On June 7, 2018, the Senate passed Bill C-45, Canada’s cannabis legalization bill, the Cannabis Act (Bill), but not before making a number of amendments. The Bill will now return to the House of Commons, where members of Parliament must decide whether to accept, reject or revise over 40 amendments that the Senate made to the Bill. The majority of the Senate’s amendments are minor or technical in nature, but a few are substantive.
The most noteworthy amendment made by the Senate concerns the rules on home cultivation of cannabis. As passed by the House of Commons, the Bill did not give provinces the right to restrict cannabis cultivation in private residences. This provision was opposed by Manitoba and Quebec, who wish to prohibit home cultivation completely. The amended Bill allows provinces to choose whether to allow home cultivation, ceding federal jurisdiction over this issue.
Another important amendment passed by the Senate prohibits cannabis companies from promoting their brands on merchandise unrelated to cannabis consumption, such as clothing. The Senate also relaxed rules around “social sharing” of cannabis. Specifically, adults will no longer be criminalized for sharing cannabis with individuals less than two years younger than themselves who would otherwise be restricted from possession of it. Furthermore, cannabis may be shared at home between a parent or guardian and persons 16 years of age or older. This amendment was intended to align the cannabis laws with those regulating the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
If, as expected, the House of Commons accepts the Senate’s amended version of the Bill, it will then receive royal assent. Based on the government’s public statements about timing, the legislation is expected to come into force following an eight-to-12-week transition period, with the government indicating it expects legalization by the end of summer 2018. The precise date of legal retail will be determined by provincial legislation.