On June 18th, the House of Commons voted, 205-82, to reject 13 of the Senate’s amendments. Now, the Cannabis Act is back in the Senate and it has a big decision to make.
Will the unelected Senate dig in its heels and fight the will of the elected House of Commons or acquiesce and allow Bill C-45 to proceed to Royal Assent and become law?
The Senate’s rejected amendments
The most substantial rejections were the Senate’s proposed transparency amendment and the rights of provinces to ban home-grown cannabis.
The transparency amendment was meant to keep organized crime out of the cannabis industry by requiring cannabis companies to publicize their list of shareholders, which was rejected over privacy concerns.
The amendment that allowed provinces and territories to ban home cultivation was rejected because the government said home cultivation was critical to taking out the black market, and the government also pointed out that provinces already have the power to reduce the number of plants allowed from four to one.
Some Senators were not happy and framed the issue of province’s rights versus the federal government.
A motion to accept the bill “as is” gets challenged by Conservative senator
Independent Sen. Peter Harder put forward a motion where the Senate would not insist on amendments that the House of Commons did not accept, and thus avoid a potential showdown between Canada’s upper and lower houses of government.
Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan moved an amendment to the Sen. Harder’s motion where the Senate would insist on allowing provinces and territories to ban home cultivation and it is being debated in the Senate now.
The Senate must pick its battles
When and when not should the Senate insist on a particular amendment?
Conservative Sen. Carignan recognized that the odds of getting the public on its side is slim except maybe in Quebec (which has indicated it will ban home cultivation if allowed to), as is the possibility of the Senate changing the government’s mind.
Still more cannabis fear-mongering
One senator predicted that in 50 years, the government would be apologizing for the havoc that legalization has wrought on the country, while also saying alcohol has positive social effects because most people drink socially and not to get drunk, unlike the people “who use cannabis only to get high”.
He also warned that Canada will be joining Uruguay and North Korea as the only countries with legal cannabis, conveniently forgetting the many American states that have legalized (recreational and medical) or decriminalized cannabis.