Canada is one significant step closer to legalizing weed after the Senate passed the Cannabis Act on Thursday.
The bill passed with a vote of 56 to 30, with one abstention.
But the Senate’s stamp of approval came with more than 40 amendments to Bill C-45, which the House of Commons will now have to review and either approve or reject.
The amendments cover issues like home growing, potency, kids’ consumption, and advertising. Here are the key amendments you need to know about:
Provinces allowed to ban home growing
The federal government has proposed Canadians be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants at home. Quebec and Manitoba, however, have banned home growing outright. Quebec cited concerns about kids getting their parents’ weed and home growers illegally selling product as reasons for the ban. The Senate now wants to codify the provinces’ ability to ban home growing. Previously, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said there are “limits” as to how much provinces can restrict home grows, and the fact that it would be legal federally means someone opposed to the ban could launch a constitutional challenge. If C-45 was amended to allow provinces to ban home grows, it would be more difficult to launch such a challenge. There has been much hysteria over home grows, with some condo boards and landlords in Ontario seeking to ban it, but it seems unlikely that growing your own weed will be popular amongst the masses. We’re allowed to brew our own beer, but how many people actually do it when it’s much easier to just buy it from a store.
Fines for sharing with minors
Another amendment to the act proposes a fine for young adults who share weed with minors who are up two years younger than them. Sharing more than five grams would still be a criminal offence. This one would be a win for social justice advocates who raised concerns that the possibility of serious jail time outlined in C-45—up to 14 years—is too harsh for young people sharing weed with their friends who are close in age but still minors. The amendment also makes it OK for parents to share weed with their teenagers within their homes without fear of criminal prosecution, same as with beer or wine.
Right to vote on edibles and new products
Groan. The Senate wants the right to vote on new weed products that may allowed after legalization comes into effect, including edibles—which the federal government has said it will look at a year after legalization—and accessories. Considering how long it’s taken just to get to this point in the legalization process, including the Senate in the process of introducing new products could slow things down a lot. And when you take into account the level of weed literacy amongst some Senators—five grams is about four tokes, remember?—explaining edibles or shatter to them seems like a daunting task.
Proposed regulations for cannabis advertising are strict—basically on par with the rules around tobacco. Health Canada wants to see weed sold in plain packages, with bright red and yellow risk warnings. Now, the Senate is proposing a ban of cannabis brand logos used on things like merch i.e. clothing and accessories. Seems a bit extreme.
The Senate also wants to impose a maximum potency on THC products. While that may sound reasonable, the Georgia Straight pointed out how it could really screw over medical cannabis patients who require higher concentrations to treat more serious conditions.
The next step is for the House of Commons to look over the amendments and approve or reject them, before sending the bill back to Senate for another vote. Once the bill passes, it will still be another eight to 12 weeks before provinces will actually be set up to sell weed. Gotta love bureaucracy.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.
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