Sen­a­tors con­sider a home­grown show­down


Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA - MAURA FOR­REST

OT­TAWA • Sen­a­tors are weigh­ing the pros and cons of a show­down with the House of Com­mons over the govern­ment’s re­jec­tion of a num­ber of Sen­ate amend­ments to the cannabis le­gal­iza­tion bill, in­clud­ing one that would have al­lowed prov­inces to ban home­grown mar­i­juana.

While some sen­a­tors ar­gue the govern­ment’s in­sis­tence on le­gal­iz­ing home cul­ti­va­tion paves the way for a con­sti­tu­tional fight with the prov­inces, oth­ers say they must con­sider whether the is­sue is worth a pos­si­ble im­passe be­tween the Sen­ate and the Com­mons.

On Wed­nes­day, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to al­low a lim­ited num­ber of home­grown plants was based on ex­pert rec­om­men­da­tions, and ac­cused the Con­ser­va­tives of try­ing to de­lay the bill.

“It’s been months that An­drew Scheer, the Con­ser­va­tive leader, has been telling his Sen­ate cau­cus … to play games to slow this down, to in­ter­fere with the will of the House … and it’s time that he stopped us­ing his sen­a­tors this way,” he said.

Scheer was quick to re­ject the ac­cu­sa­tion, point­ing out that the Con­ser­va­tives don’t con­trol the Com­mons or the Sen­ate. “If the prime min­is­ter is up­set about the pace of leg­is­la­tion, he needs to talk to his own House lead­er­ship team and his Sen­ate lead­er­ship team,” Scheer told re­porters.

Last month, a Sen­ate com­mit­tee made a unan­i­mous rec­om­men­da­tion that the cannabis le­gal­iza­tion bill, C-45, should be amended to af­firm prov­inces’ right to ban home cul­ti­va­tion of mar­i­juana. Que­bec, Man­i­toba and Nu­navut all plan to pro­hibit home­grown cannabis, though the fed­eral law al­lows home cul­ti­va­tion of up to four plants.

The amend­ment was one of nearly four dozen changes the Sen­ate made to the bill, which was sent back to the Com­mons last week.

On Wed­nes­day, Health Min­is­ter Ginette Petit­pas Tay­lor said the govern­ment would not ac­cept the change. “Cana­di­ans are al­lowed to make beer at home, or wine, and some Cana­di­ans grow to­bacco,” she said. “It’s al­ready pos­si­ble for Cana­di­ans to grow cannabis for med­i­cal pur­poses, and we ab­so­lutely be­lieve that the leg­is­la­tion should be con­sis­tent when it comes to recre­ational cannabis.” She said prov­inces have the right to re­strict the num­ber of home­grown cannabis plants to fewer than four.

Sen­a­tors were quick to reg­is­ter their dis­ap­point­ment, with Con­ser­va­tive Sen. Claude Carig­nan ac­cus­ing the govern­ment of “us­ing the cannabis file to open a big le­gal fight and con­sti­tu­tional fight with the prov­inces.”

“If (the prov­inces) con­clude that is it bet­ter, more easy to en­force pro­hi­bi­tion on home cul­ti­va­tion, I think you should re­spect that choice,” said in­de­pen­dent Sen. An­dré Pratte.

But it’s un­clear how hard the Sen­ate is willing to push back. Once the House of Com­mons votes on the plan, sen­a­tors could vote to ac­cept the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion, or could in­sist on their amend­ments and send the bill back to the House once more.

Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, leader of the in­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors’ group, said he wants to hear a more de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion for why the amend­ments were re­jected.

“It’s too early to talk about po­lit­i­cal show­downs and we’re not in the busi­ness of po­lit­i­cal show­downs,” he told re­porters. “We are dis­ap­pointed, but this is not a per­sonal dis­ap­point­ment.”

He said those sen­a­tors who sup­port Bill C-45 will have to weigh the ben­e­fits of le­gal­iza­tion against the im­por­tance of the amend­ments.


Ginette Petit­pas Tay­lor


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