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 Nov. 9, 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

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member may have missed some of the comments that were made in the House. I do not know why he would have missed those, but he is incorrect.

I think all members in the House realize there is a problem and are open to discussion to make appropriate changes. The status quo is not working. That has been acknowledged by members on all sides of the House. The question is whether the Liberal plan is the right one. Is it the solution? Professionals are telling us no. Others that have legalized, not even to the degree that the government has proposed, have warned us not to do this because it is wrong. The small revenue the federal and provincial governments would get would be outstripped dramatically by the social and medical costs, so it would hurt Canada.

I ask the government to please slow down.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's commitment to our shared province. The government has proposed legislation that it feels is the proper approach to legalization. It is doing two things.

First, it is saying it is going to keep marijuana out of the hands of children. Second, it is saying that it is also going to get rid of organized crime. The problem is this. We have a heavily regulated industry like tobacco, but there is a tremendous amount of contraband tobacco, because organized crime moves in. On the flip side, if we try to regulate something like marijuana to stop children from getting a hold of it, we kind of end up in a circle where we cannot achieve either goal because one is almost fundamentally at odds with the other one.

The member has mentioned a third option. Could you maybe suggest what the Conservative policy is in addressing marijuana and its use?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a genuinely important question. We need to have a true study on the possible benefits of medical marijuana. There is a lot of opinion on that. We are seriously considering that we should perhaps decriminalize marijuana so it could be confiscated and be a ticketable offence. No one should have a criminal record for possession, unless he or she is part of a criminal element that distributes it to our youth.

The government proposes that youth would now be able to have it, which is illogical, because its goal is to keep it out of the hands of children. However, now it is saying small children can walk around with 10 joints in their pockets. When they turn 18, they can have 60 joints in their pockets. No one should have that in their pockets.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-45 will legalize cannabis use within the limits my colleagues have already mentioned.

Many decisions fall to the provinces, including the legal age for using cannabis, the development of a point-of-sale system, and education. The government is pushing for a very short deadline. We are talking about passing this bill before July 1, 2018, which is only eight months from now. In politics, eight months goes by fast.

However, we are still waiting to see how the federal government intends to make sure that the law is applied from Vancouver to St. John’s, Newfoundland, by way of Quebec. Despite everything, I think it is very clear that we must go ahead with this bill. I support the legalization of marijuana, provided that it is done effectively and that we can prevent the sale of cannabis to children, that a reliable long-term source of revenue is devoted to public health, prevention and research, and that a comprehensive strategy to fight impaired driving is adopted.

We know that the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis, which the Conservatives have maintained in place in the past 10 years, have proven to be completely ineffective in reducing cannabis use and related criminal activity in Canada.

Earlier I touched on the statistics concerning drug-related offences reported in 2014, when the Conservatives were in power and had already implemented an extremely repressive system with longer minimum sentences, in an attempt to manage drug use. One year after the Conservatives passed their repressive laws, cases of methamphetamine and heroine possession had increased by 38% and 34%, respectively. Methamphetamine and heroine trafficking had increased by 17% and 12%, respectively.

Thus, drug use was not reduced, but actually increased, as did trafficking. We need to determine a strategy for making sure that those who use cannabis the most, young people aged 25 and under, are truly taken into consideration, and that we stop hiding our heads in the sand and practising denial. We must realize that the war on drugs has not worked, and that we need to find new solutions.

We agree with the solution proposed by the Liberals, namely adopting a public health approach. There are, however, many flaws in their approach, hence the need for discussion. Unfortunately, we are already at the third and final reading stage. We are concerned because we proposed several amendments that were rejected out of hand by Liberals at committee.

The government set up a task force, and in their report, the experts on the task force explained that legislation must be enacted to do the following:

reduce the burdens on police and the justice system associated with simple possession of cannabis offences; prevent Canadians from entering the criminal justice system and receiving criminal records for simple cannabis possession offences; protect public health and safety by strengthening, where appropriate, laws and enforcement measures that deter and punish more serious cannabis offences...

The bill addresses those issues by legalizing the consumption of up to 30 grams of dried cannabis and the possession of up to four plants per household.

However, as I said, the bill is scheduled to come into effect on July 1, 2018. Around 100,000 people have been given criminal records over the past two years for simple cannabis possession even though the government is planning to legalize it in less than a year. How many more young people is the government willing to put in jail for something that will be legal in about 10 months? Will it at least direct the police and judicial authorities to stop enforcing the existing law until such time as the new law is in force?

The Liberals' own working group was given a recommendation to decriminalize marijuana. They do not agree amongst themselves. The Prime Minister recently said that granting pardons would certainly address some of the backlog in the justice system. We know that, since the Jordan decision, a number of investigations have been halted and charges have not been laid in cases involving offences much more serious than simple marijuana possession.

We are going through the same thing with Bill C-45, as they do not want to proceed with decriminalization in the interim. This will only add to the burden on the judicial system and to the monumental costs associated with arresting people for simple possession.

Statistics Canada and other organizations have repeatedly demonstrated to us that these arrests and ensuing criminal records disproportionately affect young people, racialized persons and aboriginals. I wonder how many criminal records from young people arrested for smoking a joint end up on the desks of my colleagues from Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. How many applications for pardon do they process each year?

As elected members, do we not want the Liberal government to fulfill its promise while making the right choice for Canadians, regardless of their age or the colour of their skin, meaning to go ahead with decriminalization, at the very least, and consider granting pardons? I cannot understand why this would be a problem in light of the fact that it appears in the Liberal Party's platform in 2015.

These long overdue amendments will only come into force in 15 months, at the earliest. Delays and lack of resources are causing a crisis in the justice system. We cannot afford to continue to allocate police and court resources to charging and convicting people for simple possession of cannabis, a substance that will be legalized in a few months.

The working group will continue working toward meeting its objectives, which now focus on youth, prevention and education. The bill must protect Canada's youth by keeping cannabis out of their reach, and must ensure that Canadians are well informed through public health campaigns so that young people especially are made aware of the risks of cannabis use.

Bill C-45 imposes heavy sanctions on whomever traffics, sells or gives cannabis to a minor. How is this a public health matter, I wonder? First off, we need more scientific research not only on the short and long-term effects of cannabis use, but also on the properties of this plant. Some people already use it for medicinal purposes. We have often heard of patients undergoing chemotherapy or veterans using it, for example.

Since they claim to want to protect youth, will the Liberals increase funding for research on the chronic and long-term effects of consumption on the health of young people in particular?

I am also looking at the 2017 budget, which announced a ridiculous budget of less than $2 million per year over five years. Last week, it was announced that this budget will be increased to $6 million per year over five years, but it still totally ridiculous. On top of education, awareness campaigns and prevention, we need federal funds for frontline community organizations. Along with the schools, they will be ready to engage with young people on the ground when they want information. However, how will $6 million ever be enough to help the millions of community groups in Canada? Will the burden fall on the provinces? It is a fair question.

If we do a comparison with American states such as Colorado, we are far from doing all we can. Colorado spends nearly $37 million per year in prevention alone. That is seven times what the Canadian government provides for in this major bill on the legalization of marijuana. I would remind members that will happen in less than eight months.

I also know very little about what the government intends to do with the money that will be made from the sale of marijuana. What types of prevention programs will be available? Who will they be targeting? Will there be funding for community groups? We should keep in mind that this is extremely important.

The bill also raises a lot of important questions concerning the provinces. Will they need additional time to establish their regulatory system? This is another reason why we would have wanted the process to start earlier or go beyond July 1, 2018. The issues relating to the sale system and the legal framework are also very important to minimize the risks associated with the legalization of marijuana.

Another issue we need to clarify has to do with the nature of the cannabis tax structure and revenue. How will they be shared among the provinces and the federal government? The provinces and Canadians are looking to the Department of Finance to make a decision on this issue. In Quebec, Minister Charlebois has already expressed her displeasure about the time granted to the provinces, and Premier Couillard did the same regarding taxation.

I would like to talk about many other things, but I see that my time is up. I want to simply point out that the NDP proposed 38 amendments in committee and that all 38 amendments were rejected. That is rather absurd.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin with a point of clarification for the member. I thank her for her conditional support for Bill C-45. I want to simply advise her that the government has, in fact, announced $46 million for a public education program that will begin to roll out very shortly. I hope that addresses one of her concerns.

I seek clarification from the member. She has stated that she supports decriminalization, but let us be really clear about what decriminalization is. Decriminalization maintains the prohibition and simply replaces the criminal sanction with a civil penalty: a ticketing scheme with a fine. In an environment in which the prohibition remains, one cannot regulate the substance.

When the member described her vision of decriminalization, she said that the law would not be enforced, not that it would be enforced in a different way with a different outcome, a civil penalty. I submit to the member opposite that what she was describing was, in fact, legalization without regulation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have once again shown that they do not listen at all to the NDP's recommendations.

First, my colleague announced $45 million. However, that is over a five-year period, which means about $9 million per year, total, and that includes all the drugs in Canada, not just marijuana.

As for his argument on decriminalization, we recommend that the government decriminalize marijuana while waiting for its legalization in eight months. We are not asking for either one or the other. Since the legalization is supposed to happen anyway, why would we allow thousands of young people across the country to have a criminal record that will prevent them from having a job, buying a house, and travelling? That would be a crippling disadvantage for a young person.

We are talking only about decriminalizing the simple possession of marijuana, not about more serious crimes. This is really a matter of nuance. I think that my colleague across the way is very smart and can understand the nuances.

We hear about increased investments in prevention. Community groups have been calling for this for years now. There is not enough money. I used to be a teacher, and many young people are falling behind in school because they are under the influence of drugs, marijuana being the most popular among young people. I am not sure if my colleague has visited any schools.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made many good points. It is clear that the government is not going to achieve its stated objectives with Bill C-45. It is certainly not going to offload from the criminal justice system, because there is more criminality in this bill than there was already. It is certainly not going to keep cannabis out of the hands of children, because it would allow home grow, and it is certainly not going to get rid of organized crime.

If we want to implement something, we tend to look at who else did this and who else did it with positive results. If we look at Washington State, it actually reduced organized crime to less than 20%. Young children there are finding it hard to get hold of marijuana. What did it do? It did not allow home grow, except for the medically fragile, and it controlled all the distribution. It took its medical marijuana system, which was very well regulated, and expanded it.

It seems to me that this bill falls really short in many areas, but especially in the area of public awareness. There was clear testimony that we needed to get on that. We only have 234 days left before the government would arbitrarily roll things out. Can the member comment on the public education needed?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, as my colleague just pointed out, not enough is being invested in prevention or in awareness and education campaigns. We want young people to understand that our intention here is not to normalize marijuana use, but rather to educate them about its effects. There is also not enough being invested in research on long-term use and the effects of chronic use on young people's health. The Liberals need to invest more money in that area. I cannot say enough about the importance of prevention, and my colleague talked about it too.

In addition, we need to stop criminalizing and increasing penalties for the simple possession of cannabis. Many studies have shown that the war on drugs did not work. Over the past 10 years, drug use and drug trafficking have continued to rise. We need to work harder and change our strategy.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on an issue I care deeply about. I am thankful to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-45. This is a piece of legislation that pertains to an issue very close to my heart. Today, I am going to speak to why Bill C-45 cannot be passed.

I want to provide some context. Marijuana is a dangerous drug. With all the pro-marijuana publicity lately, it can be hard for many Canadians to remember that marijuana is indeed a damaging and addictive drug. Further, it causes harmful effects on youth brain development, and a greater incidence of psychosis and schizophrenia.

The Conservatives oppose this legislation on marijuana in Canada. Our opposition is based on the concerns we heard from scientists, doctors, and law enforcement officials, who said that the government's plan is being rushed through without proper planning or consideration for the negative consequences of such complicated legislation.

Most concerning is that this bill does not keep marijuana out of the hands of children, nor does it eliminate organized crime or address issues with impaired driving.

Canada will be in violation of three international treaties if this bill passes. The three UN treaties to which Canada is a signatory are as follows: 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. This legislation will be compromising Canada's integrity on the world stage. How can Canada hold other countries to account on their treaty obligations when Canada does not honour its own?

Almost daily, I hear about another new report on the harmful effects of marijuana, yet the Liberal government refuses to consider the mounting evidence and is recklessly pushing ahead with this legislation. The government claims it wants to protect our youth and that this legislation will be regulating the industry and eliminating the black market. However, Bill C-45 will not accomplish even one of these goals. The Liberal government is not listening to medical professionals. It is not listening to the police forces. It is not even listening to concerned Canadians who believe this bill is fundamentally flawed and is being rushed through Parliament in order to meet an arbitrary and irresponsible deadline.

For these reasons and many more, I am entirely opposed to this legislation. When it comes to our youth, I want to ensure that they are safe, and able to have a better life and more opportunities than we did. Allowing easier access to drugs does not achieve that.

Currently, the bill recommends the age of 18 as a federal minimum. However, the provinces are being given the power to set a higher age. If we look to our southern neighbour the United States, the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized marijuana, have used the age of 21 as the minimum. As of now, Ontario says it will set its minimum age at 19, and Alberta at 21. This is not safe. A number of medical professionals have testified that the brain continues to develop until the age of 25. According to the Canadian Medical Association, the increased use of marijuana before the age of 25 increases one's risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, by up to 30% compared to those who have not used marijuana under the age of 25. Is this what we want for our children? This is most certainly not what I want for my children, my constituents, or Canadians. For these reasons, the Canadian Medical Association and various other medical professionals recommended increasing the age at which a person can consume marijuana to 21 at the very least. The government would fail our children if it goes through with this proposed legislation.

The second goal the Liberals claim would be achieved through the bill would be regulating the industry. I will explain why they will not reach this goal either.

Bill C-45 would allow for four plants per household with no height restriction on the plants. If grown in optimal conditions, this could yield as much as 600 grams of marijuana. The vast majority of witnesses at the health committee spoke strongly against home grow in their testimony, including most medical groups and the police forces that appeared.

Allowing home grow will most certainly not regulate the industry. Further, the police have said before the health committee that, because they cannot see inside homes, they would be unable to enforce a four-plant household quota. Even more concerning is that a large network of legal home grows could easily become an organized crime network. This would not be regulating the industry. It would not eliminate the black market. It is internally inconsistent.

This brings me back to my worry for our youth. The bill would not keep marijuana out of the hands of youth, which is one of the stated goals of the bill in clause 7(a). If marijuana is in the home, youth will have access to it, not to mention the issue of impaired driving, which will increase as a result of legalization.

There is currently no instrument that can accurately measure the level of marijuana impairment roadside. Canada is unable to train officers at home on how to recognize marijuana-impaired driving. We do not have the technology or resources, so the government needs to send officers for expensive, lengthy training in the United States. Our police forces do not currently have the resources and the training required to manage the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana. This training currently has backlogs and wait lists. Canada is not ready for this.

As it stands, the proposed legislation is not what is best for Canadians. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. Elected representatives can and should provide guidance on drugs to reflect the views of all Canadians. Let us all remember that we are talking about the health and safety of Canadians, and they deserve better.

There are only 233 days to go until the arbitrary date of July 1, 2018. Let us not rush through this proposed legislation. We need to do what is right for Canadians. The provinces, municipalities, and police forces are not ready to implement this legislation. I cannot support Bill C-45.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments. I think that his concerns are valid, from a scientific and medical perspective.

However, the problem I want to point out to him is that we have a larger population of 18-to-25-year-olds who use this product, and that is illegal. How will setting the legal age right in the middle of the 18-to-25 bracket solve the problem for those who are 18 to 21?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many issues in solving this problem.

The hon. member for Scarborough Southwest was the police chief for the metro police. He probably jailed 200,000 or 300,000 people. It was the honourable thing to make sure that the youth understood that this drug is bad, and it could be an issue with their mental development and many other issues.

I think this is more Liberal hypocrisy, since the Prime Minister smoked it, as he said. His brother and other family members smoked it. This is just pushing it down the throats of all Canadians. I think it is simply wrong to push through somebody else's personal beliefs. This is another reason we simply will not support the bill.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, last year, I held a telephone town hall and 3,300 of my constituents stayed on the phone for an hour to hear from a panel I had put together, an addictions expert, a municipal official, and a retailer, who were trying to deal with some of the challenges. They produced a list of questions and concerns, which I then submitted to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health, who were able to put together a very nice report that is available to my constituents. The number one thing that came out of all of that was a concern about the safety of children and the public. From my perspective certainly, we need to make sure that a lot of money goes into education moving forward to try to deal not only with the issues associated with marijuana use but also to keep the public safe.

If the member does not agree with the path that the Liberal government is currently on, what is the best way to keep Canadians safe moving forward since mandatory sentences certainly have not worked in the past? What does he see as a way to keep Canadians safer going forward?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I held town hall meetings last year and 98% of people said no to this legislation in Markham—Unionville. Many questions came out, such as how we would educate kids, what is bad, and how much the budget will be if it is legalized. After this legislation goes through, what happens if somebody has a glass of beer, smokes cannabis, and has an accident? The police cannot deal with what they are handling today; imagine the burden on police. What happens to a kid who eats a brownie at home that had marijuana oil, or other things in it? What if dope keeps going to schools? What happens to people who drive to work impaired and show up at work impaired? What about the accidents? Who will pick up the tab for police? According to the Colorado report, it tripled the cost for policing, tripled the cost for paramedics, and doubled or tripled homelessness.

The government has not done the homework. It is pushing the bill through quickly, it is not ready, police are not ready, and people are not ready, they are not educated. Conservatives are simply asking the Liberal government to go back to the table and rethink the whole thing. Why the hurry for July 1, 2018? We should be celebrating Canada's birthday on that day. Why is it being pushed through?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, today the House deals with one of the largest changes regarding controlled substances in my lifetime. Throughout the debate on the larger issue of legalizing recreational marijuana, I have discovered that the issue is not as black and white as some members have put forward in their arguments. I agree with many of the points my colleague from Markham—Unionville raised. However, I said that it is not as black and white, and I will give an example. Every time the Liberal MPs talk about how marijuana legalization would keep the substance out of the hands of youth, it is asinine. For anyone to think that youth currently do not have ready access to illegal marijuana is also rather absurd. I am well aware that Canada has some of the highest rates of adolescent marijuana consumption in the world. It is available far too often in our high schools and I have heard horrible stories of how marijuana consumption has led to disastrous life decisions.

This can also be said of alcohol. It can also be said of crystal meth, fentanyl, and cocaine. I do not for a moment believe that marijuana is in the same column as the illegal substances I just referenced, and it is not my intention to degrade those who consume marijuana for recreational purposes. My intent is to emphasize that we parliamentarians should wade very carefully into legalization of recreational marijuana, which would soon allow every household in Canada to grow four plants.

I have carefully reviewed many of the submissions to the health committee, such as by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses' Association, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. These are just a handful of the over 185 briefs tabled with committee members, and in many respects the concerns these well-respected organizations put forward were almost identical to those voiced by my constituents during the five town halls I hosted on this topic this summer.

The best way to describe Bill C-45 is by quoting a Brandon Sun article published the morning after one of our town halls. I can assure those who think the Brandon Sun is under the umbrella of Postmedia that it is not. The article stated, “If a consensus could be drawn from a wide-ranging town hall in Brandon about the proposed legalization of marijuana, it’s an acknowledgement the legislation is flawed.”

I fully agree with what the article said. That is why I submitted a brief not only to the justice and health ministers, but also to the entire committee tasked with studying this legislation. It was not surprising, but still unfortunate, to report that I received a boiler-plate response from the Minister of Justice that did not even acknowledge the recommendations I put forward. If a duly elected member of Parliament cannot even get the correspondence team in the Minister of Justice's office to go above and beyond just copying and pasting a response, it begs the question of whether the current government has any intention of listening to concerned Canadians.

For a government that pretends it listens, the only way to get its members to back down from a proposal is for thousands upon thousands of angry taxpayers to show up en masse at town halls and write some of the funniest tweets I have ever read. For example, during the taxpayers' revolt this summer, many farmers took pictures of themselves sitting in their combines while harvesting, referring to them as their tax shelters.

I ask the government not only to implement my recommended change to push back the bringing-into-force date of Bill C-45 to 2019, but also that its members listen to the brief by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which stated, “Canadian police services will not be equipped to provide officers with the training and resources necessary to enforce the new regime within the existing contemplated timeframe,” or to the Canadian Medical Association, which recommended a comprehensive public health strategy with a health education component before Bill C-45 is implemented.

If the government thinks that police services, the medical community, and our education system will be ready within the next six months, and that municipalities and provinces will be fully prepared for July 1, I would humbly remind it on its own part, two years later, it still cannot accurately pay public service employees.

It is sad to say, but the government's credibility in implementing and executing effective policies within a reasonable time frame is not that believable. My hon. colleagues across the way have essentially ignored the plea by provinces and municipalities for more time to properly prepare for the government's politically driven July 1 deadline.

Not a single member of this House has any idea what the rules will be in their communities, because their municipal governments have yet to determine what they will be. It will cost serious money for municipal governments to properly train their law enforcement and bylaw officers, and even more, they will not receive adequate financial assistance to do so. They will be stuck with all of the headaches, while the Prime Minister, on Canada Day, will proclaim that marijuana is now legal.

To expand on my recommendations to the government, the majority of my constituents believe that the federal government should not look to marijuana as a cash cow, but should provide a significant portion of the federal taxes it collects from marijuana directly to municipalities in the same manner as it does with the gas tax fund.

For any of my colleagues who believe that police and law enforcement agencies will see cost savings from the legalization of recreational marijuana, it would be naive at best to think that such a highly regulated, controlled substance that will have even more strings attached to it than alcohol will somehow free up their time. Any time a government has decided to legislate, regulate, and control something, I have failed to see the resulting cost savings.

Regardless of the flaws of this piece of legislation, there is still no overall consensus among my constituents that marijuana should be legalized for recreational use. There were many questions about the effects on someone's cognitive abilities and the lack of general education about its long-term impacts.

While we debate this legislation and put a heavy emphasis on educating our youth, we must not forget that millions of middle-aged adults have next to zero experience with recreational marijuana and, therefore, that any educational programs must include this demographic.

It is absolutely imperative that the legalization of recreational marijuana not be rushed until the various law enforcement agencies, provinces, and municipalities are fully prepared.

I urge the government to rethink how the tax revenues will be distributed to those who will have to absorb many of the costs of regulating and policing marijuana use. I ask the federal government to heed the advice of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities not to move forward with this legislation until it receives further direction from its municipal partners.

In closing, I am under no illusion that the government has any intention of listening to the concerns of the good people of Brandon—Souris. It would be an understatement to say that I have hesitations regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana. Regardless of my personal trepidations, it is clear that the country is not ready for the July 1, 2018 implementation date. It is my hope that even if the government ignores every other concern or recommendation put forward, either by me or stakeholders, that it at the very least would push back the bringing-into-force date to allow more time to properly prepare for legalization.

With that I will finish my remarks and urge my Liberal colleagues to break ranks with their whip and the government to listen to its local law enforcement agencies, provinces, and municipalities to do the right thing.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the hon. member for Brandon—Souris that we listened very carefully, particularly to the point he made about ensuring that learning and education are available to all Canadians who may choose to use this drug. There are significant risks that need to be properly managed and that could help people stay safe.

I want to address some of the concerns he raised about what we have heard from law enforcement. I have been engaged in that conversation for almost two years and want to share it briefly with the member.

First of all, in 2008, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police unanimously urged the government of the day to make resources available for the training of drug recognition experts, and for all officers in standardized field sobriety testing. That plea fell on deaf ears.

Second, in 2013, by unanimous declaration in CACP's resolutions, they again urged the government to make available to them oral fluid testing technology, acknowledging that this technology was being used in other jurisdictions to help keep our roadways safe. That fell on deaf ears as well.

Additionally, very important public safety advocacy groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, urged the government to bring forward effective legislation to address some of these concerns and, prior to 2015, that plea fell on deaf ears.

Therefore, we have listened to the concerns of law enforcement. We have made available $161 million to provide them with training, resources, and access to technology and legal authorities that they have asked for. When they came before us, naturally, after a decade of being ignored, they were skeptical. However, we have assured them that we are making those resources available to them and that they will have what they need to keep our communities safe.