Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

The Senate has amended the Cannabis Act — now what?

The Senate's final vote on the Cannabis Act is scheduled for no later than Thursday, June 7. (Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld) (CP)

The Senate's final vote on the Cannabis Act is scheduled for no later than Thursday, June 7. (Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

After a marathon Monday session, the Senate's social affairs committee approved 40 potential amendments to Bill C-45. Twenty-nine of those amendments came from bill sponsor Sen. Tony Dean, and were drafted by the government.

Most of the amendments were technical in nature — tweaking a word or a phrase, or fixing a translation error — and utterly uninteresting to Canadian cannabis users.

"It's not unusual in a large and complex bill of this sort that government have lots of technical cleanup stuff," Dean told The Leaf News on Tuesday.

But some of the committee's amendments could shape cannabis legalization in more substantive ways.

For example, one amendment would clarify that provincial governments are allowed to ban home cannabis cultivation entirely, not just reduce the number of plants grown in one home. If that amendment becomes part of the final law, it could head off a potential court battle between aspiring home cannabis farmers and the governments of Manitoba and Quebec, which want to set the number of permitted plants to zero.

Another committee amendment could lay the groundwork for regulatory limits on the amount of THC contained in cannabis products — in other words, potency limits.

None of those amendments are a done deal. Here's what happens next.

The committee's recommended amendments will be submitted back to the Senate before the vote at third reading, scheduled for June 7 at the latest.

Before that final vote takes place, though, senators will continue debating the bill — and, believe it or not, they'll get a chance to propose even more amendments. In Ottawa today, Senate Conservative leader Sen. Larry Smith suggested his caucus might do just that.

"What we want to make sure is, at third reading every senator who wants to make an amendment can make an amendment," Smith told reporters.

"That's the right of the Senate, it's a privilege, and we want to make sure that there's not this thought that, 'Oh, once the committee's made its decision we don't need any more amendments.' That's not the way the Senate works."

Sen. Tony Dean said more amendments are technically possible, but he hopes it doesn't come to that.

"I hope senator Smith is talking theoretically, rather than literally, and that we can spend the remaining time that we have — and we have a good few days to do this — chatting about the things that haven't been covered to peoples' satisfaction and those relatively small number of amendments that haven't been touched on yet."

After the vote at third reading, the Senate's amended version of the bill will go back to the House of Commons. (With a Liberal majority in the House, it's safe to say the government will reject any amendments it doesn't like.)

Dean still expects the Senate's ultimate vote on Bill C-45 to take place nine days from now.

"Everybody's saying they're committed," he said. "I take them on their word, and I'm expecting a final vote on June 7."

Correction, May 30, 2018: An earlier version of this article contained an incorrect explanation of Parliamentary procedure.


New on The Leaf

  • Going for gold: Famed Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati has a message about the role of cannabis in sports — also, he wants to sell you a golden bong.
  • Another awkward office party: Manitoba bureaucrats will be banned from using weed at the office Christmas party, but they can still get as drunk as they like.
  • Indoor voices: Major cannabis firms lobbied the Senate to amend C-45 to ban outdoor commercial cannabis growing entirely (the Senate declined).

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • Where's Ware: Dr. Mark Ware, one of the most respected voices on medical cannabis in Canada and a key member of the government's pre-legalization task force, is signing on with Canopy Growth Corp.
  • Don't worry, mom: The specter of rising youth cannabis use after legalization has haunted Parliament for months now, but the Globe and Mail's health columnist says "all the fretting about the impact on children and teens is largely unwarranted."
  • He inhaled: In a Senate committee, Conservative Sen. Don Plett — who has opposed cannabis legalization — said he did a doobie when he was 18.

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