of the table.”
“We continue to learn from other states about the problems that they see with recreational marijuana,” he said, echoing concerns he has about legalization and noting that he’s been discussing the possible reform with governors from some western states that have already enacted it. “We would be smart to engage and recognize what’s happening in other states, acknowledge the challenges and problems it has raised.”
Nikos Leverenz, board president for the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, told Marijuana Moment that Ige should be “commended” for not vetoing the bill.
“It’s also encouraging that he’s having ongoing conversations with other governors from states that have legalized adult-use cannabis,” he said. “Hawai’i can indeed learn a great deal from other states, including the enactment of social equity measures to ensure broad local participation by women, underrepresented minorities, and those harmed by the drug war.”
Also on Monday, Ige announced that he intends to veto a bill allowing medical cannabis patients to transport their medicine between islands.
“Marijuana, including medical cannabis, remains illegal under federal law. Both the airspace and certain areas of water fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government,” he wrote. “This bill may lead travelers, acting in reliance on this provision, to erroneously believe they are immune from federal prosecution.”
Another proposal on the governor’s veto list would establish a hemp licensing program.
“There are concerns that this bill creates a licensing structure that cannot be enforced, will not meet USDA requirements for an approved industrial hemp program, and creates practical problems in the enforcement of existing medical cannabis,” he reasoned.
Finally, Ige plans to veto a bill to scale back the use of asset forfeiture, which is often used against people accused of drug crimes, with the governor calling the practice “an effective and critical law enforcement tool that prevents the economic benefits of committing a crime from outweighing consequential criminal penalties and punishment.”
USDA Sets Target Deadline To Release Hemp Regulations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offered new insights into its rulemaking process for hemp regulations in a notice published in the Federal Register on Monday.
Of particular note is the deadline by which USDA is aiming to release its interim final rule for the newly legal crop: August. Previously, the department simply said it would have the rules in place in time for the 2020 planting season.
“This action will initiate a new part 990 establishing rules and regulations for the domestic production of hemp,” the new notice states. “This action is required to implement provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill).”
The hemp update update is part of a larger regulatory agenda for various agencies that’s being released by the Trump administration.
“It is great to see that USDA is on track to complete federal hemp farming regulations this year,” Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, told Marijuana Moment.
A USDA spokesperson told Marijuana Moment in an email that the August projection is the department’s “best estimate” for when the regulations will be released. It remains USDA’s intention “to have the regulations in place by this fall to allow for a 2020 planting season.”
“However, the clearance process will dictate the actual timing of the publication,” the spokesperson said.
While USDA officials have said the department didn’t plan to expedite the regulatory process despite strong interest among stakeholders, it seems to be making steady progress so far. The department said in March that it has “begun the process to gather information for rulemaking.”
USDA has also outlined the basic elements that will be required when states or tribes are eventually able to submit regulatory plans for federal approval. Those proposals will have to include information about the land that will be used to cultivate hemp, testing standards, disposal procedures, law enforcement compliance, annual inspections and certification for products and personnel.
The new update comes about six months after hemp and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. But until USDA releases its guidelines, hemp farmers must adhere to the earlier rules established under a narrower research-focused provision of the 2014 version of the agriculture legislation.
While the rules are yet to be published and there are therefore some restrictions on what hemp farmers can lawfully do, USDA has clarified several policies that have already gone into effect in recent months.
The department is accepting intellectual property applications for hemp products, for example. It also explained that hemp seeds can be lawfully imported from other countries and that the crop can be transported across state lines since it’s been federally descheduled.