Cabinet mum on pot bill changes as provinces ask for homegrow ban

The Quebec and Manitoba governments have formally asked the Trudeau Liberals to accept the Senate’s change to the cannabis legalization bill that allows provinces to ban Canadians in their own jurisdictions from growing pot at home.

“We invite the federal government to hear the voice of the Senate to avoid burdening citizens with the cost of unnecessary court challenges,” said a joint statement signed by Jean-Marc Fournier, Quebec’s minister for Canadian relations, and Heather Stefanson, Manitoba’s minister of justice.For the moment, the federal cabinet is staying mum on how exactly it feels about how the Senate has changed the bill.

Several ministers said they plan to work through the weekend to sort through the dozens of amendments and plan to have a response “as soon as possible.”

The Senate passed Bill C-45 at third reading Thursday night, with 46 amendments. Many of them are technical, but some – like allowing provinces to ban home growing, publicly listing pot investors and company owners, and banning cannabis company branded merchandise – might be hard for the government to swallow.

Before it is turned into law, the two chambers will have to work out an agreement over the Senate’s changes to bill.

When asked by reporters, two key ministers defended the original decision to allow all Canadians to grow pot at home when the bill was first drafted. But neither would explicitly say whether the Senate’s change to jurisdictional control over home growing crosses the line.Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould told reporters Friday the Liberal government “set out a framework in C-45 that ensures safe access across the country to a legal source of cannabis.”

“That includes home cultivation,” she said. “We took great heed of the recommendations of the task force and all the consultations.”

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the government feels “very confident that we had a very good piece of legislation.”

The plan now is to go through each amendment.“Then from there, within the next coming week or so, we’ll be able to make a decision regarding which amendments we’re going to accept and which we won’t.”

Conservative MP Gerard Deltell said allowing people to grow at home is not a good policy and it should be up to each province to decide if it’s something that should be permitted.“Children will have access directly to these stupid things [pot plants],” he said. “Quebec … said no, so we wish the government will follow that recommendation.”

Meanwhile, NDP MP Don Davies slammed the Red Chamber for making any changes to the bill.“I’m disappointed that the unelected Senate has seen fit to amend a bill that went through really rigorous examination in the House of Commons,” he said.

Government House leader Bardish Chagger said it will be at least early next week before MPs could respond to the Senate.“If we work overtime, like we’ve already been doing, the earliest we’ll probably be is late Monday that we’d be able to put something on notice, and we will continue to try to maximize our time here.”

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