Distinguished members of this committee, on behalf of director Mario Harel, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, I am pleased today to be given the opportunity to meet with you. In addition to my role as deputy chief of the Abbotsford Police Department, I am chair of the CACP drug advisory committee. I am joined by York regional deputy police chief, Thomas Carrique, who is chair of the organized crime committee, and Lara Malashenko, a member of the CACP law amendments committee and legal counsel for the Ottawa Police Service.
The mandate of the CACP is safety and security for all Canadians through innovative police leadership. This mandate is accomplished through the activities and special projects of some 20 CACP committees and through active liaison with various levels of government. Ensuring the safety of our citizens and our communities is central to the mission of our membership and their police services. Bill is a comprehensive bill, and we will address it from a high level in our opening statement. In addition to our appearance today, we are providing you with a detailed written brief for your consideration.
Our role from the beginning has been to share our expertise with the government to help mitigate the impact of this legislation on public safety. Extensive discussions within the CACP membership and various committees form the basis of our advice. We participated in a number of government-held consultations and provided a submission to the federal task force. We produced two discussion papers, entitled “CACP: Recommendations of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation” on February 8, 2017, and “Government Introduces Legislation to Legalize Cannabis” on April 28, 2017. Themes from both discussion papers have been included in our written brief.
Police leadership across Canada identified seven key themes specific to this bill that impact policing. These are: training and the impact on police resourcing, personal cultivation and possession, organized crime, medical marijuana, packaging and labelling, return of property, and youth and public education. Police leadership also identified that drug-impaired driving and our ability to effectively manage it will impact policing. However, we will leave this theme to be addressed under Bill .
We would like to acknowledge the announcement made by the federal government on September 8, 2017 with respect to the allocation of funding. We are interested in learning the details related to the distribution of funds dedicated to our federal, provincial, and municipal police resources. We wish to emphasize that administering police services requires the necessary training, tools, and technology to assist with addressing public safety concerns, and disrupting the involvement of organized crime in the illicit cannabis market.
In order to support the successful implementation of this comprehensive legislation, the CACP urges the Government of Canada to first consider extending the July 2018 commencement date to allow police services to obtain sufficient resources and proper training, both of which are critical to the successful implementation of the proposed . Second, we ask that an established legislative framework be put in place prior to legalization that will provide law enforcement with clear direction and assistance regarding funding and training. Third, provide sufficient detail to allow law enforcement to assess the availability of funding, recognizing the need for a more standardized and consistent approach among provinces and territories, vis-à-vis the implementation of police resources necessary for the legalization of marijuana, and the need to obtain further guidance regarding the training of front-line officers, which would include plant seizure and identification of illicit cannabis. Fourth, increase funding for public education and youth programs and the issuance of tickets under the ticketing provisions of the act. Fifth, due to the foreseeable concerns surrounding personal cultivation and enforcement, we ask the provisions permitting adults to grow up to four marijuana plants be revoked. The CACP predicts that these provisions would be problematic to enforce, would provide additional opportunities for the illegal sale of marijuana, and would pose a further risk to youth due to increased exposure and accessibility.
We were pleased to see in the September 8, 2017 announcement that Finance Canada will consult on a new tax regime on cannabis. This is critically important because, despite the proposed , organized crime will continue to look for opportunities to exploit the market and to profit. We will continue to advocate that the cost of legal cannabis remain as low, or lower, than cannabis sold on the black market in order to discourage price undercutting and illicit sales. We would also ask the federal government to enact strict security clearance requirements, which would ensure that criminal organizations do not become involved as licensed growers, which has been observed under the medical regime.
Police agencies must prioritize drug investigations on the basis of public safety. It is well documented that many police agencies are currently concentrating on the opioids that are responsible for an unprecedented number of overdose deaths. However, it is important, as we move to a regulated regime for cannabis, to recognize that strict enforcement is necessary at the onset to protect youth and help disrupt organized crime.
While the commitment made on September 8 to provide funding to policing to enforce a proposed is positive, questions still remain in regard to how this money will be allocated. We wish to reiterate that dedicated police cannabis enforcement teams are necessary to disrupt organized crime and keep cannabis out of the hands of our youth.
Given the infiltration of organized crime into the medical marijuana industry, the CACP recommends merging the with the access to cannabis for medical purposes regulations to avoid confusion, to align the efforts of Health Canada and law enforcement agencies, and to limit organized crime activity by reducing the number of licensed producers and distributors.
The CACP recommends that packaging requirements be stringent, in order to provide clear labelling to allow police to identify between legal and illegal cannabis, and to give users adequate information to make informed choices about their cannabis consumption. We further recommend that labelling include notice regarding penalties for providing cannabis to youth as a further protection mechanism and deterrent.
The CACP has concerns regarding the return of property provisions that appear to require the police to maintain and return seized cannabis plants. Police services across Canada do not have the facilities or resources to accomplish this. Accordingly, we ask the act to address these concerns by relieving police services of any responsibility associated with the deterioration of seized cannabis plants or having to provide compensation.
Lastly, there should be a continued focus on protecting youth through education and other non-Criminal Code means. The cannabis act, for example, will permit youth to possess or social-share five grams or less, which is inconsistent with the bill's intended objectives. Examples from Colorado and Washington have demonstrated that legalization may encourage increased marijuana consumption among youth. Therefore, police-driven education on the effects of marijuana use is critical to discourage consumption by youth.
Our recommendations are not intended to dispute the government's intention of restricting, regulating, and legalizing cannabis use in Canada. Instead, we bring these issues forward because the answers remain unknown. We are concerned about the impact of this act and, as previously stated, we have the responsibility to mitigate the impact on public safety, which is our primary goal from a policing perspective.
We certainly commend the government for its commitment to consultation with stakeholders and the public. We also commend the efforts of ministers, parliamentarians, and public servants who are dedicated to bring forward the most comprehensive legislation with a mutual goal of putting forward a responsible framework prior to legalization and recognizing that the world is watching Canada throughout this process.
In the interests of public safety and preserving the quality of life that we are fortunate to enjoy in Canada, we appreciate the opportunity to share our crime prevention and law enforcement experience with the government. We recognize that illicit drugs are a global issue that dramatically affects local communities, families, and individuals. As the world watches Canada throughout this complex process, we are committed to working with the government and the Canadian public to ensure that comprehensive regulations that mitigate the public safety concerns associated with cannabis are established prior to legalization. We support many of the overall goals of the act while recognizing that other stakeholders are better equipped to provide specialized knowledge in the area of public health and in social services. We also support efforts to deter and reduce criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those breaking the law, especially those who import and export cannabis and who provide cannabis to youth.
Sincere thanks are extended to all members of this committee for allowing the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police the opportunity to offer comment and suggestions on Bill . We look forward to answering your questions.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, and thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee here today.
As Ontario's provincial police service, the OPP has a unique mandate. The OPP delivers front-line policing services to more than 70% of Ontario municipalities, which is over 13 million people. It is also responsible for a wide array of programs and services for the province, including criminal investigation, technical expertise, indigenous policing, traffic safety, and specialized response. In particular, the investigations and organized crime command is dedicated to safeguarding Ontario's communities against those individuals or groups involved in organized and serious crime. We are committed to engagement and education augmented by enforcement to reduce harm and victimization.
In preparation for the proposed Bill , it is important to consider the impact this act will have on policing operations across the country. As a member of the CACP, the OPP supports the comments and recommendations presented here by our esteemed colleagues. My remarks today will focus on those key elements within the legislation that are most alarming for the Ontario Provincial Police and could, if not implemented in a strategic and staged approach, compromise the safety and well-being of Ontarians.
The first subject I would like to address is the cultivation of cannabis within the home. The OPP is concerned about the impact home production will have on our communities and does not support the federal approach of growing up to four cannabis plants per residence. A number of risk factors arise with personal cultivation, including exposure to youth; health and safety matters, such as mould and fire hazards; overproduction; and the potential for trafficking. The report provided to the standing committee by the CACP highlights the exploitation that has occurred under the various medical marijuana schemes, and it is the OPP's belief that this abuse would be even more prevalent under the recreational system.
Even though Health Canada currently estimates that one indoor plant will yield 28 grams, this does not represent the reality of marijuana cultivation. OPP drug enforcement experts estimate average yields of 60 to 100 grams per indoor plant. Likewise, most indoor cannabis plants grow to a height of approximately four feet, exceeding the 100-centimetre restriction. If we consider a 200-unit housing complex in any urban or suburban centre, where half the units cultivate four marijuana plants, or more, we can estimate anywhere from 400 to 600 plants being grown in one building throughout the year without proper ventilation or adequate electrical capacity and in close proximity to children. This scenario would severely jeopardize public safety. In addition, we may see a rise in home or property invasions, known to police as “grow rips”. The frequency of these occurrences in communities policed by the OPP has steadily increased over the past three years and continues to increase.
OPP experts expect that they will encounter a hefty workload and investigative pressures related to the overproduction of marijuana in the home; possession limits; break, enter, and thefts; and the diversion to the illicit market. All of these cannot be adequately managed within existing resource allocations.
I would now like to bring your attention to the challenges related to training. Given the tight timelines of federal legalization, the OPP, like many policing partners, is apprehensive about the level of our enforcement readiness come July 2018.
There are approximately 6,000 uniformed members of the OPP who will require training on the laws and the ticketing system. It is anticipated that there will be significant cost implications for additional training resources and tools to ensure that officers are aware of their authorities and the proper procedures.
The OPP foresees numerous challenges as we transition to a new enforcement environment. How will officers determine weight for possession charges? Will confusion occur around possession age and limits for different forms of cannabis? How will police agencies manage seizures and return of property? Will validation testing occur? What will the police role within the Health Canada inspection process look like?
Bill , in the subsequent training and enforcement considerations, will also greatly impact Ontario's indigenous policing programs, including the 20 indigenous communities administered by the OPP. Some communities are already experiencing a substance abuse crisis, and it is feared that there will be additional health impacts, particularly for indigenous youth, when cannabis is legalized. It is expected that indigenous police services, whose resources are already underfunded and which are unable to increase capacity, will experience significant enforcement challenges as well.
One of the greatest concerns for the OPP is the protection of youth, including indigenous youth. The OPP recognizes that difficulties will arise in attempting to enforce youth possession and the social sharing of cannabis. It is our belief that social sharing opens the door for illicit drug trafficking to be concealed as sharing among youth. Although the federal legislation sets a minimum age of 18 and permits youth to possess and distribute up to five grams of cannabis, the OPP supports a minimum age of 19, with a zero possession limit for youth below the minimum age. This would allow for ticketing for youth possession, consumption, and sharing of cannabis as a provincial offence, along with the authority to seize cannabis from young persons.
It is the OPP's view that a provincial ticketing mechanism will prevent youth from entering the criminal justice system when charged with cannabis-related offences. In co-operation with the provincial government and our policing and community partners, the OPP will engage in an education campaign directed at youth to address the new possession laws, drug-impaired driving, and the dangers of illicit cannabis.
With respect to organized crime, it is difficult to deny the opportunities for criminal enterprise in the cannabis marketplace. The illegal cannabis trade generates billions of dollars annually and has established a foothold within the medical marijuana industry. The OPP has investigated dozens of medical marijuana grow operations authorized by Health Canada where plant yields grossly exceed the permitted amounts. For example, while investigating a grow operation in a commercial building, it was determined that a total of 508 plants could be grown under four Health Canada authorizations. In fact, we found that 979 plants were located in the building. Some of the mature plants were between eight and nine feet tall.
If we applied the Health Canada yield estimate, the 508 plants should have produced 31 pounds of dried marijuana. Instead, the actual yield was 2,032 pounds. If not seized by police, this illicit product would have been sent to street-level dealers and supplied to illegal dispensaries throughout the province.
While the Ontario government has announced plans to pursue an enforcement strategy to shut down illegal operations, it is anticipated that these dispensaries will continue to pose problems for law enforcement, and that, just like the contraband tobacco industry, organized crime will seek to subvert the legal cannabis retail system by selling it at a lower price. This includes the sale of seeds, cloned plants, and dried cannabis. The federal government must ensure that pricing for marijuana is reasonable; if not, it will promote growth in the illicit trade.
It is also the OPP's belief that Health Canada's security clearance processes do not go far enough to prevent the infiltration of organized crime in the medical marijuana industry. As the legalization of cannabis approaches, individuals who make applications to own and administer federally regulated production facilities, along with their employees, and any contract businesses, must be subjected to a more rigorous screening process.
We also support this approach for the provincial retail environment. A lack of oversight in the production and sale of cannabis will also increase the likelihood for abuse.
Further, the OPP backs the recommendations put forward by the CACP to combine the medical and retail cannabis production models, and, as such, eliminate the personal and medical production authorizations. This streamlined structure would assist the OPP and our policing partners in tackling illicit grow operations controlled by organized crime.
In closing, it is important for the federal government to provide clear direction to impacted stakeholders and consider time frame extensions in order to ensure the successful implementation of this act. The OPP appreciates that the legalization of cannabis, marijuana, is a complex process, and that we as a provincial police organization have a significant role to play. The members of the OPP are committed to upholding the laws of Canada. We look forward to working within the legislative construct provided to ensure that our communities remain safe and our youth and vulnerable persons are protected.
On behalf of the OPP, once again, I am very pleased to contribute to this forum.
Good morning, distinguished members of this committee.
My name is Mark Chatterbok. I'm the deputy chief of operations for the Saskatoon Police Service. I'm also the co-chair of the human resources and learning committee for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, along with Steve Schnitzer from the Justice Institute of British Columbia.
I am pleased to be here with you today to offer a perspective from the Saskatoon Police Service, as we, like all municipal police services across the country, look ahead to the implementation of Bill . I would like to begin by telling you a bit about some of the challenges currently faced in our community and province and how the careful and thoughtful implementation of new legislation is vital.
Saskatoon has been a city of rapid growth and economic boom, largely due to its resource sector, but in recent years the growth and the economy have slowed. This has resulted in changing pressures on policing. We have seen an increase in property-related offences. Much of this increase is related to the illicit drug trade, specifically methamphetamine.
We have seen a consistency in the percentage of our citizens who live each day at a socio-economic disadvantage. Some become subject to addiction and criminal victimization, become involved in criminal activity, and live in poor housing conditions or become homeless. While this is a larger and broader community issue, it contributes to the overall environment in which we police.
I would like to address the topic of impaired driving. We anticipate that as a result of new legislation the number of impaired drivers will only increase. This increase will be realized in a city and a province where impaired statistics are already far too high.
Saskatchewan has had a long and unfortunate distinction of having the highest rates of impaired driving in the country. In an effort to reduce those numbers, the province introduced new legislation to toughen penalties for impaired driving, including a zero tolerance for motorists under 21 years of age who are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
As a police service, we are already proactive in terms of impaired driving enforcement. Each year, we conduct numerous impaired driving spot checks and openly communicate these spot checks to the public through traditional and social media, yet our numbers still remain high.
As a result, the Saskatoon Police Service has concerns about an increase in impaired driving due to drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs. As our chief of police, Clive Weighill, has publicly stated, he would like to know what happens when a driver already found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.07 also has the presence of THC in his or her blood. Technically, this driver may be under the legal limit for both individual substances, but what effect does the presence of both of these drugs have on impairment?
There were 43 homicides in 2015 in Saskatchewan. That compares to 53 people killed as a result of impaired driving in Saskatchewan for the same year. In a province with a population the size of Saskatchewan's, those numbers are very concerning. Unfortunately, our police service has yet to see a significant shift in behaviour when it comes to alcohol-impaired driving. As a result, we strongly recommend considerable federal investment in public education prior to legislative implementation.
We support the proposed amendments in Bill , and the Saskatoon Police Service wants to be a part of the successful implementation for legislative change. We believe this will require continued collaboration by all levels of government and support for law enforcement agencies, especially for our front-line officers, who will be facing the impact of these changes on a day-to-day basis.
As we move closer to the date for legalization, the importance of creating a strategy to educate the public is becoming increasingly important. We echo the CACP's position that the development of such a strategy should begin immediately.
A public education strategy should focus specifically on information for youth, parents, and vulnerable populations. This component needs to be developed with input from all appropriate agencies, and the police would like to be a part of this conversation and preparation. Such a strategy should be non-judgmental, relatable, open-minded, and understandable. Education programs should provide real information, and evidence needs to be developed to resonate with this target audience.
We will need to work closely with health and the school boards to adequately deliver this information to youth in our communities. Achieving a unified position will require close co-operation. Resources in our schools are already at capacity in terms of delivering drug awareness and other programming to youth, and this legislation will only increase the demand for delivery of more education.
I would now like to discuss the impact this legislation will have on police training. Considerable training will be needed in order to have specially trained officers able to detect persons who are impaired from drugs.
According to the Colorado State Patrol, drivers who were stopped and found to be impaired by marijuana had been pulled over 91% of the time as a result of speeding. Studies in Colorado also showed that the number of drivers testing positive for THC was highest during daytime hours. We know that daytime is considered the peak time, when the highest number of vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians are using the roadways.
Both of these statistics verify the need for specialized training for our front-line officers.
The Saskatoon Police Service currently has 11 drug recognition experts trained, and I anticipate that we will need to at least double this number in the very near future. I expect this will also be the case for many other police agencies across the country. However, this training is expensive; it is currently offered only in the United States; and there is limited capacity, which means this training is often delayed until a space becomes available.
For many agencies this training will be cost prohibitive, which may ultimately result in delays at the roadside, yet the courts—and justifiably so—will not see this as a bona fide reason to deny people their charter rights. As a result, I would strongly recommend that the federal government provide the funding and assistance required to implement a DRE program here in Canada, which will help to address the training costs and capacity issues I have mentioned.
One of our concerns is regarding the unknown; specifically, not knowing to a great degree what impact this new legislation will have on our existing resources. Our resources are already stretched in many different directions. The Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners recently hired a consulting firm to conduct a review of our operations, and the study found that the amount of time our front-line officers have available to conduct proactive activities is 29%, with a suggested goal of 40%.
We already know that major drug investigations take considerable time and specialized resources and they are very expensive to conduct. Can we expect that the number of major drug investigations will increase with this legislation? I believe we can.
There is the potential for an increase in what I would describe as regular complaints to the police; for example, neighbour disputes, domestic disputes, suspicious activity, and so on. We know that alcohol is often a contributing factor in these types of complaints. The unanswered question is whether or not the usage of marijuana will have similar results.
Many municipal agencies, including in Saskatchewan, have identified possible hidden costs that may arise with the new legislation. They would come in the form of social issues, which typically fall to the front-line police officers to deal with.
I will end my time by commenting on the proposed legislation around personal cultivation and possession within a dwelling. The Saskatoon Police Service supports the concerns raised by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and recommends that personal cultivation be reconsidered. We do not support home growing regardless of size and number of plants, as this will create opportunities for diversion, and it will increase complaints of overproduction, which will be difficult to investigate and will have a negative impact on our existing resources. Arguably, home growing will provide more opportunity for cannabis to get into the hands of children.
In closing, as a municipal police agency that will be on the front lines of the implementation and impact of Bill , the Saskatoon Police Service wishes to express its appreciation for the government's commitment to consultation of stakeholders. We support the government's desire to implement the most effective legislation possible. We are committed to protect the public safety and to serve our citizens on a daily basis no matter what challenges we face.
On behalf of the Saskatoon Police Service, I appreciate your kind invitation to present our comments to you here this morning.
Thanks very much. It's an honour and a privilege to be here this morning to address the committee. I've provided the committee with a brief and I'd like to make a few additional comments and focus as well on a few points within that brief.
First, I have to say that I applaud the approach taken by the government, that of legalization of cannabis. Regulation in the interest of public health is critical. I think it's an approach that will increase our knowledge of both the harms and benefits of the use of cannabis. I'd like to echo some of the points made yesterday by Mark Ware in relation to how much we don't know and need to know, and the extent to which the data appear at times to flow in both directions. One of the great benefits of legalization is that we will be much better able to answer those kinds of questions.
I think it's also important to recognize that in many respects this is a human rights issue. Marijuana was criminalized in 1923 with the simple declaration in the House of Commons that there was a new drug in the schedule. There was no knowledge of the drug at that time, and it is now clear that, for most users in most circumstances, alcohol and tobacco are more toxic and more disabling with much greater morbidity.
We must always remember that we're speaking here of the formidable force of criminal law, and adults who use this drug do not deserve the application of the criminal sanction, nor do children or minors who use this drug. I'd add that the Narcotic Control Act passed in 1961 contained the most severe penalties for cannabis possession and distribution after 50 years of virtually no charges in relation to the drug. Between 1908 and 1961, we had approximately one thousand convictions for all drugs combined. In 1961 we passed the Narcotic Control Act after a lengthy debate about whether capital punishment would be appropriate for people who trafficked in narcotics—cannabis was one of those—and yet by 1967, more than a thousand Canadians were convicted of simple possession of cannabis alone. More than half of them went to jail. It was a period that has been described as the “get tough” period in response to cannabis, but by 1975, there were 40,000 convictions annually and jail was no longer a practical option.
My comments with respect to minimizing the harms to youth are, yes, I think the age of 18, or probably in most provinces more appropriately 19, seems reasonable, similar to that for the purchase of alcohol. I think we have to keep in mind that this isn't a drug that is actually as dangerous as alcohol, and the kinds of approaches that we take ought to be somewhat similar. At the same time, I would acknowledge that in many respects we haven't done a terribly good job of limiting, for example, the promotion of alcohol.
The age of 25 will only encourage the black market to continue, along with purchase for youth by those who are over the age of 25. I think schedule 4 needs to be broadened to include edibles and bombs, albeit ensuring that these products can be packaged in a manner that does not lead to unintended harms, particularly to children and youth. I'd also note that subclause 62(7) gives power to the minister to refuse an applicant for involvement in production on the basis of a prior cannabis conviction. I'd argue that involvement in the current illicit trade should not be sufficient to provide a bar to entry, but rather, threats, use of force, or evidence of dishonesty from other criminal convictions all seem to be good reasons to prevent an individual from becoming involved in this industry.
I'd also suggest that the use of a dwelling for growing up to four plants may quite appropriately be subject to zoning restrictions, most probably a multi-family dwelling. Sometimes this will be through a strata, through a rental arrangement, and sometimes I think it will be done through a municipality. Again, I think that's all about public safety with respect to the growing process.
I know the distribution system is not the mandate of the federal government, but I would make the following observations. Failure to provide reasonable access through either a sufficient number of government-run stores or private dispensaries, both publicly regulated, risks continuation of the black market. I would say, too, that a medical model of use seems more helpful, more consistent with public health than a recreational model. To the extent that we can, I think we ought to be focusing on those kinds of potential benefits from cannabis use.
On the issue of public safety and protection, I have great difficulty in understanding the logic and practical application of clause 8 of the cannabis act, the creation of the criminal offence of possession of illicit cannabis. With the growing of up to four plants permitted, how will a determination be made that a person is in possession of illicit cannabis, and more important, why would we treat this as a crime?
With respect to clause 9, I understand the desire to restrict trade to those who follow the rules, but our approach to cannabis is much more harsh and condemnatory than our approach to tobacco and alcohol. Given the relative risk to public health of each of these drugs, that doesn't make good sense.
I go back to the point about human rights. The idea that we would pass legislation that would retain a criminal offence of possession of cannabis seems to me to be inconsistent with at least part of the logic of this. I know that the has repeatedly said it's about eliminating the black market and reducing access, but part of it is also about recognizing that people who have used cannabis, or who use cannabis, do not deserve the label of “criminal”.
Use economic levers to restrain the trade by all means. Civil injunctions and non-criminal fines seem appropriate. The adult use or production of cannabis, we have to remember, is no more morally offensive than the production of beer, wine, or spirits. This has to be, or ought to be at least, one of the reasons for introducing this act in the first instance.
Thanks very much.
Thanks for the privilege of being with you today. This is a matter that's dear to my heart, and I've been following it closely.
I've submitted a brief to the committee, and I'm hoping to take you through some of the highlights from that brief.
There seems to be a bit of confounding with regard to the common logic that underpins all this. People are smoking cannabis, so we might as well just legalize it. On that premise, we might say that kids are drinking at the age of 18, so we may as well just get rid of the drinking age altogether. Some of the underpinning logic confounds me.
The medical research we have suggests that brains continue to develop until age 25. Since this development is adversely affected by smoking cannabis, generally scientifically based public policy would set the age of purchase at 25. Any other age would be entirely arbitrary.
The approach for legalizing cannabis seems to be completely inconsistent with the government's goal of reducing smoking. As you know, there is public legislation that works on plain packaging, apparently in an effort to reduce smoking, yet here, the government is quite happy to induce and encourage the Canadian population to smoke more. I'm not quite sure what exactly the difference is in terms of health consequences.
Evidence from Washington State and Colorado suggests that there are considerable costs associated with the legalization of cannabis, and that cost will largely be borne by the provinces—public health costs, social services, law enforcement, the justice system—so I think we need to cost these out. I think the expenses associated with that warrant some equalization payment from the federal government, because essentially, the federal government is legalizing cannabis largely on the backs of the provinces and provincial taxpayers.
By way of example, impaired driving cases involving drugs are less likely to be cleared by charge—59% as opposed to 71% for alcohol-impaired driving. They take longer to resolve in the court system—28% of them take more than 30 days as opposed to 16% for alcohol-related incidents. The median time for processing in court was 227 days as opposed to 127 days for alcohol-related incidents. They are also less likely to result in a guilty verdict, so in effect, we're going to tie up already busy courts even more as a result of this legislation for impaired driving.
The rate of impaired driving incidence in 2015 was the lowest on record in 30 years of record-keeping. In roughly 72,000 incidents, young people are represented disproportionately. One in six of them were repeat offenders. About 2,700 incidents involved drug-impaired driving. That's almost double the roughly 1,400 incidents in 2009. That might simply be a function of record-keeping, but there does seem to be a suggestion that as drinking while driving declines, there is an increase in drug-impaired driving.
There were about 2,500 fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2012, of which 614, about 24%, involved drivers who tested positive for drugs. The most common drug was indeed cannabis. Another 407 involved both alcohol and drugs. In other words, cannabis is responsible for about a quarter of the fatal motor vehicle crashes in Canada. The trend seems to be positive, so this legislation will make Canada's roads less safe, and more people will die in accidents as a result of the legislation. The only way around this that I see are draconian measures in the Criminal Code to contain the problem.
Canada also risks becoming the Uruguay of North America. When Uruguay legalized cannabis, it became the epicentre of cannabis growth and export throughout South America. In Canada's case, Canada and Paraguay are the two single largest sources of origin of contraband cigarettes in a market such as Mexico. Due to Canada's relatively lax laws for growing and manufacturing, we have seen transporting streams.
In selling the product, legalizing will increase the incentive to produce the product in Canada and then export it throughout the continent, so the profit for organized crime is not just to be made in Canada but also by exploiting the favourable circumstances within Canada to manufacture the product.
The challenges around contraband tobacco suggest that the legalization of cannabis should be accompanied by creating an ombudsperson who can coordinate the law enforcement efforts among federal agencies and among federal, provincial, and local governments and agencies. In comparing contraband markets in Ontario and Quebec for cigarettes, the case of Quebec demonstrates that the impact of systematic, methodical enforcement reduces substantially the size of the illicit market while increasing tax revenue.
On the tax revenue side, I might add that the government is unlikely to raise the amount of tax revenue that it's hoping for. By virtue of the tax being imposed on the product, there will be by definition a contraband market for a cheaper product. Given the size and the maturity of the contraband market for cigarettes in Canada in general, and in Ontario in particular, one can reasonably infer and expect an equally outsized contraband market to persist because it will likely be run by the same people who run the illicit cigarette market. In part, some entities with licences would likely produce cannabis legally and then will have an incentive to sell the product illegally at a higher profit margin. That may possibly be what is currently motivating the Ontario government not to hand out licences to individual manufacturers.
In conclusion, I would say, “Decriminalize? Perhaps. Legalize? No.”
Mr. Chair, Vice-Chairs, and distinguished members of the committee, good morning.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Paul-Matthieu Grondin and I am president of the Quebec bar. On my right is Pascal Levesque, president of our criminal law committee, and, on my left, is Luc Hervé Thibaudeau, president of the consumer protection committee.
Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting the Quebec bar to share with you our position on legalizing and regulating cannabis in Canada. Without taking a position on the opportunity to legalize cannabis, the bar is generally in favour of Bill , which proposes a complete system and clear measures pertaining to the production, distribution and sale of the substance.
From a public protection perspective, however, we have to focus on some major issues that deserve to be pointed out.
We must repeat the importance of the awareness, prevention and education measures, especially from a legal point of view, that are intended for the public and, more particularly for the young. In order to allow the public to make an informed choice about recreational cannabis use, it is essential to allocate funds to research in a wide variety of areas, especially in health, in sociology and, of course, in law.
We must remember that younger people use cannabis more. In fact, Statistics Canada informs us that the age group using cannabis the most is the group between 14 and 24, as you know. So young people should be the targets of awareness and prevention efforts to a greater extent.
I will now step aside to allow Mr. Levesque to talk about the system as it applies to minors, which is one of the issues that is important to the Quebec bar.
The bill criminalizes cannabis possession more strictly for minors than for those who are of legal age. In fact, it sets a possession limit of 5 grams or less for minors, while, for those 18 and over, the limit is 30 grams or less. The Quebec bar points to the importance of not criminalizing minors for behaviour that is permitted for adults. We must remember that this is a particularly vulnerable population that must be adequately protected.
In that context, let us remember that the youth criminal justice system is different from the one for adults. It is based on the principle that moral culpability is less and it specifically emphasizes the social reintegration and rehabilitation of young people. So we must avoid submitting them to consequences that can lead to a criminal conviction. Given the importance of not criminalizing young people for simple possession below the allowed limit, we recommend in their case that possession of fewer than 30 grams of cannabis, that is between 5 and 30 grams, be decriminalized, and that it be made a ticketable offence to possess more than 5 grams and up to 30 grams.
As a ticketable offence, a fine is the most common consequence, whereas, as a criminal offence, the consequence could be imprisonment. We also mention that the system of ticketable offences established in the bill does not apply to minors. Instead, we are referred to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The bill provides that those aged 18 or older and who commit certain offences can be prosecuted and a summons issued, at the discretion of the peace officer. Young people, who make up a particularly vulnerable population, are subject to the regular criminal process under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. We therefore consider that awareness, education and prevention are the best ways to eliminate cannabis use among the young. In fact, we must not resort to the criminal justice system in order to compensate for a prevention and education system that is inadequate.
As for the system of ticketable offences, the bill makes it possible, in certain cases, for a peace officer to issue a ticket to a person who commits an offence within the proposed legal framework. Paying the ticket means an entry in a judicial record, is not to be confused with a criminal record. The bill makes reference to a judicial record, not to a criminal record. But the concept of a judicial record is not defined in law. We wonder who is responsible for the record, when it is created, what information it contains, when that information is destroyed, who will have access to the record, and for what purposes the information will be used. It would also be wise to establish a system of sanctions for any breach of the classification obligations and use of the record.
I now yield the floor to Mr. Thibaudeau, who will provide you with information on questions on the labelling standards established in the proposed Cannabis Act, and about the sale of cannabis by the provinces.
Good morning. Thank you very much to the chair and to the committee for inviting the Criminal Lawyers' Association to speak this morning on this very important act.
I'm a former director of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, and I'm president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa. I have been a practising criminal lawyer for almost 20 years, and am an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa law school.
I'd like to say at the outset that the objectives and goals of this bill are laudable, those being the protection of public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and by reducing the burden that marijuana offences currently place on our criminal justice system. We know that Canada has high relative marijuana usage. We also know that there's a real likelihood that at some point young persons may experiment with marijuana. Given these two inescapable facts, it makes good sense to move toward removing the stigma associated with cannabis for Canadians.
Reading through this act, which is quite dense and detailed, one senses that while the act does eliminate many of the stigmatizing aspects of marijuana use, the drafters of the act still drew fairly heavily on the criminal law as a method to enforce regulation. In my view, it would be preferable to avoid reliance on the criminal law and criminal sanction as a method of ensuring compliance with what should be a largely regulatory piece of legislation for what should be a legal product.
We know from criminology experts like Professor Anthony Doob and Rosemary Gartner from the University of Toronto's centre for criminology and socio-legal studies that imprisonment does not deter crime any more effectively than less harsh sentences. What deters crime, we know definitively, is certainty of detection. We also know that persons who are sent to prison are not less likely to reoffend than similar people who manage to get a sentence not involving prison. Despite these findings, persons are sentenced to lengthy periods of incarceration because we are unable as a society to craft sentences that adequately reflect the seriousness of the behaviour.
We also know that children of parents who are imprisoned are more likely to end up running afoul of the law themselves. Other collateral effects of the imprisonment of a parent is the fact that children of these parents are more likely to become homeless and to live in poverty. Those are just a few of the collateral effects of the imposition of a criminal sentence and a jail sentence for possession or distribution of cannabis.
The use of the criminal law to enforce adherence to the regulations of the act also puts young persons at risk of a criminal charge. Even though it's under the YCJA, it can result in a period of closed custody. This has a serious and significant impact on a young person's life that we really need to think about seriously when we're talking about a product like marijuana, knowing that we want to discourage young people from experimenting with this drug, but knowing that in all likelihood some of them will. We want them to avoid the worst consequences of experimentation, that being drawn into the system.
As Mr. Levesque pointed out, there's an anomalous segment of the act in that an adult can actually be in possession of more dried marijuana than a child. This means that a child would actually be more vulnerable to a criminal sanction or to being caught up by the criminal law than an adult would. I suggest that this is somewhat anomalous, because an adult should be more morally culpable than a child. Even though it's clear that the act is trying to discourage children from possessing larger quantities of marijuana, making them more vulnerable to criminal sanction is not the way.
Another significant problem, in my view, exists in the structure of the ticketing provision of the act given that all discretion as to whether a person will be prosecuted under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or merely given a ticket, is vested in the discretion of the police, with very few concrete guidelines in the act giving direction for how police should act, and similarly how prosecutors should exercise their discretion as to whether to proceed by indictment or whether to proceed summarily, which would result in a lesser consequence.
If the purpose of potential criminal sanction is to deter deviation from the act—in other words, to take away the black market, to eliminate organized crime, and to discourage people from acting outside of the act—a ticketing option where it's not known in advance to the public whether you'll be prosecuted under the Criminal Code criminally or whether you'll get a ticket means that the law will not be certain to people. The outcome will not be certain. That vagueness, or the uncertainty of the outcome, undermines the stated purpose of the ticketing provision and the use of the criminal law.
We want the law to be consistently known in order that it can be consistently followed. Vesting all of the discretion as to whether someone would get a ticket or a criminal prosecution with police, and without guidance, will result in an uneven exercise of discretion.
There's a great example in existing legislation under the YCJA today. That statute allows specific procedures relating to alternative measures for young persons. Subsection 6(1) of the YCJA directs police officers to consider whether alternative measures are appropriate. They can take no action, issue a warning or caution, or refer the young person to an appropriate program or agency. In my experience, however, reliance upon these pre-charge diversion programs varies from officer to officer. Some officers know of these provisions of the YCJA and offer them to young persons, but many do not, nor do they have any idea what criteria should be invoked to inform the decision whether to offer the diversion or not.
We can see, then, through a statute we already have, that leaving the discretion solely to the officer can result in an uneven application of the law. We also know that indigenous persons are traditionally overrepresented in the criminal justice system. An enforcement system that rests solely within the exercise of discretion, without guidance from the statute, will inevitably result in those who are traditionally overrepresented in the system continuing in that pattern.
There is also, and I believe Mr. Spratt touched on this yesterday, a potential scenario whereby an 18-year-old passing a joint to a younger teen could be exposed to a lengthy sentence as a result of providing marijuana to a young person. In relation to the factors relating to sentence, I would note that the sentencing provisions, which are set out in subclause 15(2), describe, as an aggravating factor, being “in or near any...public place usually frequented by young persons”. There's a similar term contained in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
In my view, this is an overly broad term that is going to be subject to a potential section 7 challenge. In my dealings with prosecutors who deal with this under the CDSA, they are very reluctant to take it to court and defend a constitutional challenge. In my view it's going to be vulnerable to a challenge as being overly broad. A “public place where young persons might be” can constitute just about anywhere.
I would like to point out that subclause 15(4), however, is a provision allowing a judge to adjourn sentencing in order to allow an individual to seek rehabilitation prior to sentence. This is something our judges frequently do anyway, but having it codified in the act is an encouraging sign. It's a worthwhile provision, placing an emphasis in the act on rehabilitation.
In conclusion, I'd like to say that the act is a good step forward. It has many laudable objectives, not the least of which is the protection of public health, the protection of children, and the discouragement of organized crime in drug production and supply.
Resort to the criminal sanction for product that is subject to legislative regulation, however, is always going to present challenges in maintaining proportionality, especially when it exposes young persons to the threat of criminal proceedings.
It's also unclear what effect a conviction under the ticketing system will have on travel, particularly to the U.S., on police clearance sheets, and on employment, or whether it will be considered a prior drug offence for considering other offences. Canadians who choose to plead guilty by way of sending off a ticket in the mail should be aware of the potential collateral consequences that may arise.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to say that I love having lawyers as witnesses, because it seems there are so many different opinions, and with this legislation, a lot of it's not clear. One thing we are certain of, though, is that you guys are going to make millions of dollars with these court challenges and stuff. I'm looking forward to that for the profession.
I do want to correct the record, Mr. Chair. Mr. Oliver said that people have brought up that the status quo is better than this legislation. I think he might have been referencing my repeated question with regard to the Liberals' messaging in which they say the status quo is not working. I said not working, I didn't say it was necessarily better. I actually hope this legislation is better, because I think way too much marijuana is being consumed by Canadian youth, but we'll see. I'll hold the government to account as to whether its approach is any better.
I do want to talk to Mr. Leuprecht.
One of the things you brought up was international lessons learned. I'm very much aware that Canada has signed on to three international conventions and treaties, to which, apparently, the current Liberal government hasn't given notice that we will be withdrawing. What I'm worried about is that my community is a border city, Oshawa, and we send trucks back and forth across the border. Many countries still consider this, from a federal standpoint, to be illegal, and we're seeing, especially with our American neighbours, some thickening of the border.
I'm wondering how this legislation may affect jobs and commerce internationally. I was wondering if you could comment on the fact that the Liberals seem not to have even moved forward in addressing these notices that they have to give. With Canada being out of sync with most of its trading partners, how do you think that will affect our jobs in international trade?
My name is Sam Kamin and I am the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. I hold a J.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and I've been teaching both constitutional and criminal law for more than 18 years.
In 2012 I was asked by Governor Hickenlooper to serve on the task force that he was appointing to implement amendment 64 that legalized marijuana for adult use in Colorado.
The next year I was appointed by California's lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, to serve in a similar capacity on a blue ribbon commission that he put together in California to consider best practices for marijuana regulation and legalization.
Since that time I've continued to consult with both state and local governments about marijuana regulation. I've written extensively on the interaction between state and federal law in this area, and I've taught law students courses on marijuana regulation and public policy.
Last week I submitted a brief to this committee outlining my impressions of how marijuana regulation has proceeded in Colorado. As I outlined there, I believe that Colorado has largely been successful in spite of a number of challenges. In fact, many initial opponents of legalization in our state have come to appreciate the successes of marijuana regulation there.
As you have a number of witnesses who can speak directly to the specifics of the Colorado regulatory experience, particularly to my right, I would like to use my time today to talk about what Canada can hope to learn from the American experience as it considers adopting regulations of its own to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults.
In my brief I outline five take-aways that I think Canada and this committee can take away from our experience and I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about them during that period.
First, I think it's important to understand the limits of marijuana regulation. Robust regulations, like those implemented in California and Washington, can keep organized crime out of licensed marijuana production and can help ensure that marijuana products are consistent, well-labelled, and free of contaminants. But regulation alone cannot solve all the problems currently associated with marijuana prohibition. In fact, I believe that regulating licensed businesses may be the easiest task in the legalization of marijuana, and I'll explain what I mean through an example.
The diversion of marijuana from Colorado, where it is legal, to other states where it is not, is rarely attributable to the malfeasance of businesses regulated under Colorado law. In fact, I think that there are two primary factors that are responsible for the diversion of marijuana out of Colorado. The first is criminals who have taken advantage of the prevalence of marijuana production in Colorado to produce it there for export to other states.
This conduct is prohibited by both state and federal law and can be addressed only by law enforcement, rather than by regulatory agencies. Colorado continues to work with its partners in the federal system to ferret out illegal production of marijuana and to arrest those responsible for it.
The second principal factor in the diversion of marijuana outside of Colorado is that people are buying it lawfully within Colorado and then taking it and reselling it illegally elsewhere. Again, there is only so much that the regulatory system can do to limit this conduct. While consumers can be educated as to the applicable law, if they choose to ignore that law that is a question for law enforcement rather than regulators.
My second principal lesson from the American and Colorado regulatory experience is that it is crucial to establish relevant metrics for the evaluation of a marijuana regulatory regime and to begin measuring those as soon as possible and, in any event, prior to the implementation of regulations.
One can only know whether legalization is meeting its goals if one clearly establishes those goals in advance and has settled on the relevant measures of success. For example, Bill expresses as a principal goal a reduction in the use of marijuana by young people—though one might wonder whether moving from prohibition to regulation is the best way to reduce use.
Other harms of marijuana consumption should also be studied, including use of marijuana by vulnerable groups, heavy or problematic use by adults, and use that poses a danger to others, for example through impaired driving.
It is also important in this context that marijuana not be considered in a vacuum. While no one wishes to see marijuana use rise among vulnerable groups, it is important to determine whether marijuana use supplements or displaces the use of other substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and harder drugs. If teens are choosing to use marijuana over alcohol, for example, that is certainly less serious than if they are adding marijuana use to the combination of substances they are already consuming.
Furthermore, it is important to understand that changes in law enforcement practices can impact behavioural measurement in ways that may confound data analysis. For example—and we have experienced this in Colorado—if patrol officers are trained as they should be to identify the characteristics of marijuana intoxication, we can expect more arrests for driving under the influence of marijuana, whether more of that conduct is occurring or not. It may simply be that training more officers on how to do this leads to more arrests in ways that might indicate an increase in impaired driving when none is occurring.
My third principle takeaway is this. By legalizing marijuana at the federal level, Canada would create an opportunity for the provinces to adopt regulatory models that are not currently available in the United States. As long as marijuana remains prohibited by federal law in our country, the states are necessarily limited in the types of regulatory regimes they can implement.
For example, the ongoing federal prohibition makes the dispensing of marijuana by federal mail impossible in the way that Canada is able to. Similarly, it is impossible for American states to develop a state-run distribution model akin to the one used to sell alcohol in Canada and some American jurisdictions and that apparently Ontario is considering for the distribution of marijuana here.
There are many potential advantages to state control of distribution. It allows the government to control price, to easily identify the licensed purveyors, to collect all revenue rather than simply taxing it, and to control the way the product is marketed to consumers. However, because such a model would put state employees in the position of directly violating federal law, such a model would create a direct conflict between state and federal law in the United States, and no American jurisdiction has attempted to implement one.
The freedom that Canadian provinces will have in determining how and whether to regulate cannabis distribution within their territories thus presents a great opportunity. If the various provinces adopt a diverse array of regulatory models, we might be able to greatly expand our understanding of how different kinds of regulation impact consumer behaviours. We have not been able to measure that in the United States. Most of our regulatory systems look quite similar. If there were a variety of distribution models here in Canada, coupled with the modelling and metrics that I spoke about beforehand, we would be able to learn a great deal about which regulations are effective and which are not.
Fourth, it is important not to oversell the fiscal benefits that legalized marijuana can bring. It is tempting to see marijuana legalization as a double fiscal win. Less money needs to be spent on law enforcement while more money comes in from the taxation of a substance previously sold only on the black market. I believe caution is necessary with regard to both of these, for two reasons.
First, as I described above, regulating marijuana for production and sale is hardly the end of marijuana law enforcement. Steps will need to be taken to stamp out illegal production and sale in order to channel marijuana production into the licensed market. Furthermore, the costs and the ongoing costs of establishing and operating a robust marijuana regulatory regime are not to be discounted.
The second reason to be cautious about the fiscal impact of marijuana is that lawmakers should not expect game-changing revenue from marijuana taxes, particularly at first. Regulatory compliance by producers will be expensive, and in order for regulated marijuana to compete on price with the black market, tax rates will need to be kept low initially. I believe there are good reasons to move away from marijuana prohibition, but enriching state coffers is not among them.
Fifth and finally, it is important to understand that the decision to legalize and regulate marijuana rather than to prohibit it is merely the first step along a path. Marijuana regulation is an iterative process rather than a one-time pronouncement. One of the crucial lessons Colorado and other states have learned in the last five years is that consumer behaviours change quickly in response to regulation and to market forces. Legalization will have unintended consequences, and regulators will need to be flexible and nimble in order to keep up. Patience will be needed as loopholes and other regulatory gaps are identified and closed.
I believe the experience of Colorado and other American jurisdictions indicates that this effort is worth the candle, but the process will not be without its complications and frustrations.
I thank you for your time this morning and for the invitation to appear before this hearing. I look forward to your questions.
Chairman Casey, and the rest of the committee members, thank you very much for the invitation to appear today. It's an unfortunate circumstance that I have to follow Mr. Kamin, because his comments are largely reflective of the ones I will make. Hopefully, you'll view that as sufficient evidence of our agreement on many of the different trends he has indicated.
I'll start by giving you a bit of my background, which I think is a bit unusual. After I finish my presentation, if you have questions, I'd be happy to address them. I have an undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Colorado Boulder and a masters in business administration from the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. I'm a businessman by background. I'm not a lawyer; I'm not a regulator. But I bring a unique perspective from the governor's standpoint of being able to take a balanced approach in emphasizing public health and public safety at the same time and looking into the realities of what the business market requires as this industry continues to grow and become more legitimate within our state confines.
I've been in the role for a total of of five weeks, so if I get some details wrong or answer a question incorrectly, I'm sure Mr. Kamin will let me know and I'll beg your forgiveness. Having said that, I will mention that I'm a quick study, otherwise I would not have accepted your invitation to come here today.
As to my background with the Department of Revenue, I'm in charge of four businesses for the state: the Colorado lottery, the division of taxation, the division of motor vehicles, and the enforcement division. The enforcement division has five specific enforcement areas: alcohol and tobacco, gaming, horse racing, automobile dealerships, and the marijuana enforcement division. For the total department, all four businesses account for approximately $12 billion in revenue for the state, which is about 50% of the state's annual income, and the marijuana enforcement division accounts for approximately $200 million of that $12 billion. To emphasize Mr. Kamin's point, while this is an important industry within the state and takes up quite a bit of my time and that of my colleagues, the reality is that the economic incentives for this industry are relatively minimal.
I'll reflect on comments our governor made at the time our initial amendment was passed. We had medicinal marijuana approved via amendment 20, and our citizens had to vote on this state constitutional amendment in order to allow it. At the time, our governor was an outspoken opponent of the legalization process. Nevertheless, we had retail marijuana approved in 2012 and implemented in 2014. This was again against the governor's wishes. Two years later, his remarks would become a bit more neutral. At the time it was legalized, he would have said that the headache of implementing the necessary regulation was not worth the additional tax revenue. More recently, he has stated he believes that the experiment is actually working. The tax revenue is nice to have. Whether it justifies the work that went into creating it, we don't yet know. The people of Colorado spoke, and it was our responsibility to uphold the law they put into our constitution.
There are three segments to the marketplace in Colorado. We have what we consider the black and grey market—that's the criminal segment. We have the private citizen segment, which includes caregivers and home growing. We also have the commercially licensed regulated segment, which is the segment that falls under my marijuana enforcement division, where my expertise lies. I can speak to the other two on an anecdotal basis, but I have no expertise there. I will, however, speak to Mr. Kamin's comments that diversion largely appears to be coming from the unregulated spaces, whether from the black and grey market directly or from the private citizen segment feeding into the black and grey market. Hopefully, I can answer some questions around the limitation on plants that you have in place in the home grow market, and I will tell you I think that's a wise step if you consider going forward with legalization.
To give you a sense of the size of the market, I act as the state licensing authority for the State of Colorado, which means that any business or employee wishing to enter this space has to come through my department, the marijuana enforcement division. They have to pass an FBI background and criminal check, and they have to go through a background screening process to make sure their finances are clean and that there is not a criminal enterprise supporting them.
There are a total, as of September 1, 2017, of approximately 2,900 licences. Those are split relatively evenly between 1,500 licences in the medical space and 1,388 spaces in the retail space. That is a key differentiation, as I'm sure you guys are aware.
I've listed the key stakeholders that we've identified as we've gone through the different iterations of our legalization process and through our continued regulatory process. We believe, very strongly, in encouraging a collaborative process. That's true within our state; it's true outside of our state, by working with the three other states that have legalized marijuana since we came on board, and also at the federal level working with our Department of Justice and the other entities that are impacted by the states that have legalized it on a recreational basis.
In addition, and candidly and more importantly in my mind, we work very closely with the public, whether it's the operators in the space, the businesses that are running their operations; the consumers who actually go out and purchase the product; and health professionals, most importantly in my mind.
From our standpoint, the way that we look at this marketplace is that we focus on public health and public safety number one. Those absolutely have to be the key defining hallmarks. First, it's the right thing to do. Second, it has a heightened sense within our state because of the fact that it is not legalized at the federal level. Third, it's important to us to make sure that the citizens of our state are healthy and that they keep within the laws such that we don't allow them to get into trouble that they otherwise wouldn't be able to be.
The key stakeholders that we interact with on a regular basis are the state legislators. I will very clearly point out here that as an administrator of the government, I do not view it as my role or responsibility to establish the laws. Our state legislature does that, much as your body does for your country. It is my job to take the laws they establish and to interpret them and put them into effect without political bias to any extent that we can to make sure that we are upholding the will of the Colorado people as well as the Colorado legislature.
The next group that I would point to are the public health and public safety individuals. The third group would be physicians. Fourth would be legal/ law enforcement. Fifth would be the marijuana industry, and sixth would be the consumers.
The challenge for my office and for the marijuana enforcement division is to try to strike a balance between public safety and public health and commercial marketability, the ability of the businesses in the industry to operate free of the burden of an overreach of government regulation but with government regulation that's necessary to protect the public health and public safety of our people. That's always a natural balance and a natural tension that's going to exist and something that we strive for at all times.
We have a highly collaborative rule-making process. As we interpret the laws that are passed by the legislature, we very much encourage all the key stakeholders whom I mentioned on the previous slide to engage in the conversation and to give us their viewpoint so that we can very much understand exactly the key points that we have to consider when we put regulations in place.
Again, public health and public safety are our absolute main focuses. We have three operating guidelines that we've looked to in implementing regulations of the space. The first is to keep it out of the hands of minors. The second is to keep it out of the hands of criminals. The third is to keep it out of other jurisdictions.
The way that you guys are thinking about legalizing it on a federal basis, I don't know that keeping it out of other jurisdictions is germane to this conversation, but keeping it out of the hands of minors and criminals, I think, is very germane. I'm happy to answer any questions that you have on that front, particularly as it relates to protecting minors and keeping it out of their hands.
We think that having a public message department that actively goes out and advertises our concerns to the marijuana marketplace is important. On that front, we have two main messages: number one, what's good to know; and number two, what's next? The reason why we focused on those two messages is that it's important for our minors to understand what concerns and potential health complications are associated with using this product at an early age. What we have found, through market studies, in regard to what's next is that what prevents our minors from using this product illegally or inappropriately is their focus on their key goals for the rest of their life. If we can communicate those messages succinctly and importantly to our young individuals in our community, we believe that it has a strong impact on whether or not they use. We believe that the data supports the fact that the current and historical use amongst our general population and our minor population in the State of Colorado is below the U.S. average and has shown a decreasing trend over the last couple of years. We believe that supports the fact that we have a strong and thoughtful regulatory environment in place.
With that, I'll turn over the rest of the time to you guys.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and other members of the committee.
My name is Abigail Sampson. I'm the Ontario regional coordinator for NORML Canada, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada.
Since its founding in 1970, NORML's mission has been to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of cannabis by adults and to serve as an advocate for consumers to ensure that they have access to high-quality cannabis that is safe, convenient, and affordable. There are now currently over 150 NORML chapters worldwide working hard in their communities to reform cannabis laws.
NORML Canada commends the government's commitment to legalizing cannabis federally and Canada's becoming the first G20 nation to regulate the production and sale of cannabis for all adults. Globally there are other jurisdictions with an existing and thriving cannabis culture whose policies, lessons, and successes we can learn from.
The following are five key considerations we wish to put forward to the committee.
Number one is stopping ongoing arrests leading up to legalization. NORML Canada says the government should immediately halt arrests for simple possession and other cannabis offences leading up to legalization in July 2018, and if someone is charged, the government should stop seeking sentences of imprisonment and focus on constructive alternatives now. Canadians should not continue receiving criminal records for a substance that will be legal in less than one year. Canada will save significant resources on policing and prosecuting these simple offences against otherwise law-abiding Canadians.
Number two is criminal penalties for non-compliance under the cannabis act. While NORML commends the government for creating a ticketing scheme for minor transgressions, the maximum penalties for a serious breach should be similar to those of the Tobacco Act in Canada. We believe that imprisonment should be reserved for only the most serious of abuses and be no greater than the penalties for tobacco and alcohol. Further, cannabis laws disproportionately target our most vulnerable populations and communities, burden our criminal justice system, and have been demonstrated to be more harmful than cannabis itself.
In terms of examples from other jurisdictions, while there are some harsher penalties for those who have committed more serious offences against the state's cannabis laws, in California the sale or delivery of cannabis by an individual over the age of 18 to individuals between the ages of 14 and 17 years carries a felony charge with a punishment of three to seven years' incarceration. By comparison, distribution of an equivalent of more than 30 grams of dried cannabis, under the proposed cannabis act, is considered an indictable offence and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment, far more severe and disproportionate than the harms caused by cannabis use alone. Our Le Dain commission in 1972, some 45 years ago, recommended that the federal government hybridize the trafficking of cannabis, providing a maximum of six months on summary conviction and five years on indictment.
Number three is accessible requirements for participation in the legal cannabis market, including co-operative growing. NORML Canada believes in a diverse legal cannabis landscape where community gardens, co-operatives, and designated growers can participate and compete with larger corporations. Accessible requirements for participation in the cannabis industry are key to a successful legalization strategy and must support the integration of a variety of stakeholders into the new legal cannabis market, including the expertise found in the grey or illicit space.
In terms of examples from other jurisdictions, California is one example of a jurisdiction having an inclusive transition from its existing cannabis practices into the regulated space. For close to 19 years, community gardens and co-operative growers operated outside of a regulatory scheme. Currently the text of the MCRSA, the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, allowed these establishments the opportunity to continue to operate until January 2018, just as long as their businesses complied with zoning, local, and state requirements. This window provides them an opportunity to apply for appropriate licensing. Rather than shutting down these businesses, the good players are afforded the ability to remain open, serve their clientele, and become a part of the legalized framework.
Number four is pardoning past cannabis offences. NORML Canada will continue to advocate for a legal cannabis regime that allows for pardons of past cannabis-related convictions and clearly addresses the prejudice associated not only with convictions, but also cases that resulted in stays of proceedings, withdrawals and acquittals, as well as records and police databases, even if no finding of guilt ever occurred. Further, prior cannabis-related records should not bar Canadians from participating in the new legal cannabis market, including in both production and distribution.
These are some examples from other jurisdictions. In an attempt to provide reparations to Oakland residents who were jailed for offences related to cannabis possession in the last 10 years, city council has approved a program to help convicted drug felons get into the legal cannabis industry. Called the equity permit program, this “first in the nation” idea will allow recently incarcerated individuals the opportunity to receive medical cannabis industry permits. By implementing this program, Oakland is ensuring that those entering the legalized cannabis scheme have the demonstrated the experience and expertise required for running and growing a successful cannabis business. As well, it recognizes the harms done by the war on drugs by allowing those who have been affected by it through incarceration an opportunity to participate.
Number five is driving under the influence. While NORML Canada discourages driving motor vehicles or operating complex machinery while under the influence of cannabis, the government should continue to investigate the development of a fair system that targets those drivers whose ability to drive is impaired and avoids the arrest and conviction of innocent Canadians based on the mere presence of cannabinoids in one's system—a per se limit. Per se limits refer to a specific concentration of a substance, for example THC in blood or a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, that triggers a criminal charge when the set limit or cut-off is exceeded. Per se limits, however, do not factor in impairment and may result in criminal charges for any user who exceeds the limit even if no signs of impairment are demonstrated. Special consideration should be given to medical cannabis users who may use cannabis daily, or near daily, to manage their symptoms. It should also ensure they are not unfairly targeted or criminalized by an arbitrary nanogram level. Many will exceed this limit, but their ability to drive will not be impaired in the least due to their significant tolerance.
Here are some examples from other jurisdictions. In order to protect patients, the United Kingdom has enacted laws that allow for a medical defence if people are taking drugs, including cannabis, for medical reasons and are not impaired. The medical defence states that drivers are not guilty of per se offences if they are not impaired and meet the following conditions: the medicine was prescribed, supplied, or sold to treat a medical or dental problem, and it was taken according to the instructions given by the prescriber or the information provided with the medicine. A medical defence for a per se limit ensures that other evidence of impaired driving, rather than just the presence of THC, must be established to ensure that patients are not unfairly criminalized for simply exceeding a per se limit. Per se limits are arbitrary and especially if they are not rebuttable, they will not be in compliance with section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In conclusion, by studying other jurisdictions' experiences in regulating cannabis, Canada has an opportunity to learn from their actions, integrate policies that work, and avoid the same mistakes that lead to poor policy.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
For the record, I'm Rick Garza, the director of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. I provided you—and I think you have a hard copy—of a presentation that I'll go through. I know I only have 10 minutes. How do you tell a story in 10 minutes for which there will be five years, essentially, of legislation in November of this year? I'll try to do it as quickly as I can.
Concerning the first objective of the agency, it's really interesting that the author of I-502 actually wrote the initiative to mimic our alcohol beverage law coming out of Prohibition in 1934.
If you go to the second slide, you'll see what our objective was. It was to create a tightly controlled and regulated cannabis market similar to what we have for alcohol. It created a three-tier system for cannabis unlike those of other states.
I want to share that whether done by referendum, initiative, or constitutional amendment, the laws that have been created in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have some differences.
One of them here, going back to mimic the old alcohol beverage law, was to not allow for a three-tier integration. In other words, a producer or processor of cannabis in Washington state cannot have interest, direct or indirect, financially with a retailer, and obviously vice versa. That goes back all the way back to the original alcohol beverage law, when there was concern that all the saloons before Prohibition were controlled by the largest brewers and distillers in the nation and within the state.
They actually looked at the system that was created in 1934 to draw up this cannabis law. We created licences for producer, processor, and retailer. The board also enforces laws and rules pertaining to those licensees, and as with alcohol, we collect and distribute the taxes and fees.
One of the first things we had to do was wait nine months to determine whether the federal government was going to allow us, Colorado and Washington, to move forward with this experiment. In August of 2013, what has been known as the Cole Memorandum was shared with the two states. It basically provided eight enforcement guidelines that must be met as we move forward.
I think Michael Hartman, the director from Colorado, spoke to the themes that are really most important within those guidelines. How would we prevent distribution and use by minors? How would we keep the criminal element out of our licensee base and our legal base, and how would we deal with the issue of diversion either out of the state or inverting illegal product into the legal system? I'll talk very briefly about how we did that.
Basically, in November 2012 it was legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess, as with alcohol, an ounce of usable marijuana, 16 ounces in solid form, and 72 ounces in liquid form. As I said earlier, it created a three-tier system for producer, processor, and retailer.
It also imposed a 37% retail excise tax on cannabis. When you look at the history of Washington state, you find that, whether in the case of cigarettes or of alcohol, we have some of the highest spirit taxes in the nation and also the highest cigarette taxes and have imposed a pretty high excise tax on cannabis.
One thing that I forgot to mention was that the alcohol system coming out of Prohibition for Washington state is actually modelled upon the Canadian model. We used the British Columbia model for our alcohol regulations.
It's interesting that you'll see—and I'll share with you—elements that you'll see in the new cannabis law. It also established a THC bloodstream threshold for marijuana DUIs at five nanograms; it limited the number of store locations advertising, the number of outlets—again very similar to the original alcohol laws and regulations—and then it earmarked revenue for health care, research, and education.
The first piece, with respect to the Cole Memorandum, concerns how we would keep the criminal element out of the licensing of this industry. As in Colorado, we do a criminal history investigation for all applicants. That means a fingerprint that runs through the Washington State Patrol here and then is deposited with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look at the applicants' criminal history not only in this state but throughout the country.
We also do that for any financier or investor. It goes even further than the criminal history check that we do for alcohol. So if you have any interest whatsoever, as a financier or an investor, you must also go through a criminal background check, including fingerprinting. Obviously, if you're an applicant, there's a financial background investigation that occurs, just like it would for a potential alcohol licensee. We want to know the source of the funds being used to establish the business. We want to know about the financial wherewithal of the applicant, and then there's a six-months residency requirement. Initially it was a three-months residency requirement, but it was moved up to six months.
There's also a restriction placed on the initiative that these entities, whether producers, processors, or retailers of cannabis, cannot be within a thousand feet of schools, child care centres, transit centres, game arcades, libraries, playgrounds, public parks—all obviously places where children would be present.
Then in order to deal with the issue of diversion, we have a robust and comprehensive software system that traces product from the start to sale. We call it a seed to sale system that captures any movement of product from the producer to the processor to the retailer.
How do we limit access? Just as we do for alcohol in Washington state, we do youth compliance checks. In fact, we do three of them a year per retailer. We have a compliance rate of 93% no sales to minors today. In fact, for the last two months I believe the compliance rate was 98%. That's even higher than the compliance rate for alcohol in Washington state.
We limited the number of production and retail stores. The idea of diversion and the concern of the federal government meant that we had to establish what the demand was for those more than 21 years old in Washington state, and we limited our production to that and the number of retail stores to about 500 state-wide, again using the old liquor model where until 2011 the State of Washington actually distributed and retailed spirits, as you may recall. We used that same model to set up the number of stores within the state. I talked a little bit about the possession limits earlier and, obviously, like with alcohol, there's an age restriction.
Again, another difference between us and the other states is that we don't allow for home grows for recreational or personal use, and there has been legislation since the initial initiative passed to allow for home grows. In fact, we were directed and are in the midst of looking at and bringing recommendations to a legislative committee with respect to whether home grows should be allowed. They are allowed for medical use. They're not allowed for personal use.
To let you know what the sales activity looks like, sales were $250 million in our first fiscal year, almost $900 million the second year, and $1.3 billion this last July. We're averaging about $4 million in daily sales. You can see the excise tax collections, and you can look at the revenue projections that were initially made and the projections that have come through. It's interesting. There was a fiscal note that had to be written on the initiative to determine the amount of excise tax or revenue that would be collected by the state. The estimate was zero to $2 billion over five years, because, of course, no one knew how fast the industry would grow. If you take a look at those numbers, it looks like probably about $1.3 billion in revenue will be collected in the first five years.
What's interesting about the initiative too is that the revenues are earmarked for social services, including health care. In fact, half of the money funds the state and federal medicaid program and then, of course, there's the general fund that is the state allocation. That gets a pretty high percentage, but you can see that there was an effort to make sure that the prevention and reduction of substance abuse was funded. The department of health has public health programs to speak to parents and youth about cannabis, and then our universities also receive funding.
Some examples of some of the funding are provided to you in the document. Substance abuse prevention and treatment is provided for all drugs, and then the department of health is given a sizeable income to be able to create a media best education campaign, similar to what was done for tobacco years ago.
Consumer safety was something that we didn't expect. You'll see in the slide examples of gummy bears, lollipops, and cotton candy that were being distributed on the black market and the grey market of medical...in Washington. The board actually wrote a rule. Edibles or infused products can be especially appealing to children—anything that mimics candies. Believe it or not, that was out in the marketplace, in the black and grey market of medical. We have a four-person committee here at the board that looks up all packaging, labelling, and products. Many products have been denied. Again, anything that might be appealing to children is not allowed.
As to some of the current challenges, obviously the conflict in federal law continues to be an issue. If we had time we could talk about the issues or difficulties with accessing banking services. Because of the rigorous process that we have for licensing, we've been more successful than the other states. We have four regional credit unions and state-chartered banks that have provided banking services. Typically what we'll do is that after they sign a release, we provide the licensing file to the banks, which has the criminal background check that was done and the source of funding. They often tie into our traceability system so they can see the money that's being reported and the sales that are being reported to the state, to see if that meets up with what's happening with their bank accounts.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee.
My name is Marc-Boris St-Maurice. I was the executive director of NORML Canada. I am also the founder of Bloc Pot, a provincial political party from Quebec that is in favour of the legalization of marijuana, and the Marijuana Party, at the federal level. I'm also running the Centre de compassion de Montréal, a cannabis dispensary. In addition, I'm a member of the Liberal Party, but that will not stop me from criticizing your bill, rest assured. I have been fighting for the legalization of marijuana for 25 years. I apologize if my remarks seem shocking to you, but it's not personal. It is my duty to criticize the bill.
First of all, it is important to recall that we are here today because activists like us took to the streets to claim their rights, fought to promote them, and were arrested. Since we are the ones who have been the most affected and concerned and we are the victims of the prohibition, you must attach significant weight to our comments. I don't want to make assumptions about your government's intentions. However, as a result of my experience in the past 25 years, I have a lot of fears about the way the government is planning to legalize cannabis.
Since I was persecuted, criminalized, incarcerated and alienated, you will forgive my mistrust. I feel directly targeted when we talk about eliminating the criminal element from the market. I am one of those criminals. Like many other Canadians, I have a criminal record that has only cannabis-related offences, nothing else. That is why I became an activist. I feel threatened when I hear that they want to remove me from the market. And when I feel threatened, I get ready to defend myself. Instead, we should be talking about how to reach out to, integrate and legitimize people like me. We should be legitimized in some way. I keep reassuring myself by saying that if the prohibition has not managed to get rid of me, legalization certainly will not.
You should draw inspiration from Oakland, California, where they allow people with cannabis-related criminal records to be the first ones to apply for a permit for the distribution or production of cannabis.
It's truth and reconciliation, the Oakland, California, cannabis reparation.
Over there, they recognize the harm caused to consumers by the authorities, they apologize and try to make amends. That's the first step toward reconciliation.
We are not organized crime either. Cannabis is more like disorganized crime. We need to create a diverse and inclusive market. What matters most to me is the right of entrepreneurs who have had experience with cannabis to be able to be involved and participate in this new industry.
The heterosexual community is not asked to manage all the shops in the gay village. The Catholic Church is not asked to manage the distribution of kosher or halal products, nor is a vegetarian asked to look after Canada's butchers association. So why put the cannabis market into the hands of people who know nothing about it?
We, the users, producers, suppliers and advocates, have created an industry and have unparalleled expertise in the matter. The loss of this expertise and knowledge would be a disaster for the new marijuana industry. The current market is so well-established and integrated that it will definitely have a role to play in the evolution of cannabis distribution. We will never be able to accept being excluded from this new industry for which we have been fighting for more than 25 years. That would be another injustice and an insult to all those who have paid the price of the fight against prohibition.
A number of producer categories will be created to allow all sorts of models to coexist in a dynamic market, which must include the people from my community. There seems to be a sort of shame, systemic guilt trip related to the pleasure that people may feel from using cannabis. Why is there shame around pot, but not alcohol? We celebrate our microbrewers and grape growers as great artisans. Fine wines, vintages and grape varieties are rightly considered fine art. We merrily toast to celebrate weddings, anniversaries and all other occasions. Yet cannabis smokers have to hide in the alley to enjoy their guilty little pleasure. Why? Most use cannabis recreationally to unwind and relax, which poses no major problems.
I'm afraid that the problem with the legalization as proposed is that we are trying to get around this cannabis-related shame with a legal model that will give the illusion of good social conscience. So we must keep in mind the majority for whom consumption poses little or no problem. Attempting to find a system that will solve the small number of problematic cases is absolutely futile.
In closing, if 100 years of prohibition have not stopped us, poorly implemented legalization certainly will not.
On that note, with all due respect, I appreciate the invitation and I am open to any questions you may have to help develop a proposal that will be fair to all Canadians.
Okay, perfect. Thank you.
I don't necessarily want to speak to whether I think the place that you're starting from is the right place. I am happy to address any questions regarding our experiences in our district and the results of our regulations. Youth use is something that is very, very top of mind to us and something that we focus on very extensively.
One area where I think your proposed bill has an opportunity for improvement is that in the state of Colorado, we have appropriated $12 million to go to youth outreach and youth education over a period of time. I believe we have approximately five million residents who live in the state, and my understanding is that Canada is substantially larger than that. In looking at the materials yesterday on the plane coming out here, I believe you have $9 million earmarked for your entire country. That's one area of opportunity for improvement that I would point to.
Regarding our experience, as Mr. Garza mentioned, in the regulated marketplace we are very much focused on enforcement. We have underage checks, where we send our police officers, who are either associated with the marijuana enforcement division, or in conjunction with local law enforcement, to try to purchase marijuana under the age of compliance, which is 21 in the state of Colorado.
Our statistics are very similar to what Mr. Garza expressed for the State of Washington. I believe our compliance rate is 92%. I believe he said 93%, and then in recent months that it was 98%. Those are admirable numbers, and certainly I hope we have an opportunity to achieve those as well.
Where I would say we could do a better job on our end, candidly, is that on a historical basis, we haven't done enough of those checks. I believe that over the last four years, we've done something along the lines of 600 in total. Over the last two years, that's been 350 of those 600. We have started to accelerate those. We do anticipate doing more of them.
I think having strong regulatory enforcement tactics in place to address that portion of the marketplace is very, very important, in addition to the public education complement.
Thank you to the committee for the honour to speak today. My name is Marco Vasquez, and I'm a retired police chief in Colorado. My background is over 40 years in Colorado law enforcement, including 32 years with the Denver Police Department. During my time at the Denver Police Department, I spent about 12 years in narcotics enforcement. I retired from Denver in 2008, became the chief of the Sheridan Police Department on the southwest border of Denver, and then was recruited to become the first chief of investigations for the newly created medical marijuana enforcement division in 2011.
I helped set up the regulatory framework for commercial medical marijuana businesses in Colorado, and in 2013, I returned to municipal policing as the chief of police in Erie Police Department, which is about 25 miles north of Denver. When I went back into municipal policing in 2013, I also became the marijuana issues co-chair for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
Over my past 40 years in law enforcement, my focus has always been on public safety and how to keep our communities safe. I have some experience in the Colorado marijuana legalization experience, having spent two years as the chief of investigations for the MMED and, as I've stated, as the chair for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
In 2013, the CACP drafted a marijuana position paper, and I'd like to read a bit of that position paper, which was published on March 13, 2014:
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) recognizes that Amendment 20 and Amendment 64 of the Colorado Constitution were passed by voters in 2000 and 2012 respectively. The Colorado General Assembly has enacted legislation to legalize the cultivation, distribution, and possession and non-public consumption of small amounts of marijuana and recreational marijuana. In 2013, the Colorado General Assembly enacted legislation which legalized and regulated the commercial, retail cultivation and sale of small amounts of marijuana. The statutes which addressed the medical and recreational marijuana cultivation, sale and possession have been passed by the Colorado General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. The CACP recognizes that society's views and norms are evolving on the use of marijuana yet we also believe that public safety is also of paramount concern to our residents, businesses and visitors.
It is the position of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police that our primary mission and focus of Colorado law enforcement officers represented by the CACP is the prevention and reduction of crime and disorder. Marijuana legalization will negatively impact traffic safety and safety in Colorado communities. The CACP is committed to research and the implementation of practices and strategies which will maintain safety in our communities.
It is recognized that Colorado peace officers have a duty and responsibility to uphold the Colorado Constitution and amendments to that constitution as well as local, state and federal laws.
The conflict between Federal law and State law with regard to marijuana remains a major obstacle and needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police is concerned that widespread marijuana use has the potential to adversely affect the safety, health and welfare of Colorado residents, businesses and visitors. There are concerns that marijuana use will adversely affect traffic safety on our highways and roadways and that marijuana legalization will result in an increase in marijuana and overall drug use in our schools.
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police supports the community education to reduce the use of marijuana by our youth and to highlight the risk of marijuana use to our communities and individuals.
That, again, was a partial reading of a position paper of March 2014. I have served on a number of working groups and committees, including the law enforcement subcommittee for the amendment 64 implementation task force as well as committees on data collection, edibles, and potency. I have talked to numerous stakeholders including business owners, law enforcement, regulators, policy-makers, and I believe I have a good handle on what has happened during Colorado's efforts to legalize marijuana.
I'm honoured to be here today with several experts on marijuana legalization. I am sharing this panel with people who know far more about marijuana legalization than I do, but I can speak to some of the impact and consequences on Colorado law enforcement.
I talk about a simple formula when I describe what is happening in Colorado. When you increase availability, decrease perception of risk, and increase the public acceptance of any commodity, you will see increased use. Once we see that increased use, it's very difficult to keep marijuana out of the hands of our youth. We know from validated studies that marijuana use for youth under 30 years old, especially chronic use, can have an adverse effect on brain development. We also know that one in six youth become addicted to marijuana.
We've certainly seen an increased use of marijuana in Colorado, and I believe that the increased use will ultimately increase disorder and risk factors for our youth. We're already seeing signs of increased disorder within our communities.
Because marijuana legalization in Colorado involves both commercial and non-commercial cultivation, distribution, and use, Colorado law enforcement has had a steep learning curve. Most of our issues have been with the non-commercial, unlicensed marijuana industry in gray and black markets. Andrew Freedman can speak to some of the things that Colorado has done to try to address the unregulated marijuana industry in Colorado.
Some of the issues that we have identified over the last several years that have impacted Colorado law enforcement include the lack of data collection systems to quantify the impact of marijuana legalization and the lack of clarity in the implementation of Colorado amendment 20 and Colorado amendment 64. Regulators and law enforcement still try to understand legislative intent, including the term “open and public”.
Edibles and concentrates were a surprise and have had an adverse impact on public health and safety. High concentrations of THC, in terms of vaping and shatter, are challenging what we know about cannabis. We've had a number of butane hash oil extraction explosions in Colorado.
Colorado remains high in substance abuse, and marijuana legalization has not decreased the use of opioids for pain management. Colorado has the distinction of being number two in the U.S. for opioid abuse.
Detection and prosecution of impaired drivers was and still is an issue. We have a five-nanogram permissive inference standard in Colorado, but marijuana is much different from alcohol, and we do not have the technology to determine THC impairment. There have been increased fatalities involving THC.
Caregiver and co-op cultivations in non-licensed settings have added to the diversion to youth and to out-of-state trafficking. Organized crime elements have moved into Colorado and grow large amounts of marijuana in rental homes and warehouses. Virtually all their marijuana is diverted out of state.
There has been an increase in disorder and crime in Denver in Colorado. We've seen an increase in homelessness, and many of the homeless tell us they are here because of marijuana legalization.
Finally, Colorado law enforcement has seen difficulty in pursuing some criminal charges for behaviour that is clearly illegal. In some jurisdictions we have seen what appears to be jury nullification, and we have found that municipal ordinances have been found to be more effective than state statutes.
A newspaper article just came out, I believe yesterday, in The Washington Post. It talked about chronic marijuana users being on the increase in the United States and said that the number of people who consume daily increased 19% in 2016. Daily users are up 50% from 2002. In Colorado in 2014 the Department of Revenue did a study and determined that 80% of the cannabis being consumed in Colorado is being consumed by 20% of the chronic users.
From a law enforcement and public health standpoint, then, I think that one of our greatest concerns is the chronic user and how that situation ultimately is going to affect us in our traffic safety and safety within our communities.
It's a pleasure to be here, and I have to say it's an incredible honour to be able to present to you, so thank you for the time.
I was indeed the director of marijuana coordination for the state of Colorado, which was a title that raised quite a few eyebrows when it first came out, and had people wondering what the job qualifications were. I can assure you that it had to do with nothing else but the fact that I was a lawyer and well versed in Colorado law, and that I was, at the time, the lieutenant governor's chief of staff.
In wondering about what would be most helpful for all of you today, in terms of lessons learned from our jurisdiction, I thought one of the more useful distinctions we have is between when it was a better policy objective to educate Coloradans, versus when we needed to rely on more stick-like law enforcement principles. For the most part I've tried to divide my presentation into those two subjects, and then some other pertinent information that I think would have been of use to us at the stage where you guys are.
First is to talk about youth use, and obviously education about youth use is important. I don't think anybody would think of it any differently. I will say that in Colorado we had a problem in tone at the beginning, and that certainly affected our rollout of public education campaigns and our ability to educate the youth early. We as government didn't see it as scare tactics, but the message in the first campaign was “Don't be a Lab Rat”. It was really about educating the kids about the fact that the initial studies coming out were not good, and asking them whether they wanted to be the brain that gives itself up to science later on.
What we missed when we did that was that when youth are listening to the government talking about marijuana, there is a healthy amount of skepticism coming from them. When you saw our further campaigns coming on, like “Protect What's Next”, we were working very hard not to use a condescending tone in any way, really just trying to meet the youth where their goals are in life. We said things much closer to, “Are you interested in getting your driver's licence?”, “Are you interested in getting a good grade on your tests, in getting a date to the dance, or in making a sports team?”, and “Do you actually think that marijuana will help you get there?”
Our post-tests have come back on that with a much higher rating, so there was a lesson learned on our side about how to do messaging in a way that best educates rather than reprimands youth.
I will also say that there is some very good research that we relied on heavily in Colorado, out of the state of Washington, about the use of behavioural health specialists in schools to identify at-risk kids who then get to volunteer in behavioural health programs. To date, that has been the best impact money that we've seen on the ability both to prevent youth use and also to pull kids back from substance abuse.
The other place worth mentioning is responsible use. I think you'll hear a lot about people showing up in hospitals and people calling poison control centres post-legalization. Most studies on that have shown that it's mostly about naive users—tourists being the number one naive users—coming in and trying new products.
The one that everybody is most familiar with, although it certainly isn't the only one, is edibles. Tourists come in, they don't have a place to smoke, and edibles are, frankly, a more consumer-friendly product. They buy some edibles and they over-consume just as they would over-consume alcohol, but it's probably a little worse with marijuana because there is a delayed effect there. They end up using more than they should—sometimes mixing it with things like alcohol—and they end up in the emergency room.
The good news is that the main effect is a short psychotic break, which doesn't sound like good news but it is. They're a danger to themselves and to others while they're in it, but there are no long-term health effects to that and all they really need is time to get through it.
The other thing to notice, and why I put it in this category, is that the more we have educated on that, the more we've seen those numbers come down. We've actually seen a decrease in hospitalization rates and a decrease in poison control centre calls since the education on what new products can do to users, and, in general, the education to naive users that there can be a pretty huge impact coming in on that.
The third one is licensee compliance.
One thing we've noticed in our system moving forward is that there are enough built-in incentives for licensees to want to comply with the law and that the more we educate them on how to comply with the law, the more we'll see compliance rates rise. That education ranges through everything from pesticides to youth use.
In general, at least in the way the Colorado system was built, you had far too much money at stake, so with that incentive to keep your licence, we ended up seeing very high compliance rates in some cases, much higher than the alcohol compliance rates for similarly situated licensee suspensions.
The areas in which to expect the worst have been talked about a couple of times. The biggest one is out-of-country and, in the case of Colorado, out-of-state diversion. Unfortunately, the way that legalization is going—in pockets, rather than in the United States across the country. Certainly, when you share a border with a state that has prohibition, the economic incentive to be able to grow and ship is very high, so you have to be able to look at your system in such a way that you understand where somebody's going to try to abuse that system.
In Colorado, that ended up to be in our home-grow system. As Chief Vasquez mentioned, it was mainly our medical marijuana that allowed for quite a bit of home-grow. Our recreational use also allowed for home-grow, and between the two, it was very confusing for law enforcement and there was a lot of jury nullification. We had to go back and clean up our laws quite a bit. It is also the area in which we've seen organized crime come into Colorado, and frankly in which we've seen violent crime come into Colorado.
The number one thing I say to jurisdictions when I come in, therefore, is to really take a look at your unlicensed system. Also take a look at your licensed system and make sure that in any place where there's abuse involving out-of-state or out-of-country diversion, you make sure to put up safeguards as soon as possible.
There are areas in which we don't know enough, and frankly, concerning which we're excited about the opportunity of seeing where Canada is going with this in order to learn more. Certainly there are trends we should be paying attention to.
Driving while high is one. There are two sets of data that we look at there. The first is actual arrest data on driving while high, which I would submit to you is very bad data and not worth looking at, at this point. That's because every state that has passed marijuana laws has then passed new “driving while high” laws and also used a portion of their money to train officers to be able to pull people over for driving while high.
The fatal accident reporting systems called FARS is a much better system to look into. It has not changed all that much post-legalization and is not susceptible to the same sort of objective biases that our DUID systems are. We can't link causation at this point, but these have shown an increased trend of people testing high while driving, and that includes for active THC. This means that among people involved in accidents in which somebody has died, drivers involved are testing higher for active THC at a greater percentage than they were before legalization. This certainly is a place that needs both a lot more research and frankly best practices, going forward, because it's not a place that has been developed at this point.
Adult consumption was mentioned before as well. We don't actually have great data from Colorado about how cannabis use disorder or functional impairment or heavy use has changed post-legalization. Frankly, if I could go back and rework the surveys of 10 years ago, I'd start to ask about frequency of use, but the main questions we've been asking are about year use and 30-day use. This, then, is one place in which I point out that you should have your data system set up to catch this information as quickly as possible, rather than five to 10 years down the road. We frankly don't even have a trend line in Colorado yet.
To speak very quickly to other pertinent issues, I know that taxation and where the revenue money will be will always be a big topic of discussion. I argue that the black market argument is probably not the key factor right now that should be argued about. Economies of scale have much more to do with the price of marijuana coming down over time than tax revenue has. Certainly you can tax it too high and can create a black market—we've seen that with cigarettes—so it should be something you are aware of.
In the opening years of legalization, however, the price of marijuana is going to be determined much more by economies of scale than by questions about tax revenue. Whatever you're thinking about, make sure that you remain flexible in your thinking, because the price is going to decrease rapidly over time as people realize these economies.
That being said, I don't think tax revenue should be a driving force behind legalization. In Colorado, any way you look at it, it makes up less than 1% of our total revenue, but in the voters' minds it makes up about 95%. It is thus in the media all the time, and it makes people think that it's enough money to fix schools or to fix transportation, and it's not.
I urge new jurisdictions to consider it going to discrete public health problems, such as homelessness, that don't typically receive revenue streams and on which you can significantly move the needle, because whatever you're giving marijuana money to, be prepared to have it get no more money down the line. Everybody thinks you can solve the problem with marijuana money.
I'll end with data, the ways we look at data and suggestions we would have going forward. We have five standards we think about when we think about data.
One is that you need to make sure you have great baseline data moving forward. We didn't have great baseline data for marijuana-related suspensions in schools. We just had drug-related suspensions. Marijuana might make up 50% to 60% of those, but it doesn't serve as well as a proxy. Having baseline data ahead of time, including on DUIDs, will be really important and will help you to signify public health and public safety concerns much faster.
Two, to the extent possible—and this is very difficult—it should be free of observation bias. I think one of the things that happens once you legalize is that everybody becomes very aware of marijuana, including doctors. They will say that they code more often for marijuana than they would have before, because they're asking questions more often. In the places where you can be more free of those observation biases going forward, again, the better data you'll have to be able to notice public health and public safety issues.
Three, you'll be pushed to gather information about whether legalization is a good idea or a bad idea. I think that's the wrong place to be looking for data. This is a country that's already decided where it wants to go. Instead, it should be picking up for public health and public safety data that is relevant to ways it can change and move forward with it.
Finally, four, make sure that it's actionable. I know a lot of places have great seed-to-sale data that they don't yet feel comfortable going to court with. Unless you feel comfortable enough with your data to use it in the ways you need to use it, ultimately, it is not useful. There are a lot of places you can go with data. I recommend making sure all your systems, especially your seed-to-sale tracking system, are talking to your public health and public safety data systems so that you can see your problems as quickly as possible.
With that, I look forward to your questions. Thank you for your time.
Thank you so much. I apologize for the technical problems. I am on vacation in Hawaii, so I am not in with my normal support system.
I want to talk to you today about Washington State's experience and what we went through transitioning from an unregulated medical system to a regulated both recreational and medical system. Our medical system was first approved by voter initiative in 1998. It was a very simple initiative. It provided an affirmative defence to criminal prosecution for patients and their caregivers who possessed no more than a 60-day supply of marijuana. It didn't authorize commercial production or processing, sales or other transactions for consideration, regulation by any type of government entity whatsoever, the right to use marijuana, or legalization or arrest protection for patients and their caregivers.
Being from the Department of Health, I'm very interested in the role of the health care provider. We have medical doctors, osteopathic physicians, physician assistants, ARNPs, and naturopaths who can authorize the medical use of marijuana. They can discuss the risks and benefits, sign the patient's authorization form, testify in court, and they should educate about marijuana, but they cannot legally dispense or administer marijuana.
It stayed pretty quiet for many years after that, until our recreational initiative in 2012, and that of course allows adults aged 21 and older to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana and corresponding amounts of liquids and edible products that are obtained from a state-licensed system of private producers, processors, and retail stores. The hallmarks of the recreational market that were missing from the medical market were regulation and enforcement of any kind, seed-to-sale tracking, testing and labelling requirements, serving-size limits, product restrictions in terms of products that may be attractive to children, and any form of taxation.
When the recreational initiative passed in 2012, it did allot a certain amount of tax revenue to the Department of Health to create and maintain an education and public health program, to have a marijuana use hotline, to have grants and programs for local health departments, and to have media-based education campaigns that separately targeted both youth and adults. One of the issues we had with that is that it was funded out of tax revenue, but we were legalized in January of 2013 and sales didn't actually start until July 7, 2014. We had an 18-month lag during which we had legalization in Washington but we had no tax revenue coming in to fund the system.
One tip I would give to you or to any other government entity starting up a marijuana system is to make sure you have that educational funding up front and that you don't rely just on taxation dollars, because doing that is going to put you behind the eight ball. We had our citizens crying out for this kind of educational material, which we did not yet have the funding to put together. Since the sales revenue began, we now get about $7.5 million per year for our educational campaign, and we are in our third campaign. We first targeted parents about how to talk to their children. Then we targeted youth aged 16, 17, and 18. We're currently working on a campaign for our younger kids, aged 13, 14, and 15.
When sales started for the recreational system, we ended up with two systems living side by side—a highly regulated, highly taxed recreational market, and a completely unregulated, untaxed, kind of out-of-control medical market. Our legislature really started looking for a way to align these two systems.
That happened in 2015. They passed a bill that provided regulation of the medical use of marijuana through a single system of licensed producers, processors, and retail stores, with consistent labelling, testing, and product standards, and specific requirements for patients who are under the age of 18. We had never had that before in our initial medical system. There was no consideration for minors who might be patients; therefore, we had children who were literally going out and getting an authorization for medical use of marijuana without their parents even being aware of that, which raised a lot of concerns.
The goals of the alignment from the health department's point of view included clarifying what is meant by “the medical use of marijuana”. We have very strict standards in our law about what conditions you must have to qualify for the medical use of marijuana, but a lot of people use it to self-medicate. Is that medical or recreational? We also wanted tax breaks for patients who are signed up in our database or our registry. As well, we wanted to give them arrest protection for the first time, because, as I said, until that point they'd had only an affirmative defence at trial. We also wanted to better protect our medical patients by making sure that the products they were using were tested and accurately labelled, so that patients were actually getting what they were thinking they were getting when they went into our unlicensed medical dispensary.
On my slides, which I believe have been printed out, you can see some of the products—we have two pages of products—and the kinds of things that were in our unregulated medical market prior to 2015. They include products that mimic popular candy and treats, products that have 1,000 milligrams of THC in a single package. As you may have heard, a serving size is 10 milligrams, so that is a very high serving of marijuana. Also, it looks like a Twinkie. A small child may not understand that this is a marijuana-infused product.
I also have here a photograph that I took in a medical dispensary of completely unmarked and unlabelled edible products. I was in that dispensary. I held up a bag of Goldfish crackers that had been sprayed with marijuana concentrate and asked three different workers in that dispensary what was in the baggie, and they told me three different things. From a public health standpoint, that's very concerning. If you're a patient and you're relying on these products for your health, to go in and not be able to know what you're buying.... You're not going to have consistency and you're not going to have safety. You're not going to be able to rely on these products.
After the bill for alignment passed in 2015, the health department was given three notable tasks. There were several tasks in there, but there are three that I want to talk about. One is to create rules for products that would be beneficial for patient use. Another one is to create within the health department a new licensed profession called “medical marijuana consultant”, and one is to create a database, but most people refer to it as a registry. We were, up to that point, the only state that had legalized medical marijuana and did not have a registry. It was a pretty frustrating situation. I would get calls on a regular basis asking me how many patients we had in the state of Washington, and I would have absolutely no answer because we didn't have a way of tracking them.
For compliant products, when we were deciding what products are beneficial to patients, we really listened to our patient community and what they wanted from their system. They wanted better testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and mycotoxins, because those were not being tested for in the recreational market. As I spoke about earlier, we also wanted additional requirements for labelling, safe handling, and employee training. In my slides, which you have in front of you, I have a photograph of what a compliant product looks like. Something that has met all those requirements and rules can use a label developed by the health department to show the buyer that it does in fact meet those enhanced quality standards.
For the medical marijuana consultants, this was a compromise between our recreational initiative that said that people in the retail stores were not allowed to talk about the medical benefits of marijuana in any way. Compare that with what had been going on in our unlicensed dispensaries where workers in the dispensaries were basically practising medicine without a licence on a daily basis along the lines of, if you use this product, it will cure your cancer and you don't need to go back to your oncologist.
The legislature tried to create a balance between those two those things by creating a new profession that does have some training but is not a health care profession. At this time we have three training programs for consultants. Two of those are online so we can reach our rural populations. We received a little over 1,100 applications and issued 720 consultant certificates. These are people who can only work within a retail store and give advice about product selection but not medical care.
Our third major task was the database. It went live on July 1, 2016, which was the day of the alignment when all the unlicensed, basically illegal, medical dispensaries had to close. Initial and renewal cards for the database cost one dollar. It is not mandatory; however, it is voluntary, and if you're in the database, you get extra benefits as a patient in terms of not having to pay sales tax. You can grow more plants. You can purchase more products. It is entirely voluntary.
Thank you very much, Chair.
My Canadian wife is very proud of me right now. It is an honour to be in front of you. My mother-in-law is probably even more proud, so that's probably more important. I do want to thank you all for having this deliberative discussion. I wish in the United States we had had a real discussion and debate about this, rather than 30-second TV spots to whoever could fund their message and those were the ones who won, the ones who funded it. This is a much better approach and really, from a personal perspective, I want to thank the government and everyone in Canada for being such a welcoming place and having welcomed my in-laws here from fleeing persecution 35 years ago, 40 years ago. This is a very special place indeed.
As Canada embarks on this discussion as a country already with the second highest rate of cannabis use in the world, I think you have two choices when it comes to this policy change in this arena.
First, lawmakers can listen to public health advocates and people with essentially no financial incentives for policies to pass. This disinterested group grounds its perspective on scientific evidence and the legacy of other legalized drugs. We have already legalized drugs. They're called alcohol, tobacco, and prescription pharmaceuticals. Based on that information, most of these associations, folks working in public health, reject legalization in favour of a modified cannabis reform that would remove criminal penalties, not punish users, but at the same time not normalize, advertise, promote, and essentially commercialize cannabis. I think there has been a false dichotomy set up between you either have to criminalize or you have to legalize. I think that is a false dichotomy.
Now, if that can't be done and the decision has been made, then I would say a policy of discouragement and deterrence centred around strong science-based regulations and messages about cannabis use outcomes is certainly preferred to the policy of putting business people over public health and safety.
Alternatively, you can disregard scientists and not listen to the public health and safety experts, as well as your international treaty obligations under the United Nations, and instead listen to those with a financial stake in promoting, normalizing, and legalizing cannabis. These lobbyists and the interests they represent will make a great deal of money if cannabis is legal. The more people use, the more they will earn. We know the consequences of this approach from the world's experience with tobacco. It was our biggest global public health disaster: denying science on negative effects, promoting the use to children and other vulnerable populations, and manipulating the drug to enhance its addictive effects and thus its profitability.
Sadly, in my country in the United States, we've taken the latter route. It has already produced negative consequences. Although, of course, the full spectrum of negative consequences will not be seen for probably decades to come: mental illness, schizophrenia, psychosis, these things don't happen overnight.
We know that cannabis use is at least up, compared with the rest of the country, in jurisdictions with legalization. A commercial industry rife with lobbyists is regularly undermining proper regulation. Fly into places like Oregon and you see billboards without disclaimers, you see coupons, and you see brightly coloured edibles. These were supposed to be regulated out of the market. There are also concerns with drugged driving.
I've worked on this issue for over 20 years. I look at this from a non-partisan perspective. I've served most recently in the Obama administration where I was privileged to help draft the president's national drug control strategy, which shifted our approach to a public health approach. I've also served folks in other parties. I have advised in the U.K. before and after my Ph.D. studies at Oxford. I am gravely concerned with the direction we're going on this, because modern high-grade cannabis is not the cannabis of old. We've learned to manipulate the THC levels and that is why I co-founded with Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late senator Ted Kennedy, a group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
We joined the major public health and safety organizations in flat out rejecting legalization as good public policy, but also rejecting criminalization and the arrest of people for small-time use, but we are very concerned with the kinds of products that cannabis now comes in—in terms of attractive, kid-friendly edibles like candies, ice cream, and sodas—which account for a large portion of the cannabis market in legalized states.
Legalization and industrialization is responsible for these products. Let's be very clear. There is no effective way to mass produce highly potent products without access to the technology and capital that legalization allows.
I'm very concerned that we're seeing former provincial leaders, people in the public good, who have left their positions now, and we're seeing announcements about joining and starting companies and being involved in the cannabis business and using that inside information.
With regard to health, you've heard from people who have studied this much more extensively than I have, such as those from the Quebec association of psychiatrists and others. There is no debate about the negative consequences, the long-term consequences especially, of heavy cannabis use on young people. Canadian youth will be less marketable, frankly, on the global marketplace if use goes up and continues to go up. They will not be able to compete against other countries. I think that is a real issue. I think the workplace is a real issue as is employment safety.
I'm not going to go through the entire testimony here. I will submit it for the record in terms of, for example, what the National Academy of Sciences has said in my country. The top scientists just met and released the most extensive scientific review that has ever been released in the world on the negative health effects of cannabis. I urge you to consult that. I also urge you to consult the surveys that have been done on youth use around the country. Some of the ones that Andrew referred to talk about the issue of emergency room admissions, and we have data from Colorado and Washington on that as well.
As well as the issue of youth use and emergency room admissions, I think the black market is a serious concern. We are deluding ourselves if we think that major drug trafficking organizations will not exploit every chance they get to have a way to be legitimized through the legal market. We're seeing this in other states. We're also deluding ourselves to think that they will go away and not try to undercut the government price of cannabis. The economies rule the day here in terms of price. The lower the drug price, the more likely someone is to use, and the illegal market can easily undercut the legal market. In fact, a leaked report in March from the Oregon State Police found that 70% of the market for cannabis in that state, which legalized some years ago, is still from the black market. A quote from that report reads:
The illicit exportation of cannabis must be stemmed as it undermines the spirit of the law and the integrity of the legal market...it steals economic power from the market, the government, and the citizens...and furnishes it to criminals, thereby tarnishing state compliance efforts.
In 2016, a Seattle Police spokesman noted that large-scale illegal grows are still prevalent and that they do come across those.
Another issue that was brought up was drugged driving. A study recently issued by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction put the cost of impaired driving from cannabis at $1 billion. What will happen if the use of cannabis increases by 1%, by 5%, or by 10% as a result of normalization? We can debate about which datasets are best for drugged driving, but the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found a large increase in Washington State, for example, in recent cannabis users getting involved in fatal car crashes. We know from science that cannabis about doubles to triples your risk of a crash because of reduced reaction time, etc.
Costs are very important. Please do not think that there will not be regulatory and enforcement costs under legalization. A lot of people are stunned. They say, “Wait a minute. We thought we were getting rid of enforcement.” Actually, you're not. You will have to invest in the enforcement of the rules that you create. For example, in the U.S., the number one drug of arrest is not heroin, it's not marijuana, and it's not crack. It's alcohol. That's for underage users, DWIs, and public use. If recent surveys of Canadians are of any interest to anybody, I would say I think the public use of cannabis, the nuisance of second-hand smoke, and the issue of multi-home dwellings are going to be very big nuisances, and very big issues. That's why, for example, the apartment associations said what they did, and I agree with them.
As Andrew talked about, it's also not a tax windfall. If you're going to talk about revenues, let's talk about costs as well. You cannot look at one side of the ledger. A bad way to look at any business is to only look at revenues. What are the costs? What are the costs to Canada in terms of drugged driving, public safety, public health, etc.?
Finally, no policy change should occur without a commitment to better data collection. I don't think there has been good data collection, unfortunately, so far in Canada. However, robust data allows us to shape and change policy. There are a lot of things to look at, which I include in my testimony.
As I said, I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendations of most of your health organizations and other associations that realize there will be real victims from this policy change. The government should therefore commit itself to reducing the number of victims as much as possible, and discourage and deter. In summary, slow down. The only people who benefit from speed in this issue are the business people who are really waiting to get rich. There is no benefit at all to going fast on this issue. I share the concerns of provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba, who have raised alarm about the issue of age and the speed at which this is going.
I understand that it may be too late, but I still think that forgoing legalization in favour of reducing criminal sanctions and deterring marijuana use is the best way for public health. If, despite the best available evidence showing that it would ultimately harm public health, you do go ahead with legalization, we recommend raising the age limit, as the Canadian Medical Association said, to 25. The brain isn't fully developed until about age 30. The age of 25 seems rational.
Commence a discouragement and deterrence campaign. Limit the profitability of any retail outlets, for example, with government-owned stores that are totally non-profit, and plain packaging. We can't do, unfortunately, no advertising and commercialization in the U.S. because of that little thing called the First Amendment, which we find, and I find, very important and very good. In this case it hurts us in the U.S. because of commercial speech being protected as free speech. Hopefully you can find a way to have reduced commercialization.
Defend the rights of non-users and the victims, the children, the vulnerable populations. Where will the marijuana stores show up? Will they be in the rich neighbourhoods or will they be in the most vulnerable ones? That's a huge issue. In the United States there are eight times as many liquor stores in poorer communities of colour. I think Canada should listen to business groups, housing associations, and medical associations, as you are now, before formulating any policy. Commit yourself to a robust data collection effort.