September 21, 2020

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Senate committee calls for delay of cannabis legalization

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and her parliamentary secretary Bill Blair testified about Bill C-45 before the Senate Aboriginal Peoples committee hearing witnesses on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.  (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press) (CP)

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and her parliamentary secretary Bill Blair testified about Bill C-45 before the Senate Aboriginal Peoples committee hearing witnesses on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press)

One of five Senate committees to study Bill C-45 and recommend amendments that could reshape cannabis legalization in Canada, is calling on the federal government to delay legalization for up to a year.

The Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples tabled its official report on Bill C-45 today on the Senate floor, following five hearings on the Cannabis Act. It proposes two major amendments, the first of which calls for the government to:

"Delay the coming into force of Bill C-45 for up to one year to allow time for First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, and the Government of Canada to negotiate and agree on the following deliverables:

a. Implementation of appropriate excise tax collection and sharing measures from revenue generated by cannabis produced on First Nations lands;

b. Culturally specific and linguistically appropriate education materials and programs;

c. Recognition and affirmation of the principle that communities have the right to enact legislative and regulatory responses to the proposed legalization of cannabis;

d. Substantial funding increases on an urgent basis, given the intergenerational trauma present in Indigenous communities, for mental health and addictions programs, residential treatment centres, nursing services, traditional healing centres and police services that serve Indigenous people and communities; and

e. Establishment of residential addictions treatment centres that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and in the vicinity of Indigenous communities."

Also: reserve licences for Indigenous groups

The second proposed amendment reads:

"Prescribe that the Minister of Health reserve at least 20 per cent of all cannabis production licenses for producers on lands under the jurisdiction or ownership of Indigenous governments."

"Indigenous peoples are entitled to a say in how the government implements the legalization of cannabis," said committee chair Sen. Lillian Eva Dyck in a press release.

"They have expressed real concerns to us — the potential for increased harmful effects on Indigenous communities on the one hand, and the possibility of losing out on economic opportunities on the other. We must address these issues."

These proposed amendments are just that — proposals. They'll go to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for further consideration.

Even if the Senate does pass an amended version of Bill C-45, that amended version would have to return to the elected parliamentarians in the House of Commons for approval before Bill C-45 becomes law.

Chat with U.S. about toking border-crossers

Meanwhile, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence also tabled its report on Bill C-45 today, summarizing its conclusions after three hearings about how cannabis legalization might impact Canada on the international stage.

The report doesn't appear to recommend any specific amendments to the bill itself, but does call on the federal government to hold formal talks with the U.S. government "to clarify whether Canadians who admit to having previously used cannabis will face inadmissibility to the United States if Bill C-45 is passed," and negotiate a formal diplomatic agreement on that issue.

The committee also encouraged the government to boost its efforts to warn Canadians that crossing the Canada-U.S. border with cannabis will remain illegal. That could include new signs at border crossings, the committee suggested.

It remains to be seen whether or not these amendments and recommendations actually make it into the final version of Bill C-45, but we should know soon — the Senate is due to hold its final vote on the bill and any amendments by June 7 at the latest.

New on The Leaf

  • Share the wealth: The Assembly of First Nations is due to consider a resolution asking for First Nations to be included in the cannabis excise tax framework.
  • Trim and tidy: Cannabis plants have to cured and trimmed before use — but trimming weed ain't what it used to be.
  • House of horrors: Canada's leading real estate industry group is trying to sell the Senate on the idea that home cannabis cultivation poses a major risk to their business.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • Building worry: Quebec's construction industry took a negative view of legalization at a recent Montreal confab (not to be confused with a prefab).
  • Saskatchewan passes the joint: On a per capita basis, preliminary Statistics Canada data shows Saskatchewanians use cannabis less than Canadians in any other province.
  • Dog daze: Edmonton-area pooches Ringo, George and Dougie reportedly fell ill after gobbling up some weed on their walks. Don't worry — all three canines have recovered, and remain good boys.


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