The House resumed from June 1 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise on this bill, particularly given the fact that the policies that pertain to cannabis have been nothing short of abject failures.
We have, over successive decades, let our young people down. In fact, if we look at the numbers, for the cohort from 15 to 19, there is a 21% prevalence in the use of cannabis. If we go the next cohort up, 20 to 24, it is 30%. It represents the highest level of cannabis use by young people on the planet. In fact, one-third of young people will try cannabis before the age of 15.
I know I have heard many times from members opposite that they are concerned about cannabis being in the hands of young people. The problem is that it is already happening, and it is already happening at higher levels than it is happening anywhere else on the planet. The only way we can categorize being dead last on the planet is as a failure, and certainly to me it speaks to the need to do something differently.
We cannot be ostriches on this. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problem does not exist. It is not just our young people who are being let down. We spend $2 billion to $3 billion in the enforcement of these failed laws. About $7 billion or $8 billion of profit goes to illegal organized crime organizations that fund illicit activities. Having been on the Police Services Board in Durham region, and seeing the impact of grow-ops and the danger our front-line officers are placed in when trying to enforce these disastrously failed policies, I know first-hand just how much this change is needed. It is time to stop play pretend. It is time to stop ignoring this issue and to finally do something about it.
I look at the example of my time at Heart and Stroke, where I was the executive director, and what we did with tobacco. We targeted tobacco, and through a sustained effort of denormalization and public intervention, took prevalence rates among young people of well over 50% to half the level of where cannabis is today. Here is cannabis, an illegal substance, double that of a legal substance.
The example of what we did in tobacco with those campaigns on denormalization offer an excellent path for us to move forward. We know we have two objectives at the front of our minds. Number one is to keep cannabis out of the hands of young people, something we have done an abysmal job of doing to date. It is a total failure. Number two is to dry out the billions of dollars in illicit profit that is flowing to criminal organizations. If those are the two markers we want to go for, the bill takes us a long way in that direction.
I want to thank the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, headed by the Hon. Anne McLellan, and the incredible work done by experts in public health, justice, policing, public safety and substance abuse, and mental health who came together and were instrumental in creating the bill. It would now make cannabis legal for adults. Thirty grams dried, either for personal use or to be shared, would be legal. Small quantities would be allowed to be grown, so if individuals wanted to grow marijuana, they would be able to do so. They could have four plants no higher than one metre in height per residence.
At the same time as we bring in that regime to legalize it for adults, we would bring in very strict regulations to keep it out of the hands of youth. That is particularly important, because the research shows us that cannabis is most deadly and most concerning for young people and their mental health. We will obviously have to invest in public education campaigns and the type of denormalization efforts we had for tobacco.
On top of that, for the first time, the bill would make it a criminal offence to sell to a minor. It would create severe penalties for anyone who engaged youth in cannabis-related offences. Very importantly, it would block marketing and advertising to children, something we should have done from day one when dealing with tobacco.
To make sure that a young person who makes an error is not burdened with a criminal record that would, frankly, wreak havoc on their later life—and unfortunately we see that all too often—minors who are caught with an amount under five grams would not get a criminal record.
Make no mistake: this bill would target full force the use of cannabis by young people. It would come down like a hammer on anyone who would seek to sell to or use young people, under an age determined by the provinces, in the conduct of anything having to do with cannabis.
On the supply side, this legislation would also bring in a number of important measures. One of the big concerns with cannabis today is that people who are purchasing it have no idea what they are getting. They do not know the level of THC or if anything else has been cut into it. The bill would ensure that the supply was safe, that it was securely cleared, and that it was federally licensed. For adults who make the decision to use it, the bill would ensure that it was done in a way that causes the least amount of harm.
Concurrent with this bill is Bill . While that is a different bill, it is very important to mention that the two would work in tandem with one another.
Some have asked about driving impaired, as if the problem does not exist today. The problem, unfortunately, does exist today, and law enforcement has been given no tools to deal with someone who has been driving under the influence of drugs, not just cannabis. We know the deadly impact of impaired driving. We have made great strides in dealing with the impact of alcohol. Bill would go even further. It would make further advancements in public safety when it comes to drinking and driving.
Bill , for the first time, would set up a regime. The government would be providing resources to ensure that law enforcement had the ability to recognize and charge anyone who was driving high. That is an important part of the fabric of this bill.
I want to state in closing that the balance in public safety between, on the one hand, ensuring that illicit, dangerous substances are kept out of the hands of people generally, and on the other, ensuring that when the regime we have is not working we find a different path, is incredibly important. What we are seeing here with respect to cannabis is that appropriate balance. We are making sure that young people are protected. We are making sure that we keep cannabis out of their hands and that we have robust education to tell them about the damage cannabis can do to a developing mind. On the other hand, we are looking at the fact that existing policies have been complete failures. When almost a third of the population is using it, it is time for a different approach.
Mr. Speaker, I too want to add my comments to the debate on Bill , which is the cannabis act.
It is interesting that the Liberals, when they were the third party in the House, wanted to put out some things in the window to encourage voters, but I do not think they ever actually thought that they were going to have to follow through with this particular policy. They made a lot of promises in the election, including balanced budgets, electoral reform, and of course legalizing cannabis. To be quite frank, I would have much preferred that they kept their promise on a balanced budget than their promise of legalizing cannabis.
As is the policy of our party, most Canadians think that children, young teenagers, and young adults should not be adversely impacted and have criminal records for having a small amount of cannabis. Certainly that is something that would have been important to move forward, rather than an ill-thought-out plan that probably would create some significant damages down the way.
The Liberals' stated policy objective is going to be monitored and watched by all Canadians because the Liberal government is saying two things. The Liberals are saying, first, that they are going to protect our children, and second, that they are going to get organized crime out of this business, and that the rest of us have our heads in the sand like ostriches. The Liberals are going to be held to account, year after year as the data come in, as to whether they have actually achieved those two objectives. Certainly, there are a number of people out there who are very concerned that the design of the legislation would not achieve those outcomes.
I am going to read a couple of excerpts from a very good article that came out in the Canadian Medical Association Journal a couple of days ago. It is important to note that the is also a physician and that this is her professional body. The CMA is advising with regard to the legislation, and it has some pretty important things to say. Perhaps the minister should reflect on what it is saying, because the association is an expert in this area.
The title of the article is “Cannabis legislation fails to protect Canada’s youth”. This is an article by Dr. Kelsall. I do not have time to read it all, but I certainly encourage anyone who is interested to read the details. It was in the May 29 Canadian Medical Association Journal. It says, “The purported purpose of the act is to protect public health and safety, yet some of the act’s provisions appear starkly at odds with this objective, particularly for Canada’s youth.”
The author then goes into significant detail, which has been spoken about in the debate up to now, in terms of young age and the particularly long-term consequences and impact of cannabis use on the developing brain, and really saying that it is not until the age of 25, when the brain is more fully developed, that it is less impactful. What did the government do? The medical association says, at a minimum, to make the age 21 for legalization because up to that age it is a real issue, so the Liberals made the legal age 18. That is the first significant area of concern.
Next, the article talks about drawing on the work of the federal task force, which “recommended taking a public health approach”, yet in the bill the age is set, even though 21 years is absolutely recommended.
The association's next area of concern is the “personal cultivation of up to four marijuana plants”. About this, the article states, “allowing personal cultivation will increase the risk of diversion and access to cannabis that is not subject to any quality or potency controls.” That is important. The Liberals talk about use, and I believe a lot of studies talk about the fact that the first time children smoke a cigarette at a young age is often when they have gone into their parents' package of cigarettes and taken from that supply. That is their first exposure to cigarettes. We now would have a situation where having cannabis, whether it is purchased legally or grown in the home, becomes normalized.
To be quite frank, I think children's access would be much easier than it currently is, especially in the case of the homegrown and particularly in the case of the potency issues.
The other issue with the home growing is that, not only do I think children are going to have more access, but why did the Liberals ever put this in there? They did not need to have homegrown in there at all. I think if they are going to do this, it should be absolutely all purchased and quality controlled.
They talk about only being able to have four marijuana plants and they can only be 100 centimetres high, so all is fine. Who is going to monitor that? Who is going to go around with a measuring tape, measuring the height of the marijuana plants and counting them? No one. This is an unenforceable piece of legislation. It is absolutely ridiculous to have that in there.
Then there is the insurance issue. I have dealt with a number of landlords who have come to me over the years, in terms of our medical marijuana regime. What is happening is that landlords have no rights. If someone has a licence to grow medical marijuana, and they rent a home from someone and decide they are going to grow their medical marijuana, they perhaps are growing it for another person with a licence, the landlord has no rights at all. What happens after that? The landlords lose their insurance.
There has been no work that I can see done with the insurance companies, real estate associations, or provinces in terms of what the impact would be in terms of the homegrown aspect.
The FCM is here. Many people have noted they are here. I met with a number of representatives from our local area. They said, “We have a mess right now. This is a mess. We don't know where it's going to end up, but we're very fearful that there's going to be a lot of downloading on us.”
With respect to the organized crime aspect, again, perhaps this is going to work, in terms of taking it out of organized crime. There is no guarantee. I suspect that the prices are going to be high and between the diversion from the homegrown, because no one is monitoring four plants, there is going to continue to be a significant element of organized crime. To be frank, if this goes ahead, and I hope that I am wrong, I do not think that they have created the right circumstances to remove organized crime out of this particular business. Perhaps, in many ways, they will be getting into the legal component of it.
I am going to conclude by stating what my concerns are. Absolutely, age is number one. Second is the ability to grow in the home, and the third is just a personal thing that I find to be particularly offensive. When the Liberals came out, with great pride, to announce the movement forward with their cannabis legislation, they said, “We're going to have it in place for July 1. It is going to be there for Canada Day 2018.”
In 2018, when I am watching the fireworks on Canada Day, I hope that people do not say this is what is making it special, because the Liberals think that we cannot enjoy our celebrations of our country by watching the lights and the different displays without being stoned. I think it is incredibly offensive that they want to attach legalization to Canada Day, a day on which we should be filled with pride, and they just think it is important that perhaps people can enjoy being stoned during these festivities. It is really offensive.
In any event, I hope members listen to me on at least the issue of age and the issue of home growing.
Mr. Speaker, today we are speaking about Bill , a Liberal government plan that caused a stir even well before the election. When the was the leader of the Liberal Party and aspiring to his current position, he spoke about his own marijuana use and later said he was going to launch this major project.
First, we must point out that there is a problem we must now deal with. In fact, we have been asking for a long time for the details and the plan for this bill, information that has been lacking for far too long. When someone who is aspiring to be Prime Minister, and an MP before that, stands for election and talks in very vague terms about legalization, it creates a lot of uncertainty. We have seen that the judicial system and police forces are also dealing with a great deal of uncertainty.
When the Liberals came to power almost eighteen months ago, I asked the RCMP commissioner some questions when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I wanted to know how he thought the existing law should be applied in light of the Prime Minister's long-term vision, which was not materializing.
With respect to public safety and security, there are other consequences stemming from the lack of a plan, a vision, or an explanation from the government about this bill. One of those consequences is still present today, and it may very well remain after the bill is enacted: the consequences for Canadians crossing the border to the United States.
Growing numbers of American states are legalizing marijuana. In spite of that, we see that Canadian citizens crossing the border, whether to visit family or to go on vacation or to work, are being asked outright whether they have ever smoked marijuana. They are being judged for that and banned from entering the United States.
While we acknowledge the Americans’ responsibility, and their right, to make that determination for themselves, we can readily conclude that it is extremely problematic that a product legalized in Canada will have such major consequences for Canadians.
In spite of the current scrambling resulting from the behaviour of President Trump, our relationship with the United States is nonetheless very important, and smooth flow at the border remains crucial for many Canadians, for the reasons I outlined earlier.
As we saw when my colleague from asked a question today during question period, we have no information about Canada’s various international obligations. We have still not been given the details about how we are going to go about this.
What we are seeing is the consequences associated with a process that was significantly lacking in transparency up until the bill was introduced, in spite of the report of the task force, whom we do thank for that.
I am going to talk about what the bill does and does not contain. Before getting into the substance of this legislation, I want to say that we will be supporting Bill at second reading. It is high time we moved forward with this debate.
However, even though we support the bill, we have important questions and concerns. Some will be resolved in committee, but others will be more difficult to resolve and will remain unanswered.
The question that comes immediately to mind relates to the responsibilities of the provinces and territories. I raised the question of uncertainty earlier. The greatest uncertainty relates to shared responsibilities with the provinces. For example, important questions arise in relation to taxation, that is, the revenue that will be derived from this. That is often one of the arguments when we discuss legalizing marijuana. People often tell us that one of the positive consequences of legalizing marijuana is that this revenue will no longer be in the hands of organized crime, and will instead be in the government’s hands.
However, we know that given the way our country is structured, all the issues relating to sale and taxation are to a large extent under provincial jurisdiction.
I have heard some Conservatives raise the question of the rights of landlords whose tenants might like to grow plants. Tenants can set rules of their own. That said, in Quebec, for example, it could be the Régie du logement that ends up having to come up with a set of rules. All these questions obviously call for a robust, transparent and very thorough conversation with the provinces.
It does not seem to me that this has happened so far. This is one of the bill's major problems. We will get answers to some of these questions when we have a clearer picture of the role the provinces are being called on to play.
Governing in Canada can be very complicated. There are different issues in the different regions of the country. This is a vast country, as we know. We hope that the provinces will get their say. We are certainly not convinced that they have had a chance to explain their concerns and say how they would like things to be structured.
Naturally, the government could ask that we have these discussions after the bill has passed. As a parliamentarian from Quebec, I see that I need a lot more information about what will be required of the provinces to do and what the provinces may require, in turn, before we can give the government a blank cheque.
In spite of all this, as I said, we support the government’s approach, up to a point. In recent years, there has been much talk about what we know as the war on drugs. That is what the media calls it. It was popularized, in a sense, by Ronald Reagan when he was president in the 1980s.
We agree with the government that the present approach is a failure. Obviously, putting our heads in the sand and contenting ourselves with punishing people is not an approach that promotes education and prevention or benefits young people or cultural communities. Unfortunately, specific segments of the population are too often victims of profiling or discrimination by the judicial system, and, without meaning to generalize, by some aspects of policing.
We can look at the American example and see how marijuana is classified in the United States. In the hierarchy of dangerous and serious drugs, marijuana is classified ahead of other drugs like heroin or cocaine. We see that there is nonetheless discussion happening. The reason I mention the American example despite the fact that it goes outside our borders is that there are a lot of fears circulating. We must take the opportunity to set the record straight.
With respect to discrimination, in our humble opinion, it is too often the same people, the same members of our society, who are punished unfairly or too harshly in connection with their recreational use of marijuana, among other things. That is why we have called for decriminalization for a long time.
When it comes to the , we find it unacceptable that a member of his family is able to get off because of the privileges he enjoys in our society as a result of his status, while young people, or, as I said, other members of society who are too often victims of discrimination will still have a criminal record and the negative repercussions of that record for something that will soon be legal. In the meantime, we are calling for amnesty and decriminalization.
With respect to the question of revenue, which will also have to be negotiated with the provinces, we believe that this money can and should be used for education and prevention. This is a golden opportunity to change the direction of the war on drugs and truly focus on a progressive approach. It must benefit primarily the people for whom it is intended, namely young people. We must not see cronyism or an approach that takes a direction different from the one promised by the Prime Minister.
I may be able to expand on that when I answer questions.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments and questions.
On the first point, decriminalization, there is something we find disappointing. During the election campaign, the was asked that question. He said that decriminalization and even a retroactive amnesty should, in fact, be part of the discussion about the legislation. He therefore clearly implied that this was part of the plan. However, the has flatly closed the door on that possibility.
We recognize that decriminalization imposes a burden on the judicial system and the member gave an example of that. In the House, there has been much discussion of the Jordan decision in connection with other cases. Given those circumstances, it is obviously very difficult to deal with all the cases of recreational use. However, on the second part of what the member said, I would like specifically to make the connection between recreational use and minor offences.
From the outset, and even before the last election campaign, the NDP has not suggested decriminalizing organized crime, or sales, or any of those things. I do not want to generalize or indulge in stereotyping, but, for example, we are talking about a university student who smokes marijuana in his room and then goes out on campus with a small quantity in his pockets for recreational use. That is what we are talking about. We are not saying that a big criminal organization that grows hundreds of plants should not be punished. That distinction needs to be made.
On a final point, the question of revenue, I wonder about the same things in terms of prices and what the money will be used for. The provinces have a role to play in that regard, but I note that they have not yet been adequately represented at the table. I hope the government is going to do a better job of this.
Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon to speak to Bill on cannabis legalization.
As my colleague said, a lot of people are talking about this. Most of the people in my riding are against the bill. I have a hard time understanding why the Liberal government wants to legalize marijuana. How is this going to benefit society?
The government says it wants to protect young people and fight organized crime. What planet is it living on? Does it really believe that its bill is going to protect young people? Does it really think it will do away with organized crime? It is dreaming. There is no way.
Luc Plamondon is a noted songwriter from my region and the brother of my colleague, the member for . He was born in Saint-Raymond de Portneuf, which is in the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. He wrote a great song that I will use to set the stage for the rest of my speech. Here is part of it:
My head's going to explode
I'm about to crash
Lie down on the road
And breathe my last
I believe in our youth, and I do not want to let our young people die. Why is marijuana not already legal in other G7 countries? That is a good question. This government wants to legalize marijuana and is so proud of itself for being the first G7 country to legalize cannabis. What lofty aspirations Canada has. Why have other countries not legalized marijuana?
The Liberal government wants to use our young people as guinea pigs. He wants to sacrifice a generation by improvising the legalization of marijuana in order to fulfill an election promise. When they made this promise, the Liberals ranked third in the polls. Now, they are trapped. Nevertheless, since they backpedalled on election reform, they could also backpedal on this bill. They have a habit of backpedalling. However, in this case, they are being stubborn. Is the enjoying this?
Let us talk about Bill , which states that its purpose is to:
(a) protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis;
However, there will be greater supply on the market. The bill is going to:
(b) protect young persons and others from inducements to use cannabis;
This prohibited use is being trivialized. As a father, I would tell my children that it is not a good thing to smoke marijuana. However, the Government of Canada and the are saying that it is all right. What rhetoric. It continues:
(c) provide for the licit production of cannabis to reduce illicit activities in relation to cannabis;
People will be able to grow marijuana anywhere they want. Where is the control? Next, it says:
(d) deter illicit activities in relation to cannabis through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures;
(e) reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis;
If the Liberals want to meet that objective, all they have to do is decriminalize marijuana. That will fix the problem. Lastly:
(f) provide access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis; and
(g) enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.
Also, this law will give the minister the power to set the price for various products and services provided for under the legislation. That means that the minister will become the leader of the new Liberal biker gang. His crest will be a nice marijuana leaf with the Liberal Party logo, and his motto will be “just one little joint”. It is always good to dream big.
Why is this government prioritizing the legalization of pot over other much more important issues for the country, such as the environment, job creation, economic development, aggressive efforts to support our regions, and a balanced budget, among others?
I fail to understand how Canadian society will benefit from the legalization of marijuana. I know that the government's stated objectives are to protect youth and reduce the involvement of organized crime. That certainly sounds good during an election campaign, but it is unrealistic.
Does this government know anything about human psychology? Fifteen percent of people will always defy the law, which means that 85% respect authority. Legalizing marijuana is like inviting people to an open bar; we are saying it can be used safely, and so, marijuana's potential market will go from 15% to 100%. We want to poison our youth by saying, “Smoke your joint; go on, enjoy yourself!” We are now in the business of helping to develop this market.
This law will expose new consumers to greater harm. Not only will law-abiding citizens start using, there will also be an increase in the number of road accidents caused by marijuana use. I am not the one saying this. This data comes from the various states, regions and municipalities that have legalized marijuana.
Moreover, organized crime will push its customers, especially young people, to buy at a discount. This will not put an end to organized crime because its members are more clever and intelligent than this government. Organized crime will develop other markets and drugs, and it will lower its prices. They are in the business of marketing. How much will all this cost society? How many young people’s lives will be destroyed?
Schools are worried, as is the Association des policières et policiers provinciaux du Québec and the Association des pédiatres du Québec. Numerous studies on brain development in young people have shown that people under the age of 25 are at a high risk of harm.
My fellow citizens in the beautiful riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier have many concerns. What will be the cost of implementing this law given all the accompanying structures that will have to be put in place? Monitoring systems, training and awareness-raising campaigns will have to be funded. How much money will be spent in the near future and for how many years if we go ahead with legalization? Awareness-raising campaigns against cannabis will need to be organized to educate the public and protect our children.
As well, how much of a burden will we be putting on our health care system? How will this impact our society? How will it affect health and safety in the workplace? Are we about to see a new generation of young, budding horticulturists? Why jeopardize Canada's fine, young people and put them at risk of irreparable harm? Why this eagerness to legalize cannabis? How do Liberals plan to measure and control the rate of hallucinogenic compounds? Regarding the limit of four plants per household, how can the government seriously think that they can control all of this?
The Liberal government wants to legalize marijuana, but give responsibility for distribution to the provinces. What happens when a young person who is not of legal age to consume marijuana crosses the Quebec-Ontario border? How will we apply this law?
All of these questions remain unanswered. I invite the Liberal government to reflect on this bill and withdraw it on behalf of our youth, who deserve a better future. We are in 2017. I am in favour of the decriminalization of marijuana and I support awareness-raising campaigns that encourage young people to participate in sports and the arts and to say no to drugs. With such measures, the Liberals would achieve their goals without having to legalize marijuana.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my esteemed colleague for his question.
Indeed, it is always a pleasure to have discussions with him on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. It is always very pleasant, and I can sense his respect, despite the language difference. I greatly appreciate his attitude, as I do with all the other committee members.
To answer his question, I am very reasonable. I appreciate that he has mentioned this in the House, and he is absolutely right. He has a good read on me. I am a reasonable guy.
We cannot compare alcohol to drugs, because they do not compare. Alcohol is one element called “alcohol”. Drugs are a huge range of products that are toxic and harmful to people's health. With respect to marijuana, it has been shown that there is a risk of permanent damage to mental health, and I do mean permanent. To my knowledge, there are no studies that talk about permanent damage with regard to alcohol, whereas for drugs, and for people under 25, there are a number of studies that show there may be some.
This government should take a different approach to organized crime, because it is a social problem. The hon. member is absolutely right. We have to take the bull by the horns and find other solutions. Let us invest in awareness-raising campaigns, persuade our youth to participate in sports, arts, and cultural activities, and get our young people involved elsewhere, rather than let them hang out in the streets. Let us educate them. We would have a solution and we would not need to legalize marijuana.
Mr. Speaker, I wrote an entire speech, but listening to everybody debate this, listening to some of the questions that have been asked by some of our Liberal members, I feel it is really important that we have the conversation and not just look at some of the talking points or things of that sort. As with everything I do, I come here as who am I, and that is a mom of five.
I will talk about the way I parent. I wish I knew exactly the riding of the member over there with whom I ride the bus. Every time I have a question about cannabis, I just ask that former chief of police everything I need to know. I do thank him for always having those respectful conversations with me and answering every question I have ever needed to ask. I would like to put that on the record.
We talk about cannabis and what we have to look at for our kids. Whether we are calling it weed, doobies, blunts, reefers, or all of those other words we have heard, we really have to look at how we are approaching this. It does really concern me because I believe that the legislation—is it right or wrong to do this legislation? It is not the choice I have, but what are the parts in this legislation I cannot agree with?
I will be honest and put all my cards on the table, because I think that is what Canadians are expecting from us. I believe in decriminalizing cannabis. That is something we should look at. I think that is because I have those sit-down family discussions with my kids, with my nieces and nephews, with my parents, because I think the biggest thing we need to recognize is that it is out there, and what can we do that is better to serve?
I will not say that decriminalizing makes it right, because I do not believe it is the right thing, especially when it comes to our youth. Therefore I want to talk about parts of the legislation that really do need to be tweaked, because we are harming children if we think this legislation is right.
There are two parts of this legislation I looked at. One has to do with the age of ability to purchase. As I have indicated, with five children, my youngest is 14 and my oldest is 23 years old this year. My 23-year-old, my 21-year-old, my 20-year-old, and my 19-year-old will all be eligible, as of July 1, 2018, to purchase marijuana.
I will not tell my children's stories, but I have seen first-hand what happens after marijuana use. Whether they see grades drop by 30% or attendance go from perfect to nothing, parents are having to deal with these challenges each and every day. When we talk about it, I want to make sure the government is listening.
We have talked about what happens to children who have smoked marijuana. The Canadian Mental Health Association has talked about the formation of the brain, and I am really concerned. As the member for mentioned, children's brains are not developed until age 25, and what is said is fair, but we had a task force saying it should be 21 years old and now we have legislation to make the legal age 18.
I will put it on the record, because I believe the only reason it is at age 18 is that is the age at which a person can vote. I think this is a vote-seeking motion, and I am really angry about that. Other members may not be, but I have the right to say this, because as a parent of five, I am very concerned that the government is not taking into consideration what will happen to our children. I ask parents to sit down with their kids and start talking, because that is not what we are doing here.
I decided to take this conversation to my family, so I sat down at Easter. When we were all supposed to be celebrating Jesus, we talked about marijuana, because I needed to hear from the people who knew best, my nephews and nieces, my sister who is a high school teacher, another sister who is a principal in elementary school, my brothers-in-law who have careers, and my sister-in-law who has worked so hard when it comes to understanding, and she actually goes out to counsel families.
I had to bring this down to what it really meant. The moment I said that my son Christian, who is 14 years of age, would be able to possess marijuana with no charges, the conversation took a totally different turn, because we all want to protect Christian because he is 14 years of age.
However, we have to understand that this legislation would not really do that. We have children who will be in grade 9 and will be in high school with people who will be 18 years of age, able to buy this, and then the next thing we know, here we go, have a good weekend. Did we not think this would happen? That is what really frustrates me. Let us get it right. Let us sit down and talk to our 14-year-old children and ask ourselves if we want our children to be able to possess marijuana without being charged. Do we want them to know that this is right or wrong?
I am also very concerned that we are looking at the medicinal use of marijuana as well, when it comes to when people use it. I am a huge supporter of medicinal marijuana because I have seen people and I have lived with someone who has been on OxyContin. I can say that it has negative effects. Therefore, for years, I have advocated for medicinal marijuana. I am very scared that when we legalize marijuana for all Canadians and open it up and say they can get it at 18, we know our 12-year-olds are going to get it, for sure, as well. Let us be honest.
Are we going to stop funding important research that needs to be done so that the people who are using medicinal marijuana are getting the proper strains they need? I am very concerned that we are not going to do that. We will say we have legalized it, and we are going to use the science for all of this other kind of stuff, but are we going to make sure that the people who need it the most, who have been using medicinal marijuana for the last number of years, are going to get the proper care they need? Therefore, I want to ask the government if it is going to continue to invest in the research on medicinal marijuana.
I was very happy when I was here listening to the debate yesterday and the day before on Bill , which truly intertwines with this bill. I heard one of the members from the other side comment on the zero tolerance, so I am going to mix in this part as well.
We have to understand that, if people are using marijuana for the first time, the reaction they have is going to be extremely different from that of people who have been daily smokers for the past 20 years. However, we are saying this is how we are going to take it, and if they have so many grams we will take them in and process it and check the THC levels. Let us be honest here. If people have had marijuana for the first time and get behind that wheel, it is a hazard. It is unsafe. They are going to kill themselves or another person. We have to be sure we are putting the safety and security of Canadians first.
I do not believe that Bill C-46 goes far enough, but I am happy that we are going to go back to debating it.
I am going to go back to my family, and we are going to talk a little more about kids. We have heard time and time again from the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Medical Association, or counsellors who have dealt with cannabis for a number of years, and we know that we are opening up a Pandora's box.
I am very concerned with this because I do not think that we actually have all of the tools we need in place. I was really happy to see budget 2017 come out with $5 million for education. However, as many of my colleagues have said, we are educating them when the horse is already out of the barn. We are putting the cart before the horse. This is very simple. People are going to be educated about cannabis after they have started smoking it. Let us be honest here. Should we not get it started by having the education for our teachers, our parents, and our children, to make sure they know what they are getting into? It is a safety warning, but we are going to put the safety warning on after they have inhaled.
It was really interesting listening to some of the members also talk about tobacco and how we have stopped doing things. My former boss is part of the tobacco transition fund. My community, and the five communities in southwestern Ontario, were huge in the tobacco industry. We know there were some really good campaigns out there. Of course we did see a number of adults who continued to smoke, but older people were beginning to quit. Those were some things we saw as well. We know that campaigns work. Therefore, I am asking the government why it is putting a campaign about combustible cannabis out after the fact.
I do not understand that. If we are trying to teach people about the problems with marijuana, why would we not be teaching them right from the start? We know that putting combustible things in our lungs is bad for us, just like tobacco. When are we going to do the education?
I am so fearful that the government is so pressing on this, wanting to get it through by July 1, 2018, that it is going to forget about Christian, Garrett, Hannah, Marissa, and Dakota, my five children. It is going to forget about everybody else's children, because it is more concerned about getting this legislation through, because Liberals want to keep a promise they made during the 2015 election.
I know there are some very good MPs over there. I am pointing at him. I hope and I plead with him, as a former police officer, to know that as a parent, I need to make sure that the government is going to protect us. This is something that goes through regardless of whether we like it our not. There is majority government. I beg the government to know my children are relying on it. The safety of our communities is relying on it. Do it right. Do not do it fast.