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With a Liberal majority government in place, Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet have been steamrolling over any potential hurdles that might slow the process of marijuana legalization. But now, CBC News is reporting on a potential bump in the road which could delay the July 2018 deadline, and that is the Senate.
Before the Christmas break, the House of Commons is expected to send Bill C-45 to senators who will undoubtedly go through the legislation with a fine-tooth comb.
“The deadline is a political deadline,” said Sen. André Pratte. “It’s not a court that imposed that deadline. It’s the government that set that deadline. We have to take it into account but we also have to do our job seriously and that’s what we’ll do.”
Although the Senate is an independent body in charge of considering the legislation based on its functionality as opposed to its social implications, if senators take too long in their deliberation or even send the bill back for changes, legalization day could be delayed for Canadians.
“Senators aren’t elected, they’re appointed,” said Matt Maurer, chair of the Cannabis Law Group at Minden Gross, in an interview with Marijuana.com. “There’s no party lines, so to speak, for them to follow.”
Maurer added that while technically the Senate could slow the bill down, their intentions are not political. “Historically, [senators] are supposed to be a check and balance on what the House of Commons is doing. It’s not supposed to be for senators to decide [if they] like the idea.”
This theory of the Senate being a sounding board for legislation based on its viability as opposed to its morality was also true in 2005 when the Senate passed the Civil Marriage Act (Bill C-38), which eventually legalized same-sex marriage in Canada at the federal level. That legislation was politically controversial and hotly debated, but nevertheless, it took the Senate less than a month to pass it.
Although Maurer stated it’s possible legalization could get delayed, he’s confident there’s still enough time to implement cannabis legalization as planned. “The bill has already been voted on, it’s been debated, it’s gone through committee stage, it’s had amendments,” said Maurer.
“What the Senate can also do, and I believe they have done it, in this case, is they can ask for a report before it even gets to the Senate. They can start doing their homework before the bill even shows up, like studying for your second semester before the course begins.”
Maurer added that the Liberals clearly tried to get Bill C-45 to the Senate as quickly as possible to give the Senate adequate time to perform their due diligence. “[Although] it is an important piece of legislation, there’s nothing more distinctive about this piece of legislation than any others that should require it to take longer than it otherwise would.”
This article was originally published on Marijuana.com.
About Jon Hiltz: Jonathan Hiltz has been a journalist, a TV producer and marijuana advocate for over sixteen years. He has a wife, two young children and lives in the Toronto area.