The Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) passed second reading in the Senate today by a vote of 44-29, paving the way for further study and third and final reading in June.
Trudeau called Liberal senators back to Ottawa to make sure he had the votes.
In the days and hours before the vote, there was growing concern the bill would be voted down, forcing the Liberal government to restart the legislative process in the House of Commons — which would have thrown a wrench in the Trudeau government’s plan to legalize recreational cannabis by this summer.
The Conservative senators, who generally vote in lockstep on legislation, were vocal in their opposition to the bill. Senator Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu went as far as calling the Cannabis Act “a piece of shit.” He said it wouldn’t protect people or “exclude organized crime.” He said the bill had been written “very badly” and added that it would be “a very good exercise” to rewrite it.
Other Conservative senators dismissed the bill too, saying it would endanger young people, increase smoking rates, make policing difficult and do little to curb sales of cannabis on the black market.
To prevent the bill from being defeated, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Independent and Liberal senators who were on the road to return for the vote. In the end, the measure passed handily.
The bill’s passage was applauded by the Cannabis Canada Association. “We’re thrilled that the Senate has chosen the path of responsibility and regulation as opposed to the stigma and prohibition of past decades,” said acting executive director Allan Rewak. “Today represents another important milestone for our industry, for Canada, and for good public policy.
“Prohibition has failed. Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis consumption in the world, and a significant number of our citizens are consuming products grown illegally, without any controls or oversight,” added Neil Closner, chairman of the Cannabis Canada Board. “Today’s vote is one step closer toward the creation of a regulated adult consumer use system that keeps cannabis away from kids and profits away from organized crime.”
“We were confident the bill would pass second reading,” Andrew Wnek, CEO of Beleave, an Ontario-based licensed cannabis producer, told Leafly. “We feel that both the medical use of cannabis and the legalization of [recreational] cannabis is inevitable for Canada — and the world.”
“Today is another milestone in Canada’s march towards pioneering a new approach to the sensible regulation of cannabis,” John Fowler, CEO of Supreme Cannabis, another Ontario producer, told Leafly. “Our government has shown a commitment not only to challenging traditional norms of drug regulation, but also to consult broadly with Canadian stakeholders.”
“Canadians have made their desire to end prohibition clear, and today’s decision reflects that sentiment.,” Mike Gorenstein, CEO of Ontario-based producer Cronos, told Leafly. “Canada will continue to set the international gold standard for responsible cannabis regulation.”