Cannabis Act

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

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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 18, 2018 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Nov. 27, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Nov. 27, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (recommittal to a committee)
Nov. 21, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Nov. 21, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (report stage amendment)
Nov. 21, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (report stage amendment)
Nov. 21, 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
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

Bill C-45—Time Allocation MotionCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 9:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the concern from the hon. member across the way.

We are moving forward with a public policy approach with respect to the legalization of cannabis, strict regulation, and restricting access. We received recommendations from eminently qualified Canadians in a task force, by way of 80 recommendations. We are going to ensure that we continue to work as a federal government with the ministers of health and public safety, and me, and with the provinces and territories to ensure we put a strict regime around the sale of cannabis to ensure it is from safe, licensed producers, and to ensure that we empower and embrace the provinces and territories to regulate even further, if that is what they choose.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:10 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-45, legislation that would legalize, regulate, and restrict access to cannabis. The objective of our government's bill is to protect our youth, to deter criminal activity, and to promote public health and safety.

Let me turn first to the issue of Canada's youth. Canadian youth use cannabis more than youth anywhere else in the entire world. In 2015, use among youth aged 15 to 19 was 21%. In many cases, accessing cannabis in our country is easier than getting a cigarette or buying a bottle of beer, so clearly, the current system is not working.

Confronted with this reality, our government has two options: continue the zero tolerance policies that have been proven to fail, or adopt a policy of harm reduction. We have chosen the latter. We have chosen to recognize that people, including young people, are using cannabis, and the best way to address the situation is by accepting this fact, and taking positive, proactive steps to educate youth about the dangers of cannabis use, while simultaneously penalizing those who would seek to encourage cannabis use among youth.

For example, we know that cannabis has the potential to cause short and long-term mental health and physical health effects, and that it poses greater overall health risks in developing brains. It is because of this, our government would provide funding toward public awareness campaigns, which would inform our youth about the risks of cannabis.

We also propose to get tough on those who target youth. Similar to the restrictions on the promotion of tobacco products, under Bill C-45, there would be comprehensive restrictions applied to advertising and promoting cannabis, and its related products by any means, including sponsorships and branding that can be deemed to be appealing to children. There would be prohibitions on self-service displays or vending machines. False, misleading, deceptive testimonies, or endorsements that could entice young people to use cannabis would also be prohibited. A violation of these prohibitions would mean a fine of up to $5 million, or up to three years in jail.

We are also aggressively penalizing those who would target youth for cannabis sales. Our government has introduced two new criminal offences, and an up to 14-year prison sentence for those who would give or sell cannabis to our youth, or use a youth to distribute cannabis.

I want to turn to my second point in relation to the criminal justice system. Our government also accepts another clear reality, that the current policies of zero tolerance have failed to deter criminal activity. In fact, to the contrary, zero tolerance has actually permitted the illicit market to flourish, padding the pockets of organized crime and street gangs.

In Canada alone, the illegal trade of marijuana reaps an estimated $7 billion in profits annually for organized crime. Again, as a government, we have a choice, to continue failed policies, or to choose the route of legalization and regulation, a route that would take money out of the hands of criminals, and thereby keep Canadians safer.

At present, Canada is an exporter of cannabis for global markets, and organized criminal groups have reaped large profits from the cannabis cultivation and trafficking. These are individuals who operate complex organized criminal enterprises, who engage in violence, and pose a constant threat to the public safety and well-being of all Canadians. By taking money out of the hands of such groups, we would be deterring crime in this country.

The approach of Bill C-45 has another important impact on criminal justice in Canada; that is, reducing backlogs. This is a situation with which I am very familiar, as an individual who spent 15 years as a lawyer in practice prior to being elected, the majority of that time being with the ministry of the attorney general of Ontario. As crown counsel, I saw repeatedly the limited resources available to prosecutors, police, and the judiciary to administer criminal justice, which was exacerbated by the number of charges clogging up the system.

In 2015, cannabis simple possession offences accounted for more than half of all police reported drug charges, some 49,577 charges out of a total of 96,423 charges being laid. By removing charges for simple possession of small amounts of cannabis, the bill would permit limited court and crown resources to be applied directly to more serious drug related crimes, and to more serious criminals, the actual persons who pose a direct threat to the safety and well-being of Canadians. It would allow law enforcement officials to concentrate their efforts on significant criminal activity, thereby improving their ability to keep Canadian communities safe.

We have addressed how public safety would be strengthened through the new regime ushered in under Bill C-45, so now allow me to turn to my third point.

Bill C-45 would promote public health. Public health professionals are among the various groups and individuals who were consulted in the development of this legislation.

First, the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation heard from professionals, advocates, front-line workers, decision-makers and public servants, as well as expert panels, patients, citizens, and informed employers. They were all driven to develop a sound cannabis strategy in the interest of all Canadians.

The task force held a series of round table discussions across the country in order to consult experts from a wide range of disciplines as well as researchers and academics, patients and their advocates, cannabis users, police chiefs and fire chiefs, other municipal and local representatives, and various industry associations and health care professionals.

The Liberal Party promised Canadians in the 2015 election that we would make policy decisions based on science, facts, and evidence. Bill C-45 does just that by incorporating the recommendations of this important task force. Among the recommendations, recognizing that cannabis use is occurring in my riding of Parkdale—High Park and around the country, was permitting adults to make informed choices about using small amounts of cannabis recreationally, without fear of criminal sanction.

The task force also highlighted, as a guiding principle, the notion that the law should demonstrate compassion for vulnerable members of society and patients in need of medical cannabis. However, it recognized that from a health perspective, one of the biggest dangers remaining for cannabis users is not knowing the content or the quality of the cannabis being taken. It is precisely this unknown, driven by the presence of the illegal market, that makes cannabis use so dangerous currently.

Bill C-45 would address this public health risk head on. It would protect and promote public health by strictly regulating cannabis production, distribution, and sales. Rules would be implemented for adults to access quality-controlled cannabis, while a new tightly regulated supply chain was created, ensuring product safety for Canadians so that Canadians who chose to use cannabis were able to do so knowing that they were not endangering themselves. This would, once again, be putting harm reduction, as an operating principle, to work.

This global shift toward harm reduction for cannabis use has led to legalization in Uruguay, along with several European and Latin American countries that have decriminalized the personal possession of cannabis, followed by some American states, representing more than 20% of the total U.S. population, which have voted to legalize and regulate cannabis for non-medical purposes.

Important lessons would undoubtedly arise from Canada's experience in the coming years, ones that would be valuable for advancing the global dialogue on innovative strategies for drug control. I am confident that Canada would remain a committed international partner by monitoring and evaluating our evolving cannabis policy and sharing these important lessons with national and international stakeholders.

Overall, I am very confident that the framework proposed in Bill C-45 is the best approach going forward for Canadians. It recognizes the failure of zero tolerance and the merits of pursuing harm reduction as the guiding principle to inform public policy. It is a balanced approach designed to protect Canadians, especially our youth, by providing regulated access to legal cannabis for adults while restricting access by youth.

It would put in place strict safeguards to protect youth from being encouraged to use cannabis and would create new offences for those adults who either provide cannabis to youth or use youth to commit cannabis-related offences. It would also help focus limited police and crown resources where they are most needed: in prosecuting serious drug criminals who make our communities less safe.

Bill C-45 would promote public health through increased education and awareness and by ensuring a safe supply of cannabis for those who chose to use small amounts recreationally.

I would encourage all members to support Bill C-45. We must all act now to make our communities safer by legalizing, restricting, and strictly regulating cannabis to keep it out of the hands of Canadian youth and to keep the profits out of the hands of organized criminals.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague.

I found one of the things he said especially shocking. Under the federal legislation, Canadians would now be able to grow cannabis plants in their homes.

The Liberals have always said that we must protect children from the dangers of cannabis by legalizing it. It is hard to say that in the same breath, but that is what they say.

How will children be better protected from the dangers of cannabis if they can find it in every home in Canada? Theoretically, I am saying there could be cannabis in every home in Canada.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question from the member across the way.

I would like to say that legalizing cannabis for adults in Canada and the possibility of having a few plants at home will not put children in harm's way. On this side of the House, we want to give parents the responsibility of keeping these plants safe at home and educating their family and children, as any good, responsible parent should do. We believe that it is up to them to do what is right for their children.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

If we try to get at the government's underlying logic, we find that everything about this proposal is haphazard, badly managed, and barely planned. The Liberal government's bill has nothing to offer in terms of prevention programs for youth.

People are wondering if marijuana production and sales will end up in the hands of Liberal Party cronies. People want to know why everything is being downloaded onto the provinces, and they are wondering why the psychiatrists' association and other groups have concerns about the legal age to buy marijuana.

Here is the best part. While the Liberals were taking their sweet time putting this bill together, thousands of young people who thought marijuana was already legal got caught and ended up with criminal records.

Will the Liberals admit that they have taken people for a ride?

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's question, and I would like to give him some answers.

Concerning the provinces and their jurisdiction here, it is clear that, constitutionally, some matters are under federal jurisdiction and others are under provincial jurisdiction. We set the legal age at 18. However, if provinces, such as Quebec, want to set the legal age at 20 or 21, that is up to them. It is also up to the provinces to oversee marijuana sales as they do for any other substance.

As for young people and others in the system getting criminal records, we have laws, and they must be obeyed. Once the laws are changed, we will be able to revisit these circumstances and my colleague's question.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to talk a bit about the testing for impaired roadside drug presence. Currently there are tests that are available, but they show the presence of THC, for example, and not impairment. There is actually no scientific test for impairment, so we end up having to rely on another regimen.

To implement all of this testing across Canada, with all the different regimens, what would the cost be, and what would the expectation of the government be in terms of implementing that before this legislation is implemented?

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I would underscore, first, that Bill C-46 is the legislation that actually relates to the testing for being impaired by drugs that will be before this House.

However, the member opposite should rest assured that we will dedicate all the resources required to ensure that road safety is not jeopardized and that persons are not made more vulnerable by the legalization, regulation, and restriction of cannabis in this country under the legislation. The safety of Canadians is always of paramount concern for our government.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:25 p.m.
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Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Joyce Murray LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-45, which our government introduced to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis consumption in Canada.

The cannabis bill represents a new approach to cannabis, one that puts public health and safety at the forefront, and will better protect young Canadians.

The current approach to cannabis just does not work. It has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit while also failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian youth. In many cases, it is easier for our children to buy cannabis than cigarettes.

Canadians continue to use cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world. It is the most commonly used illicit drug among young Canadians. In 2015, 21% of youth aged 15 to 19 reported using cannabis in the past year. That is one out of every five young people in our country.

Today it is regulated and controlled by organized crime. It is far better to have it regulated and controlled by government.

Too many of our youth see cannabis as a benign substance. They are often ill-informed on the harm that it can do, and are unaware that early use of cannabis increases susceptibility to long-term effects. Youth are especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on brain development and function. This is because the THC in cannabis affects the same biological system in the brain that directs brain development.

They are unaware that black market cannabis can be contaminated by mould, pesticides, and other more dangerous drugs. At the same time, too many young people today are entering the criminal justice system for possessing small amounts of cannabis, which could potentially impact their long-term opportunities. Clearly, there has to be a better way of educating and protecting our youth.

In Vancouver Quadra, in the second decade of the century, we were seeing regular violent attacks on our city streets, in my riding included, with bystanders being hurt, which was part of the competition for these profits among organized crime gangs. That is why in September 2011, I began working in Ottawa, within the Liberal caucus, organizing meetings and bringing expert speakers to Ottawa to advance the dialogue about cannabis prohibition and how legalization could address some of those serious problems. I have the privilege in Vancouver Quadra and Vancouver of working with former attorneys general and justice and health professionals in a coalition called Stop the Violence BC. We have common cause on legalization.

I would like to focus my comments today on the benefits of this legalization for youth, one of our government's primary objectives for Bill C-45.

I would first like to note that this legislation is just one piece of the overall approach to addressing cannabis use by youth.

Specifically, our government is trying to reduce cannabis use by youth, to restrict their ability to obtain the product, to provide them with better information on its health harms and risks, and to keep them out of the criminal justice system for possessing even small amounts of cannabis, as is possible today. This approach requires legislative and regulatory measures and support for public education and awareness. To this end, our government has begun a public education campaign, with a focus on youth and their parents, to better inform them about cannabis and its health harms and risks.

Considering all of these measures combined, I am confident that our government's overall approach will be effective in better protecting our youth from the potential harm of this mind-altering substance.

I would like to explain some of the specific measures in the cannabis act to help safeguard our youth.

As a society, we have learned much from the health and safety controls put in place for other potentially harmful substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications. Bill C-45 uses these best practices as a starting point.

At the outset, Bill C-45 prohibits the sale of cannabis to anyone under the age of 18 and prohibits adults from giving cannabis to anyone under 18. It also creates an offence and penalty for anyone caught using a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence. Any adult found guilty of engaging in these activities would face a jail term of up to 14 years.

To avoid the kind of enticements to use cannabis that we have seen in the past with tobacco, Bill C-45 would prohibit any form of cannabis that is designed to appeal to youth, such as gummy bears or lollipops. To further protect youth, cannabis producers or retailers would be prohibited from using any kind of packaging or labelling that might be appealing to youth, or to use any kind of endorsement, lifestyle promotion, or cartoon animal to promote their product, and the promotion and advertising of cannabis products would not be permitted in any place or in any media that could be accessed by youth.

We are taking the health and safety of our youth very seriously. Bill C-45 also includes authority to make regulations that could require cannabis to be sold in child-resistant packaging to protect our youngest ones from accidentally consuming this product.

Taken together, these measures constitute a comprehensive approach to protecting the health and safety of our youth.

In addition to protecting public health and safety, one of our government's goals is to avoid criminalizing Canadians for relatively minor offences.

Having a criminal record for simple possession of small amounts of cannabis can have significant consequences. Having a record can seriously impact opportunities for employment, housing, volunteerism, and travel.

The question we have to ask ourselves is do we want to continue to saddle Canadians with these burdens for the possession of small amounts of cannabis? Our government's response is an emphatic no.

For this reason, the proposed legislation sets out a 30-gram possession limit for dried cannabis in public for adults aged 18 and over, with strict penalties for adults who give or try to sell it to youth or who use a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence.

Bill C-45 takes a different approach to cannabis possession by youth, one that recognizes that in some circumstances, entering the criminal justice system can do more harm than good. Prisons can be known for turning a misguided person into a bad person, at great public expense.

Under Bill C-45, youth would not face criminal prosecution for possessing or sharing a very small amount of cannabis. Any activities by youth involving more than small amounts of cannabis, defined as over 5 grams, would be addressed under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Our government will be working with the provinces and territories to support the development of legislation in each jurisdiction that would allow law enforcement to confiscate any amount of cannabis found in the possession of a young person. This would allow authorities to take away any amount of cannabis they may have in their possession.

Let me be clear: the proposed approach to addressing youth possession of cannabis does not mean that such behaviour is acceptable or encouraged. It is not. Rather, it recognizes that a more balanced approach with a range of tools works better to reduce cannabis consumption among youth, which is exactly what we are aiming for.

We believe that this law strikes the right balance between avoiding criminalizing youth for possession of small amounts and ensuring that cannabis remains tightly regulated and controlled, just as Canadians wish it to be.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member about the regulatory approach that the government talks about.

Government members go on about their regulatory approach. Their regulatory approach, fundamentally, is that we can grow this stuff in our house. That is not a regulatory approach. Yes, we can prescribe heights and limits, but the reality is that when we allow people to grow it in their homes, we will not have control over THC levels, we would have the same problems with diversion, it will be very easy for a minor to access it, and it is not a criminal offence for someone as young as 12 to possess it.

The minister talks about having to store it just like we have to store prescription drugs and alcohol. Yes, but it is a plant, and we cannot grow a plant in a bottle with a sealed top or in a locked storage cabinet. Therefore, I wonder if the member can acknowledge that letting people grow this drug at home does not constitute a regulatory approach and completely eliminates the possibility of meaningful control.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that question from the member opposite because it gives me an opportunity to ask, who better to regulate and control this product? It is already being grown in houses up the Fraser Valley and in backyards throughout my province and other provinces. Who better to regulate and control it? Who better to educate the public? Who better than government to ensure that youth do not get access to this product?

Does the member believe that it is better for criminal gangs, for organized crime, to regulate and control cannabis? That is happening right now, and that is what we want to change.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be happily supporting this legislation. It is time that we take some steps towards legalization and making sure that we protect children and see cannabis taken out of crime.

When I was knocking on doors during the election campaign, a lot of young people told me that they thought cannabis would be legalized as soon as the Liberals were elected. People across this country said the Liberals made this commitment, so therefore it is legalized and therefore we can move forward. In my riding and in ridings across Canada, a lot of young people are getting criminal records and have to face multiple challenges because of this misunderstanding.

I also want to remind the member that the majority of young people who are targeted are also racialized, and this issue has not been addressed. Unlike the Prime Minister, these young people do not know any high-level resource people who can make these sorts of incidents go away.

I would like to hear from you what the government is going to do to change this.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am sorry whenever I hear about young people entering into the criminal justice system after being charged with simple cannabis possession. I will say three things about that.

First, that is what this legislation is designed to change. Second, if people assumed that immediately upon election, the government would rush into legalization, then it is incumbent on us as parliamentarians to make sure that the fallacy is corrected, and I invite the member to educate and communicate with her constituents. Third, our government was absolutely clear from the beginning that we would be legalizing cannabis, but in the meantime and until such time, the law is the law and it will be applied.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Milton, ON

Madam Speaker, this week Canadian mayors indicated that they are very concerned about the costs associated with this legislation. They have asked the Prime Minister whether there is going to be any help.

I am wondering if the member can tell us whether the federal government plans on sharing any tax proceeds with municipalities to deal with the costs associated with the production, sale, and recreational use of marijuana.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, today I will be addressing Bill C-45, the first of two bills that would, combined, legalize marijuana. Since this bill does not cover the impaired driving offence, I will keep my remarks on this to a minimum.

The range of comments I have received on this topic is broad. Some constituents are asking me to oppose, some are fiercely behind me in supporting this measure, and some are questioning specific clauses within the bill. I may not be able to satisfy everyone, but my sincere hope is to truthfully share their views and bring some insight to the specificity of this bill.

Legalizing marijuana has been a long time in the making, and we are breaking new ground. As the second country in the world to legalize, we will find many challenges. If we take some time, I believe we can come up with a fairer justice system, better prevention, improved public health, proper research, and superior education.

I can say with certainty that the war on drugs has failed miserably, and its path of destruction has affected many families and communities. I wish to share the broad nature of the comments I have received. My constituents have a few concerns, and this is what they have told me.

There is concern that four cannabis plants per household may simply not be enough. Others feel it is way too much.

Some fear that marijuana production will be owned by a few mega-growers and that we should be encouraging smaller growers and distribution outlets. This is really important as small businesses, especially in small communities across Canada, really benefit those communities.

A number of my constituents say that the police should be required to report to the parents and guardians when an incident involves youth. In terms of access, some parents are afraid that this legislation will lead to increased access to the substance by their children; other parents feel that it is going to protect their children.

People receiving pardons is an important concern. Right now, more and more people are being charged, and unfortunately, the reality is that people like the Prime Minister, who have more resources, are able to get out of their charges. The reality is that when the Prime Minister shared the story about his brother, it really illustrated the big difference for everyday Canadians. We really need to address this issue. If youth have criminal records for simple possession, they need to be pardoned, and it must be retroactive. That has been a big concern for my constituents.

They are also concerned that the legal limits and levels of intoxication are undefined and unclear and they are concerned about people's right to privacy. If roadside testing involves a saliva test, it is a person's DNA, and currently officers need a warrant for that kind of access.

I support the legalization of marijuana, as long as it is done effectively so that it is not marketed to children, a reliable, long-term revenue stream is created for public health, prevention, and research, and there is a comprehensive impaired driving strategy. The bill introduces promotion restrictions, such as a type of plain packaging for marijuana that includes nothing that will appeal to young people; no false, misleading, or deceptive promotion; no promotion that evokes a positive emotion or image of a way of life; no promotion through sponsors, testimonials, or endorsements; and so on.

One of the negative health consequences of criminalizing cannabis has been a widely acknowledged lack of scientific research, and I hope some of this funding will go into this meaningful research, which will help us understand the best steps to take in the future. We must be particularly concerned with the health impacts of chronic and heavy cannabis use among young people, so New Democrats will be pressing the government to begin establishing research plans and funding into these important areas.

The government also must be clear and upfront regarding provincial responsibilities, including the tax and revenue structure that balances health protection with the goal of reducing the illicit market and protecting youth. The reality is that Bill C-45 leaves many key issues to the provinces, and they will need some time to set up their own regulatory systems, another reason that we wish this process had begun earlier. Canadians need certainty, and they have certainly waited too long for that.

What is equally unclear is what the tax and revenue structures will look like for cannabis and how this will be shared between the federal government and the provinces. The provinces and Canadians will have to wait to hear from the Minister of Finance on that matter. This again goes back to the idea that people keep having to wait and there is a lack of clarity.

That is the reality for so many communities dealing with particular issues of addiction, and we are hoping to see some support here. The government has not been clear about where they will get the funding for public education and research and how that will be rolled out, and we need to know more. People should not have barriers for the rest of their lives to finding good employment, housing, and international travel due to having a charge and/or conviction for a small amount of cannabis. We need to pardon those who have been convicted of simple possession of cannabis.

Changes to the law are long overdue, but they will not come into effect for at least another 15 months. With the current crisis of delays and lack of resources in the justice system, we cannot afford to continue to use police and court resources in charges and convictions for simple possession of a substance that will soon be legal. That leaves the estimated 2.3 million Canadians who use cannabis in limbo. Many of these people do not have access to the connections that will make these charges disappear. This is highly concerning. In fact, it is simply not fair.

While we wait for legalization, the Liberal government is ignoring the tens of thousands of charges and criminal records handed out for simple possession, which disproportionally affect young and racialized Canadians. We want an interim measure of decriminalization. I want to underline that it would be an interim measure. This is not the solution we are advocating for in the long term. We are saying to put this in place as we go through this process. It is only fair. This will really help police have more discretion to cease enforcing such an unjust law.

Guess who said the following quote: “Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses.” It was none other than the Liberal Party of Canada. Maybe it is time its members start looking at their own website.

Associate professor of Osgoode Hall, Alan Young, agreed. He said, “But from a moral point of view, if the change is imminent, that undercuts the whole foundation for arrests and prosecutions, and one would hope the government would stop pursuing very minor cases that have clogged up the system for years.”

We have been asking the Liberals to immediately decriminalize simple possession of marijuana as an interim measure as many young and racialized Canadians continue to receive charges and criminal records that will affect them for the rest of their lives, despite the substance soon becoming legal. There is almost a record-breaking number of vacancies in the court. Why the government is aggravating the problem, I do not know.

We need to have a serious look at pardons for these previously convicted cannabis possessions. The government's position on pardons is now in a very confused state. The public safety minister has stated that the government has no interest in granting a blanket pardon for people with criminal records for possessing small amounts of cannabis. There is also no indication the Liberals are interested in making pardons easier to obtain or if they will address the high fee for an application. Not being able to access a pardon remains a serious obstacle for people trying to escape their criminal past and move on with their lives, especially for such a minor situation.

This is despite the Prime Minister acknowledging that the rich and well-connected have an easier time avoiding a criminal record, when citing the example of his brother. The Prime Minister admitted in the House to smoking marijuana. If it were not for his privilege, the Prime Minister could be refused entry into the United States. Canadians have been refused for honestly speaking about their past indiscretions. Does this mean the Prime Minister is simply above regular Canadians?

The NDP has a 45-year history of championing marijuana decriminalization. Changes to the law are long overdue, especially when about 30% of Canadian youth have tried cannabis at least once by the age of 15. This is the highest rate among 43 countries and regions in Europe and North America. Let us make this a public health approach rather than a war on drugs campaign.