Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, was approved by the Senate on June 7, 2018 by a vote of 56 to 30, with one abstention. It’s adoption was accompanied by some 40 amendments, most of which are minor. While the Conservative senators participated in studying the bill and its amendments, they all voted against its adoption.
The most significant amendment allows the provinces to prohibit home cultivation of cannabis. Before this amendment was added, the bill permitted a maximum of four cannabis plants to be cultivated within a home. Quebec and Manitoba elected to prohibit home cultivation before the addition of this Senate amendment. This amendment would therefore eliminate the possibility of any judicial challenge of the provinces’ power to prohibit the home cultivation otherwise permitted by the federal law.
Another amendment adds the possibility of a ticketable offence, in addition to an offence punishable on summary conviction, as a consequence for any young adult who shares no more than five grams of cannabis with a minor at least two years younger than themselves.
Bill C-45 and its proposed amendments will now go back before the House of Commons, which must approve, reject or modify the amendments made by the Senate. Once that stage has been completed, the bill will once again pass before the Senate for approval, before it can receive royal assent. A back-and-forth process between the House of Commons and the Senate will continue until the two bodies agree on the final version of the bill.
The federal government originally hoped its cannabis legislation would come into force by July 1, 2018. That now seems very unlikely. Several more weeks will probably be required before Bill C-45 is adopted and given royal assent. In addition, the provinces have indicated that they will then need an additional two to three months after the legislation takes effect in order to prepare for and begin retailing cannabis for recreational purposes.