The House resumed from November 9 consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House of Commons today to speak about the motions moved by the member for .
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the work of the Standing Committee on Health in its study of Bill . The committee heard from nearly 100 witnesses in five days. The committee's deliberations resulted in the adoption of 20 amendments that contributed to improving various aspects of the bill. These were informed by the insight and advice of the many witnesses, both domestic and international. I want to thank the members of the committee for this thoughtful review of the bill and its efforts to improve the proposed legislation.
Bill follows through on our government's commitment to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis in a way that protects Canadians, including our youth, and removes profits from the hands of criminals and organized crime. In my remarks today, I would like to further explain some of the reasons our government's approach to cannabis is the right one.
The motion put forward by the member for would effectively prohibit adults from cultivating any cannabis plants on their own property. This stands in sharp contrast to the approach proposed by our government, which would allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants on their property for personal use.
First, let me remind members of the House that our proposed legislation was informed by the sound and extensive advice of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, which was chaired by the Hon. Anne McLellan. The task force consulted extensively with Canadians across Canada on how best to approach the legalization and regulation of cannabis. The members heard from youth, cannabis consumers, industry, indigenous communities, provincial and territorial governments, law enforcement, municipalities, regulators in other jurisdictions, public health and safety experts, and researchers, and the list goes on. Overall, the carefully weighed and diverse range of perspectives expressed during these extensive consultations suggested that small amounts of cannabis for personal use can be safely and responsibly grown at home by adults.
The proposed new framework for cannabis, which permits a small number of plants to be cultivated by adults on their own property, is consistent with the approach recommended by the task force. There is no doubt that our government's proposed approach, allowing a small number of cannabis plants to be cultivated at home, is balanced and supports the objectives of Bill .
One of those objectives is to avoid criminalizing Canadians for minor offences related to cannabis. The current approach to cannabis has resulted in thousands of Canadians being charged, convicted, and sent to jail for possessing small amounts of cannabis, which indeed is counterproductive. Should the motion moved by the member for be adopted, Canadians would continue to be exposed to criminal charges for minor, non-violent offences. This would create an unnecessary burden on the criminal justice system, which is one of the reasons these motions should not be supported. We all know that criminal records can result in lifelong consequences by, for example, limiting employment opportunities.
Another key objective of the bill is to reduce illegal activities in relation to cannabis. Significant profits are generated by the illegal cannabis market every year, and some of this profit ends up in the hands of organized crime. Allowing adults to legally cultivate a small number of cannabis plants on their property would represent an alternative to the illegal market and should not be prohibited completely. Completely prohibiting personal cultivation, as proposed by the member for , may undermine the government's ability to displace the illegal market and reduce criminal activities.
Setting a limit on the number of plants an adult may grow is a reasonable way to distinguish between responsible adults who wish to grow a limited number of cannabis plants at home and cannabis cultivated to supply and drive the illegal market. This is why other jurisdictions have taken a similar path.
As the federal framework has also been informed by international experience and best practices, I would note that in jurisdictions where cannabis is legal and strictly regulated, only one, Washington state, has maintained a prohibition on personal cultivation. Other jurisdictions, including Colorado, Oregon, and California, set provisions that restrict the number of plants that can be grown, such as the ones included in Bill .
Permitting personal cultivation in limited amounts is consistent with our government's approach to allowing Canadians access to a legal source of cannabis while setting a clear threshold to help law enforcement identify criminal organizations that are supporting an illegal market.
To be clear, permitting personal cultivation of a limited number of plants would not mean open season for cannabis. On the contrary, the selling of home cultivated cannabis would still be a criminal offence, and growing more than four plants would be prohibited and prosecutable.
Finally, it is important to clarify that under the proposed framework, the provinces, territories, and municipalities would have the flexibility to impose further restrictions related to personal cultivation, beyond what is found in Bill . This is an important point, as our government believes that they would be in a better position to assess the necessity and feasibility of such additional restrictions and their enforcement.
Through our government's proposed approach, Canadians would no longer run the risk of having a criminal record for possessing, sharing, or growing small amounts of cannabis. Canada is more than ready for a new approach, one that includes the ability of Canadians to grow small amounts of cannabis plants at home for personal use.
Again, the motion moved by the member for goes against the key objectives of the bill. Therefore, we recommend that all members of this House vote it down. It would also undermine our government's efforts to displace the illegal market and reduce criminal activities around cannabis. I am confident that the new legal framework we are proposing, including the current provisions of the bill that would allow personal cultivation of a small number of plants at home, is the best path forward for all Canadians.
Madam Speaker, today we are discussing Bill , an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.
The intention of Bill is to legalize marijuana. This bill has numerous objectives; however, unfortunately, many of those pertaining to public health and public safety will not be achieved. This bill fails to protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis, fails to deter illicit activities in relation to cannabis, and fails to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system.
With the Liberal government's rushed deadline, law enforcement will not have the time or resources to train or prepare for the legalization of marijuana. Doctors are extremely concerned about the well-being of youth if this legislation is passed, as marijuana can be an extremely harmful substance. Numerous municipal and provincial governments will also not have the time or resources to respond to the tremendous impact that Bill will have on all Canadian communities.
More than 68,000 police officers in Canada will need specific training in the wake of this monumental legislation, and a few months is not a realistic timeline. As a result, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has asked the government to extend this deadline. If police are not prepared to deal with the legalization through adequate training, this could lead to poor decisions resulting in bad case law for any new legislation.
We want our law enforcement to have the ability to properly uphold the law. Police will require final legislation from all the levels of government before being able to begin their preparations. The government needs to provide police with a clear direction regarding both funding and training.
The bill is also of grave concern for anyone on Canadian roads, as law enforcement agencies are also lacking the resources to deal with marijuana-impaired driving. There are no current reliable roadside testing methods to measure marijuana impairment as there are presently with alcohol. This is extremely challenging from a public safety perspective.
One of the purposes of this legislation is to ease the burden on law enforcement, but it is likely it will in fact do the opposite. Although there may be fewer charges of simple possession, those efforts will be replaced by those needed for ticketing. There are also severe concerns with home growing and allowing the possession of up to four plants. This will be extremely difficult to enforce. Jurisdictions such as Colorado in the United States that have already legalized marijuana have seen tremendous difficulties with this, especially with individuals selling their homegrown marijuana for a lower price than what is legally regulated. This is problematic as it will not incentivize the elimination of a black market.
Some elements of plain packaging could further hinder the enforcement of the black market as it will be very difficult for law enforcement to distinguish between legal and illegal marijuana products.
Youth access to marijuana is another grave concern. It has been medically confirmed that there are severe long-term effects from marijuana use by youth, such as cognitive delays and mental health issues. All of these are likely to affect their goals in school, as well as future careers.
Smoking marijuana doubles the risk of developing schizophrenia, which is especially worrying for those who are already at a greater risk. These risks do not just stop at the age of 18, when one becomes an adult, but rather can be experienced up to the age of 25. There needs to be increased awareness of these risks for those 25 and under, not just those under the legal age.
Research suggests that youth typically begin use in a social setting and do not recognize that as harmful. Youth also perceive the risks of marijuana impairment when driving to be minimal. The government should not be dismissive of the evidence we have seen in Colorado after it legalized marijuana. The state experienced drastic increases in deaths caused by marijuana-impaired driving. It is crucial for youth to be informed of the facts of these dangerous realities, and not be relying on myths and word of mouth.
Having homegrown marijuana is also a substantial risk to youth, as it is easily accessible through the home. Despite provisions to restrict youth access, marijuana use by youth was frequent, and most of the marijuana obtained was originally bought from legal sources. This is particularly concerning in relation to the production of edibles. Although they have been excluded from this bill, they are likely to be produced privately by individuals or even sold on the black market. With marijuana more easily accessible through legalization, edibles will be more prevalent. When marijuana is put in food, children may mistake it for delicious treats, which can be extremely dangerous.
I would like to note that Quebec's legislation for marijuana will forbid homegrown cannabis for personal use, for likely just those reasons. The Province of New Brunswick is also addressing the dangers of homegrown marijuana by making individuals lock up their plants. Provinces and municipalities are creating legislation in anticipation of Bill , but it is evident that they do not have the resources or infrastructure to deal with its implementation by July 1, 2018. This is why the Province of Quebec also recently asked the federal government to extend the deadline to 2019.
There are a number of indirect results of legalizing marijuana, and municipalities will need to be prepared to deal with additional medical costs due to more emergency room visits, as well as poison centre calls. Areas that previously legalized marijuana also saw significant increases in homelessness, as well as crime, as a direct result. We should not be rushing this bill through, but rather, taking our time so we can learn from those who have already legalized this substance, so we do not make the same mistakes. We need more time to fully implement this legislation and minimize the risks to public safety.
There are also significant international ramifications from implementing this bill. Canada will not be complying with three United Nations treaties and may cause disputes with our southern neighbour, the United States. Officials at United States border crossings have asked individuals whether they have consumed marijuana and, if yes, individuals have been denied entry. This can be very problematic when marijuana is considered legal and individuals are being denied entry into the U.S as a result of its use. This issue remains unresolved.
This bill is extremely worrisome as it contains some major oversights. The Standing Committee on Health heard numerous witnesses in relation to Bill , and the government failed in many areas to implement their recommendations. There are concerns from reputable organizations, such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
If my colleagues across the floor were concerned about the well-being of Canadians, they would not be putting this bill forward. I ask my colleagues in the House to stand up for the public safety of all Canadians and vote against this bill.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak strongly in support of Bill through which our government is ending the failed approach of criminalizing cannabis. This is an opportunity to protect our youth, to take profits out of the hands of criminals, and to treat drug use as the public health issue it actually is.
I have actively worked to advance this policy since hosting the Liberal caucus in discussions back in the fall of 2011 about the potential legalization of cannabis, so I am proud to stand in the House and see this policy come to fruition.
I would like to start my comments today by giving some thanks to organizations that have been advocating for this very practical and positive new policy. I would first like to thank Dr. Evan Wood, an emergency room physician, who led a coalition called Stop the Violence BC, when he saw the gang and gun violence on the streets of Metro Vancouver, including in an award-winning restaurant in Vancouver Quadra, where two people were injured by a gang shootout around the drug trade.
I would like to thank Brett Harvey and Adam Scorgie, who created a documentary called The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, which documented the role of organized crime in controlling the cannabis trade. Years ago, I had the privilege of hosting them and their film in Ottawa, where I opened up an event to all members of Parliament and senators of all parties to learn about why we needed to move beyond our failed policy, which we are actually moving beyond today.
I want to thank all of the sound drug policy advocates, like Donald MacPherson of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, who brought forward evidence as to why this shift was needed, and the many other health care professionals, criminal justice professionals, and policing professionals who have pushed for this change in our country.
Lastly, I would like to thank our for including this in our platform, and the and the for delivering on this mandate, as well as the for his leadership, and all members of the Standing Committee on Health for doing good work toward this change that we have positioned our country for over two years.
This week we were reminded once again of the importance of this discussion by the RCMP's seizure of 64 pounds of cannabis and 94 mature cannabis plants from the Hells Angels in Kelowna. This is the reality of our current system: organized crime produces, distributes, and sells the cannabis, and uses it to fund its other criminal ventures. It is Hells Angels and other criminals who regulate and control the product and what is actually in it, and how to sell more of it to our youth. It is criminal gangs who recruit young people to be part of this terrible criminal enterprise, so it is far better that the government regulate and control cannabis. That is what Bill is all about.
The bill before the House of Commons today was developed on the basis of the excellent work of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, which conducted an in-depth study of the various implications of the legislation and the strict regulation of cannabis.
Madam Speaker, adults who are found in possession of a small amount of cannabis, up to a maximum of 30 grams, will no longer be treated like criminals. Instead, Bill will give responsible adult consumers a way to legally obtain this substance, which will be strictly regulated in order to meet the high national safety and quality standards.
This new approach will help reduce the disproportionate burden imposed on the 18,000 individuals who were charged with possession of cannabis in 2016. We know a simple possession charge can have life-long impacts on a person's life prospects. Bill will reduce this travesty. It will also reduce the burden on the criminal justice system.
Our government believes that law enforcement and the courts should devote their resources to criminal activities that are truly detrimental to society, as well as to education and prevention in the case of public health issues like cannabis use.
The expert witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health agreed with our government's proposed approach. For example, Karey Shuhendler, from the Canadian Nurses Association, stated:
|| Bill C-45 promotes the removal of harms associated with the prohibition model, while recognizing the need to protect vulnerable populations, including youth.
Under our current regime, Canadian youth have one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. In 2015, 21% of youth aged 15-19 reported using cannabis in the past year. Some Vancouver Quadra citizens have expressed concerns that legalization of cannabis will increase its use by young people. I think the evidence will show that use will decrease over time with the prevention and education programs put in place by the government.
Let us be clear that many youth are using cannabis now under a system controlled by criminal gangs. That is why the bill includes strict controls and penalties to protect young people, and measures to deter and punish adults who provide cannabis to under-aged Canadians. Deterring the illegal market is necessary to protect Canadian youth.
Experts such as Dr. Christina Grant, from the Canadian Paediatric Society, have cautioned that too high an age limit will preserve an illegal market that provides a supply of illegal, unregulated, and unsafe cannabis to Canadians between the ages of 20 and 24. These are the young people who currently have the highest rates of consumption among Canadians and among their peers from other developed countries.
It is also important to keep in mind that the bill gives the provinces and territories the flexibility to establish additional restrictions that can go even further than those set out in the federal framework, depending on their own specific needs and circumstances.
This includes raising the national minimum age if a province or territory so choses.
Beyond the proposed minimum age restriction and severe penalties for selling cannabis to youth, Bill proposes a number of additional controls to protect young Canadians. For example, the bill includes provisions that would prohibit the sale of cannabis and cannabis products that are considered appealing to youth. It would ban the advertising and promotion of cannabis, except in limited and very restricted circumstances. It would also set out requirements for packaging and labelling to ensure they are not appealing to youth.
Also, as various expert witnesses who testified before the Standing Committee on Health reminded us, these measures need to be supported by significant and effective public education to explain the risks and harms associated with cannabis consumption, especially for youth. Our government fully agrees with these experts and we have already started a national public awareness and education campaign, in collaboration with the provinces and territories. This campaign will be augmented by the additional $36.4 million announced recently.
Finally, in light of the tragedy of the current opioid crisis, I would like to note how an evidence-based public health approach to drug use can save lives. We know that cannabis use for medical purposes like pain relief is safer and less addictive than opioids. In the United States, the legalization of medical cannabis in many states has resulted in a 25% drop in opioid-related deaths compared to states where medical cannabis remained illegal. In Canada the opioid crisis took at least 2,458 Canadian lives in 2016 and it is only growing worse. British Columbia and Vancouver have a disproportionate share. However, I am optimistic that those tragedies will be reduced by the legalization of cannabis.
To sum up, this is a thoughtful and comprehensive piece of legislation that has been designed to protect the health and safety of Canadians while saving lives.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill on the legalization of marijuana.
Does the really think that legalizing marijuana will protect Canadian youth and my 12- and 14-year-old children? When I hear him say that sort I thing, I cannot help but think that he lacks judgment or that he is being insincere. What I find even more troubling is that the member for , a former long-serving police officer, also believes that organized crime is simply going to disappear as soon as Parliament passes Bill C-45. These men are living in a world of make-believe, where botched, simplistic bills can be used to magically solve extremely complex problems and where heroes can simply sprinkle some fairy dust and make organized crime disappear. Problem solved.
Here in the House, we have to forget that world of make-believe and deal with the real world like grown-ups. We have to make sure that our actions produce real results, keep Canadians safer, and protect young people from a life of drugs. Bill only complicates the drug-use problem in Canada. No, legalizing marijuana will not make it harder for our children to get their hands on drugs. Yes, organized crime will find ways around laws it has no intention of obeying. No, police officers cannot use fairy dust to fight drug-related crime, violence, and death.
The Liberals say that Bill C-45 will regulate the industry. What a joke. Once Bill C-45 comes into force, the government will have to come up with a retail pricing strategy. How is organized crime likely to respond? Are criminals going to step back and do nothing? I have a feeling criminals already have a plan to deal with this new reality. When the government raises tobacco taxes, organized crime adjusts its prices accordingly. The market is constantly adjusting. History has shown that to be the case every time, and marijuana will be no exception.
Also, young people are more easily drawn to the black market's low prices because they do not have the same means as adults. They cannot afford to pay higher prices. If he wants, the will be able to buy marijuana at any price, but our young people cannot. They will have to choose between the government's price and the criminals' price.
During the last election, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to legalize marijuana to keep it out of the hands of young people, but Bill shows us that youth 18 and over will be able to buy cannabis. I have some figures I would like to share, and I hope to make things clear.
Bill C-45 says that those 18 and over will be allowed to buy cannabis. However, in Colorado, you have to be at least 21. That should be the minimum. Another problem is that young people will still be allowed to carry marijuana. This means that people will have to be 18 to buy it, but they can have it on them at age 12. That does not make any sense.
In addition, minors aged 16 and 17 are often friends with people who are 18. They are less likely to be friends with people aged 21 and older. Thus, an 18 year old, who has reached the age of majority and can legally purchase cannabis, can give it to his or her 16- and 17-year-old friends. I am not the one saying so. All the witnesses, especially those from the medical community, are saying that the minimum age should be at least 21 years.
I am thinking of my kids, who are 12 and 14. Under this bill, they will be allowed to possess up to five grams of marijuana. To be sure that everyone understands clearly, that is the equivalent of 10 to 15 joints. If my 14-year-old son is caught with 10 joints in his pocket, that will be completely legal. He would not be able to purchase it, but he would be allowed to have it in his possession. That is one of the gross inconsistencies of Bill C-45.
In addition, under this bill, youth aged 12 to 17 will be allowed to distribute it among themselves. I would like to see Bill C-45 prohibit young people from possessing marijuana altogether.
Young people should not have any opportunity to get their hands on drugs.
There are also questions about the various cannabis-based products and the as yet undefined licensing strategies. Rental property owners are having problems as well, because the legislation currently allows up to four plants per home, and the height is not regulated at present.
Four healthy, well-fertilized plants up to eight feet tall can yield up to 600 grams of home-grown marijuana. Incidentally, most of the witnesses were against the idea of allowing plants to be grown at home. Medical groups, law enforcement, and everyone else said home growing should not be permitted.
I am very proud of the Province of Quebec right now. The Quebec government has drafted its own law based on what the federal government had proposed, and it has decided to ban home growing. To the Quebec government, I say well done.
Another problem is that police forces are not getting any answers to their questions. They want to know how they are supposed to properly enforce traffic laws starting July 1, 2018.
Furthermore, how will those provinces that do allow plants to be grown in houses and apartments monitor what people are doing? How will they check every apartment in Canada to make sure there are only four plants, not five, six, seven, or eight?
A lot of questions remain unanswered. This government is quick to ram Bill down our throats by claiming that it is a national priority. In Canada, there is nothing more important than legalizing marijuana. That is just great.
Police officers are also telling us about other problems that will arise with plants in homes: odour, the number of plants, the height of plants and the nuisance that could be created. Once again, there are many unanswered questions about this bill.
What will happen with plants at home? Young people will be able to make joints with these plants, and then they are going to take these joints and visit their buddies. The joints will be sold, and then resold, creating a criminal network from plants legally grown at home. Young people will be able to sell pot to their friends. The black market will not shut down. It will be legal at home, but illegal in the streets. It is just a lot of nonsense, and I have not even touched on insurance problems resulting from having plants in homes.
There will also be problems at the border. We saw that recently with the serious problem of illegal immigrants at our borders. The RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency are devoting much of their resources to the borders. Now the government wants to legalize marijuana and border services officers are wondering what they are supposed to do.
Are the officers supposed to arrest Americans who come to the border with marijuana? Do we tell the American authorities? It is illegal on the other side of the border. If Americans show up here with their pot thinking they can come to Canada to smoke their joints, are we to report them to the American authorities and leave them on the other side of the border? Those types of questions still remain unanswered. If people go on vacation thinking they can bring their own pot with them across the border, they are mistaken. All of these questions are left unanswered.
The Liberals want us to vote in favour of this bill. This is amateur hour. If the Parliament of Canada, the House of Commons, votes in legislation like this, we will truly be a bunch of rank amateurs. Those of superior rank are often referred to as pros, but here, we are dealing with rank amateurs who will never make it to the big leagues.
An hon. members: They are called Liberals.
Mr. Pierre Paul-Hus: As I see it, the Liberals are turning our country into a frat house, a kind of campus club where anything goes. They would have us believe that these are just innocent games, not serious at all.
Still, for the sake of my children, I will vote against this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague.
It is my honour today to speak to Bill , our government's bill to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis consumption in Canada.
The future cannabis act represents a new approach to cannabis, one that puts public health and public safety at the forefront and will better protect young Canadians.
The current approach to cannabis does not work. It has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit while also failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian youth. In many cases, it is easier for our kids to buy cannabis than cigarettes. Canadians continue to use cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world. It is the most commonly used illicit drug among young Canadians.
In 2015, 21% of youth aged 15 to 19 reported using cannabis in the past year. That is one out of five young people in this country. In the Laurentian region, it is almost 50%.
Too many young people see cannabis as a benign substance. They are often ill-informed about the harm it can do, and they do not realize that early use of cannabis increases susceptibility to long-term effects. Youth are especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on brain development and function. This is because the THC in cannabis affects the same biological system in the brain that directs brain development.
At the same time, too many young people today are entering the criminal justice system for possessing small amounts of cannabis, potentially impacting their long-term opportunities. Clearly, there has to be a better way of educating and protecting our young people.
Given these facts, I would like to focus my comments today on the benefits of this legislation for youth. This is one of our government's primary objectives for Bill , to protect youth by restricting their access to cannabis.
I would first like to note that this legislation is just one piece of the overall approach to addressing cannabis use by youth. Our government's commitment to keeping cannabis out of the hands of children comprises several complementary measures to protect their health, keep them safe, and ensure their well-being.
Our government is trying to reduce cannabis use by youth, to restrict their ability to obtain the product, to provide them with better information on its harms to health and its risks, and to keep them out of the criminal justice system for possessing even small amounts of cannabis.
This approach requires legislative and regulatory measures, and support for public education and awareness. To that end, our government has begun a public education campaign with a focus on youth and their parents to better inform them about cannabis, its harm and risks to health.
Considering all of these measures combined, I am confident that our government's overall approach will be effective in better protecting our youth from the potential harm of this mind-altering substance.
I would like to explain the specific measures in the cannabis bill that would help safeguard our youth. As a society we have learned from the health and safety controls that have been put in place for other potentially harmful substances, such as cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription medication.
Bill uses these best practices as the starting point, and contains a number of measures that are designed to protect youth.
At the outset, Bill prohibits the sale of cannabis to anyone under the age of 18 and prohibits adults from giving cannabis to anyone under 18. It also creates an offence and penalty for anyone caught using a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence. Any adult found guilty of engaging in these activities could face a jail term of up to 14 years.
To avoid the kind of enticements to use cannabis that we have seen in the past with cigarettes, Bill would prohibit any form of cannabis designed to appeal to youth. This means that things like cannabis-infused gummi bears or lollipops would be illegal.
To further discourage youth from using cannabis, cannabis producers or retailers would be prohibited from using any kind of packaging or labelling that might be appealing to youth, or to use any kind of endorsement, lifestyle promotion, or cartoon animal to promote their product. The promotion or advertising of cannabis products will not be permitted in any place or in any media that could be accessed by youth, such as grocery stores, movie theatres, or on public transportation, just to name a few examples.
To further reduce the chance that youth might be able to access the product illegally, cannabis will not be sold in any kind of vending machine. Bill also includes authority to make regulations that could require cannabis to be sold in child-resistant packaging, to protect our youngest ones from accidentally consuming this product.
Taken together, these measures constitute a comprehensive approach to protecting the health and safety of our youth.
In addition to protecting public health and safety, one of our government's goals is to avoid criminalizing Canadians for relatively minor offences.
Having a criminal record for simple possession of small amounts of cannabis can have significant consequences. Having a record can seriously impact opportunities for employment, housing, volunteerism, and travel. The question we have to ask ourselves is do we want to continue to saddle Canadians with these burdens for the possession of small amounts of cannabis? Our government's response is an emphatic no.
The proposed legislation sets out a 30-gram possession limit for dried cannabis in public for adults aged 18 and over. As I stated earlier, it would also establish offences and strict penalties for adults who give or try to sell cannabis to a youth, or who use a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence.
Under Bill , youth would not face criminal prosecution for possessing or sharing very small amounts of cannabis. Any activities by youth involving more than small amounts of cannabis, defined as over five grams, would be addressed under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Our government will be working with the provinces and territories to support the development of legislation in each jurisdiction that would allow law enforcement to confiscate any amount of cannabis found in the possession of a young person. This would allow authorities to take away any amount of cannabis they may have in their possession.
Let me be clear, the proposed approach addressing youth possession of cannabis does not mean that such behaviour is encouraged or acceptable. It is not. Rather, it recognizes that a more balanced approach that uses a range of tools, and does not rely on the criminal justice system, would provide a better way to reduce cannabis consumption among youth.
This approach is consistent with the findings of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation. The task force's final report noted that cannabis use among youth could be better addressed through non-criminal approaches that discourage youth from possessing or consuming cannabis. I believe this strikes the right balance between avoiding the criminalization of youth for the possession of small amounts and ensuring that cannabis remains tightly regulated and controlled.
In conclusion, our government has put the health, safety, and well-being of youth at the core of this proposed legislation.
I am convinced that, through this balanced approach, our government will be able to help Canadians access recreational marijuana in a way that is safe and regulated and that will take this substance out of the hands of our children.
Mr. Speaker, I last rose in this House to speak to Bill back in May. I began my remarks then by speaking favourably of the government for taking an important first step in the move toward rectifying the failed crime-and-punishment approach that we have held in this country since the 1920s. It is quite obvious from all of the literature and evidence in the history of our country and indeed around the world that the war on drugs has been a complete and utter failure. The billions of dollars that have been spent and the countless lives that have been lost in that approach speak volumes about this failed approach. I believe that our resources as a country can be spent on a different approach, especially when the results have absolutely nothing to do with the objectives that were set out. We have a country where our youth are among the highest users of cannabis, despite decades of an approach where the use of cannabis and the trading of cannabis were criminalized.
Since that time in May, much has transpired with this bill through the committee stage in the Standing Committee on Health, and there was an enormous amount of witness testimony packed into a very short amount of time. We were optimistic that there were opportunities that could have been used to improve the bill that the government had introduced, but sadly that did not happen.
While the government introduced this legislation in a clumsy attempt to keep an election promise, it is now shutting down debate at report stage and limiting our debate at third reading on this very important and revolutionary change to Canada's drug laws. The Liberals are in a sense disenfranchising us as parliamentarians from doing our due diligence on this bill, from speaking for our constituents in this the people's House, and all for the reason of meeting some arbitrary deadline of July of next year. The government members know the government has a four-year mandate. The Liberals are going to be in power until October 2019, and yet they have set the date of July 2018 to get the bill passed into law. It just feels like a very slapdash approach to the whole thing, where we are not taking the time to get it right, because there is obvious room for improvement. While we do support the bill in principle and we have a lot of witness testimony to go on, it is clear that much could have been done to improve the legislation.
I would like to continue by focusing my remarks on a few key areas where I see the serious shortcomings in the bill at this stage.
I have to recognize the outstanding work of my colleague the member for , on the Standing Committee for Health. As our health critic, he did yeoman's work on that committee and was responsible on behalf of the NDP for bringing forward 38 amendments to the bill, which would have gone a long way toward improving it. Unfortunately, every single one of those proposed amendments was rejected by the Liberal majority on the committee. Amendments that were brought forward included a proposal to remove the 30-gram possession limit for adults. In his speech, the member for Vancouver Kingsway noted that any adults in the room could go to a liquor store and purchase enough alcohol to kill themselves. That is a legal thing, yet we are proposing an arbitrary 30-gram limit on cannabis, and if people step outside of that limit they would meet with the criminal justice system.
The member proposed decriminalizing the penalty section to bring it more in line with the Tobacco Act. Regarding the removal of the 100-centimetre plant height restriction, the member proposed that first but the Liberals decided they were going to vote against it so their own amendment to get rid of the 100-centimetre plant height restriction would pass and they could get all the credit for it. The member was also looking to allow the provinces to have the capacity to create their own licensing framework so that small producers and craft growers could exist within the government's legalization scheme. I certainly hope that, when the government members draft the regulations under the bill, they pay attention to the existing reality, especially in my home province of British Columbia. We have a number of dispensaries that are opening everywhere. This is just the reality on the ground. If the bill and the government fail to take notice of that reality, not much would be done to counter it.
It is very much a legal grey area that exists on Vancouver Island and, indeed, most of British Columbia. I certainly hope that there is room made so that this industry is not solely dominated by big weed producers that have an undue amount of influence on the government through their lobbying activities.
The other thing my colleague moved is to allow for the legalization of the sale of edibles. Government members have been very fond of quoting the Hon. Anne McLellan as the head of the task force. I would like to read into the record some of her testimony at the Standing Committee on Health. She stated:
|| Obviously, if you're concerned about public health....
|| If you want to move from the illicit market into a regulated legal market, then you have to offer the quality and choice that the illicit market can provide. It's fair to say that we heard that over and over again from a wide variety of people we talked to. There are public health reasons and public safety reasons why you would want to authorize or allow edibles in various forms.
That was said by none other than the chair of the task force.
The government claims that this bill is going to legalize cannabis, but I contend that this bill would merely make cannabis less illegal. In fact, more prohibitions would exist when this bill comes into law than currently exist under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It is a bit of a misnomer to say that we are legalizing cannabis, because it is going to be very tightly regulated, and if someone were to step outside of the boundaries or the confines of this law, the punishments are quite severe. For example, a Canadian in possession of 31 grams would be a criminal, a person in possession of five cannabis plants would be a criminal, and an 18-year-old kid sharing a joint with a 17-year-old best friend would be a criminal.
The penalties associated with some of these offences under this “legalized regime” are extremely harsh, and I look no further than the 14 years that are provided for under clause 9 of the bill. I will read into the record the testimony at the Standing Committee on Health from John Conroy, the lead counsel in Allard v. Canada. He stated:
||...having this maximum of 14 years, hybridized by indictment, and so on, is frankly totally unrealistic in terms of what goes on on the ground. Even in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, which is not known to be the most liberal court in the country, the range for trafficking, for example, is 12 to 18 months. Most sentences are up to two years. For tobacco and alcohol, all your maximums are two and three years.
Therefore, this 14-year provision is completely unrealistic and flies in the face of the government's stated aim to reduce the burden on our criminal justice system, especially when we would be operating under the constraints imposed by the Jordan decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Criminal Code is going to be designed to regulate gardening. There was some very colourful testimony from defence lawyer Michael Spratt in that regard. When this bill comes into force, the criminal regime would still be quite onerous on our criminal justice system.
The government likes to say it operates in the spirit of being open, accountable, and transparent, but now we are operating under time allocation. I do not believe many members have had the chance to voice their concerns, all the while marching toward this arbitrary deadline of July 2018. We are doing a disservice to Canadians and our constituents who sent us to this House to make sure that the bill we pass is the very best possible.
We know the legalization regime is coming, but we owe it to Canadians to make sure it is done in the best way possible and recognize the government's stated objectives in this very bill. Clause 7 states that it would “deter illicit activities in relation to cannabis through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures” and “reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis”. Those are two stated objectives in clause 7, and there are very valid questions as to whether this bill would actually accomplish that. I do not believe we are able to fully explore those with a rushed committee process and a rushed process in this House. This is a revolutionary step to Canada's drug laws, so that is a disservice.
I will end by offering my qualified support for this bill, recognizing that a much better job could have been done, and when New Democrats form government in 2019, we will be looking to improve it.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to this bill.
I want to start by thanking the committee for its work. Committee members heard from more than 100 witnesses and went through a very detailed clause-by-clause process. It was a very deliberative process, which I think was very instructive. I also want to thank the committee for the amendments, particularly on edibles, which build on some of the understanding and learning from the process of legalization we saw in Washington and Oregon. Of course, this work built upon the work of the expert task force, which had 1,500 meetings with individuals and took submissions from across the country to make sure that there was an exhaustive consultation process before the bill was ever introduced.
It is important to note that while this bill is certainly transformational, it is also transitional. We are going to have an opportunity, with a full review after three years, to take a look at the impact of the legislation and how it is working. The work that was done before by the expert task force and the work that was done by the committee was incredibly helpful, not only for this process but for the review that will be taking place in three years' time.
Some have asked why we do not just defer this or keep putting it off and have even more consultation. There is an imperative reality, which is that Canada has the highest use of cannabis anywhere on the planet. For young people, the cohort we are most concerned about and that is most talked about in this place, that is north of 20%. In fact, it is double that of tobacco, which is, of course, a legal substance. It is much easier for a young person to get hold of cannabis than it is a cigarette or alcohol. That is, of course, because drug dealers, people who are operating in the shade of criminality, do not really care who they sell to. They are not worried about being fined for selling to someone who is too young. The reality is that it is far too easy. Having three teenagers myself, they tell me stories about how prevalent it is and how easy it is, if they were to so choose. I am lucky that they have not, but it is around them.
On the one hand, we hear from the Conservatives, who talk about doing nothing and sticking with this appalling record on cannabis. They say do not do anything, just be an ostrich and pretend there is no problem. On the other hand, we hear from NDP members who say that this bill would not really legalize it, and we should open it up far more. I think that demonstrates the responsible tone we are taking in this debate, which is that we should learn from the lessons on other controlled substances, such as tobacco and alcohol. Let us learn from other jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis and make sure that we bring forward the most effective regime possible, given the evidence.
I look specifically at tobacco, because I think it is very instructive to the case we have here now. Tobacco prevalence rates among young people exceeded 50%, and that was not more than a few decades ago. We had a massive public health crisis on our hands. That high rate of prevalence among young people was going to lead to unbelievable chronic disease and illness. Therefore, working with the not-for-profit sector, with Heart and Stroke, cancer, and other not-for-profits, they began a process of de-normalization and making sure that young people understood the health effects. Of course, it was not only de-normalization of tobacco but of the companies that were profiting from it.
Through those denormalization campaigns, and through a variety of both federal and provincial measures to restrict and control tobacco, we are where we are today, with some of the lowest rates of tobacco use among young people in the world. Those rates are now into the single digits. We need to drive them still lower, but it is instructive to come from over 50% to below 10%. It is the kind of instructive example I think we should be focusing on when we are talking about cannabis, particularly when the existing policies have so dramatically failed us.
We can look at what has happened in Washington and Oregon. While arrests are way down, the Drug Policy Alliance report of late 2016 basically shows a flatlining of cannabis use among young people, and they have seen traffic fatalities come down, but it is at the same rate as it is in other states.
I think we have to do much more than what we are doing. There are a few specific things tied to this bill that I think are important to recognize.
The government has announced that there will be up to $274 million to support law enforcement and border efforts to enforce cannabis legislation and regulation and to deter drug-impaired driving. On the latter, it will commit up to $161 million of that funding to train front-line officers, build law enforcement capacity, and raise public awareness. This is important. When the members opposite talk about the dangers of driving while high, they are 100% right. What they are wrong about is that it has already happened, but law enforcement officers are simply not given the tools, dollars, or equipment to deal with the problem today.
I remind members that one in five of our young people, unfortunately, are engaging in cannabis. The reality is that by arming the front-line officers with the equipment, dollars, and training they need to make sure that we go after this problem, we have a material opportunity to reduce the prevalence of those individuals who would drive high.
We have committed a further $113.5 million over five years to make sure that organized crime does not infiltrate the legalized system and to keep cannabis from crossing our borders. That goes to the point of keeping cannabis proceeds out of the hands of criminals. Cannabis has been a major driver of criminality by feeding criminal organizations, giving them dollars to do nefarious things in our country. We have spent untold billions of dollars on policing to try to deal with cannabis use.
Further, in budget 2017, an additional $9.6 million was committed for public education and awareness to inform Canadians, particularly young people, about the risks of cannabis use. On that we have a guiding light. In this regard, the efforts that were engaged in for tobacco were incredibly effective at de-normalizing tobacco and reducing the prevalence of its use by young people. I think if we could get to the point where we see cannabis prevalence reduced to the same level as tobacco, that would be seen as a major success. Certainly, we would see a reversal of the decades of increased use of cannabis.
As the executive director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, I had the opportunity to intimately look at how that system worked and to work with professionals to deal with substance abuse. It is a realistic approach to a very intricate and complicated problem.
The other point I want to make is specifically with regard to youth. We know that cannabis is at its most dangerous for youth. That is why I reject the comments of the NDP that we should open this up broadly without controlling it tightly, because we know that for a young mind, cannabis is particularly devastating. We want to make sure that we turn around those high rates. That means that we can focus our law enforcement efforts on going after those individuals who would sell to young people. Instead of trying to go after the entire population, which has been an abject failure, we can focus those resources on having a zero tolerance policy for those who are 18 and younger, when we know that those are the individuals who are medically the most vulnerable from the use of cannabis
That is why we are focusing on public education and making sure that there are strict penalties for those who would trade in cannabis to young people. That is why we are starting where I wish we had started with tobacco, by controlling how it is promoted, making sure we have plain packaging from day one, and making sure we do not have promotional campaigns that loop into children. It is sad to see in the third world that tobacco companies are still engaging in those practices of trying to addict young people to their substance, when they know that it will kill them. The only outcome of using tobacco is death. We do not want to make the mistakes of tobacco, so we are starting with those proper controls up front.
Many partners agree, whether it is the substance abuse workers, nurses, pharmacists, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, academics, or a variety of experts. The past approach did not work. We need a new approach. This legislation, which is rooted in science and evidence, is our best path forward. I am proud to support the bill on that basis.
Mr. Speaker, of all the ill-considered, unsound, and wacky campaign promises made by the Liberals in the 2015 election campaign, several dozen of which the Liberal government has broken, Bill most deserves to be broken, or at least seriously postponed.
The House may recall that when the legislation was first introduced, the Liberals assembled five ministers, whom they trotted out and sat down at the table at the press theatre just across Wellington Street, to defend the proposed marijuana legislation. There were the , the , the , the , and the government's front guy for recreational marijuana, the .
This was not a celebratory unveiling of new legislation. It looked like middle school detention time. There was not a smile among the group. The “marijuana five” sat grimly during the almost hour-long news conference and not one of the ministers spoke the word “marijuana”. They contorted themselves and their talking points into more coils than a hookah pipe, talking of their concerns about vulnerable kids, of the risks and dangers of the product they were about to make recreational, of any attempt to engage in a price war with organized crime, and repeatedly emphasized that they were not actually advocating marijuana consumption. As I said, not one of the “marijuana five” managed to actually speak the word. Instead, they stuck to the Latin, “cannabis”.
Since then it has all been downhill, and here we are with the Liberals cutting short an essential and important debate for all Canadians to hear by using the legislative guillotine of their Liberal majority.
The parliamentary secretary has reminded the House many times that in his words, “we all care about our kids. We care about their health, their safety, and their outcomes.” The PS has reminded us that he spent most of his adult life fighting crime, that crime and violence can be reduced in society through smart action.
We in the official opposition absolutely recognize the member's service and certainly agree that we all care for Canadian children and that crime and violence can be reduced in Canadian society through smart action, but we strenuously disagree that the Liberals have approached this matter in any way that could remotely be characterized as smart.
The Liberals have rushed to crank out Bill , but in doing so have downloaded almost all of the real responsibilities and costs to the provinces and municipalities. From top to bottom, we have heard serious and worthy concerns from the medical community, from law enforcement, from small town and big city councils, and from provincial legislatures that the Liberals' rush to legalize recreational cannabis by July 2018 is simply going too far, far too fast. It is far too fast for effective education of consumers, young and old. It is far too fast for thorough and rational training of law enforcement officers and agencies. It is far too fast to think through the matters of home-grown marijuana and the volumes that will be produced, access by young children to it, and a variety of landlord-tenant issues.
The proposed federal law allows for four plants per home. In testimony at the health committee, witnesses calculated that four plants of 100 centimetres in height could produce up to 600 grams of marijuana, yet that height limit has now been removed from the bill. No one on the government side has explained how 600 grams fits with the maximum possession limit of 30 grams.
The health committee also heard in evidence from the United States that whereas Colorado allows home grown marijuana, Washington State does not, the exception being for frail medical consumers. The rather stark results are that in Washington state, where no home grown marijuana was allowed, organized crime's share of the marijuana market was reduced to less than 20% in less than three years. In Colorado, where home grown marijuana was allowed, organized crime jumped into the game and continues to flourish.
We learned last week that some provinces will heed the lessons from those two states and some will not. Quebec's draft legislation will outlaw home grown marijuana, with a purchase and consumption age of 18. However, there are other disparities in the area of distribution. Ontario says that it will only allow distribution through its liquor control board, as will Quebec, but Alberta is going to go the free enterprise, retail route, regulated by provincial regulation, but with no set limit on the number of private stores.
Coming back to testimony from south of the border, we also learned from Colorado that there has been a 32% increase in drug-impaired driving, which brings us to the repeated concerns, expressed both individually and collectively, of the Canadian chiefs of police. These chiefs of police say there is no possible way, zero chance, they will be ready to enforce new laws for the legalization of recreational marijuana by next July, or any month soon thereafter. They have pleaded for more time to properly train officers about the new laws, about the science, and the details of what is allowed and what is not. They want more time to certify an adequate number of officers to conduct roadside drug-impaired driving testing.
They have also asked, along with a variety of other groups, for more time for public education. Without a delay, the chiefs of police warn that there will be a gap between actual legalization and what the Liberals originally, grandiloquently proclaimed would be “Canada cannabis day”, before they backed off to a now vague commitment of sometime in July. There is a gap between actual legalization and the ability of the police to properly enforce the spectrum of new laws and regulations. That gap, the police chiefs warn, will give organized crime an opportunity to exploit these new laws and, as Ontario Provincial Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum warned, for organized crime to flourish.
The Liberals claim they will squeeze organized crime out of the marijuana market through predatory pricing, undercutting street prices. The Liberal Government of Ontario is talking about a $10 a gram price, with sales tax on top of that, of course. The federal Liberal government is talking about another tax, a $1 a gram federal levy.
The street dealers, the distributors for organized crime, are laughing out loud about prices in the $8 to $12 a gram range putting them out of business. On radio talk shows in Toronto the last couple of weeks, it was clear that both sellers and buyers in the market today believe that the illicit market will continue to exist, and quite possibly grow. A year ago a marijuana dealer in Seattle in Washington state was selling marijuana for less than $5 Canadian a gram.
Coming back for just a moment to the Liberal government's proposed $1 a gram levy, to be split, it says, 50-50 with the provinces, that is a non-starter. We know it is a non-starter with the provinces, and certainly the municipalities, who are carrying the lion's share of the costs and responsibilities of bringing the Liberals' wacky campaign promise to a too-early reality.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, of all the ill-considered promises made by these Liberals during the 2015 election campaign, several dozen of which they have reluctantly but realistically broken, Bill most deserves to be broken, or at least seriously postponed.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill , the cannabis act.
Protecting the health and safety of the public is a key priority for all orders of government in Canada. In fact, that is why we introduced Bill C-45. Its goal is to create a strict national framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis in Canada.
Bill would legalize access to cannabis, but only for adults, and would allow a limited amount to be grown at home or purchased through an appropriate retail framework, to make sure it is sourced from a well-regulated industry.
The bill would establish controls to protect youth, including prohibitions on selling and providing cannabis to anyone under the age of 18 and restrictions on marketing and promotional activities directed at young people.
Commercial growers and manufacturers of cannabis would require a federal licence and be subject to strict oversight to control product safety and quality.
While Bill would use the federal criminal law power to create a strict framework to control and regulate the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis, the effective oversight and control of cannabis cannot be achieved without working with our partners in the provinces, territories, and municipalities.
From the outset, our government has been clear that the control and regulation of cannabis requires a pan-Canadian approach, involving all orders of government, at all stages of development and implementation.
This is reflected in the important role that our provincial and territorial partners have played in the work of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation. This task force was established in June 2016, with a mandate to provide advice to the federal government on how to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis.
Input from the provinces and territories was essential for the successful work of the task force. The provinces and the territories nominated experts to serve on the task force and make suggestions as to who should be consulted. They met with the task force and shared their views on cannabis legalization and regulation, and on how to best achieve our shared objectives of better protecting health and safety.
It should not come as a surprise that the views of the provinces and territories helped shape, to a great extent, some of the important provisions of Bill C-45. Like the task force report, Bill C-45 proposes a shared framework for the control and regulation of cannabis based on ongoing federal, provincial, and territorial collaboration.
The bill sets out clear controls and standards around cannabis, but provides the flexibility for each government to work within its own jurisdictional authority and experience. Each aspect of the framework would be implemented by those best placed to do so.
At this time, I would like to explain how the different levels of government would share their various roles and responsibilities, beginning with the federal role.
Under the proposed cannabis law, the federal government would be responsible for establishing and implementing a national framework for the regulation of cannabis production, establishing health and safety standards, and creating criminal prohibitions.
This would include: establishing restrictions on adult access to cannabis and establishing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal system; creating rules to limit how cannabis or cannabis accessories can be promoted, packaged, labelled, and displayed that are in line with the rules that are in place for tobacco products; instituting a federal licensing regime for cannabis production that draws on lessons learned from the current system for access to cannabis for medical purposes; establishing industry-wide rules and standards, for example, serving sizes or potency, as well as the tracking of cannabis from seed to sale to prevent diversion to the illicit market; creating minimum federal conditions to provide a national framework to protect public health and public safety; and enforcing cannabis importation and exportation prohibitions at the border, except when legally authorized.
At the same time, Bill recognizes that provinces and territories, as well as municipalities, have an important role to play in the new system. Similar to provincial and territorial oversight over the distribution and sale of alcohol, the proposed legislation would recognize provincial and territorial legislative regimes that would oversee and regulate the distribution and retail sale of cannabis in their respective jurisdictions.
The legislative measures would also take into account the fact that the provinces and territories, together with municipalities, have the authority to adapt certain rules to their own jurisdictions and to enforce them with a variety of tools, including tickets.
As per the recommendations of the working group, the provinces and territories, together with municipalities, could establish rules governing the location of facilities for the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis in a community, and locations where cannabis can be consumed in public.
Provinces and territories could also set additional regulatory requirements to address issues of local concern. For example, provincial and territorial legislatures have the authority to set a higher minimum age for cannabis possession or more restrictive limits on possession for personal cultivation, including the lowering of the number of plants or restricting where they may be cultivated. As a result, Bill is drafted in such a way that provinces and territories can establish these stricter rules under their own authority.
Key roles for our municipal counterparts would include setting and enforcing local zoning bylaws, inspecting buildings, and carrying out local enforcement for matters related to minimum age for purchase, personal cultivation, personal possession limits, smoking, and place-of-use restrictions as well as public-nuisance complaints.
As the framework is implemented, I am convinced that our government will be able to work closely with its provincial, territorial, and municipal counterparts.
I am pleased to note that provinces and territories have already begun to prepare for legalization. For example, our partners in Manitoba have already introduced legislation amending provincial traffic safety laws to help police crack down on drivers who are driving while impaired by drugs and to restrict how cannabis can be transported in a vehicle.
The active involvement of our provincial, territorial, and municipal counterparts will be vital in helping to ensure that young people do not have access to cannabis and that those who sell cannabis outside of the legal framework will face stiff penalties.
Our government has said many times that it will be working with the provinces and territories to raise awareness and educate Canadians on the risks of cannabis use and to monitor the impact of tougher controls around access to cannabis.
In the 2017 budget, the government committed to investing $9.6 million over five years in a public education and awareness campaign and in surveillance activities.
As health is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, provinces and territories complement federal public health programming, including through the management of public health and safety issues and school-based education and counselling.
In partnering with the provinces, territories, municipalities, and local communities, our government has announced that it will invest to provide law enforcement with the necessary equipment and education to ensure road safety. It said that it would also meet with the provinces and territories to continue discussions on how cannabis will be taxed.
Strong collaboration between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as much in areas of security and supply chains as in public education, is essential to reaching the goals of strict cannabis regulation, including that of keeping proceeds out of the hands of criminals.
Our government will continue to work tirelessly with all levels of government to realize our common goal of protecting the health and safety of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill , the pot legalization bill, or as I call it Phoenix 2.0. Why do I call it that? It is because it is an example of government rushing through a bill to meet some nonsensical, arbitrary deadline, despite warnings from everyone involved that we are not ready. In this case, instead of hurting those solely in the public sector, we are going to be hurting Canadians across all demographics, and especially the young.
With Phoenix, we had the opposition, the public sector unions, and department chief financial officers saying not to rush forward. With pot legalization, we have police chiefs from across the country, the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP, and members of the U.S. enforcement agencies saying not to rush forward. Sadly, as with Phoenix, the government seems intent on barrelling ahead, regardless of the warnings.
The Liberals are desperate to show they can keep a promise after all. “Look at me” the PM will say on July 1, hiking up his pants to show off his socks with marijuana leaves. He is going to spark up the first ceremonial doob on Parliament Hill, and run around taking selfies with those lighting up. No doubt, the clever Liberal marketing machine will say the PM just happened to be running by, shirtless no doubt, and a crowd toking up. Of course, his official photographer will just happen to be there taking some pictures. No doubt they will come up with some clever tag about the PM and hashtag it that he was “photobonging” some group.
However, there are real consequences to rushing forward when law enforcement is not ready. Let us look at the Liberal policy on pot from its web page, broken down by statement. The first statement is that current laws do not “prevent young people from using marijuana.” The Liberal solution to legalize the substance that is being consumed defies logic, to argue normalizing pot use and making it available everywhere will somehow prevent young people from using it.
Consider some real-world examples. Colorado went from 13th place to first place overall for pot consumption among its youth, after legalization. Washington State's pot use among students, post-legalization, is 42% higher than the rest of the country. Studies from the U.S. show that the young people have a perception, post-legalization, that pot is harmless and does not cause mental issues.
Allowing every citizen to legally grow pot, up to four plants worth at that, means by definition there will be more pot. The government has so far neglected to adequately explain how it plans to keep the extra pot off the streets and out of our schools.
Next it states, “Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses.” Let us be frank, things have changed since many of us in the House were younger. Police are no longer focusing on arresting kids for having a joint or two, because they are far too busy working on other important issues.
The police chief of Edmonton stated it clearly. He said that police may use the presence of pot as a cause to search a car or search someone, where they may find guns, opioids, or stolen goods. However, to argue for legalization because too many Canadians are trapped in the criminal system simply does not jive with what the experts are saying.
Next, the Liberals say, “...the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs”. Here is a clue for the government. The Hells Angels are already involved in the legal part of marijuana. I quote from the RCMP report to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. “There is no shortage of organized criminal groups who have applied to produce medical marijuana under Health Canada's new MMPR, including...Hells Angels”. Legalization is not keeping out organized crime. Organized crime is already taking advantage of the legal regime.
The Liberal plan goes on to state, “To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.”
In summary, they will keep pot out of the hands of children by legalizing the substance we want to get rid of, legalizing possession for children as young as 12, and making production legal, thus ensuring the supply will skyrocket. At the same time, they say we will keep the profits out of the hands of criminals, even though they have not said how, and they are ignoring the fact that the criminals are already involved in the legal system. The government seems to expect the Hells Angels will just turn over and say, “Well, we had a great run, guys. I guess I'll use my Harley to be an UberEATS driver now”. Maybe the government could offer the Hells Angels some of those reintegration services they are offering returning ISIS fighters.
Honestly, if people have been buying pot from someone for the past five years, getting a great price, and having it delivered to their door, are they now going to trudge down to the local government-run store, 9 to 5 only, Monday to Friday, of course, and on camera, to buy weed at a higher price? I do not think so. Mind you, Kathleen Wynne would offer them Air Miles points, so there is something.
Continuing on with the Liberal plan, it states we will, “create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who...operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the...framework.”
Here is a great one. We have no standards on measuring impairment. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police recently met and narrowed down the roadside testing devices to two. We have not yet decided on the best one, much less have them in the hands of the police. More importantly, the failure rate on the device is as high as 13%. Let us think about that. Every single person charged will have a lawyer begging to take on his or her trial. What judge is going to say, “Hey, a 13% failure rate, that's pretty good. You're guilty”? None.
If the courts are jammed now, what happens once every one of these offences is taken to court? The government is letting accused rapists and murderers walk free under Jordan's principle because of its absolute ineptness and inability to appoint judges, and we are about to add thousands of new cases.
We could do blood testing, but that would require the officer to take someone to an emergency room. Our emergency room wait times are legendary as it is. Do we think any nurse or doctor is going to keep someone with a broken arm or a child with a runaway fever waiting just to draw blood for a cop for a weed DUI?
The costs of these roadside devices are $45 to $90 per use. The training for every one of these operators is about $20,000. How many locations are there to train these officers? There are two in all of North America, in the United States. Edmonton currently has only 24 officers trained out of a force of 1,800. Calgary has fewer, about 10. Maybe the Liberals are hoping that, contrary to decades of experience with drinking and driving, people just will not drive when high.
Let us again look at the statistics in the U.S. In Washington state, after legalization, DUIs with pot increased from 18% to 39%. In Spokane, youth pot DUIs grew 1700% versus pre-legalization.
The Liberal plan goes on. Next is those who sell cannabis outside of the regulatory framework. Our police forces are already stretched to the limits. We are not enforcing casual possession right now to focus on hard criminals, yet somehow, by waving a magic wand, we will have people available to go after those who are selling illegal drugs.
We have told the public that they can set up a legal grow op in every house and apartment in town. In Alberta, people are allowed to buy 30 grams of pot per store visit, not per day. That is 75 joints just from one store. How are we going to monitor every single person who can legally buy 75 joints at a time to make sure that they are only those of age, those who are not driving, and those who are not part of a criminal gang?
Finally, the Liberals have said that they will create a task force with input from experts. The experts in public health say that smoking pot before the age of 25 is damaging to brain development. Law enforcement is similarly clear. The chiefs of police are near unanimous. They have said they are not ready, that we should decriminalize not legalize, and that we should slow down.
The government simply dumped sales and distribution onto cash-strapped provinces and municipalities, so we will have a patchwork framework across the country. The Liberals have not listened to the task force.
I realize we are on the road to legalization. However, I implore the government to slow down until our police and communities are ready. It should not put public safety at risk just to meet an arbitrary political deadline.
I met with Edmonton's chief of police last Friday, and he had a poignant warning. He said that in 20 years we would look back at this as the worst piece of legislation ever tabled in Canada.
Let us slow it down and do what is right for our youth and our country, not what is right for the Liberal mandate tracker.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.
As my colleagues have pointed out a number of times, the current approach to cannabis is not working. It has put money in the hands of criminals and organized crime and failed to keep cannabis out of the hands of young Canadians.
The fact that cannabis is a controlled substance has not stopped Canadians from using it. In 2015, approximately 12% of Canadians reported consuming cannabis in the past year. For young adults between the ages of 20 to 24, that rate is more than double at 30%. The vast majority of Canadians are obtaining cannabis products from the illegal market. This cannabis is produced without regard for public health and safety, often in clandestine circumstances, with no oversight over how it is produced, no testing for dangerous or unhealthy contaminants, and no requirements whatsoever with respect to appropriate safeguards, factual and accurate labelling, or child-resistant packaging.
That is why our government is moving to enact this legislation. It would better protect the health and safety of Canadians by providing access to a legal and quality-controlled supply of cannabis, while implementing strict controls to restrict youth access to cannabis.
On the illegal market, cannabis products are often grown, produced, stored, and sold without regard for public health and safety or accountability to the consumer. The products may be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, moulds, and bacteria. The source of this cannabis is often obscure or unknown.
The bill would ensure that the production of cannabis in Canada is subject to a high and consistent national standard, in terms of product quality, as is the case under the current regime for the production of cannabis for medical purposes. This means that, under Bill and the supporting regulations, all producers would be subject to a licensing process that verifies that they have the capacity to meet the product quality-control standards. Producers would also have to conform to standards in terms of the safety and security of their facilities, the vetting of personnel, record keeping, and inventory controls. This would include rigorous requirements for product quality testing, standard operating procedures that must be observed throughout the facility, a sanitation program, and product recall measures to address any product-related issues.
The proposed framework would require that product quality be controlled through mandatory testing and that a robust compliance and enforcement regime be in place. In fact, Canada already has a world-leading system in place to regulate the production of cannabis for medical purposes, which provides a solid basis upon which to build.
Let me provide some of those regime requirements. Under the current regime, which has been in place since 2014, Health Canada is responsible for licensing and overseeing cannabis producers. These producers are required to operate within the regulations to provide quality-controlled cannabis to registered patients. There are currently 67 producers that are licensed to produce cannabis for medical purposes. These producers are the only commercial source in Canada of legal, quality-controlled cannabis for medical purposes.
The regulatory framework sets out a series of strict requirements that must be met to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the integrity of the legal system. For example, licensed producers are required to utilize strict production practices in their facilities, such as having a quality assurance person and a sanitary program.
Each licensed producer is required to test each and every product lot prior to its sale to the public. This includes tests for metals, mould, bacteria, and other potential contaminants, which can be harmful to public health. If the test results are outside of identified specifications, the product must not be sold.
Licensed producers are also required to test each lot for THC and CBD potency levels, and the results must be displayed on the labels.
Health Canada also announced recently that it will require all licensed producers to conduct mandatory testing for the presence of unauthorized pesticides in all cannabis products destined for sale.
These standards and controls are backed by a robust compliance and law enforcement regime to ensure that licenced producers fully comply with the rules at all stages of the production process.
Under this system, every licenced producer will undergo multiple unannounced inspections every year in order to verify that they are using the best production practices and following specific rules regarding the use of authorized pesticides. These inspections will also ensure compliance with rules on physical and personnel security, and record keeping. Last year, for example, Health Canada inspectors conducted more than 270 inspections on site and every licenced producer in Canada was inspected on average seven or eight times.
The features described are designed to ensure that any cannabis product released for sale to the public meets a high quality standard, but as in any industry, there may be circumstances in which a product may be released for sale that does not meet the established regulatory standards. Therefore, to address these situations quickly and authoritatively, the regulatory framework requires that licensed producers have a recall system in place to promptly contact clients and remove products that do not meet these high standards.
In short, Bill would build on a well-functioning, effective system to help ensure that cannabis that is legally sold in Canada is strictly regulated and quality controlled. In addition to setting controls similar to those existing under the cannabis regime for medical purposes, Bill C-45 would put in place a set of additional measures, tools, and resources to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
Industry might use marketing techniques to increase demand and revenues. We have a responsibility to establish reasonable regulations for these marketing activities to ensure that important public policy objectives, such as protecting the health and well-being of young people, are achieved.
The facts are conclusive. We have seen with tobacco that exposure to advertising, even if it targets adults, has an impact on children. Under the bill, advertising restrictions would apply to cannabis based on lessons learned from our experience with tobacco.
The proposed legislation and supporting regulations would also ensure that packaging is child resistant, reducing the risk of accidental consumption. They would also set limits for potency and portion size and require factual information to be clearly presented on the product. The oversight and regulation of production at the federal level would provide all Canadians with the assurance that, no matter where cannabis is produced or sold, it would be subject to the same high quality and safety standards and requirements across the country.
In conclusion, this bill provides a real opportunity for Canada to address health and public safety issues associated with the illegal cannabis market. The proposed framework would establish a robust system that would allow adults to have access to legal and quality-controlled products as a result of a well-regulated framework, compliance, and enforcement. This would place Canada in a better position to protect the public health and safety of its youth and Canadians as a whole.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise to speak in the House today in support of Bill , an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts. In my remarks today I would like to focus on why a new approach to cannabis is needed in this country and why we need to act now.
The evidence is clear. The current approach is simply not working. All that it has managed to achieve is to unduly criminalize Canadians for possessing small amounts of cannabis and to encourage them to engage with criminals in order to consume products of unknown origin, potency, quality, and safety. It has also allowed criminals and organized crime to profit.
What the current model does not do is protect Canadians, especially young people, against the risks and dangers of using cannabis.
Although cannabis has been illegal for decades, the usage rate among young Canadians is one of the highest in the world.
We cannot allow this to continue. A new approach is required as soon as possible to better protect our youth and to make sure that adults have access to products that are quality controlled and have known origins, and so that they no longer run the risk of having a criminal record for possessing or sharing small amounts.
During the hearings at the Standing Committee on Health, Mr. Ian Culbert, the executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association, said:
|| Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of time, as Canadians are already consuming cannabis at record levels. The individual and societal harms associated with cannabis use are already being felt every day. The proposed legislation and eventual regulation is our best attempt to minimize those harms and protect the well-being of all Canadians.
Any further delay in implementation would simply perpetuate a system that is already failing to protect the health and safety of Canadians. This is exactly why our government is committed to bringing the proposed legislation into force no later than July 2018. Upon the coming into force of Bill , Canadians who are 18 years of age or older would be able to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of cannabis for personal use. This would mean that the possession of small amounts of cannabis would no longer be a criminal offence, and it would prevent profits from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.
The bill would, for the first time, also make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and would create significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences.
Canada is more than ready for a new approach that will better protect the health and safety of Canadians. As my colleagues are well aware, Canada has already gained valuable experience that will help us create a sound framework for cannabis legalization and regulation. We already have a system in place that provides access to medical marijuana, and that system is recognized as one of the best in the world.
Let me share some more of the features of that system we are building upon. Under the existing health regime that has been in place since 2014, Health Canada is responsible for licensing and overseeing cannabis producers. These producers are required to operate within strict regulations to provide quality-controlled cannabis to registered patients. This rigorous licensing process ensures, for example, that entrants to this market have gone through a thorough security check and that producers have appropriate physical security infrastructure in place.
Canada also has a world-class compliance and enforcement regime intended to ensure that licensed producers fully comply with the rules in place.