Pubdate: Fri, 16 Feb 2018
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Toronto Star
Author: Joann Bryden
Page: A8


Late decision will push back legal sales of weed until August or even
Labour Day

OTTAWA- Canadians will have to wait until at least early August - and
maybe as late as early September - to legally purchase recreational

That's the bottom line now that senators have struck a deal to hold a
final vote by June 7 on the legislation that will usher in the legal
cannabis regime.

As recently as last week, the Trudeau government was insisting it was
on track for legalization in July. But given the Senate timetable,
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor conceded Thursday that's not
going to happen.

"If you do the math, you can certainly see it certainly won't be July
2018," she said.

Assuming Bill C-45 is passed by the Senate by June 7, royal assent
would follow almost immediately. But it would take another two or
three months before legal weed was available for purchase.

That's because, as Petitpas Taylor reiterated Thursday, provincial and
territorial governments need eight to 12 weeks following royal assent
to prepare for retail sales.

In other words, legal pot won't be available until at least early
August, and possibly not until a month later.

Petitpas Taylor said legal cannabis will go on sale in all provinces
and territories at the same time, which suggests if just one of them
requires the full 12 weeks to get ready, they'll all have to wait.

As part of the deal struck by Sen. Peter Harder, the government's
representative in the Senate, with other Senate factions, initial
debate on Bill C-45 will continue until March 22.

That's three weeks beyond the deadline Harder announced earlier this
week, when he threatened to move a motion to cut off second reading
debate if senators didn't agree voluntarily to end it by March1.

However, the additional three weeks includes a two-week parliamentary
break so, in reality, senators will get just an extra three days of

Nevertheless, the extra time was touted as a victory by Conservative
senators, whom Harder had feared were intending to obstruct passage of
the bill.

"I am pleased to say that we secured time that will allow the Senate
to have a thorough evaluation on the marijuana legislation,"
Conservative Senate leader Larry Smith said in a statement.

"The official Opposition in the Senate has been clear from the
beginning, we want to review the wide-ranging concerns and voids in
this legislation, instead of rushing this through only for the sake of
a political deadline set by the Trudeau government."

After second reading, the bill will be sent to five different Senate
committees to examine different aspects of the legislation before
returning to the Senate for a final debate and vote by June 7.

"This should give stakeholders, governments, business, law enforcement
agencies and other Canadians a timeline for how and when the bill will
be ultimately dealt with by the upper chamber," Harder said in a statement.

It is conceivable that senators could vote to amend the bill, in which
case it would have to go back to the House of Commons to decide
whether to accept or reject the amendments.

If the government majority in the Commons rejected one or more
amendments, the bill would then bounce back to the Senate, where
senators would have to decide whether to insist on their amendments or

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began transforming the Senate into
a more independent, less partisan chamber two years ago, senators have
been more inclined to advance amendments. However, the back-and-forth
between the two parliamentary houses over Senate amendments has
generally taken only a day or two and the Senate, thus far, has always
ultimately bowed to the will of the Commons.
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