The federal government has confirmed that Canadians will not be able to legally buy recreational marijuana on Canada Day, or even in the month of July.
Peter Harder, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s point-man in the Senate, and Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the upper house, have agreed on a path forward for Bill C-45,
Canadians will have to wait until August or possibly even later. The senate has agreed to hold a final vote by June 7th on Bill C-45, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana in Canada.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says provincial and territorial governments will need eight to twelve weeks following royal assent to prepare for retail sales so it could even be September before pot is officially legal in Canada.
“If you do the math, you can certainly see it certainly won’t be July 2018,” she said.
Which could be justified as Petitpas Taylor reiterated Thursday, provincial and territorial governments need eight to 12 weeks following royal assent to prepare for retail sales.
Petitpas Taylor said legal cannabis will go on sale in all provinces and territories at the same time, which suggests if just one of them requires the full 12 weeks to get ready, they’ll all have to wait.
As part of the deal struck by Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, with other Senate factions, initial debate on Bill C-45 will continue until March 22.
That’s three weeks beyond the deadline Harder announced earlier this week, when he threatened to move a motion to cut off second reading debate if senators didn’t agree voluntarily to end it by March 1.
“I am pleased to say that we secured time that will allow the Senate to have a thorough evaluation on the marijuana legislation,” Conservative Senate leader Larry Smith said in a statement.
“The Official Opposition in the Senate has been clear from the beginning, we want to review the wide ranging concerns and voids in this legislation, instead of rushing this through only for the sake of a political deadline set by the Trudeau government.”
The delayed timeline is a victory for Conservatives, who have demanded more time to study the implications of legalizing a drug that has been outlawed for more than 100 years.
Conservative senators are worried the legislation will endanger youth, increase smoking rates, complicate the work of police officers, lead to a backlog of court cases for possession offences and do little to curb black market sales of the drug.
Defenders of the bill — including its sponsor in the Senate, Independent Ontario Sen. Tony Dean — say the government does not have the luxury of time. Illegal cannabis use — a $7 billion industry that funnels funds into the hands of organized crime, according to government figures — will continue unabated without the benefit of federal regulations.
Reportedly, the legislation will be sent to five different Senate committees for further study to examine different aspects of the legislation before returning to the Senate for a final debate and vote by June 7.
The Red Chamber’s social affairs committee will take the lead and review the legalization framework in its entirety, while the Aboriginal peoples committee will look at how the bill affects Indigenous peoples. The legal and constitutional affairs committee will focus on criminal measures; much of the bill deals with changes to the Criminal Code.
The Senate agreed Thursday to send parts of the bill to the national security and defence committee to review the bill’s implications for the country’s police, and to the foreign affairs committee to review how the bill will affect Canada’s international obligations, including changes required at the border after cannabis becomes legal.