The government’s plan to legalize marijuana by this summer remains on track.
After a tense day of uncertainty over whether the Liberals could garner enough support from independent senators to defeat a Conservative effort to kill the bill, Bill C-45 passed second reading on Thursday night.
It is now headed to committee, where it is expected to face scathing reviews by Conservative senators.
The vote came down to a thin 44-29 margin of victory.
While Liberals had the numbers to pass the legislation in the House of Commons even if the NDP had not voted with them to support the bill, the same was not true for the situation in the Senate.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked Liberal senators out of his caucus in 2014 and has appointed only independent senators since his election in 2015.
While there are still 11 senators who call themselves Liberals, they are not formally aligned with the party and the other 43 members of the Independent Senators Group cannot be whipped into supporting or even attending a vote on a government bill.
The 33 Conservative senators, however, generally vote in a bloc and with roughly a dozen mainly Independent senators travelling for committee work at the moment, it was unclear up until the vote happened whether the government would be able to get enough votes to move the bill forward.
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That has now happened – but things may only get messier from here.
C-45, which was introduced in April 2017 and referred to the Senate in November 2017, would be a fulfilment of one of the Liberal government’s core campaign planks.
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However, Conservative opposition to the proposal to legalize marijuana has been fierce and senators from the caucus are expected to hammer the bill and attempt to introduce significant amendments as it moves through examination by committee.
The deadline for the Senate to pass the legislation, as agreed upon by Senate leaders and the government, is June 7.
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