Once again, aging legislators who’ve never been chosen by the people and who do not reflect the demographic reality of the country have thwarted the will of Parliament.
I’m talking about the Canadian Senate, of course.
Its members collect $147,700 per year while being allowed to moonlight on corporate boards, operate private companies, and collect speaking fees.
Unlike members of Parliament, these fat cats can’t be kicked out of office by the public at election time.
This is the case even if they’re charged with criminal offences, because they get to keep their well-paying jobs until they’re 75 years of age.
As a result, they’ll face no political consequences for delaying the legalization of cannabis as they continue their review of Bill C-45 until as late as June 7.
Their decision to continue picking apart the weed-regulation bill ensures that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not fulfill his promise to legalize cannabis no later than July.
Health Minister Ginette Pettipas-Taylor has said that it will take eight to 12 weeks to create a retail system after the bill receives royal assent.
If the Senate recommends amendments, that could result in a longer delay.
In the meantime, business people have borrowed money, investors have bought cannabis stocks, and most provinces have hopped into gear to create regulatory regimes to meet the July deadline.
The Trudeau government was elected in October 2015. This means it will be nearly three-quarters into its mandate before finally getting around to fulfilling its pre-election promise to legalize weed.
California has a larger population than Canada. Voters in that state decided to legalize weed more than a year after the Liberal government won a majority.
Cannabis was officially legalized in California on January 1, a process that took less than 14 months.
Yet here in Canada, unelected senators are still dithering over a marijuana-legalization bill 27 months after Trudeau became prime minister.
Full legalization might not occur until 34 months after the election…or possibly later.
It’s moved at a glacial pace to legalize a plant that’s ridiculously easy to grow. And the entire legalization process has likely cost Canadian taxpayers many more millions of dollars than the people in California spent to achieve the same outcome in less than half the time.
There’s another absurdity to this story.
Back in 2002, a Canadian Senate special committee on illegal drugs issued a report on cannabis legalization after exhaustively studying this subject.
Yes folks, the Canadian Senate has already examined this issue.
It proposed a licensing scheme to produce cannabis with a THC content of 13 percent or less.
In addition, its 55-page report endorsed amnesty for those who’ve been convicted of possession of cannabis.
Its recommendations, including amnesty, were ignored by successive federal governments.
In 2016, the first full year after Trudeau became prime minister, 17,733 people in Canada were charged with possession of cannabis.
That’s 17,733 people whose lives have been profoundly affected because elected and unelected officials couldn’t countenance people smoking a joint when even the prime minister has admitted to doing this in the past.
Even today, the Justice Department, headed by Vancouver Granville Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, refuses to direct Crown counsel to stop charging Canadians for possession of cannabis.
Before would be good. In the meantime can @JusticeCanadaEN please direct crown to stop approving charges for simple possession? Simple way to stop unjust criminalization. https://t.co/IMPvgm3wD9— KirkTousaw (@KirkTousaw) February 16, 2018
Finally earlier this year, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters that the government was considering amnesty for cannabis possession. But Goodale refused to provide a time frame or offer any details.
If this moves at the same pace as cannabis legalization, some of those with possession convictions will be dead before they can clear their name and travel without being hassled.
In 2002 the Senate committee also recommended amending the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to permit production of cannabis for personal use.
Canadians only received the right to grow marijuana for medical purposes in 2015 after a lengthy and expensive court fight.
That came 13 years after the Senate report had been issued, only thanks to the hard work of a legal team that included John Conroy and Kirk Tousaw.
What’s happening now in the Senate is a continuation of the reefer madness that has gripped this country for decades.
These senators ought to be ashamed of themselves.
But there doesn’t appear to be any shame in Canada’s unelected upper house.
Not when its members are serving on corporate boards even though their job includes reviewing legislation and making recommendations that affect Corporate Canada.
Not when one of them claimed residency in one province while holding a health card in another.
Not when they’ve been ripped to shreds by the auditor general for the way they charge expenses to taxpayers.
And certainly not as they delay legislation, ensuring more Canadians keep getting charged for consuming a product that’s far less harmful than the alcohol that some of these same senators enjoy during their lengthy breaks.