Madam Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Provencher.
I am here today to speak against Bill C-45 and its legalization of cannabis. This bill is supposedly intended to protect youth, regulate the industry, and eliminate the black market. Not only would it not do any of those things, it would also prevent Canada from upholding several of our international treaties, something very dear to me as a former diplomat, and would likely cause additional tension with provincial governments.
Doctors and other medical professionals have found that the brain continues to develop until the age of 25 and that marijuana use before that age will actually increase an individual's risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, by up to 30%. For this reason, one of the principal intentions of this bill was to keep marijuana out of the hands of children. This legislation would be unsuccessful in that regard for two reasons.
The first reason is that the legislation would allow possession for minors, children aged 12 to 17. I have a son who is seven years old, and the thought that he would be able to possess cannabis five years from now is terrifying to me. They would be allowed to possess up to five grams of marijuana, which is approximately 10 to 15 joints. There is also no provision to prevent them from selling or distributing cannabis to other 12- to 17-year-olds. The amount minors are allowed to possess should be zero so that we can send the right message on the dangers for youth. Youth should not be using it and therefore should not be allowed to carry it. Again, the thought of this being anywhere near my young son frightens me.
The second reason is that this bill would also set the age of 18 as the federal minimum. The Canadian Medical Association and other medical professionals recommend increasing the age at which a person can legally consume marijuana to at least 21. Although under the age of 21 there is potential for mental disorders, as previously mentioned, they also recognize that if the age is set too high, people will continue illegal consumption.
If we want to keep marijuana out of the hands of children, 18 is too young an age. Typically, 16- and 17-year-olds hang out with 18-year-olds. The majority of us in the House have certainly been to secondary school.
Another goal of this legislation was to help eliminate the black market for marijuana. Having worked in Central America and Latin America, the black market for narcotics is very well known to me and concerns me very much.
This is extremely unlikely to happen, because it is dependent on many factors. Factors such as pricing, distribution, production, and packaging are not included in this bill. They are, rather, left to the provinces to legislate. Additionally, allowing people to grow marijuana at home would only increase the size of the black market, as Canadians would be permitted to grow yields of up to 600 grams in their homes. Such a large amount of marijuana can easily lead to trafficking and make it extensively harder to enforce.
We heard this from Joanne Crampton, the assistant commissioner for federal policing criminal operations in the RCMP, who stated:
organized crime is a high priority for federal policing, in particular, for the RCMP. We target the highest echelon within the organized crime world. We're very cognizant...and realize that the chances of organized crime being eliminated in the cannabis market would be.... It's probably naive to think that could happen.
She said it is “probably naive”. This is yet another goal of this legislation that would not be achieved.
This legislation is also being rushed through Parliament without necessary debate or consultation. We have heard repeatedly from municipal and provincial governments that they will not have the necessary time or resources to adequately respond to the impact Bill C-45 would have on both Canadians and our communities.
There are numerous organizations and associations that have asked to push back the arbitrary deadline. For example, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police asked the government to extend the deadline. I think “asking” is a subtle word. I would say that “begging” would be more appropriate.
Over 68,000 police officers in Canada will need specific training in the wake of this monumental legislative change, and a few months is not a realistic time frame within which we can do this. If police are not prepared to deal with the legalization of marijuana due to inadequate training, this may lead to poor decisions and result in bad case law for any new legislation. This is important, because law is based upon precedent, and we are going into a time when these precedents will be set for the future.
We need our law enforcement in Canada to have the proper ability and resources to uphold the law. Police will require final legislation from all levels of government before being able to begin their planning and training. The government should have provided police forces with clearer direction in this regard. Provinces, municipalities, police forces, and our indigenous communities have made it clear that they are not ready to implement this legislation and that more time would have allowed for adequate consultation to develop a successful framework.
There will also be major international implications from implementing this legislation. The legalization of marijuana does not comply with three United Nations treaties: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Might I add, as a former diplomat, that I cannot see how this could not possibly affect the Vienna Convention as well in regard to consular matters.
We also know that this could cause additional tension with our southern neighbours, the United States. Officials at United States' border crossings have been asking individuals whether they have consumed marijuana, and if the response is yes, these individuals have been denied entry by our next-door neighbour. This will be problematic when individuals' legal marijuana use in Canada results in their consistently being denied entry into the United States.
At the health committee, we heard that the former mayor of Grand Forks, Brian Taylor, was barred from going back to the United States due to a “relationship with marijuana”. A relationship: those are pretty strong words.
By the way, Grand Forks is a beautiful place. I went there as part of my honeymoon. I loved it there. It sits near a river. There is a presidential museum there, which we had the opportunity to visit.
Getting back to the bill, not having a solution to this problem may cause additional tension in the context of already hostile NAFTA negotiations. This is a serious issue that is still unresolved.
This legislation is also likely to cause jurisdictional problems here at home. Quebec and Manitoba have taken a strong stance against home grown marijuana, but the government will force all provinces to allow home growth, contrary to a unanimous amendment from the Senate.
Provincial governments will bear much of the burden of this legislation when it comes to regulations on distribution, production, and enforcement, so it is only fair that they have discretion in this area. This is yet another case of the federal government forcing its policies on provincial governments, much like it is trying to do with the carbon tax. It is very similar indeed.
The bill is extremely worrisome, as it contains some major issues. The Standing Committee on Health heard from many witnesses on Bill C-45, and the government keeps failing to implement their recommendations. These concerns are from respectable establishments, such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Some significant and well-known organizations in the nation are saying that they are not ready, that this legislation is not ready, and that they require more time.
I always say that we will be the official opposition that holds this legislation to account through enforcement, through distribution, and through education.
If my Liberal colleagues across the floor truly cared about the well-being of Canadians, they would not be putting this legislation forward in its current form. We need to stand up for the safety of all Canadians and vote against Bill C-45.