Canada: Justin Trudeau says legalization will happen this summer, despite calls from senators to delay

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that recreational cannabis use will be legal by summer as promised in his campaign, despite the fact that a number of senators are urging the Liberal government to delay legalization for up to a year for further consultation with Indigenous communities.

“We have been working with our partners across the country to make this happen and we are going to be moving forward with summer on the legalization of cannabis,” he said.

"Obviously, as I've said many times, this is not an event, this is a process, and we will continue to work with our partners in the municipalities, in provinces and Indigenous leadership in communities to make sure we're doing this right and moving forward in a responsible way."

The Senate’s Aboriginal peoples committee has been reviewing Bill C-45 since the Bill was approved in Principle by the Senate earlier this year. The committee believes the government should be careful in taking to time create culturally sensitive materials available to warn Indigenous communities about the dangers associated with consuming cannabis and to negotiate a revenue-sharing deal with First Nations governments to make sure they are getting a part of the millions of dollars anticipated from taxes on legal cannabis.

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“Many communities are really worried about the potential adverse effects on their members and especially on their youth, and it may be even worse because of the trauma in their communities,” said Sen. Lillian Dyck, Chair of the Aboriginal peoples committee.

The committee said in its report on Bill C-45 that government did not consult with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities thoroughly enough before pushing legalization ahead.

The committee has also heard from witnesses that the public education campaign the government currently has in place on cannabis is inadequate and is too close to the proposed legalization date. The committee argues that this is not enough time for people to learn about its harmful effects before cannabis is legal.

However, the Prime Minister is of a different opinion and believes that the country is prepared for legalization to roll out this summer.

“The decision and the way we have chosen to move forward are based on months, if not years, of consultations with experts and looking at best practices around the world and looking at the best way to eliminate criminal elements.”

The Senate’s leaders have agreed to a third reading vote on the Bill on or before June 7. If the bill is amended in any way, the House of Commons will have to accept the changes before they can take effect. The federal government has said that full legalization of recreational cannabis will follow eight to 12 weeks after the bill is passed to allow the provinces to prepare.

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