Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

The Senate has questions about legal weed

Three Liberal cabinet ministers and a parliamentary secretary faced Senators' questions about the Cannabis Act on Tuesday. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press files) (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press files)

Three Liberal cabinet ministers and a parliamentary secretary faced Senators' questions about the Cannabis Act on Tuesday. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press files)

As the Senate sponsor of the federal government's Cannabis Act, Independent Senator Tony Dean wants his fellow members of the Red Chamber to move forward with approving the bill and legalizing cannabis in Canada.

Members of the Senate's Conservative caucus are slowing that process down for purely political reasons, argued Sen. Dean in a recent opinion piece for iPolitics.

But it's not just Conservative senators who have concerns about the Cannabis Act.

On Tuesday, a group of Liberal MPs paid a special visit to the Senate for a Q&A about their bill.

Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, and parliamentary secretary Bill Blair were all on hand to answer questions from senators. (You can watch the entire proceeding on CPAC if you have two hours to spare, or read the transcript).

Here's a highlight reel of the questions posed by various Senators on Tuesday:

  • Independent Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain asked how police will enforce the four-plant limit on home cultivation.
  • Liberal Senator Art Eggleton asked whether the government will "regulate the names of the strains of cannabis that are to be sold so that they do not appeal to children and youth."
  • Conservative Senator Claude Carignan suggested that the government, along with legal cannabis companies, are at risk of being sued in future class action lawsuits (just like Big Tobacco) and asked whether the government was preparing for that possibility.
  • Conservative Senator Judith Seidman asked Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, "are you jeopardizing the health of our kids by creating a whole new generation of smokers?" She followed up by asking whether the government would commit to plain packaging for cannabis.
  • Liberal Senator Serge Joyal cited a Journal de Montreal article to give a speech about mysterious money flowing into the legal cannabis industry through offshore tax havens. (That money, he implied, could be coming from organized crime.)
  • Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu followed Joyal's lead, asking whether the government would "commit to ensuring that the names of people who invest in the marijuana market in Canada are made public".
  • Independent Senator Pamela Wallin pointed out gaping holes in the government's plan to police cannabis-impaired driving.
  • Conservative Senator Denise Batters expressed concern that Bill C-45 "allows every household in Canada to have four huge marijuana plants," and asked why the government is allowing that despite claims of risks to Canadian children and Canadians' mental health.
  • Liberal Senator Jim Munson expressed support for legalization, but asked why the government isn't issuing pardons for cannabis posession right now.

The senatorial consternation over cannabis continued during debate on Wednesday. In a lengthy speech, Independent Senator Rosa Galvez claimed there's "strong scientific consensus that cannabis is addictive," and framed the Cannabis Act as a kind of special-interest bill.

"Cannabis users represent a very low percentage of the Canadian population," said Galvez. "Yet, this bill appears tailored to their needs."

"Are the rights of non-users respected by C-45?" asked Galvez.

On Thursday, Conservative Senator Dennis Glen Patterson gave a speech outlining his concerns about the impact of cannabis legalization on remote Nunavut.

In the territorial capital, Iqaluit, said Patterson, "marijuana costs about $20 a gram."

"The Hells Angels or other criminal organizations are probably not present there. Those suppliers from southern communities undoubtedly have those connections. In the more remote communities, where there are intermittent scheduled flights over long distances, prices for a gram of marijuana can easily reach $50 per gram. What will happen when marijuana can be ordered online and mailed for a price of $10 per gram?"

If this week's discussion is any indication, Senator Tony Dean's plan to get Bill C-45 passed in a timely fashion might face more opposition than just the Senate Conservative caucus.

New on The Leaf

  • Growing chance of legal conflict: Quebec and Manitoba want to ban home cannabis cultivation after legalization, but legal experts told The Leaf News that such bans could be challenged on multiple grounds.
  • How incredible are your edibles: Dear Herb helps a reader learn how to measure the strength of their homemade marijuana cookies.
  • Put that in your pipe and smoke it: A big U.S. tobacco company now owns majority stakes in two Canadian cannabis companies.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • The goggles do nothing: The Canadian military wants its top brass to understand what it's like to get high on weed. Apparently, the best way to achieve that goal is a $170,000 contract for "weed goggles," reports Postmedia's David Pugliese.
  • Criminal records and cannabis: Some old-school cannabis activists fear they'll be left out of the rush for retail cannabis sales in B.C. due to their criminal records for cannabis-related activities, reports Travis Lupick for the Georgia Straight.
  • Weed business as usual: Publicly traded Canadian cannabis firms with U.S. operations don't need to worry about getting the boot from Canadian stock exchanges, despite anti-cannabis rumblings from the U.S. federal government.

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