Legislation of Cannabis in Canada: Bill C-45’s Legislative Journey

After years of uncertainty, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally brought to life his popular 2015 Federal Election promise: to legalization marijuana.

On October 17th, 2018 Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis was passed, legalizing marijuana for recreation use across Canada.

Sponsored by Liberal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, the enactment of Bill C-45 enacts the Cannabis Act to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale.

The General Objectives of the Act include:

  • The prevention of youth from accessing cannabis.
  • The protection of public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements.
  • Deterrence of criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework
  • The reduction of the burden placed on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.

Like every other Bill that makes its way through Parliament, it is first passed through the House of Commons, then the Senate in such premediated order.

Photo credit: Senate of Canada

Here is a timeline of important dates of Bill C-45’s legislative journey through the House of Commons and the Senate.

Starting in the House of Commons;

April 2017

Introduction + First Reading

  • Bill C-45 was first introduced by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould alongside Health Minister Jane Philott, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, as well as the parliamentary secretary Bill Blair.

September 2017

Second Reading + referral to committee

  • Amended by HOC health committee, more than 100 witnesses came forth to give their testimony to the house.
  • MP’s from all affiliations agreed on over 20 technical changes, such as height restrictions on home-grown plants.

November 2017

Third Reading + Concurrence at report stage

  • Concurrence on Standing Committee on Health report presented.
  • Legislation passed by HOC on a vote of 200 to 82.

Moving onto the Senate;

November 2017

First reading + Introduction

  • Introduced by Sen. Tony Dean, he informed the Senate that a message had been received from the HOC in regard to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.

February 2018

Second reading + Debate

  • Concerns regarding health effects on developing young adults and teens, cannabis in the workplace, etc, are brought forward.
  • Special televised question hearing casted.

March 2018

Second reading continues

  • Referral to Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology Report presented with amendments.
  • Committee report adopted.
  • Scrutiny is received by the Aboriginals Peoples Committee, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the National Security and Defence Committee, as well as the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee.
  • Senate passes Bill C-45 onto the Committee Stage with a vote of 44 to 29.

May 2018

Brought back before the Senate

  • Bill C-45 is brought back by the Senate Social Affairs Committee before the Senate with over 40 amendments.
  • One of the significant amendments being the allowance of Premieres to ban home-growing marijuana in their province/territory if they wish to.

June 2018

Third Reading + Sent back to House of Commons + Concluded Amendments

  • Following the third reading, the Senate concluded its amendments and sent them back to the HOC.
  • The HOC accepted most of the Senate’s changes, however it rejected the allowance of Premieres to ban the home-growing of marijuana in their province/territory is they wish to.
  • HOC sends changes back to senate.

While these changes were being made, the Senate made sure to keep the audience of Canada updated via Twitter.

June 19th, 2018

The Passing of Bill C-45

  • Bill C-45, Cannabis Act was passed by a vote of 52 to 29.
  • There were only two abstentions from two Independent senators from Quebec, Sen. Marie-Françoise Mégie and Sen. Rosa Galvez.
  • The bill is now awaiting royal assent.
Photo credit: Dr. Random Factor

June 21st, 2018

Royal Assent

  • The bill receives royal assent.
  • In other words, it is the final stamp of approval by the Sovereign.
  • It in is this stage where a bill becomes an act of Parliament, thus, an official law of Canada.

October 17th, 2018


  • As it was first announced by Trudeau in June, marijuana is officially legalized.
  • Any illegal dispensaries that remain open past this date are subject to fines up to $1 million, with absolutely no chance of possessing a legal licence in the future.