The Canadian cannabis bill, otherwise known as Bill C-45 officially received Royal Assent Thursday morning, the final step in the legislative process leading to marijuana legalization across the country.
With a nod of his head, the Governor General finalized what was at times an arduous and quarrelsome process on the road to prohibition repeal. Still, one of the most historic events in the history of cannabis culture occurred this week. It took a couple of years of untangling on the part of Canada’s Liberal Party, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has officially passed legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana.
Canada is the first G7 nation to legalize cannabis, and only the second country to do so after Uruguay. The repercussions are deep and wide, as cannabis legalization goes against United Nations treaties signed by Canada and numerous other nations. According to an official statement, the U.N. is not happy about it.
Moreover, Canada now makes the U.S. government’s unwillingness to face the truth about cannabis stand out among the powerful economic nations of the world. It also sends an unambiguous message to rest of the world that maybe weed is not so evil after all. Regarding business, marijuana legalization is bad news for a few other industries including the two big vices, alcohol, and cigarettes, as well as the pharmaceutical industry — all of which are bound to see a dip in sales as folks ditch those nasty habits for one that’s far less unhealthy.
What Is Royal Assent?
Although both bodies in the Canadian Parliament — the House of Commons and the Senate — have signed off on the measure, there are a couple more things that have to happen for a bill to become law. One of those final steps is what’s termed Royal Assent. The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, is the queen of the entire United Kingdom. And her kingdom includes Canada. Royal Assent is essentially the Queen signing off on the bill — well, not the queen herself in this case, but her representative, Governor General Julie Payette.
In theory, can the Queen instruct Payette to refuse to sign off on the matter? Well, yes, actually, she can. However, the last time a UK monarch refused Royal Assent was in 1707. In today’s modern world, it’s generally agreed that the Queen and her royal representatives will remain strictly neutral concerning political matters. In other words, even if she’s appalled by the measure, it’s not really in danger of being killed. This makes Payette’s approval a largely ceremonial, albeit required stamp of approval.
A report posted by Newsweek noted that Canadian academic James Bowden wrote in 2012that “the reserve powers of the Sovereign become obsolete over time.” What he’s using is essentially the “use it or lose it” argument. In Bowden’s view, the fact that the UK royal family has not vetoed any legislation in over 300 years indicates that it’s never going to happen again. But that’s not in writing.
However, as of Thursday morning, any worries that the Queen would intervene have now passed, as Governor-General Payette did, indeed, nod her head in Royal Assent.
Official Date Moved Again
Canada’s government still has some groundwork to do before the country’s recreational marijuana market officially opens. The consensus — up until yesterday — was that this work would take about two months, putting launch date somewhere in September.
“We’re probably looking at a date of implementation somewhere towards the beginning of September, perhaps mid-September,” said Parliamentarian Bill Blair, the government’s point-man on the matter, just a few days ago.
However, yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised to legalize cannabis in his 2015 election campaign, set a date of October 17th, a full two and a half months past original projections of early July. Trudeau set the date during a press conference on Wednesday, saying that provincial leaders had requested more time to solidify and implement regulations.
“We heard from provinces and territories who told us they needed more time to transition to this new framework, so our government will continue to work in full partnership with them, to ensure the smooth and orderly implementation of this new law across Canada,” Trudeau told reporters.
Bill Blair says this extra time will allow the provinces to properly establish retail regulations and get online systems up and running. “We’re very appreciative of the effort everybody’s making, but I think Canadians expect us to do this in a responsible way and that’s what we’re aiming to do,” Blair said.
One of the biggest concerns of provincial leaders is public education. The new laws, although liberal, are also very strict in some matters, and Canadians would be well-served to know exactly what is and is not acceptable. Until October, Canada’s current cannabis laws are still in play. The language of Bill C-45 allows Canadians over the age of 18 to possess relatively small amounts of the psychotropic plant. Provinces will also be allowed to raise the legal age, and some will likely do so.
The measure also contains a comprehensive set of rules for the cultivation, possession, distribution, and sale of the drug as well as setting safety standards for production. It also spells out strict new criminal codes which call for severe penalties for the sale of marijuana and its derivatives to minors.
A provision which allowed provinces to make home grows illegal was rejected by the Senate. However, federal representatives have said that the government does not intend to challenge the provinces that wish to ban home grows. However, that doesn’t rule out the ability of non-governmental organizations or persons to do so, and challenges are likely.
The Other Cannabis Bill
Lesser-known companion legislation called Bill C-46 was also passed this week. The measure deals with penalties for driving high and makes it illegal to drive within two hours of using cannabis. The legislation also allows police to conduct roadside intoxication tests, including oral fluid drug tests. The provision was opposed by the Senate, but the House’s threat of killing the bill over the amendment put that argument to rest — at least for the time being.
This article by Cannabiz News Editor Rick Schettino originally appeared on PotNetwork.com.