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Politics Cannabis bill is back in the Senate for next vote

The Senate is heading for what could be the final vote on Bill C-45 to legalize cannabis, as independent senators are considering giving in to the government on the historic piece of legislation.

“This is an election-platform commitment, it is a major government bill. I think, at the end of the day, the Senate recognizes the primacy of the elected body,” independent senator Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said in an interview. “I would lean toward getting this done and moving on.”

The next vote in the Senate could come as early as Tuesday. The caucus of 32 Conservative senators is opposed to Bill C-45, but the Independent Senators Group (46 members), the independent Liberals (11 members) and the seven unaffiliated senators don’t vote as blocks.

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The government has continued to appoint new senators in recent weeks, including Nova Scotia’s Colin Deacon last Friday. None of the 37 senators appointed by Mr. Trudeau since 2015 have voted against Bill C-45.

After much debate, independent senator André Pratte, who proposed the amendment on home cultivation, has decided there would be nothing to gain from a prolonged confrontation with the government.

“The solution now is for the provinces to take this matter to court, where they face good odds of winning,” he said.

On Monday, the House of Commons voted 205 to 82 to reject key Senate amendments to the proposed legislation, including one that would have allowed provinces to ban home cultivation of cannabis plants.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear last week he was not willing to compromise on the matter.

“We’re making the changes to keep Canadians safe and one of the strong recommendations by experts was that we ensure personal cultivation of four plants at home,” Mr. Trudeau said. “We have heard what the senators had to say on this matter, but we will go ahead with the recommendations from experts.”

If Bill C-45 is adopted this week in Parliament, the legal market for cannabis will likely open up in early or mid-September, according to Bill Blair, the Liberal MP who is the parliamentary secretary to the ministers of Health and Justice.

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Still, the Senate will have another opportunity this week to try and reinstate some or all of the amendments that were rejected by the House of Commons.

The governments of Quebec and Manitoba want to prevent their citizens from growing cannabis at home, arguing the measure would be too complex to enforce.

Conservative senator Claude Carignan said he will continue to fight to give provinces the right to prohibit home cultivation.

“The federal government says that it believes in co-operative federalism, yet it is clearly encroaching on provincial jurisdiction in this case,” he said.

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