Cannabis Act

An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts

Sponsor

Status

Report stage (House), as of Oct. 5, 2017

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enacts the Cannabis Act to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale.

The objectives of the Act are to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework. The Act is also intended to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.

The Act

(a) establishes criminal prohibitions such as the unlawful sale or distribution of cannabis, including its sale or distribution to young persons, and the unlawful possession, production, importation and exportation of cannabis;

(b) enables the Minister to authorize the possession, production, distribution, sale, importation and exportation of cannabis, as well as to suspend, amend or revoke those authorizations when warranted;

(c) authorizes persons to possess, sell or distribute cannabis if they are authorized to sell cannabis under a provincial Act that contains certain legislative measures;

(d) prohibits any promotion, packaging and labelling of cannabis that could be appealing to young persons or encourage its consumption, while allowing consumers to have access to information with which they can make informed decisions about the consumption of cannabis;

(e) provides for inspection powers, the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties and the ability to commence proceedings for certain offences by means of a ticket;

(f) includes mechanisms to deal with seized cannabis and other property;

(g) authorizes the Minister to make orders in relation to matters such as product recalls, the provision of information, the conduct of tests or studies, and the taking of measures to prevent non-compliance with the Act;

(h) permits the establishment of a cannabis tracking system for the purposes of the enforcement and administration of the Act;

(i) authorizes the Minister to fix, by order, fees related to the administration of the Act; and

(j) authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting such matters as quality, testing, composition, packaging and labelling of cannabis, security clearances and the collection and disclosure of information in respect of cannabis as well as to make regulations exempting certain persons or classes of cannabis from the application of the Act.

This enactment also amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things, increase the maximum penalties for certain offences and to authorize the Minister to engage persons having technical or specialized knowledge to provide advice. It repeals item 1 of Schedule II and makes consequential amendments to that Act as the result of that repeal.

In addition, it repeals Part XII.‍1 of the Criminal Code, which deals with instruments and literature for illicit drug use, and makes consequential amendments to that Act.

It amends the Non-smokers’ Health Act to prohibit the smoking and vaping of cannabis in federally regulated places and conveyances.

Finally, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 8, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
June 8, 2017 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (reasoned amendment)
June 6, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, last night, I noted the government had said its marijuana legislation was designed to keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of organized crime. It is positively Orwellian. This legislation would very clearly do the exact opposite.

Last night, I spoke about the impact on children. To briefly review, the legislation would remove any criminal penalties for children aged 12 to 17 who possess up to five grams of marijuana. That is the equivalent of about 15 joints. It would also allow for people to grow marijuana in their own homes where, very likely, children would have access to it. Yes, we could put it in a locked room which has sunlight, but marijuana is a plant, so we cannot exactly store it in the same way we would store prescription drugs or alcohol.

Making marijuana legal would obviously make it easier for children to access it. In general, though, it would make it more prevalent, more readily available, and removing penalties for accessing it, naturally, would remove the risk associated with it. We have seen this across countries. In every case, where there is legalization, there is increase in use; most notably in the Netherlands. After marijuana use was legalized, consumption nearly tripled among 18 to 20-year-olds, and many municipalities in the Netherlands subsequently moved to ban so-called coffee houses completely.

This is clearly the result of legalization, and it is beyond fanciful that a government would claim that if we legalize something, if we make it easier to access and use something, if we make it legal for people to grow something in their own homes, we are to see less use. Yes, marijuana use is too high, and we can talk about the reasons for that right now, but it is fanciful to the extreme to suggest that making it easier to grow and get something will make people less likely to access it.

Let me speak, now, to this issue of organized crime. The government seems to believe that if we make something legal but still have rules around it, people will necessarily follow rules, and that it will necessarily starve out organized crime. The argument goes that if we eliminate a particular business in which organized crime is involved, organized crime will just close up shop. This is intuitively appealing, perhaps, but demonstrably false.

In addition to selling all kinds of drugs, organized crime is, or has been, actively involved in selling contraband versions of otherwise legalized substances, things like tobacco, and there is a major problem with contraband tobacco. Organized crime is associated with illegal practices in many perfectly legal industries. It has a history of being involved in areas like construction, garbage collection, gambling, and politics.

In fact, if we look at the history of organized crime, we see the roots of it are often cultural or sociological, as opposed to purely economic. The Mafia system, for example, originated in a Sicilian response to external occupation. Sicilians, over a long history, developed a system of self-government which, essentially, could exist in spite of, or in defiance of, occupying armies or ordinary rulers. It was a way for ordinary people to mediate their economic, social, and criminal justice relations in a way that did not involve going to occupying authorities. That, very clearly, was the history.

Organized crime will participate in illegal businesses where there is a profit to be made, that is certain. However, its existence does not depend on illegal business. It will apply its modes of collusion, corruption, and intimidation to legal, as well as illegal, businesses, and make a lot of money in the process.

Developing that Mafia example a bit further, of course, we can look at the history of the Mafia in North America. The Mafia benefited from alcohol prohibition. However, its history stretched for hundreds of years before that. It was a response to emergent cultural phenomena that led to that. Its ultimate decline was not the result of legalization of anything; rather, it was a change in the criminal law, with the introduction of laws that allowed law enforcement to target organized crime directly.

It is very clear with the set-up of this law that it would be very easy for organized crime to continue to be actively involved in the marijuana business, selling it to minors, facilitating the kinds of transactions that are illegal, but it would be legal and, therefore, much easier for people to carry around large amounts of marijuana, up to 30 grams for adults, up to five grams for minors.

It just does not make any sense to say this is going to be the end of organized crime, or even this is going to be a hit for organized crime. We are going to see, very likely, the evidence suggests, increased use, and new opportunities for organized crime to get around many of the fairly anemic, though they be, rules the government has put in place.

The point here is that the government is trying to use justifications for the law that it knows do not accord with the reality. It talks about children. It talks about organized crime. In reality, we are going to see increased use of this by children. Also, this will create new opportunities for organized crime to circumvent the laws that involve selling to children because adults and children will have a much easier time carrying marijuana around without detection.

We have a clear alternative. We do not have to accept the status quo as an acceptable reality either. Our party supports a ticketing option that allows a reasonable and effective criminal justice response, not one that applies disproportionate penalties to this but one that I think can emphasize treatment and public health while also still allowing a legal intervention to address that risk. I think the approach we have emphasized is a sensible alternative. It allows that kind of necessary intervention. This is the position that was endorsed by the association of police chiefs, not decriminalization but a ticketing option.

There is a lot of development that could be done around that proposal. Perhaps we might require people who are facing the possibility of conviction to seek an alternative that would involve education and becoming aware of the impacts of marijuana use. We could use the criminal justice system as a way of directing people toward treatment without being overly punitive. Our friends in the NDP caucus have pointed out the possibility of lifelong criminal convictions. We can address those issues through reforms to the pardon system.

However, the real problem we have right now is that marijuana is in this grey zone. It is illegal but there is not a ticketing option, and it clearly is not an enforcement priority. That is why so many people use it. On the one hand, there is no ticketing option, there is no alternative outside the laying of a charge, and on the other hand, clearly people should not be going to jail for mere possession offences. I think we can all agree on that. I think we can propose sensible reforms and alternatives that actually communicate the real dangers and risks.

We have a government that is trying to justify an election promise based on the fact that the Prime Minister has said that he has smoked marijuana while being a member of Parliament, and then talks about a public health approach. That clearly sets such a terrible example when parents, teachers, and others are trying to communicate with young people that there are real, dramatic, substantial dangers associated with marijuana.

A more sensible public health approach would be to calibrate our approach so that we can look at pardon reforms and things like emphasizing treatment and education, but we can also have the means of a ticketing option and a criminal charge so that the police can intervene. However, what the government's law says is that children between 12 and 17 years old can possess up to five grams of marijuana, and they can distribute it among themselves. They cannot sell it, but they can distribute it. It makes it a severe penalty for someone who is 18 to give marijuana to someone who is 17, yet someone who is 17 can give marijuana to someone who is 12 with absolutely no penalties. Therefore, there is a real demonstrable incoherence to the government's approach.

There is also not a coherent message among government members when it comes to the actual risks associated with marijuana use. We have multiple members who speak publicly and openly about the fact that they have used or use marijuana, and talk about it as if it is not a problem, when we know that marijuana use is associated with higher levels of mental health problems later in life, especially when it is used by young people, even at relatively moderate levels. Therefore, there is a problem here in terms of the government talking, on the one hand, about a public health approach, and on the other hand, not facing up, in a realistic way, to the public health problems that are associated with marijuana.

I have cited the studies. The information is clearly there. We are going to see an increase in use if marijuana is legalized. If the government proceeds with the legislation, I hope that, at the very least, it will be prepared to re-evaluate it, because it seems to not understand this point. Hopefully a year or so after the legislation is passed, it will be willing to re-evaluate the problems that it has put in place.

To summarize, there is a dramatic dissidence between what the government is claiming about this and the realities that are in place. The Liberals talk about keeping it out of the hands of children, but they will make it easier for children to access it. They will remove criminal penalties for very young children who carry marijuana with them. There will be no means for that kind of legal intervention. They will allow adults to carry very large amounts and distribute it among themselves, and children to give it to each other. They will allow parents with children in the house to grow marijuana in a place and in a context where very likely that marijuana may be accessible to children. The government is prepared to allow all of these things, yet it makes the outlandish claim in that context that somehow this will reduce the access children have to marijuana. It just does not make any sense.

Then the Liberals talk about the issue of organized crime, but the reality is that organized crime is a system that exists regardless of what is and is not illegal. Organized crime capitalizes on opportunities to work outside of the law, but it is not required that a thing be illegal for organized crime to be involved in that business. That is just a reality the government needs to understand.

Frankly, members of the government who have dealt with organized crime in the context of police work should know this, and I am sure they do, contrary to whatever the talking points say. Organized crime often grows out of distrust of authority, out of issues of social exclusion, and out of long-standing systems of authority that exist in place. It is not the result of just something being illegal. We know this from history.

With regard to the public health issue, the evidence is very clear with respect to marijuana that it is a dangerous substance. Not everybody who smokes a joint will experience those negative effects, but it is clearly associated with higher levels of mental health challenges. Another member has spoken at length about the carcinogenic effects associated with smoking marijuana, and a lot of this is new and emerging research with respect to the risks of marijuana.

We need to send a clear message as a legislature. I would just say to members as well that we need to set a clear example when it comes to the risk, because the Liberals say on the one hand that they will take a public health approach, that they will try to educate about the risks of this, but on the other hand, they are saying that there is not even clarity or agreement in terms of what those risks actually are.

It is very confusing in terms of the messages the Liberals are sending, which do not seem to acknowledge those risks and with different members saying different kinds of things. I would hope that through this debate at the very least, members would be willing to clearly say from all parties, whatever their position on the ultimate criminal question, that marijuana is dangerous and that the best medical science indicates clearly that the risks are in place. I hope members will join me in opposing the bill.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, the member has said quite clearly that he is concerned that if we were to legalize marijuana, we would put young people at risk and it would lead to other health and social harms for our youth. Quite frankly, I am quite prepared to agree with him. I think legalization alone would do all of those things. Legalization alone would leave the production and distribution in the hands of criminals, and it would make it more accessible to our kids. I would just point out to the member that this is not at all what we are proposing to do.

What we are proposing to do is to lift the criminal sanction, which is the first step of legalization, and to replace the existing system of cannabis control, for which the evidence is overwhelming it is currently failing our kids, failing our communities, and failing the health of all Canadians, with a system of strict regulation for production, which leaves in place a strict criminal sentence for those who produce outside of the regulated regime. It would put strict regulation in place for its distribution and leave in place a strict criminal sentence for those who would distribute and traffic cannabis outside of the regulated regime. It would also put in place, and allow to be put in place, at the provincial, municipal, and the federal levels, regulations that will control its consumption so it can be done in a healthier, safer, and more socially responsible way.

Given that, I wonder if the member might consider that a strict regulatory framework of production, distribution, and consumption might lead to better health and social outcomes for our kids—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, with the greatest of respect for the parliamentary secretary, he should read the legislation insofar as the sections, because the strict regulatory regime that the Liberals talk about is actually just for people to grow their own at home. People can grow up to four plants that can be a metre high, yes, but who is going to police that when there are no notification or registration requirements whatsoever for those who grow it? Municipalities are not going to be informed. The law says that people can grow their own marijuana at home. That is not a strict regulatory framework at all, and it is quite disingenuous to suggest that it is.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I have been listening to the relatively tense exchanges between the two members and I have a question for my hon. colleague.

Before getting into politics, he was a secondary school teacher for 25 years. When students are tempted to experiment with marijuana, it does not take a lot of resourcefulness to find a source. I do not quite understand how the new regulations are going to change things.

What worries me even more about this bill, and that is what I would like to hear about from my colleague, is that its chief obstacle is the normalization of the drug, as though it has absolutely no consequences. However, recently, health authorities—we are told that the health aspects are being considered—have told us that there should be a minimum age limit of at least 21 years.

Are we not normalizing the use of this substance in this debate?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, in terms of its being easy to access, marijuana is a plant. It is, I have been told, not that difficult to grow. This is the challenge we have in limiting access to it, but if we now make it legal for people to grow it in their homes and distribute it to others, even for minors to possess and distribute it to other minors, of course it is going to be easier to access. There is more we can do in the context of continuing criminalization to address the ease of access. We do not have to accept the status quo as being sufficient, but that certainly does not mean that we should move in the wrong direction toward legalization.

The member is quite right to point out that the government is not at all sending consistent messages about the risks. Again, I would hope that, at very least, through this debate we could send a clear message about the genuine risks associated with marijuana use. Members of the government are supposed to be leading and setting a positive example, and in the case of the Prime Minister, he used marijuana while being a member of Parliament. That is a real problem in terms of the message it sends.

The reality of the political process by which this has come about is the government trying to appeal to people who think there is no problem with marijuana. All of the best and real science shows that there are significant risks associated with marijuana.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am speaking today in support of Bill C-45, not just as the member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre but as a mother who wants to keep her children and all children safe from drugs and alcohol and as a citizen who wants to reduce the power and influence of organized crime.

The fact is, if we want to keep cannabis away from our children, we need to support this bill. Those who oppose this common-sense, evidence-based legislation are supporting a so-called war on drugs that has been one of the most spectacular and expensive failures in the history of public policy and has done nothing but line the pockets of those in organized crime.

The fact is, today it is easier for under-age youth to get their hands on cannabis than it is to get their hands on alcohol or tobacco. If members doubt that, they should talk to our nation's youth and visit schools, as I have. I hear from my own children that cannabis is more accessible to children than beer or cigarettes. It is in our schools and is leading to conflict, illegal activity, and expulsions. Cannabis is negatively impacting the education and lives of our younger generation.

The numbers back this up. Canada has one of the highest rates of youth cannabis use in the world. In 2015, use among youth aged 15 to 19 was 21%, rising to 30% among youth aged 20 to 24. This is simply today's reality.

While the sale and distribution of alcohol and tobacco is regulated by federal and provincial governments, there are strict rules against selling to minors. Retailers face severe fines and penalties if they violate these rules, including losing their licence to sell tobacco, for example, so they have a business interest in ensuring that they follow the regulations against selling to minors.

Of course, there are ways around any system. Yes, an older friend could buy beer for a younger friend. It is illegal, but it does happen. They could steal alcohol from their parents' liquor cabinet. Youth, desperate enough, will find a way around any system. However, the fact is, the regulation of alcohol and tobacco has clearly been more effective in restricting use by minors than prohibition. We need to bring the same system of regulation to cannabis, because it has been proven to be more effective in restricting use by minors.

Besides being more effective, there is another very good reason to support this legislation and the strict regulation of cannabis. With a single stroke, we would be dealing a massive financial blow to organized crime in Canada. Cannabis is a cash crop for criminal gangs, bringing in revenue they use to purchase harder drugs for distribution as well as guns, which fuel violence and crime in our communities. Legalized and regulated cannabis would put criminal gangs out of the cannabis business.

As I have said, a store owner operates under strict rules on who he or she can sell to. Criminal gangs and drug dealers do not care about such rules. They do not care how old customers are, as long as they have the money. Criminal dealers also do not just sell cannabis. They can expose their young customers to other far more dangerous illegal substances.

For the first time, Bill C-45 would create a specific criminal offence for selling cannabis to minors and would create heavy penalties for anyone who engaged youth in cannabis-related activities. The bill would also prohibit products, promotions, packaging, and labelling designed to appeal to our youth. This is why, if we want to make it harder for young people to access cannabis and strike a blow at organized crime, we need to support Bill C-45. If people say that they are tough on crime but oppose this bill, they are fooling themselves.

The proposals in Bill C-45 are common-sense, evidence-based policy that is the result of more than a year of extensive consultation with law enforcement and health and safety experts, led by my colleague, the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest, and the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, led by the Hon. Anne McLellan. This is legislation whose time has come.

I must say that I am saddened to have read the misinformation that some opposed to this bill have sought to spread, particularly within different ethnic communities. Rather than arguing against the merits of strict regulations, they have sought to use fearmongering and misleading statements to deliberately inflame tensions. As a member of one of those ethnic communities, I am insulted that they think so little of us and believe we lack the intelligence to see through their alternate facts. Members of my community want to make it harder for their children to access cannabis, and that is exactly what would be accomplished with Bill C-45. This is help parents need.

Another misleading attack on this bill I have heard is that it would make it legal for minors to possess cannabis. That is an obtuse and deliberately misleading statement. It is true that under Bill C-45 the possession of a small amount of cannabis would not be a criminal offence. It is not for the possession of a small amount of alcohol or tobacco either. This does not mean it would be allowed, though. Our government would work with the provincial governments to ensure that strict fines were in place for those caught in possession of small amounts.

Why a fine and not a criminal charge? On this side of the House, we do not think it is right to ruin the lives of minors by saddling them with criminal records for the rest of their lives because they made a mistake. While strong criminal penalties would be in place for trafficking and distribution, fines are the right approach for simple possession by youth.

It has been raised that there are a number of unanswered questions about the system of regulation that would be created by Bill C-45. Where and how would cannabis be sold, for example? I have also heard from my constituents concerns about how the use of cannabis by neighbours in apartment buildings could impact their enjoyment of their own homes. These are questions that would be addressed by provinces and municipalities, as they fall under their jurisdiction. Canada is a federation, and it would not be appropriate for the federal government to dictate these answers. What is right for one municipality may not be right for another. I am confident that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health would work with their provincial counterparts to arrive at the right answers.

We recognize that the use of cannabis and cannabis products, as with alcohol and tobacco, is not without risk. We recognize that the risk is particularly heightened for our youth. That is why it is so crucial that we abandon the status quo, which has utterly failed to keep it out of the hands of our youth.

With this legislation, we would replace a failed approach to drug policy that makes it too easy for youth to access cannabis and provides easy revenue to organized crime with an evidence-based approach of strict regulation and enforcement that would make it much more difficult for youth to access. It would provide severe penalties for those who engage youth, and it would take a large cash crop out of the hands of organized crime.

I would urge those who want to keep cannabis out of the hands of our children to support Bill C-45. As a mother, the bill offers help we very much need.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, the literature is very clear on this. Lancet has stated that of young individuals who utilize marijuana, 60% have a lower chance of graduating from high school or graduating from university. The Journal of Neuroscience is also very clear. If people between the ages of 18 and 25 use cannabis regularly, they will experience structural changes to the brain.

The young people who were in our galleries today know the difference between drugs and what are not drugs. They know the difference between smoking and not smoking. They talk to me about that in my clinic all the time, because they know.

I also want to correct the record. The member stated that in the legislation, children would not be allowed to possess. Section 8 of the government's own legislation states clearly that 12- to 18-year-olds could possess.

My question for the member is simple. If individuals are allowed to grow plants, and they have children, and those children take cannabis from those plants, are their parents going to be arrested, or did you plan on regulating that?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the status quo is not working. I am the mother of two teenagers, a 19-year-old and a 17-year-old, and I hear how easy it is for youth right now to access cannabis. It is easier for youth to access cannabis than tobacco or alcohol. With legalization, it would be controlled, and it would be difficult for youth to have access to cannabis.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, the member for Scarborough Centre mentioned at the beginning of her speech that the goal of the government is to eliminate the black market. When we look at the preamble of the law, it does not mention that as a goal. It is not a stated purpose of this legislation. Speaking as a father of three very young children, the youngest born at the beginning of the 2015 election, I cannot think of an easier way for them to have access to marijuana than to allow every single household to grow four plants, with absolutely no real supervision.

How can the member say that this legislation would better protect children, having talked about high schools and how easy it is to get it today? This legislation would make it easier. How can we say that this would make it more difficult for children to obtain marijuana, when it would make it easier by bringing it directly into their homes?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the status quo is not working. Through Bill C-45, our government would restrict access by youth and put in place strict safeguards to protect youth from being encouraged to use cannabis. It would create new offences for adults who either sell to or urge youth to commit cannabis-related offences.

As a parent, a mother of two kids, it is my duty to educate them about what is right and what is wrong. I do not drink or use tobacco, and I tell my kids what is right and what is wrong. They are not allowed to use alcohol because of their religion, but I cannot stop the shops from selling it because they should not have it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to discuss the proposed legislation in Bill C-45, related to the legalization of cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana.

Bill C-45 has been put forward on a rushed timeline. Many practical implications of Bill C-45 are to be decided by provincial governments. When implementing the bill, the Liberals are asking Canadians to trust them now and hope for the best later, a policy that will not work, like all of the other broken election promises.

Before I even begin my speech to outline my concerns with the policy put forward by the government, I would like to say that I do not believe the legislation would create sound policy for Canadians. Instead, we are being asked to sign a blank cheque on many regulation details to be decided later. The legalization of an illicit drug has a significant impact on all Canadians, and it is our duty to ensure that all Canadians are safe.

I will start with a bit of history of cannabis in Canada. Cannabis was first banned in Canada in 1923, under the Narcotic Drugs Act Amendment Bill. Other drugs on the list at the time included opium, morphine, and cocaine. I am glad those three are still on our current banned list. I do not know for how long though.

Cannabis use continued to steadily grow through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, bringing us to today. Cannabis use is at an all-time high. According to a University of Waterloo report on tobacco and cannabis use in Canada, around one in five students between grades 7 and 12 has used cannabis. The majority of them used cannabis over the past year. I do not think any member would stand up in this chamber and say that this is a good thing. Indeed, these numbers should be going down. Passing the legislation would most certainly mean student usage of cannabis will go up.

Cannabis has been illegal since 1923 for many reasons, but one of the most prominent is that cannabis is a drug that has real and damaging health effects on those who use it, especially in the age range where brains are developing. We heard from my colleague, a physician, who just quoted some of the hard facts about medical research and the kind of harm our children and youth will face once they start using marijuana.

The softening of attitudes towards cannabis has not resulted in lower usage, or more importantly, lower usage among young people. Many more Canadians who do not currently smoke marijuana, or cannabis, are likely to start once it is legalized. The legalization of cannabis will not curb interest. Indeed, it will help to promote it, as evidenced by the states in the U.S.A., such as Colorado, that have legalized it.

I have many concerns with the bill, but I will start with the legal access to cannabis proposed in Bill C-45. The government has stated over and over again that the bill is aimed to protect children and young people from cannabis. The irony in this statement, however, is that by legalizing cannabis and actually providing legal backup for the production, possession, distribution, and use of cannabis, the bill would actually encourage cannabis to be used more.

Under Bill C-45, adults will be able to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis while in public. To put this in perspective, 30 grams would fit into a small bag of potato chips, so it is not a small amount.

In private, there is no prescribed limit. We can stockpile kilograms as long as we do not intend to distribute.

The bill goes even further to allow adults to grow and produce their own cannabis with up to four plants in their homes. The problem is that these plants are already in the home. The government wants to protect children, but it is allowing cannabis to be grown in the very space that is supposed to be safe for children.

I understand that the legislation includes a few parameters to ensure that it is not possible for any and every adult to produce cannabis. I also wish to clarify that I am not speaking in reference to the use and the need for cannabis for medical purposes. That is a different issue.

That being said, I am not confident that there are enough safeguards to ensure that the four-plant limit is not rampantly broken or disregarded. Allowing individuals to produce on their own will make regulation and oversight much more difficult for the government and our law enforcement.

This leads directly into some of the other regulatory concerns I have. How the government plans to effectively regulate cannabis production and consumption is not made clear in the present form of the legislation. In particular, the clauses concerning search warrants include provisions that would allow a warrant to be issued through a phone call, or would allow inspectors to open packages and enter buildings based on their belief that activities contravening the law are taking place. These provisions lack substance and practical process to assist law enforcement officers to determine when a search warrant is appropriate and how they are accurately able to predict violations.

Finally, in my home riding of Richmond Centre, I strongly campaigned against the legalization of marijuana and was re-elected because this is a view that many of my constituents share. They tell me their concerns. There are concerns about the awful lingering smell of smoked cannabis, but there are also concerns about obtaining housing insurance if a tenant decides to grow cannabis plants in the unit without the landlord knowing about it. Parents are concerned about the safety of their kids. There are so many unanswered questions about the real-world consequences of legalizing cannabis.

The bill represents a huge shift in policy and for our society, as a whole. I find it infuriating that a government that is so preoccupied with consultations on even the smallest of changes deems it appropriate to rush through this legislation.

One journalist commented that, “Trudeau Liberals are legalizing marijuana as if they're being forced to”.

The safety of Canadians, and particularly, our young people are—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, this is an important piece of legislation and one that I think many of us in the House, and Canadians, have struggled with. We are clearly not winning the fight when it comes to the issue of drug abuse in Canada, which is something that I was a part of for many years. I almost feel like we are giving up. However, the reality is that we have the highest cannabis use here in Canada among our young people. Bill C-45 is, hopefully, going to help us get a handle on that.

As much as we are uncomfortable with the direction in which we are going, what alternatives are there to supporting Bill C-45?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, the most important thing we have not done successfully for a number of years is education. Whenever we talk about prevention of drug use, there are always many things that we should have done. The whole reason we have an increased number of young people is, number one, the softening of the attitudes. Number two is that they do not see the actual damage done to their brains.

I would like to quote a real example of a neighbour whose house was what is called a grow-op. In the basement we could see mould and a lot of things, and then finally the police discovered it was a grow-op. Then when the school board looked at the kids living upstairs, above that very basement, all those students showed signs of being stoned, as if they were smoking grass.

My question, as a former educator, is this. We need to educate young people so that they will not even go there. If we encourage them to use it and give them even more access at home, how can parents guarantee that their own kids will not have access to those four plants?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments, which help us all in thinking about this matter.

It seems to me that, from the very start, something fundamental is missing from this bill. I have a hard time understanding that after 18 months of study, nobody has come up with a standard THC level. That is the first important thing.

When the Liberals manage to get organized crime out of the schoolyard, as they say they want to do, what will organized crime offer other than a superior experience to what could be sold on the market? Nobody has even come up with the THC level of the product that will be legalized.

Could my colleague comment on that?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I think the most important thing is not even “have our kids tried that?” That is the safest thing. Looking at the drug to see if the quality of the drug is good or giving the best cocaine to the people at the injection site, this is following the same argument. That is not the right way to deter our students, our young people, from taking this very harmful drug.

My policy would be to not even go there. The current legislation actually would encourage and make it so much easier for our young kids to have access to drugs, not even talking about marijuana cookies, not even talking about how these kids can trade among themselves. These are very real issues, but the legislation would not be able to stop that.