Canadians will be able to legally purchase and consume recreational marijuana by mid-September at the latest after the Senate voted Tuesday to lift almost a century-old prohibition on cannabis.
Senators voted 52-29, with two abstentions, to pass bill C-45, after seven months of study and debate.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said the provinces will need two to three months after the bill is passed before they’ll be ready to implement the new legalized cannabis regime.
“We have seen in the Senate tonight a historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition of cannabis in this country, 90 years of needless criminalization, 90 years of a just-say-no approach to drugs that hasn’t worked,” said independent Sen. Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the upper house.
Canada is the first industrialized country to legalize cannabis nationwide.
“I’m proud of Canada today. This is progressive social policy,” Dean said.
However, Dean and other senators stressed that the government is taking a very cautious, prudent approach to this historic change. Cannabis will be strictly regulated, with the objective of keeping it out of the hands of young people and displacing the thriving black market in cannabis controlled by organized crime.
“What the government’s approach has been is, yes, legalization but also strict control,” said Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate.
“That does not in any way suggest that it’s now party time.”
Conservative senators remained resolutely opposed to legalization, however, and predicted passage of C-45 will not meet the government’s objectives.
“The impact is we’re going to have all those involved in illegal marijuana peddling right now becoming large corporations and making a lot of money and they’re going to be doing it at the expense of vulnerable people in this country,” said Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, predicting young people will have more – not less – access.
“When you normalize the use of marijuana and you’re a young person and you had certain reservations because of the simple fact that it was illegal, there’s, I believe, a propensity to have somebody be more inclined to use it.”
Story by Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press