Senate approves plan for final debate of cannabis legalization bill
The Senate agreed to structure debate on the Cannabis Act by theme in the days leading up to the final vote on June 7.
The Senate has agreed to hold a structured final round of debate on legislation to legalize cannabis in Canada, guaranteeing that votes on proposed amendments to the bill will take place on a daily basis without deferral or needless adjournments.
On Thursday, the Senate adopted a motion crafted by Senate leaders to structure debate on the Cannabis Act by theme, allowing for comprehensive debate in the days leading up to the final vote on June 7.
Structured debates are a key feature in efforts to modernize the way the Senate handles its business.
Sen. Harder has been calling for more cohesive and organized debates for more than a year, with the goal of replacing a disjointed practice that makes it difficult for the public to follow how laws are evaluated and reviewed.
- When delay is not sober second thought
- New system of debate would better inform Canadians on the Senate’s work
Senator Tony Dean, an independent who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, asked for a structured debate on the legislation late last year.
Exhaustive committee review
Third reading debate follows an exhaustive review that leveraged the expertise of five Senate committees.
Four committees, tasked with zeroing in on particular elements of the bill, sat for more than 50 hours over the course of 29 meetings, hearing from 104 witnesses. The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, tasked with studying the entire bill, sat for 53 hours over the course of 29 meetings on the bill, hearing from 136 witnesses while also taking into consideration reports from the four other committees.
During clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on Monday, the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology adopted more than 40 amendments, including many technical amendments and some more substantive, such as allowing provinces to restrict or ban the growth of cannabis at home.
The plan for structured debate is as follows, with Senators limited to speaking once per sitting, for a maximum of 10 minutes, to the motion for third reading of the bill, and may also speak once, for a maximum of 10 minutes, to any amendment and subamendment.
Thursday, May 31, 2018: issues relating to cannabis production, including matters such as cultivation, home growth and agricultural production.
Friday, June 1, 2018: issues relating to cannabis sale and distribution, including matters such as procurement and storefront distribution, packaging, health warnings and advertising.
Monday, June 4, 2018: international issues relating to cannabis, including matters such as treaties and border issues.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018: issues relating to criminal penalties, including matters such as criminality and youth, criminal penalties for distribution and illicit cannabis.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018: issues relating to cannabis consumption, including matters such as the minimum age for consumption, possible effects on mental health, possible effects on public health, and matters relating to the Indigenous peoples of Canada.