Threats To Push Back The Legalization Deadline

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The issue of who should get the lion’s share of revenue from legal marijuana in Canada is already a significant bone of contention among the provinces. The proposed excise tax is estimated eventually climb to $1 billion per year, half of which was to go to the ten provinces and territories. How the funds will scatter among municipalities is up to each province, but some ministers fear they will be struggling to stay above water for the two years following legalization.

Finance ministers from across Canada met Sunday night to discuss potential tax revenues from non-medical marijuana once it is legal next July. They want more than the suggested half billion to cover the cost of policing and education. The federal government claims that it must use its share to cover some costs. However, the finance ministers are still in the dark about what exactly Ottawa will be paying for.

 

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Sunday night, Morneau was expected to enlighten his counterparts by saying that he has already committed more than $1 billion over five years towards areas like policing and border security.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said today that a reasonable compromise can be reached on how to share the tax revenue but has given no bargaining yet. “Like any negotiations, there’s going to be back and forth. I think we’re making progress.”

But, something even more disturbing was dredged up over the past 24 hours, and that’s the question of whether marijuana will be legalized by July 2018 in the first place.

 

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Conservative senators are threatening to hold up C-45 and C-46, the two bills that set the rules for legal recreational cannabis consumption. Unless the senators yield, it could be that the Canada Day deadline gets pushed back. How far back?

“I think we have to do our job properly, and that means months,” Conservative Senator Claude Carignan, the lead opposition critic, in an interview. “The House took eight months to study” the bills, he said. “It will probably take the same timeline to do our job properly.” Count in the summer recess, and that takes us at least to 2018’s end.

The costs of missing that deadline would be critical but for none more than the provinces which are already negotiating contracts with suppliers. Those suppliers are in turn are expanding their operations—through new developments and acquisitions of existing entities—ramping up production. Leases for storefronts are being drawn up. Police forces are acquiring new equipment and investing in impaired driver training.

The plan to delay marijuana legalization still faces one major obstacle. Conservative senators can only hold up legalization if other senators drag their heels on issues like divvying up the tax revenue. There aren’t enough Liberal senators to push the bill through, so the fate of legal cannabis meeting the July 2018 deadline now on the support of independent senators who have no specific political party allegiance. Prime Minister Trudeau may, in the meantime, want to fill the 11 current Senate vacancies sooner rather than later so that the cannabis bill gets all the help it can.

December 11, 2017

by Alana Armstrong

Profile photo of Alana Armstrong
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.

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