Cannabis in Canada Pt 4

Cannabis in Canada: A Primer. Part Four.

Part Four: Rushed Legislation and Policy-making

Throughout the process for passing, there were a great number of discussions and concerns raised regarding the timeline for the initiative. The Federal Government had undertaken to have cannabis legalized by 1 July 2018. However, by spring the Minister of Health acknowledged it would likely beAugust or September before sales begin. As the bill passed in the House, the Prime Minister announced that cannabis would be legal as of October 17, 2018. Throughout the process, concerns have been raised by police, Conservative MPs and Senators, and the provinces, to name a few of the groups. Additionally, the Angus Reid Institute published a poll in November 2017 reporting nearly half of the Canadians they polled (47%) wanted the Federal government to push back the timeline on cannabis legalization.

In September 2017, police forces asked the federal government to postpone the initial July 2018 deadline. Police from Ontario, Saskatoon and the Canadians Association of Chiefs of Police told the House of Commons health committee that they needed more time – requiring an extra six-months to a year for proper police training and public education. Although Bill C-45 in part aims to reduce the burden on law enforcement officials around cannabis, there is different work that police will be required to do around enforcement. The police suspect there will be a rise in complaints about neighbours owning plants, suspected grow-ops, robberies and home invasions.

A great deal of the criticism around the timeline has arisen from conservative Members of Parliament and Senators. There was some nervousness that the bill might not pass. However in late March, Senate passed the bill at second reading by a vote of 44 to 29. In his opinion piece, Senator Leo Housakos raised a number of concerns with the bill as it read. These included the questions of why the legislation was being rushed through, how the legislation was going to keep cannabis out of the hands of young people, where the evidence suggesting that the current system wasn’t working came from, and what other approaches were being considered by the government.

Finally, the provinces have expressed concern. In November 2017, the provinces’ umbrella organization, the Council of the Federation, released a report on cannabis expressing concern with the intended implementation date and identifying key areas where increased levels of federal engagement and information sharing were required: road safety and enforcement mechanisms; preparation and training for the distribution network; taxation arrangements and cost coverage; public education campaigns; and cannabis supply and demand, and the relationship to the illicit market.

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Photo credit: Donn Gabriel from Unsplash.

- By Heather Webster