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Government rejects 13 Senate amendments to Cannabis Act

House of Commons likely to support government’s preferred text and send bill back to Senate for consideration
Observers are predicting that the Cannabis Act will soon get royal assent

Canada’s government on June 13 released a statement saying that it opposes 13 of the Senate’s amendments to Canada’s Cannabis Act, which the Senate approved on June 7.

Among those amendments that the government opposes are several changes that would have been significant.

They include:

•allowing parents to share cannabis with their own child, who is at least 16 years old, as long as the sharing is done in the parent’s home;

•allowing provinces to ban the ability of residents in the province to grow up to four pot plants in their own home; and

•banning cannabis brands from being able to put their branding on promotional items, such as t-shirts.

The government agreed with twice that number of Senate amendments to Bill C-45, although those 26 approved amendments are largely technical ones. Here is the full government statement.

The process now is for the House of Commons to vote in favour of the government’s statement, or message to the Senate – something that is essentially a fait accompli, given that the government has a majority in the House of Commons.

The Senate would then be able to agree to the government’s reversion of the bill and forward the bill on to get royal assent as soon as later this week.

The unelected Senate could also accept some of the government’s changes, and not others, and send the bill back to the elected House of Commons for further review.

“I expect that we will get royal assent very shortly,” said Cannabis Compliance Inc. vice-president of business development and government relations Deepak Anand, who was one of many B.C.-based, cannabis-industry insiders who have been closely watching Bill C-45’s path through Parliament.

Anand said that he believes that there is also a fourth Senate amendment that the government is opposing that is significant. That amendment would have required the government to have the Senate approve any future revision to the Cannabis Act to allow edibles – something expected next year.

“The Senate doesn’t get to say what versions of pharmaceuticals are being approved so why would it be OK for the Senate to be able to say what kinds of cannabis are being approved,” he said.

If the government’s opposition to that amendment is accepted in the Senate, edibles would be approved by government regulations. The government has promised to act to make edibles legal by 2019.

Those regulatory changes would not have to go to a vote in either of the two houses of Parliament.

Other observers had a mixed reaction to the government’s opposition to several major Senate amendments.

Tousaw Law Corp. lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who made a presentation to the Senate during the Senate’s review of the Cannabis Act, liked the government’s rejection of the Senate’s amendment to ban the ability for licensed producers to put their branding on promotional items, such as T-shirts or baseball caps.

“With alcohol, you see that stuff everywhere, and it's normal,” he said.

“There’s already very strict, I would say overly strict, marketing and promotional restrictions in the Cannabis Act itself, and further restrictions that can be imposed by regulation, by Health Canada.”

The B.C. government has said that it plans to ban future licensed private cannabis stores in the province from selling branded items such as T-shirts. Clothing retailers or head shops, however, would be able to sell those items.

Tousaw also agreed with the federal government that home growing should not be banned.

“If we’re making an activity legal, we should not allow, in Quebec, for instance, a company to grow cannabis, and sell it, and make hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers, but have police be able to arrest a home owner for having a few plants in their garden,” he said. “That’s not the point of legalization.”

Quebec and Manitoba are two provinces that have said that they would like to ban residents in their jurisdiction from growing cannabis at home. The B.C. government has said that it is OK with home growing – something that is good news to the many B.C. entrepreneurs, who told Business in Vancouver that they want to sell either seedlings or growing materials to consumers who want to grow cannabis at home.

Most people who spoke with BIV said that they do not expect the home-grow cannabis market to be that large.

Finally, Tousaw was disappointed with one of the government’s objections to Senate amendments. The Senate had amended C-45 to allow parents the leeway to provide cannabis in their own home to their own child, as long as the child is at least 16 years old.

“I remember growing up and having a glass of wine at the dinner table in my grandmother’s house in Montreal, and it was normal and no big deal,” he said.

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