Trudeau bat­tles prov­inces, Se­nate for right of Cana­di­ans to grow cannabis

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - DANIEL LEBLANC PAR­LIA­MEN­TARY REPORTER OT­TAWA

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has em­barked on a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle with the Se­nate and a po­ten­tial le­gal fight with Que­bec and Man­i­toba in or­der to give all Cana­di­ans the right to grow their own cannabis.

Mr. Trudeau and his gov­ern­ment for­mally re­jected the Se­nate’s key amend­ment to Bill C-45 on Wed­nes­day, vow­ing to pro­ceed with a regime for le­gal cannabis that will al­low adult Cana­di­ans to have up to four plants at home.

The Se­nate, which is a pro­tec­tor of pro­vin­cial rights, wanted to con­firm that Que­bec and Man­i­toba would have the abil­ity to pro­hibit home cul­ti­va­tion.

Be­fore a cau­cus meet­ing, Mr. Trudeau as­serted the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity for cre­at­ing rules that will push or­ga­nized crime out of the cannabis mar­ket.

Health Canada is li­cens­ing the com­pa­nies that will pro­duce recre­ational cannabis, but Mr. Trudeau does not want to crim­i­nal­ize those peo­ple who grow small quan­ti­ties at home.

“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 told re­porters.

“We have heard what the sen­a­tors had to say on this mat­ter, but we will go ahead with the rec­om­men­da­tions from ex­perts.”

The gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion could prompt a power strug­gle be­tween the House of Com­mons and the Se­nate in com­ing days.

The 32-mem­ber Con­ser­va­tive cau­cus in the Se­nate will con­tinue to fight for the prov­inces’ right to pro­hibit home cul­ti­va­tion, but it re­mains un­clear how the 46 mem­bers of the In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tors Group will re­act.

Con­ven­tion has it that the Se­nate will ul­ti­mately de­fer to the House of Com­mons and will not refuse to pass a bill, es­pe­cially one that ful­fills an elec­tion prom­ise. The case of Bill C-45 could be a test of that con­ven­tion.

None of the sen­a­tors ap­pointed by Mr. Trudeau voted against the bill, in­clud­ing two who were sworn in the day of the vote.

“We have time in front of us,” said in­de­pen­dent se­na­tor An­dré Pratte, who had pro­posed the amend­ment on home cul­ti­va­tion.

In­de­pen­dent se­na­tor Tony Dean, who spon­sored Bill C-45 in the Se­nate, said he was dis­ap­pointed by the re­jec­tion of the amend­ment, while de­fend­ing the gov­ern­ment’s right to de­sign a new pro­duc­tion sys­tem.

“My view on this is that at the end of the day, gov­ern­ment makes de­ci­sions and they are the de­ci­sion maker in our con­text. Im­por­tantly, ac­count­abil­ity goes along with that; the gov­ern­ment is re­spon­si­ble for the bill and its out­comes,” Mr. Dean said.

Say­ing it will be hard to po­lice, Que­bec and Man­i­toba have both de­cided to pro­hibit home cul­ti­va­tion in their re­spec­tive leg­is­la­tion deal­ing with recre­ational cannabis. This nearly guar­an­tees that the mat­ter will even­tu­ally end up in front of the courts.

“If there is a le­gal bat­tle to wage, we will wage it,” Que­bec Health Min­is­ter Lu­cie Charlebois told re­porters in Que­bec City.

Fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Ginette Petit­pas Tay­lor said Bill C-45 needs to be har­mo­nized with laws deal­ing with al­co­hol, tobacco and medical mar­i­juana.

“Cana­di­ans can grow their own tobacco and make their own beer and wine at home. … Peo­ple can al­ready grow cannabis for medical pur­poses. We think it is log­i­cal for the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to be con­sis­tent when it comes to recre­ational cannabis,” she told re­porters.

Ms. Petit­pas Tay­lor said that if in­di­vid­ual prov­inces want to im­pose fur­ther re­stric­tions on home cul­ti­va­tion, they have the nec­es­sary lee­way to make up their own rules, within cer­tain lim­its.

“Prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries have the right to bring down the num­ber to one plant for home cul­ti­va­tion,” she said.

Ms. Petit­pas Tay­lor de­clined to spec­u­late on the Se­nate’s re­ac­tion to the gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal to ac­cept its amend­ment on home cul­ti­va­tion.

“I hope they will ac­cept the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion,” she said. “I can­not com­ment on some­thing that may or may not hap­pen.”

The Con­ser­va­tive sen­a­tors will try to con­vince Lib­eral and in­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors to stick to their guns, es­pe­cially on home cul­ti­va­tion and ef­forts to force more trans­parency on the iden­tity of in­vestors in the cannabis in­dus­try. On home cul­ti­va­tion, Con­ser­va­tive Se­na­tor Claude Carig­nan said the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion will only lead to un­nec­es­sary court bat­tles with Que­bec and Man­i­toba.

“It’s one of our key re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in the Se­nate to de­fend the pow­ers of the prov­inces, it’s a fun­da­men­tal is­sue,” he said. There have been a num­ber of po­lit­i­cal bat­tles be­tween the House and the Se­nate in re­cent months, but the one over cannabis stands to be the most closely watched as Ot­tawa seeks to lift the pro­hi­bi­tion on the drug that goes back to 1923.

The date for the vote in the House on Bill C-45 has not been set.

On home cul­ti­va­tion, Con­ser­va­tive Se­na­tor Claude Carig­nan said the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion will only lead to un­nec­es­sary court bat­tles with Que­bec and Man­i­toba.

CHRISTO­PHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Peo­ple look over The Na­tive Seed Co. booth at a con­fer­ence in Toronto on Fri­day. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is vow­ing to pro­ceed with a regime for le­gal cannabis that will al­low adult Cana­di­ans to have up to four plants at home.

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