The Senate’s slow legalization debate

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

Bills C-45 and C-46 are currently at second reading in the Senate, after making their way through the House earlier this year. Bill C-46 entered the Senate on Nov 1 and C-45 on Nov 28.

The debate around both bills in the Senate has been, so far, relatively limited, with a little less than three hours spent debating C-46 over five sitting days at second reading, and only about one hour during one sitting day on C-45.

C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, is seen by some as a companion act in relation to Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, although C-46 deals with impaired driving for all drugs and alcohol, not only cannabis.

The way the Senate is treating the new impaired driving act, as well as how they have dealt with recent and similarly controversial legislation, could provide insight into how they will handle the Cannabis Act.

Bill C-46, despite being legislation introduced by the Liberal government, has already received considerable concern from not only Conservatives, but also Liberal and Independent Senators.

Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain, a member of the recently-formed Independent Senators Group (ISG), says she has concerns that legislation could discriminate against medical cannabis patients, as did Independent Senators Marc Gold and Andre Pratt.

Other controversial legislation

Another similarly controversial piece of legislation that made its way through the Senate recently was Bill C-14, the assisted dying legislation from 2016. C-14 was introduced into the House in April 2016 and sent to the Senate by the end of May 2016.

After a lengthy debate in the Senate, with over 8 hours of debate at second reading over two days and two separate committee hearings, the Senate returned the bill to the house with seven proposed amendments.

The House and Senate then spent two days discussing and considering the proposed amendments before the House sent the bill back to the Senate, having approved most of the amendments. One specific amendment rejected by the House would have removed the ability for ‘advanced consent’ for assisted dying in certain cases. Some in the Senate wanted to not budge on this amendment, risking delaying the bill through further debate, before relenting and passing the bill 44-28. The bill was finally sent back to the House and received royal assent that evening, July 17, 2016.

The Senate could still choose to engage in a few marathon debate sessions at second reading like they did with C-14 and have done with other legislation, before sending the bill to committee. But with less than 15 sitting days before the winter break, which stretches from Dec 22 until Jan 30. With no more committee hearings currently scheduled after Monday, Dec 11, the likelihood of the bill making its way to back to the House before winter break ends seems very unlikely.

If the Senate wants to pick apart the legislation in committee and add any amendments to address some of the more

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