Bill to legalize marijuana passes second reading in Senate as Conservatives drop threat to block it

OTTAWA — The Senate has given approval in principle to the Trudeau government’s bill to legalize recreational marijuana.

Bill C-45 passed at second reading this evening by a vote of 44-29.

The approval comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reminded the senators that his government was elected on a promise to legalize recreational marijuana.

That was seen as a subtle warning that they should not attempt to thwart the will of Canadians or the government they elected.

The uncertainty was triggered by Conservative senators, who were hoping to deliver a double-barrelled embarrassment to Trudeau: upending one of his signature election promises, while demonstrating the folly of his efforts to reform the Senate into a less partisan, more independent chamber.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau said the criminal cannabis regime has not protected Canadian children, who are among the highest under-age users of marijuana in developed countries, and has put up to $7 billion every year in the pockets of organized crime.

Ordinarily, a second reading vote is not a big hurdle and is dispensed with on the basis of a quick voice vote — after which the bill is sent to committee for closer scrutiny, witness testimony and any proposed amendments before returning to the Senate for a final debate and vote.

But in the case of Bill C-45, the 33 Conservative senators had vowed to vote en masse against it at second reading.


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