The Senate has started to debate the legalization of cannabis, setting up a months-long showdown between proponents of Bill C-45 and those who oppose plans to open up the market by the government’s self-imposed deadline of July 1.
The sponsor of the legislation, independent senator Tony Dean, launched the proceedings on Thursday, stating the plan is the best way to deal with the significant problems caused by widespread use among teenagers and young adults.
“There is a need to implement this legislation as soon as possible,” he said in his speech. “Cannabis is harmful, easily available and frequently used by young Canadians. It’s time for us to stop looking the other way.”
However, provinces, police groups and First Nations have argued that they will not all be ready in time to deal with the consequences of legalization, calling for delays before the market opens.
A new poll from the Angus Reid Institute found two-thirds of Canadians support legalization, but that 47 per cent of respondents said the July 1 timeline should be pushed back. The online survey of 1,510 respondents was conducted between Nov. 14 and 20, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 points.
In an interview, Mr. Dean said seven months should be enough to study and adopt the bill, although some of his colleagues have doubts about how fast it can proceed through the chamber.
The Senate is increasingly hard to predict, leaving everyone guessing about whether the bill will get through Parliament in time for next Canada Day. There are 34 Conservative senators, whose colleagues voted against C-45 in the House, but the intentions of the 39 members of the independent senators group (ISG), the 15 Liberals (who are not