It feels like Canada has been talking about national legalization of marijuana forever, and today a critical vote is happening in the senate which is far from a sure thing. Many members of the Canadian parliament are not happy with the bill before them that would see cannabis legalized this year, though the general consensus seems to be that it will pass.
If the bill fails today, there will be another vote on June 7th and the legislatures would have to start all over with it. Originally the start date for retail recreational sales was thought to happen by the beginning of this summer, however that seems very unlikely now.
According to an agreed timetable, senators will hold a vote at second reading of the bill today. If the opposition Tories cobble together enough votes to defeat C-45, the legislation would be effectively dead — meaning the government would have to restart the entire legislative process in the House.
Most Independent and Liberal senators generally support the bill, and together they hold 54 of the chamber’s 93 occupied seats. But that doesn’t guarantee that all of those members will vote together as a block or be present when the vote is recorded.
New senators have been appointed as Independents — leaving the Liberal government with no mechanism to whip votes or force them to attend sittings in the chamber.
Moreover, two Senate committees are on the road: members of the agriculture committee are meeting with stakeholders in Calgary, while the Aboriginal peoples committee is in Winnipeg. That means as many as 20 senators — most of them Independent — will be out of the mix today when a vote is held. Others, like Independent Quebec Sen. Jacques Demers, are not expected to be in attendance because of illness.
Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau has been promising nationally legalized recreational cannabis since he was on the campaign trail. If the the bill that would legalize cannabis fails today, will this be a major political setback for Prime Minister Trudeau?