The Cannabis Act in the Senate: The Final Countdown

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After a campaign of pro-cannabis promises that helped sweep Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party into power, and following an alternately fraught and thrilling yearlong countdown to legalization, today—or possibly tonight—the Canadian Senate will conduct its final vote on the Cannabis Act, which would legalize adult-use cannabis across the country. The move would make Canada the first G7 nation to federally legalize recreational cannabis.

If passed, the Cannabis Act would make Canada the first G7 nation to federally legalize recreational cannabis.

For those just joining us, some background: Along with recreational adult use, the Cannabis Act would allow every adult Canadian to possess and share up to 30 grams of cannabis and would permit every Canadian household to grow up to four cannabis plants.

Further specifics of legalization—from where cannabis can be sold to the minimum age for purchase to who’s allowed to do the selling—have been left to provinces to set for themselves. Here’s a breakdown of how individual provinces will sell and regulate recreational cannabis.

Some examples: Ontario is going with government-run cannabis stores overseen by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, while British Columbia is going with a hybrid model, allowing both government-run and independent cannabis outlets. And while most provinces have set the legal age for cannabis purchase at 19, Quebec and Alberta are going with 18. (Again, full info here.)

The Cannabis Act’s past couple weeks in the Senate have been eventful, with the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology recommending amendments to the act that would would empower provinces to ban home cultivation and would also establish mandatory THC limits on all cannabis products sold in the country.

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Most significantly, the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples called for a yearlong delay to legalization to ensure that the needs of Indigenous communities are met. This request was addressed yesterday in a letter issued by Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott that promised a full report to Parliament in September on cannabis legalization’s impact on Indigenous and First-Nations communities and another report within 12 months.

As for the Cannabis Act’s final stretch in the Senate: Insider buzz suggests the vote will be happing this evening. We’ll have an update as soon as it does.

Should the Cannabis Act pass the Senate, it then awaits royal assent, suggesting Canada could have federal cannabis legalization by the end of the month. Stay tuned.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.