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Canada Set to Legalize Cannabis this Summer After Senate Vote

Canadian cannabis flag

We knew that the Canadian Senate was set to vote on CA-45, the Cannabis Act, on June 7th, and while the measure was expected to pass, there’s always a twinge of fear that something might go wrong, especially when you’re fighting against decades of Reefer Madness propaganda that still plagues us today. However, all went well and Canada is now on pace to make history and legalize cannabis later this summer.

The Senate voted 56 to 30 to end prohibition and set up a commercial system that will create more jobs and generate new revenue for the nation, while, most importantly, will also end so many costly arrests and prosecutions. While support for legalizing cannabis was largely split along party lines, with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party including legalization as party priority, interestingly, two Conservatives abstained as they have their own financial interests in the cannabis industry.

The Guardian reported:

The legislation divided the responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments, with Ottawa responsible for regulating production while leaving it to provinces and territories to decide how the drug will be distributed and sold.

Once passed and implemented, those who want to grow their own marijuana will be limited to four plants per household. Canadians will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis for personal use while those who sell or give marijuana to minors or who drive under its influence will face stiff penalties.

Since becoming the Liberal leader in 2013, Trudeau has argued that the decriminalisation and regulation of marijuana would help keep the drug away from children and ensure profits don’t end up in the hands of what he described as “criminal elements.”

The Cannabis Act now goes back to the House as Senators added 46 amendments that must be reconciled, as the CBC reports:

Most of the Senate’s amendments are minor, but a handful are significant. One amendment would allow provinces to prohibit home cultivation of cannabis if they so choose, rather than accept the four marijuana plants per dwelling allowed under the bill.

Another amendment would impose even more stringent restrictions on advertising by cannabis companies, preventing them from promoting their brands on so-called ‘swag’, such as T-shirts and ball caps.

Yet another is aimed at recognizing that marijuana is often shared socially. It would make it a summary or ticketing offence for a young adult to share five grams or less of cannabis with a minor who is no more than two years younger, and it would allow parents to share it with their kids, as they can wine or other forms of alcohol.

Personally, I don’t believe that any legalization law is complete without home cultivation, so I don’t like any provision that might lead to provinces outlawing small four-plant cannabis gardens. Also, prohibiting cannabis companies from placing their logos on traditional marketing products like caps and t-shirts is certainly overkill and unnecessary. I would defer to Canadian advocates on the ground, but I hope that the Senate gets forced to vote again on the Cannabis Act as amendments that outlaw branding and could prohibit home cultivation are stripped from the law.

Even with its faults, the Canadian Cannabis Act is a huge step forward for the cannabis community. Canada is being called the first G-7 nation to legalize cannabis, second to only Uruguay. In my mind, Canada will be the first country to fully end cannabis prohibition since Uruguay prevents nonresidents from making regulated purchases. With the G-7 leaders currently in the Great White North for the G-7 Summit, hopefully, other world leaders will be influenced by Prime Minister Trudeau as they tackle the important global issues of the day.

I’m excited to travel to beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, to learn the latest ins and outs of the current political and business developments in the cannabis industry. If you are in the cannabis industry, or are thinking of joining, you should be at the International Cannabis Business Conference this June 24th-25th as well. Not only will you get to hear from my friends Jamie Shaw and Robert Laurie, but also many other prominent movers and shakers in the Canadian cannabis industry. With Henry Rollins delivering the keynote address and hip-hop legend Del the Funky Homosapien providing the after-party entertainment, the ICBC is set to be a rocking good time as well.

Get your tickets for the Vancouver International Cannabis Business Conference on June 24th-25th before they sell out. After Vancouver, the ICBC will be heading back down to Portland, Oregon, on September 27-28 to catch up on the American industry as states legalize one by one, and the federal government is making some progress as well. 

Photo credit: abdallahh/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

Jamie Shaw, Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party, Robert Laurie, Senate