This week, the Canadian Senate granted final approval to a historic bill that will legalize the recreational sale and use of cannabis nationwide. The country will be unable to meet the original July 1st deadline proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but government officials have said they expect sales to begin within the next eight to twelve weeks.
"It's been too easy for our kids to get marijuana — and for criminals to reap the profits," Trudeau tweeted. "Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate."
The House of Commons approved the bill, officially known as C-45, back in December, but a heated debate in the country's more conservative Senate has delayed the passage of the legislation until now. Two weeks ago, the Senate approved the House version of the bill, but included 46 amendments, some of which would have imposed additional limitations to cannabis legalization.
The federal government officially rejected 13 of the most conservative amendments, and last week, the House returned the bill to the Senate with these amendments removed. There was some concern that lawmakers would continue the battle over these restrictions, dragging out the debate over legal weed until next year, but ultimately the Senate passed the House's new version of C-45 with a 52-29 vote.
The final step for the bill is to receive Royal Assent, a largely symbolic process which is expected to take place later this week. Following this, the government will set an official date when the law will take effect. The new law amends the country's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, allowing any Canadian over the age of 18 to legally purchase cannabis products from licensed retailers and possess up to 30 grams of weed.
Cannabis flower and cannabis oil products will be available this fall, but legislators have delayed the legalization of edibles for a year in order to draft safety regulations for these products. Every household is also allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants. One of the amendments added by the Senate would have let individual provinces prohibit home-grows, but this amendment was removed by the House and is no longer in the current law.
"I'm feeling just great," Senator Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in his chamber of Parliament, said to CBC News. "We've just witnessed a historic vote for Canada. The end of 90 years of prohibition. Transformative social policy, I think. A brave move on the part of the government. Now we can start to tackle some of the harms of cannabis. We can start to be proactive in public education. We'll see the end of criminalization and we can start addressing Canada's $7-billion illegal market. These are good things for Canada."
Canada is the second – and by the far the largest – country to fully legalize cannabis. The country's new law places it in violation of several international treaties that require member nations to prohibit the sale and use of cannabis. The country may be able to withdraw from these treaties and then re-apply with reservations allowing legal pot, or they could choose to ignore this aspect of the treaties altogether, like Uruguay did when it legalized weed.
"We applaud Canada for showing federal legislators in the United States what can be accomplished with true leadership and dedication to sound public policy," NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a statement. "America's leaders would be wise to learn from our neighbors, and similarly replace our archaic and failed marijuana prohibition laws with a regulatory scheme that is largely evidence-based and that reflects cannabis' rapidly changing cultural status."