OTTAWA – The federal point-man on pot, Bill Blair, says that if the legislation to legalize marijuana passes by the end of the week, the government will eye a September date to implement the new regime.
“Upon Royal Assent a decision will be made by the government as to a date of implementation,” Blair said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period. “We’re probably looking at a date of implementation somewhere towards the beginning of September, perhaps mid-September.”
The Cannabis Act is currently in a temporary state of legislative limbo, after the House of Commons rose early Friday following a 12-hour voting marathon.
On Wednesday the Liberals tabled their response to the more than 40 amendments made to Bill C-45 by the Senate. The government is accepting most of the Senate’s changes, but several substantive ones didn’t make the cut.
The government says it agrees with, and will accept, 26 largely technical proposed amendments to the legislation, which set out the parameters for the production, possession, and sale of legal recreational marijuana for Canadians over the age of 18.
But it “respectfully disagrees” with 13 other changes, including amendments that would give the provinces and territories the power to ban home-grown marijuana, prohibit pot producers from distributing branded merchandise, and set up a registry for shareholders involved in marijuana companies.
After around two hours of debate — during which Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor defended the decision amid criticism from the opposition over remaining issues with the proposed law — the government imposed a motion to limit the remaining amount of time there will be to discuss the amendments.
Once House debate concludes, MPs will vote to send the message over to the Senate. Given that the Liberals have a majority government, it is expected to pass. Then it’ll be in the Senate’s hands.
Depending on how the Senate feels about the government saying thanks but no thanks to some of its more robust recommendations, the bill could be in for a few rounds of legislative ping pong, where it will be passed back and forth a few times between the House and Senate as they go over the final wording.
Or, the Senate could accept the position of the elected House of Commons, and agree to wrap up the bill as is.
The window of time between when the bill passes, and when it becomes federal law is to allow for the provinces, territories, municipalities, police forces, and other stakeholders to make sure their piece of the pot pie is operating in accordance with the new rules.
Blair said the date they decide on will be informed by discussions with their provincial and territorial counterparts, which have been given the ability to set regulations in their jurisdictions as to how a legalized marijuana regime will operate.
Some provinces, including Quebec and Manitoba have been vocal in their opposition to some aspects of the policy, particularly on allowing for recreational marijuana to be grown at home.
When asked about how the government intends to respond if these provinces follow through and ban any marijuana grown at home, despite the federal law permitting up to four plants, Blair said: “We have said to Quebec and every other province and territory, ‘You have the jurisdiction to regulate the circumstances under which that can be done safely’… but we also believe that prohibition takes away the opportunity to properly regulate this.”
Meanwhile, the sister legislation to the Cannabis Act, Bill C-46 regarding drug-impaired driving was passed by the Senate with amendments Thursday, forcing the bill back to the House for consideration of the changes. That bill will then follow a similar process of the government either accepting or refusing the changes.
The House of Commons is scheduled to adjourn for the summer at the end of this week, June 22.