A man protests Canada's laws against marijuana during a 4/20 demo on Parliament Hill. The Cannabis Act legalising recreational use of cannabis enters into force on Oct. 17, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

To pot, or not, Senate amendments to Canada’s cannabis law

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The Canadian Senate has proposed several amendments to the government’s plan to legalise recreational cannabis use this year.

An amendment to entirely ban the possibility of growing marijuana at home was proposed was put forward. The Senate social affairs committee rejected that, but did vote in favour of another amendment which leaves the door open for provinces and territories to propose their own ban on the growing of “pot” at home.

Currently the proposed federal law C-45 would allow for the growing of up to five plants in a single dwelling.

Both Manitoba and Quebec have announced that they will prohibit any home grown marijuana.

This could in theory result in legal challenges to the provincial laws as federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had stated to the committee in April that federal law would prevail in any legal challenges.

There would seem to be some confusion as later in April a justice ministry spokesperson said their position was unchanged, “It is not the intention of the federal government, with respect to home cultivation, to challenge provincial laws”.

Liberal MP, Bill Blair, former Toronto police chief and now parliamentary secretary to the Ministers of Health and Justice, appeared before the committee suggesting any delays by the Senate would be counterproductive.

A number of Senators, outside experts, and indigenous groups have said that more time is needed to work out various details and consultations with concerned parties.

In his appearance Monday, Blair would not speculate on whether Parliament would reject the Senate’s amendment allowing provinces to ban growing weed at home, saying instead municipalities would be able to regulate home cultivation through such things as issuing of permits, or zoning limitations. He also said that employers would not be given powers to randomly test for marijuana use, saying “in my opinion this is not part of the Cannabis  Act.

The Senate also voted in favour of an amendment to remove penalties for sharing of cannabis between friends if one of them is under legal age.

A final Senate vote on amendments will take place June 7.

The government of Justin Trudeau hopes the law will come into effect shortly after Parliament votes on Senate amendments.

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