Senate could sit into summer to pass marijuana bills

The Senate is prepared to extend its session into the summer to pass the two pieces of legislation that will make recreational cannabis use legal.

'We will sit 'til it's done,' government Senate representative says

Sen. Peter Harder says it's important for the chamber to pass marijuana legalization before adjourning for the summer. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Trudeau government's representative in the Senate says the chamber will extend its session into the summer if that's what it takes to pass two new laws to regulate recreational cannabis use.

Sen. Peter Harder told CBC Radio's The House he's made it clear to his colleagues that bills C-45 and C-46 must be passed before the chamber breaks for the summer.

"We will sit 'til it's done," he said.

"We have an obligation as a Senate to deal with the legislation that's before us before we take a summer break." 

Currently, both the primary legislation and the accompanying drug-impaired driving bill are before Senate committees.

Earlier this week, MP Bill Blair, the Liberal government's point man on pot, said recreational cannabis use will become legal even if the impaired driving law gets hung up in the Senate.

Bill C-46 contains new offences for different levels of drug impairment and gives police the authority to use roadside saliva tests to determine if drivers have drugs in their system.

Time is tight

Harder said he doesn't think the Senate has to consider passing Bill C-45 alone.

"I believe that both bills ought to be passed by the Senate before we rise for the summer."

The drug-impaired driving legislation has been in committee since December, while the main marijuana bill was referred to a Senate committee at the end of March after passing a 44–29 vote.

The Government's Representative in the Senate Peter Harder says he will have the Senate sit as long as it takes to pass both government cannabis bills. 1:08

However, the Senate faces a narrow time window for getting the two bills to the floor. The upper chamber is only scheduled to sit for another six weeks and the final vote on C-45 is expected on or before June 7, with legalization expected to follow eight to 12 weeks later.

Further delays could still happen. Members of the Senate's Aboriginal peoples committee recommended last week that the Liberal government hold off on legalization for up to a year in order to address its potential for harmful effects in Indigenous communities.

The committee's report on C-45 said that the government simply did not consult enough with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities before pushing ahead with its plan to legalize the drug.


Listen to the full interview with Senator Peter Harder Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on CBC Radio's The House.

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