Ministers to defend cannabis legalization in televised Senate meeting

Three Liberal cabinet ministers will defend the government’s cannabis legislation to members of the Red Chamber Tuesday as the self-imposed legalization deadline of July 1 fast approaches.

The ministers will appear before a committee of the whole inside the Senate. In an unusual move, senators have allowed television cameras to capture the proceedings. will carry it live starting at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Bill Blair, the parliamentary secretary tasked with seeing the cannabis bill passed, will field questions for two hours from senators.

The legislation passed through the House of Commons, largely along partisan lines, but the Senate has proven to be a more tricky chamber to navigate with some Conservative senators signalling they will do all they can to stall the bill’s passage.

Some provincial officials and law enforcement agencies have said they will not be ready for legal cannabis by July 1, and, thus, the Tories believe implementation should be delayed by at least year to allow the other levels of government to play catch-up.

The legislation, as currently written, stipulates the legislation does not come into force until a date is fixed by an order of the governor in council (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet).

Defenders of the bill, including its sponsor in the Senate, Tony Dean, say the government does not have the luxury of time as illegal cannabis use will continue unabated — a $ 7-billion industry, according to government research, that funnels funds into the hands of organized crime — without the benefit of federal regulations.

The government maintains the prohibitionist approach has done little to stop young Canadians from using the drug, and does not protect the health and wellness of Canadians.

Independent Senate officials, speaking to CBC News on background, have said there is an openness to using time allocation, a procedural tool used to shut down debate and move to a vote, if Conservatives prevent the bill’s passage in a timely manner.

Marijuana Legalization 20170413

Jody Wilson-Raybould, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada and Jane Philpott, then-minister of health listen to parliamentary secretary Bill Blair respond to a question after announcing the legalization of marijuana during a news conference in 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

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