Legislation To Legalize Marijuana Passes Crucial Vote In Canada’s Senate

Canada’s efforts to legalize marijuana this year took a big step forward on Thursday as the Senate passed an amended bill, meaning that Justin Trudeau’s government can now finalize the law and open the market as planned this summer.

Bill C-45 passed by a vote of 56 to 30 with one abstention Thursday night in Ottawa. The House of Commons controlled by the Prime Minister’s Liberals can now accept the Senate’s changes or open up talks on another version that can pass both chambers, a process officials have said could happen in a matter of days.

The Senate had proposed 34 changes to the legislation that will legalize marijuana, and with so many amendments proposed the bill was expected to encounter delays and a difficult time passing a vote in the upper house of Canada’s Parliament. But quick passage of the legislation in the Senate eases the process towards full legalization of marijuana throughout Canada.

The successful Senate vote comes after six months of studying the legislation and multiple rounds of testimony from the health and justice ministers to answer questions about public safety. While it’s rare for Senators to block bills from the elected House of Commons, Prime Minister Trudeau had pressured them to make sure the law passes before Parliament’s summer break starts on June 22.

“I’m very happy to see that Bill C-45 has passed third reading,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor wrote on Twitter late Thursday. “We’re one step closer to a sensible, responsible policy on cannabis -- taking profits away from criminals and protecting our youth.”

Marijuana sales in Canada could reach $7.2 billion in 2019 according to a report from Deloitte LLP. Share prices of companies such as Canopy Growth Corp. have jumped as investors anticipate that the market will now open without a significant delay.

The majority of the amendments the Senate had proposed were technical changes, though a few such as allowing provincial governments to ban home grown marijuana plants could be more contentious.