The former chair of Canada’s federal task force on cannabis legalization is calling on senators to avoid “undue partisan activity” as the bill faces the potential of a delay over contentious amendments that are under consideration.
The Senate has every right to consider the Cannabis Act rigorously, Anne McLellan told Marijuana Business Daily.
“But I’m hoping that partisanship does not unduly delay the passage of Bill C-45, because there is much anticipation across the country around cannabis becoming a legal substance.”
McLellan, also a former deputy prime minister, is scheduled to address senators this month about the cannabis legislation.
So far, two Senate committees have asked for significant changes to the bill before it becomes law, which could delay implementation and have a major impact on businesses preparing for the recreational market.
Another committee will decide whether to adopt the recommendations as amendments before the Senate votes on the legislation on June 7.
Sen. Tony Dean, the point person on cannabis legalization in Canada’s Senate, said he has “no doubt” the chamber will work through the summer if the legislation isn’t concluded by then.
As the Senate inches closer to its early June vote on the cannabis legislation, amendments to the bill appear to be more likely.
If the Senate approves an amended version, the law would be kicked back to the House of Commons, where elected members could either approve the bill with the changes or update it themselves. The latter outcome could require the Senate to take another look – potentially causing further delay.
Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, could then decide whether the chamber works into the summer.
A spokesperson from his office said it’s “too soon to say what might happen” after the vote.
All eyes on amendments
Dean told MJBizDaily that an amendment involving homegrown recreational marijuana is possible.
Quebec and Manitoba are banning home cultivation of recreational marijuana, in contrast to the proposed federal rules that allow provinces to set a limit of one to four plants per household.
“If they as provinces make that decision (to ban homegrown cannabis), then they should probably be allowed to do that. That amendment will get a fair amount of support,” Dean said.
Dean sees other recommendations proposed by Senate committees as much less likely to be advanced as amendments.
Half the members on the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs want to limit the THC content of marijuana and cannabis-related products to 16% for consumers older than 21 and 8% for those ages 18-21.
But Dean said “it’s not for senators to second-guess the government and regulators on THC limits.”
Senators in two committees have recommended the bill be delayed.
McLellan, for her part, doesn’t anticipate the Senate stalling the bill.
“If you start pushing this into the late fall, early winter, then I think it is a problem,” she said, “but I don’t anticipate that happening.
“I anticipate this legislation being proclaimed sometime in June or early July.”
Delay would be ‘problematic’
Allan Rewak, the new executive director of the Cannabis Canada Council, believes any delay would be “problematic.”
“At this point many of our members are building our supply chain,” Rewak said. “This results in real dollar decisions being made and people being offered jobs …
“We believe a delay beyond the delay we already see, which is going to put us into late August or mid-September, would be problematic.”
The Cannabis Canada Council counts close to 60 of Canada’s 102 licensed producers as members, including heavyweights Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis.
“We’re on the edge of something that is remarkable for Canada and Canadians,” Rewak said. “We’re building a globally dominant industry. It’s time to get to the job.”
Matt Lamers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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