Canada's Cannabis Act awaits royal assent

Senators voted 52-29, with two abstentions, to pass the Cannabis Act on June 19

Julie Payette is Canada's Governor General |

At 4:20 p.m. Pacific time on June 19, Canadian senators were voting on the Cannabis Act and within minutes Bill C-45 had officially passed in the Senate in the same form that it was passed a day earlier by the House of Commons

The vote was on a motion from senator Peter Harder for the Senate to not insist on amendments.

That 52-29 vote (with two abstentions) in the Senate means that the bill now moves on to get royal assent, which is when Governor General Julie Payette will give her approval on behalf of the Queen.  

With royal assent essentially being a rubber stamp, Canada is on track to become the first G-20 country, and the first Commonwealth country, to legalize cannabis for recreational use countrywide. The only other nation in the world to do so is Uruguay.

Once the bill gets royal assent, the government will add regulations to the bill. Those regulations will include a proclamation date, or a date for which sales will be legal.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 20 told the House of Commons that the proclamation date will be October 17. Royal assent is expected to be at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time on June 21. Trudeau has arranged for a press conference to be held on June 20 at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time. 

Regulations to allow activities in the recreational-cannabis supply chain up to, but not including, sales to consumers are likely to go into effect very soon after royal assent. Those activities include packaging, labelling, transporting, delivering and stocking cannabis products.

Only after that supply chain runs smoothly and stores are ready to open with filled shelves would retail sales begin to be legal, likely in about three months, according to government projections.

It is not yet known when the B.C. government will release its regulations but the expectation is that it will reveal its timeline following Trudeau's press conference.

Consuming cannabis in Canada for recreational purposes has been illegal for the past 95 years, although using medicinal cannabis, or marijuana, became legal in Canada in 2001.