(This story has been updated from an earlier version.)
Two Senate committees reviewing Canada’s proposed marijuana legislation are asking for significant changes to the bill before it becomes law – changes that could delay implementation and have a major impact on businesses prepping for the recreational market.
The point person on cannabis legalization in Canada’s Senate, Tony Dean, told Marijuana Business Daily that he has “no doubt” that the Senate will work through the summer, if necessary, to work on the bill.
The Committee on Aboriginal Peoples wants the bill amended to address a “lack of meaningful consultation” with First Nations communities and asked for a delay of up to one year.
The committee has asked for changes in a number of areas, including excise tax sharing, educational materials and programs and health-related issues.
“It is imperative that Bill C-45 be delayed until First Nations are consulted and an amendment to the bill is co-developed to ensure that they receive a share of the excise tax revenues,” the committee wrote in its report.
It also requested a “preferential licensing system” for indigenous-owned or -controlled entities “to ensure that interested indigenous communities have the appropriate tools to seize economic opportunities as they arise.”
Isadore Day, regional chief for the Ontario Assembly of First Nations, has been pushing for a delay to the law.
“The federal government, provinces and territories have not done anywhere near an effective job in engaging and considering us within the process,” he said in an interview with Marijuana Business Daily.
Current indigenous businesses
Phil Fontaine, CEO of Indigenous Roots and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he’s supportive of further consultation but noted that any delay to legalization would adversely impact his and other indigenous-owned companies.
“You wouldn’t want to delay opportunities to First Nations that are already prepared to be part of the industry,” he told MJBizDaily. “That would be the outcome.”
Indigenous Roots, a joint venture with licensed producer Cronos Group, works with First Nations to build and operate licensed facilities and provide medical cannabis to indigenous communities.
It’s one of a small number of indigenous-owned medical marijuana producers in Canada.
Pressure builds on home grow
Meanwhile, seven of the 12 members on the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs want to strip home cultivation from the law over concerns that cannabis could be diverted to the illicit market.
The federal government proposed allowing Canadians to grow up for four plants per household, but Manitoba and Quebec are looking to ban home cultivation.
Removing the homegrown-cannabis provision would be a blow to companies gearing up to capitalize on the niche market – from sales of equipment, genetics and other supplies – come legalization later this year.
Six committee members want to limit the THC content of cannabis and cannabis-related products to 16% for consumers over 21 years old and 8% for those aged between 18 and 21. They also want to increase the minimum age for purchasing cannabis from 18 to 21 .
The same six senators want the law to come into force one year after Royal Assent is given.
The committee reports have been sent to the Committee on Social Affairs, which will decide whether to adopt the recommended amendments.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a final vote on the bill June 7.
If senators approve any amendments, the cannabis bill goes back to the House of Commons, where elected politicians would have to choose between accepting the changes in the interest of passing the law or further debate, which could require the Senate to take another look.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to comment directly on a potential delay, according to CTV News, but said the Liberals will “forge ahead with their plan to legalize marijuana for recreational use.”
Matt Lamers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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