To riff off a song made famous in the 1969 movie, Easy Rider: don’t bogart that bill, my friend.
The Senate could get no better advice than that on the act to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.
The senators have already delayed passage of Bill C-45 for too long. They debated and amended the proposed legislation for almost seven months before sending it back to the government for approval last week.
The government announced Wednesday that it would accept more than half the Senate’s amendments. The rest it rightly rejected.
When the bill goes back to the Senate, perhaps as early as Thursday, its members should swiftly pass it.
Senators have already had plenty of input into this legislation, passed by an elected Commons. Any further delay runs counter to the spirit of sober second thought and serves only to thwart the will of the people and the democratic process.
After all, the Liberal’s campaign promise to legalize pot was supported by some 65 per cent of Canadians.
And there is a high cost in further delaying this long overdue legislation. Police and the courts currently find themselves in a bind, legally bound to enforce a prohibition that they know will soon end. Meanwhile, gang-run black markets continue to prosper from it.
The government had good reasons for not accepting all the amendments.
For example, the Senate proposed giving provinces and territories the right to ban home cultivation of marijuana. That’s something Quebec, Manitoba and Nunavut requested.
But home cultivation of up to four plants is a key component in the government’s push to dismantle the black market. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is right to stand by it.
The Liberals also rejected the Senate’s proposed ban on promotional items such as T-shirts and hats that display logos of marijuana producers.
The act already includes limits on promotion and further restrictions would be tough to enforce and may be an unnecessary constraint on freedom of expression.
Finally, the government is refusing the Senate’s amendment to establish a public registry of all cannabis companies’ directors, officers, controlling parent corporations and trusts. The intent is to keep organized crime members from taking over the legal market.
But the government argues, convincingly, that the legislation already gives it expanded powers to require security clearances and that this amendment simply raises privacy concerns.
As Trudeau said on Wednesday, it’s time the Senate stopped interfering with the will of the House. It should pass Bill C-45, so that it can receive Royal Assent by week’s end.
And while it’s at it, the Senate should also quickly pass the accompanying act, Bill C-46. That one tightens rules on impaired driving related to both marijuana and alcohol use. The Senate has been studying — if not obstructing — that bill, too, since last November.
It’s imperative for safety on the roads that this bill be passed before the government rolls out legal cannabis, which is scheduled to happen eight to 12 weeks after Bill C-45 receives Royal Assent.
The Senate must stop bogarting both of these bold and long overdue pieces of legislation. Canadians are waiting.
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