Members of Parliment (MPs) gave the green light to the Liberal government’s bill to legalize cannabis this past Monday evening, sending the legislation down the hall to the Senate for further investigative research and debate.
The legislation was mainly backed along partisan lines, although it secured the support of the NDP and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. The final tally was 200 MPs in favor, with 82 against. Conservative MP Scott Reid who cast his vote for the bill after he polled constituents in his eastern Ontario riding, Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, and discovered a majority supported the Liberal strategy.
A last-ditch Conservative effort to prolong the bill and send it to the Commons health committee for further research failed by a vote of 83 to 199 with some Bloc Québecois MPs voting with Tory legislators. Conservative opposition will now fall to their national caucus colleagues in the Red Chamber, where some senators have already signaled they are prepared to give the bill a rough ride. Some Tories have said the government’s timeline for legalization, July 1, 2018, is far too ambitious.
The Liberal government ultimately accepted three significant amendments to the bill made by the Commons committee tasked with studying the landmark legislation — the government has agreed to ditch its plan to cap marijuana plants maintained in a person’s home to 100 centimeters tall. MPs felt such a requirement would be too difficult to enforce. The government also accepted an amendment that would demand regulations be enacted, one year from Bill C-45’s passage, on edible cannabis products, something ignored by Liberal legislators in this bill. The government also agreed to review the bill in three years.
The bill will have to acquire the backing of an increasingly independent Senate where a plurality of members now sit as members of the Independent Senators Group (ISG) and therefore owe no loyalty to the government’s program or their Liberal colleagues in the House. Yet, based on a CBC News analysis of voting patterns, many ISG senators have shown to be faithful backers of Liberal legislation.