Legal Marijuana Deadline May Be Up in Smoke as Tory Senators Stall Bills

Article by John Ibbitson, The Globe and Mail

Legal marijuana deadline may be up in smoke as Tory senators stall bills

You may think that you will be able to buy marijuana legally as of July 1. You should think again.

Conservative senators are threatening to hold up passage of the two bills that would legalize cannabis consumption and toughen rules against abuse. Unless these senators yield, the bills are unlikely to become law in time for the Canada Day deadline.

“I think we have to do our job properly, and that means months,” Conservative Senator Claude Carignan, the lead opposition critic on the legislation, said when asked in an interview how long he thought it would take the Senate to pass the bills.

How many months?

“The House took eight months to study” the bills, he said. “It will probably take the same timeline to do our job properly.” Given the summer recess, that would push Senate ratification to the end of 2018, at least.

The costs of missing that deadline would be severe. Provincial governments are negotiating contracts with suppliers, who are ramping up production. Governments and private companies are signing leases for storefronts. Police forces are acquiring new equipment, and training officers to identify pot-impaired drivers.

But businesses “take a risk if they adopt a plan … without legislation in place adopted by both houses,” Mr. Carignan said. “My recommendation is to take their time and don’t take an unusual business risk.”

The political question is who will suffer more if the July 1 deadline is missed: The Liberals, for trying to force through legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use, or the Conservatives, for blocking the legislation in the Senate.

Either way, the Red Chamber’s reputation – which had shown signs of rehabilitation since the expenses scandal – could be sent back into the depths.

“This is the old system going on,” said a frustrated Senator Frances Lankin, an independent who was appointed by Mr. Trudeau. “This is the opposition trying to throw a spanner into the works of the government.”

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