Article by Daniel LeBlanc, The Globe and Mail
Ottawa will have to launch a series of negotiations as soon as it tables its long-awaited bill to legalize marijuana on Thursday, needing to strike deals with the Senate, the provinces and the U.S. government in its bid to lift the 94-year-old prohibition on the drug.
For starters, the Liberals will need to adopt a raft of legislative changes in the House of Commons, where they have a solid majority, but also through an independent Senate that is increasingly asserting its desire to study and amend government bills.
The legislation that is scheduled to be tabled shortly after noon on Thursday is being shepherded by the departments of Health, Justice and Public Safety. The three federal agencies are in charge of creating a system in which marijuana is grown by federally licensed producers and sold across Canada in stores that are overseen by the provinces. The legislation will also severely punish whoever sells cannabis to people under the legal age or outside of the legalized regime.
Still, the proposed legislation is expected to leave a number of unanswered questions, as the government will be adopting regulations at a later date to provide its full plan to deal with issues such as cracking down on drug-impaired drivers.
Conservative Senator Claude Carignan, who has pushed for a roadside-testing system to deal with an expected increase of drug-impaired drivers, said there is no guarantee the legislation will be adopted before the government’s self-imposed deadline of July 1, 2018.
“If the government doesn’t propose a comprehensive solution, to ensure the safety of the public and crack down on drug-impaired driving, obviously, there will be obstacles in the Senate,” he said in an interview.
Ottawa will also need to work out a system with the provinces by which marijuana will be sold to the adult public. There have already been high-level discussions between the two levels of government, but there are still issues to resolve such as taxation of the product and education campaigns on the dangers of marijuana, especially among youth.