There were some concerns that conservative lawmakers might prevent Canada from legalizing marijuana over the summer, as originally intended. But now it seems the northern nation is back on track to imposing its taxed and regulated scheme in a timely fashion. However, the “when” in this equation is a bit of a mystery. Although previous reports forecasted legalization by the beginning of July, the latest word is that it could be September before cannabis users are given legal access. One way or another, the nation is set to drag itself out of the pits of prohibition before summer’s end.
Over the weekend, Mark Holland, who serves as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, told The West Block that the Canadian government is still on course to launch its fully legal cannabis market before summer comes to a close. He told the news source that the powers that be have been “working closely with the Senate and we feel confident, at this time, in that timeline of end of summer that we’re going to see a regime that will control and legalize cannabis.”
It was just last year that a proposal (Bill C-45) aimed at legalizing marijuana nationwide was introduced to the House of Commons. But it wasn’t until the measure was sent to the Senate that it hit a wall. It was there that conservative lawmakers argued that it would take months to hash out all of the pertinent details surrounding this reform. Many believed the snag would prevent legalization from happening on schedule. In fact, Conservative Senator Claude Carignan said back in December that the examination process might stop legal weed from happening until the end of 2018 — maybe even beyond.
But last Thursday, there was a major break in the grind. The Liberals managed to defeat the Conservative’s attempt to sabotage the bill. It was passed in a second reading, and now heads to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for an “in-depth” study, reports Global News. But it is in this phase where senators could introduce amendments that might threaten the measure’s primary objective — to reduce criminal activity.
Ever since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed to July 2018 as a launch date for the country’s fully legal pot market, Conservatives have complained that law enforcement needs more time to prepare. But as Holland pointed out during his latest media appearance, police have always been challenged when dealing with marijuana.
“It is a massive problem on our streets and our police are absolutely ill-equipped to handle it,” Holland said. “Our cannabis rates are among the highest in the world. So we can put our head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist, or we can turn the corner and finally start doing something about it.”
So what happens next?
The Senate must get the measure through the upper house (Red Chamber) before the first week of June. This has to be done in order to give each of the 10 provinces the appropriate time to put the finishing touches on their respective regulatory controls.
Although federal rules are being put in place, these jurisdictions are being given the freedom to implement their own set of standards with respect to various facets of the retail cannabis trade. All except one — cannabis packaging.
The law will require standardized labels for all cannabis products. This is an attempt to make sure marijuana “isn’t attractive to young people,” Holland said. “We’re making sure the warnings are present there, and that they can’t use marketing as a tool in the way that tobacco has,” he added.
Since Canada began kicking around the concept of a taxed and regulated cannabis market, officials have promised the move has absolutely nothing to do with economic benefit. But rather, they claim it is about eliminating the black market and making it more difficult for young people to get their hands on marijuana. The packaging requirements suggest this is true. Nevertheless, Canada is expected to generate in upwards of $5 billion in annual tax revenue by selling weed in a manner similar to alcohol.
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