Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-45, on which I worked very hard. This bill will allow the Liberal government to legalize marijuana; for those who might not know, the substance has been illegal in Canada for 94 years. To top it off, the government hopes to accomplish all this in under a year.
That is a very tight timeline for a subject as complex as this, especially when we take the time to look at what other countries have done. Why the rush? One has to wonder, given that the government keeps repeating over and over again and shouting from the rooftops that it has two main objectives, which are to restrict the activities of organized crime, perhaps even to wipe it out entirely, and to keep the substance out of the hands of children.
I will speak to a few different points. First, organized crime will not back off. Furthermore, young people will have even greater access to marijuana, there will be an increase in impaired driving, and workplace safety, which is nowhere to be found in this bill, will take a turn for the worse, endangering workers. Many business leaders are quite concerned about this. Housing-related problems will rise too. We will be faced with serious problems, and yet no one is talking about it. Among other things, there will be an increase in hospitalization rates and in calls to poison control centres, while ethical problems will grow.
Conservatives are not the ones saying all this, and I am certainly not pulling these facts out of my hat; these are the conclusions of studies done by experts who are not financed by pro-marijuana lobbies. These are the facts. These studies were conducted by experts and health professionals, and the results were presented by actual scientists. I would also add that there are real examples of places where governments legalized marijuana. I will go through them all one by one.
First, with regard to organized crime and according to my own research, no marijuana legislation will succeed in wiping out organized crime. In Uruguay and in some of the U.S. states that have legalized marijuana, black markets have only grown.
I will now quote someone who is not a Conservative MP or a mean old Conservative, as the Liberals like to put it.
Despite having legalized recreational marijuana use, Colorado has seen a rise in black market activity. The state is the second largest producer of illegal marijuana after California.
Who said this? The chief of the Denver Police Department.
Criminals are still active on the black market. We have a whole range of cartels active in Colorado, and illegal activity has not dropped one bit.
Who said this, now? The Colorado Attorney General.
The decriminalization of cannabis use has not eliminated organized crime. It has merely adapted and managed to gain a foothold in coffee shops, while retaining control over cannabis production.
Who said that? A criminologist analyzing the situation in Uruguay. Again, this person has is a non-partisan opinion.
Let us now talk about protecting children. I think it is completely inconsistent for the Prime Minister to want to limit access to cannabis for young people while allowing people to grow up to four plants in their own house or apartment.
Even worse, he makes it legal for kids under 18 who are not even supposed to be allowed to use marijuana to have five grams in their pockets. It is illegal, but who cares, kids can have five grams. It boggles the mind.
This government claims to make science-based decisions, but what does the science say? It says that marijuana is dangerous for young people under 25. What is the government's response? It says that it does not matter and that the legal age will be 18. If they had the courage, the Liberals would stop quoting scientists and stop trying to sell this nonsense to Canadians.
I have a few more quotes. I did not make them up, but they come from surprising sources.
Young people are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of marijuana because adolescence is a critical time for brain development.
I found that quote on Health Canada's website. It is from the government's own public servants, who are neutral and have nothing to do with the Conservative Party.
Here is another quote. In Colorado, the number of patients admitted to hospitals after the legalization of marijuana increased dramatically. It almost tripled, from 803 diagnostics per 100,000 people from 2001 to 2009 before legalization to 2,142 diagnostics per 100,000 people after legalization.
That is from a Colorado Public Safety report.
Here is another good example. Calls regarding overdoses made to poison control centres rose by 108% in Colorado and by 68% in Washington State since 2012.
These numbers are from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center. Would anyone say that these are not credible sources?
The safety of our roads and drug-impaired driving is another major cause of concern in my view. It is already a terrible problem. There are almost as many accidents caused by drug-impaired driving than by alcohol-impaired driving, and the numbers will increase. The facts are clear.
In Washington State, after legalization, fatal accidents caused by impaired driving doubled. In Colorado, they tripled.
Here are a few more quotes:
CAA-Québec members are worried by marijuana becoming legal in Canada. [We could do the same survey in other provinces and I am convinced the results would be the same.] Some 73% of respondents to a survey done by the organization expressed concerns that this measure proposed by the [Liberal] government would negatively impact road and highway safety.
Here is another one, from a surprising source: “The number of car accidents in Colorado increased because of marijuana usage.” Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to Barack Obama on drug policy, is the author of that quote.
“Close to half of Canadians who drive while under the influence of cannabis think that they are not a danger on the road.”
That is over 50%. In his budget, the government is setting aside $1.9 million for awareness campaigns in the entire country, knowing full well that legalization will occur within a year. That is absolutely ridiculous. Half of marijuana users currently consider that they are not dangerous.
Let us now turn to workplace safety. Many Canadian business leaders are concerned that the legalization of marijuana could lead to workplace safety problems. Many business owners and experts spoke to this in recent months.
“'It's so dangerous.' With cannabis becoming legal, he feels that the problem could get worse and he doesn't feel prepared.” This is a quote from Alain Raymond, owner of a roofing company.
“We know that cannabis can have an impact on concentration and reflexes. We also know that cannabis can be detected 15 to 30 days after use. How about an employee who uses marijuana on the weekend but doesn't want his or her employer to know? What does that person do?” That is from Hugo Morissette, a human resources consultant.
Judging by the Colorado experience, these concerns are justified. The number of employees affected by marijuana has risen dramatically in Colorado, from 2.7% in 2011 to 7.5% in 2015, after legalization. The numbers have tripled. It is not insignificant.
The CEO of GE Johnson even said that it was so difficult to find employees that could pass a mouth swab test for marijuana, that he had to hire people from outside the state.
In short, considering the obligations of every employer in Quebec and in every other province, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana will expose employers and employees to many legal and other associated risks, such as the risk of more workplace accidents, increased employee absenteeism, and lower employee productivity. Employees would also be at risk of developing a marijuana addiction, which would in turn require that employers provide proper accommodation. Lastly, there would be a risk of increased health care cost-related claims. That is yet another aspect of the marijuana legalization issue that is far from settled, and the bill does nothing to settle it.
I will now return to the issue I spoke of early on in my speech, that of rental properties. Not a single word on this can be found in the bill. Marijuana legalization complicates the management of rental properties. Landlords fear that growing these plants indoors, up to four per housing unit, will cause damage to the units. What is more, dangerous modifications to existing electrical systems will lead to an increased risk of fire and accidents. Those hoping for an earlier harvest will undoubtedly attempt to tinker with their grid.
I will move a bit more quickly through the other parts, as I do not have many people to persuade. Marijuana's effects on health are particularly troubling to me. Medical experts agree that marijuana is a dangerous drug for children and teenagers; I would add that it is dangerous for all vulnerable persons. Whether for or against legalization, everyone can agree on that.
The Liberals are reluctant to admit that cannabis consumption has the same effect on teenagers, unlike alcohol, and that is to cause permanent damage to the brain. The Canadian Medical Association has already warned the government that occasional cannabis use can have severe psychological repercussions on the brain's development, even up to age 25.
The Canadian Medical Association recommends a legal minimum age, and it would even agree to drop that number down to 21, if that would help the government make a wise decision. What was this irresponsible government's response? Eighteen years. The Liberals have the nerve to say they base their decisions on science and on experts, but the truth of the matter is that they base their decisions on their friends who will benefit from the legalization of marijuana. I will return to this a bit later.
Today, Colorado ranks first in cannabis consumption. Before legalization, and for 10 consecutive years, it took 14th place. How can the Liberals assure parents that legal marijuana will stay far, far away from the children? On that, the Liberals are radio silent and offer no assurances.
How can the Liberals claim that legalizing marijuana and allowing the personal cultivation of up to four plants per housing unit will lead to limiting children's access to marijuana? Once again, the Liberals are radio silent. They are keeping mum on the real issues, which raises some serious questions as to the government's true intentions.
I am now getting to the really juicy part of my speech. I got a call from a friend of mine last week. He is always on top of the news cycle. He asked me to explain to him why, despite all the warnings, the Liberal government had decided to go forward with its legislation. I answered that there definitely had to be a reason. The reason is simple: the government has friends who will benefit from this move. It is a lucrative business for marijuana production company CEOs. This week, we learned that a third of these companies have at least one major Liberal Party donor on their board of directors. Those are the facts. These companies are run by people close to the Liberal Party. I will name a few. I will add that I did not even have to dig too deep, because the story is getting quite a bit of media coverage these days.
Here is one of the quotes:
The co-founder of The Hydropothecary, the only licensed producer of medical marijuana in Quebec, Adam Miron, was the national director of the Liberal Party of Canada and the national director of the Young Liberals of Canada.
That is something else, is it not? The only licensed producer in Quebec is part of the Liberal Party of Canada. Here is another quote:
At Aurora Cannabis, which is trying to open a plant on Hymus Boulevard in west Montreal, Chuck Rifici, who was on the board of directors, was the chief financial officer of the Liberal Party of Canada until last summer.
Last summer is not very long ago. I think that people know him, but we do not have the right to say these things about him outside the House because he files lawsuits against us if we name him. At least here I can say these things. Here is another quote:
Mr. Rifici was working for the Liberal Party of Canada when he co-founded Tweed, which became the largest producer of medical marijuana in the country, with a market capitalization of over $1 billion.
We need not look very far to see why the government is in such a rush to legalize marijuana. All of the research and statistics show that marijuana is dangerous for children and that we do not have enough information. However, no measures have been put in place to ensure that children will be protected against this product. There is also no evidence to show that there will be fewer motor vehicle accidents. Our police officers do not even have the proper equipment.
I sponsored Senator Claude Carignan's bill in the House, and it is already pretty far along in the process, but the government plans to vote against it, even though it could speed up the process if for no other reason than to ensure that our police officers are properly equipped and to give them the training they need so that they are able to actually take action on July 1 if the government goes forward with this.
Since a Conservative senator was the one who introduced the bill, the government decided not to support it. Instead, it decided to come up with another bill to draw things out, even though Senator Carignan's bill had the unanimous support of the Senate, including that of independent Liberal senators, or maybe they are not independent. We no longer know. The reality is that we are not going to be ready.
I will return to the topic at hand. It is also about ethics. President Barack Obama's former adviser on drug policies, Kevin Sabet, says that they were fooled. He believes that the legalization of marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and the State of Washington is all about money and benefits private equity firms, and that the decision had nothing to do with public health. He says that there is a huge industry in Colorado, which is like the tobacco industry and has its own lobbyists.
That is the reality. It has nothing to do with good intentions that go over well when the Liberals talk to Canadians. The reality is that what they are saying is false and that there is a lobby that is applying pressure. Every U.S. state where marijuana was legalized or is in the process of being legalized held a referendum. Moreover, in the states where marijuana was legalized, it was by a narrow margin of 50.5%, 51%, or 52% of the vote. Who provided the information? It was always the big marijuana lobby. That is the reality.
What is happening in Canada is surprising. I believe I spoke about this earlier. I named names, and I am not going to return to that. However, I have some interesting information about the person who will certainly ask me a question, and that is the parliamentary secretary responsible for the legalization of marijuana. He is being investigated by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with respect to a fundraiser attended by Liberal donors who are lobbying for the legalization of marijuana. He will ask me a question, and I will enjoy answering him.
One person at the fundraising cocktail party attended by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, who was the special guest, and also responsible for the legalization of marijuana, pointed out that there were many other people from the cannabis industry that were trying to get his attention. I think we are starting to get the picture.
A recent article in La Presse revealed that former Liberal politicians and former senior Liberal Party officials sit on the boards of directors of the largest cannabis producers in the country and make donations to the Liberal Party. It could not be any clearer. Pretending that the government is presenting a bill that will protect our kids and keep our roads safe is disingenuous. It is not true.
If the Prime Minister used his notoriety to promote healthy life choices, it would be much more useful and a lot less young people and other individuals would be smoking marijuana.