Last week the Canadian Senate passed the Cannabis Act along to the House of Commons for a review of several proposed amendments. After accepting most, but rejecting a few key changes, the Act now goes back to the Senate for further review.
In a vote of 205 to 82 the House of Commons has passed the Cannabis Act, choosing to accept some of the Senate's proposed amendments but rejecting some particularly contentious ones including the provinces's ability to ban home cultivation.
"Given the exceptional amount of work that went in to the Senate’s study of this bill, I understand that some of these outcomes are frustrating for some," Conservative Senator Peter Harder (Ontario) told CTV of the House's rejections. "I know that some of these frustrations are rooted in deeply held policy views and personal values and that much disagreement will not end with our vote on this message, whatever its result."
One of the biggest points of contention between the upper and lower chambers of Parliament is the right to grow cannabis at home. The original version of the Cannabis Act included a provision that would allow give all Canadians the right to cultivate a small number of plants at home. But when the bill reached the Senate, lawmakers changed that regulation to to let individual provinces ban home growing if they wanted (and Manitoba and Quebec are already planning to do just that).
But when the bill was sent back to the House, the government quickly nixed that amendment, saying it "respectfully disagrees" with the Senate's position.
"Our decision is based on expert studies and other jurisdictions that have put in place similar legislation. Canadians are allowed to make beer at home, or wine… It is already possible for Canadians to grow cannabis for medical purposes and we absolutely believe that the legislation should be consistent when it comes to recreational cannabis," Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said last week.
Taking that stand will make the next few days challenging as lawmakers try to finalize the Cannabis Act under a tight deadline. Since the House is set to rise for the summer at the end of this week, changes to this bill will likely be pushed along quickly in order to have it moved into law in time for the break. The speed with which the House has sent the bill back to the Senate indicates that the government is committed to passing cannabis legalization as soon as possible.
Chances are that there will be a big announcement by the end of this week and the Cannabis Act will go up for Royal Assent. If that happens, recreational cannabis stores will likely open sometime in September.