Canadian Senate approves Cannabis Act on second reading

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      Canadians holding their breath for legal cannabis can relax a little: Senators voted this afternoon that Bill C-45 be passed on to a committee for a third reading.

      Although most senators who are not members of the Conservative caucus showed support for the bill, members of the Senate's agriculture and Aboriginal people's committees were both on the road and unable to attend today’s reading.

      There was fear among independents that there would not be enough senators present to pass the bill, and they were encouraged to cancel plans and catch last-minute flights to Ottawa in an attempt to make the vote. The bill was passed with a vote of 44 to 29. 

      The Senate has been picking apart Bill C-45 since November, taking a total of 13 sessions to discuss the intricacies of the legislation during its second reading.

      Despite the vote count, numerous senators expressed their dissatisfaction with the legislation during today's reading, and brought up concerns about aspects of the bill related to young people, potential health risks, policing, international affairs, and more. 

      "The government has told Canadians three things: That our youth smoke more cannabis than teens anywhere else in the world, that it's getting worse, and that legalizing cannabis is the best and only way to solve the problem," said Sen. Judith Seidman, who is deputy chair of the upper chamber.

      "Many senators have already cast doubt on the accuracy of these assertions," she said, adding that the legislation was "starkly at odds" with notions of harm reduction.

      Sen. Thanh Hai Ngo told the Senate he was tired of the government propagating the myth that cannabis is not harmful, and said he was concerned that such statements "give tacit approval to the idea that marijuana is not addictive."

      "Legalizing a drug for people's enjoyment is absurd," he said. (Unfortunately Ngo had nothing to say about other legal substances that people enjoy, like alcohol, tobacco, or sugar.)

      Only the bill's sponsor, Sen. Tony Dean, had positive words for the bill, saying it provided a necessary end to the prohibition of cannabis.