March 12th, 2018
Canadians will have to wait until at least early August and possibly as late as early September to legally purchase recreational marijuana. That’s the bottom line now that senators have struck a deal to hold a final vote by June 7 on the legislation that will usher in the legal cannabis regime. As recently as last week, the Trudeau government was insisting it was on track for legalization in July. But given the Senate timetable, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor conceded Thursday that’s not going to happen.
“If you do the math, you can certainly see it certainly won’t be July 2018,” she said.
Assuming Bill C-45 is passed by the Senate by June 7, royal assent would follow almost immediately. But it would take another two or three months before legal weed was actually available for purchase. That’s because, as Petitpas Taylor reiterated Thursday, provincial and territorial governments need eight to 12 weeks following royal assent to prepare for retail sales. In other words, legal pot won’t be available until at least early August, and possibly not until a month later. Petitpas Taylor said legal cannabis will go on sale in all provinces and territories at the same time, which suggests if just one of them requires the full 12 weeks to get ready, they’ll all have to wait.
As part of the deal struck by Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, with other Senate factions, initial debate on Bill C-45 will continue until March 22. That’s three weeks beyond the deadline Harder announced earlier this week, when he threatened to move a motion to cut off second reading debate if senators didn’t agree voluntarily to end it by March 1. However, the additional three weeks includes a two-week parliamentary break so, in reality, senators will get just an extra three days of debate.