Cannabis Act

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

Sponsor

Status

In committee (Senate), as of March 22, 2018

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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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have been following this debate closely, and there are many things the minister has said that are simply not so. For example, she talked about record levels of marijuana use. However, from the Statistics Canada website, I have in front of me a comprehensive Canadian addiction survey that looked at drug and alcohol use. In in 2004, 14.1% of Canadians reported they had used cannabis in the last year; in 2008, it was 11.4%; in 2010 it was 10.6%; and in 2011 it was 9.1%.

The Conservative approach in government was to emphasize the importance of public health information and working with all aspects of society, including law enforcement, in a way that reflects the real risk associated with marijuana, and, yes, in a way that keeps it out of the hands of children. However, letting parents with children at home grow marijuana and making it legal for one child to give marijuana to another child, rather than selling it to them, is perfectly legal under the proposed legislation. This will not keep it out of the hands of children.

The minister might disagree on certain points philosophically, but I just want to know if she acknowledges the reality of the data, namely that marijuana use has gone down significantly during the last 10 years. Does she think that is a failure?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are a government that bases its actions on science, evidence, and certainly, on data. The latest data available in 2015 shows the prevalence of cannabis use in the past year was one in five Canadians aged 15 to 19, and nearly one in three aged 20 to 24. The rate of cannabis use in this country, particularly among young people, is among the highest in the world.

The status quo simply is not working. We need to ensure that we put a comprehensive framework in place around the legalization, the strict regulation, and the restriction of access to young people. This is the purpose and intent of Bill C-45. This comprehensive framework would be similar to tobacco.

We will ensure we do as much as we can to keep cannabis out of the hands of kids while at the same time ensuring we invest $40 million in the promotion of an educational campaign, a public awareness campaign, particularly among young people, about the risks of using cannabis. That is what we are committed to doing while working with other jurisdictions.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Mr. Speaker, throughout the debate at second reading, through committee hearings, and now finally, in the final debate, mounds and mounds of evidence have been introduced and cited, painting a grim picture of the consequences of the government's determination to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

Still, the Liberal government is bound and determined to ram this legislation through, so that by July 1, 2018, Canada's 151st birthday, youth as young as 18 will be able to legally purchase marijuana from government outlets, and use this drug with virtually no restrictions.

I have been allotted 20 minutes to present my objections to this harmful legislation, but would need hours to present all the evidence presented by doctors, psychiatrists, researchers, police, parents, and a host of specialists warning the government not to go down this road, and of the serious consequences if it does.

I will instead focus on a few articles and studies, and ask the members across the floor, how can they can justify their actions, having had prior knowledge to these?

I hold in my hand mandate letters from the Prime Minister to ministers on expectations and deliveries. I will be using them in my presentation to point out just how this action by the Prime Minister has been broken by his ministers.

The Prime Minister presented all ministers with these mandate letters after the last election.

The mandate letter to the Minister of Health reads:

I expect you to work closely with your Deputy Minister and his or her senior officials to ensure that the ongoing work of your department is undertaken in a professional manner and that decisions are made in the public interest.

I wonder if the minister, at that point, informed the Prime Minister about this document from her own department, modified on August 19, 2016. I am sure she was aware of it. This document, among other things, states:

Using cannabis or any cannabis product can impair your concentration, your ability to think and make decisions, and your reaction time and coordination. This can affect your motor skills, including your ability to drive. It can also increase anxiety and cause panic attacks, and in some cases cause paranoia and hallucinations.

It further states:

Cannabis should not be used if you:

are under the age of 25;

are allergic to any cannabinoid or to smoke;

have serious liver, kidney, heart or lung disease;

have a personal or family history of serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, or bipolar disorder;

are pregnant, are planning to get pregnant, or are breast-feeding;

are a man who wishes to start a family;

have a history of alcohol or drug abuse or substance dependence.

A list of health outcomes regulated to the short and long-term use include the following:

increase the risk of triggering or aggravating psychiatric and/or mood disorders (schizophrenia, psychosis, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder);

decrease sperm count, concentration and motility, and increase abnormal sperm morphology;

negatively impact the behavioural and cognitive development of children born to mothers who used cannabis during pregnancy.

This document was available to the minister. It clearly shows that in reaction to that, she is breaking what the Prime Minister instructed her to do. I am going to read another that the Prime Minister has written:

No relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

That was to the Minister of Indigenous Services in the opening statement. Why did the minister not sound the alarm and give the Prime Minister the message that she received from President Aluki Kotierk of the Nunavut Tunngavik? She said:

The federal government needs to consult with Inuit on whether cannabis should be legalized and, if so, when, as well as plan to deal with the possible negative impacts of legalizing cannabis...

It goes on. Chief Gina Deer of the Mohawk Council of Kanawakee stated:

Our community has been zero tolerance for many years on drugs. Now when you tell them that we have to accept marijuana as a legal product and not as a drug, it’s hard to accept, especially for elders.

The Prime Minister further stated to the Minister of Crown-Indigineous Relations:

I expect you to re-engage in a renewed nation-to-nation process with Indigenous Peoples to make real progress on the issues most important to First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit communities--issues like housing, employment, health and mental health care...

This is what Chief Isadore Day stated in testimony at committee:

It's accurate to say that first nations are also not prepared to deal with the ramifications of Bill C-45. Does Canada even know the full impacts of cannabis yet? When the states of Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis sales in 2013, American Indian tribes were negatively impacted.

Further, Chief Day also stated at committee that despite hearing this, the Liberals continue to reaffirm that it's important that we focus on getting this job done as quickly as we are able.

The chief reiterated that one of the biggest concerns that first nations have with Bill C-45 is the health and safety of our people. He cited statistics that cannabis is the second most abused substance among indigenous people. He added that in Ontario alone, $33 million is needed to treat first nations with drug and alcohol addictions. He concluded by stating that there appears to be more questions than answers. This leaves the first nations in a compromising state, leading to an accelerated timeline.

The Prime Minister also said to the minister:

Work with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to address gaps in services to Aboriginal people and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.

She should have told him about the health report that I mentioned previously, and the concerns that his own government had with the legalization and usage of marijuana.

Health Canada stated warnings, and I have mentioned some, but it serves to mention these as well:

Cannabis contains hundreds of substances, some of which can affect the proper functioning of the brain and central nervous system. The use of this product involves risks to health, some of which may not be known or fully understood. Cannabis should not be used if you have a personal or family history of serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia...

The Prime Minister loves to point out to the Minister of Justice, who just spoke, his great love and respect for the charter. In his mandate to the minister he stated:

You are expected to ensure that the rights of Canadians are protected, that our work demonstrates the greatest possible commitment to respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A child advocate group in New Brunswick has done an assessment of violations to the rights of the child treaty, and has a very serious concern that this legislation is going to see legal challenges. I wonder if the minister should have told the Prime Minister that a court challenge, which is what it has stated, is a good idea under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 7 states:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

The minister should have warned him that by legalizing marijuana, a drug with psychoactive properties, the Government of Canada will encourage the sale and consumption of marijuana, thereby putting all Canadians at greater risk of encountering harm and death through impaired driving accidents and workplace accidents, smoking-related sicknesses, and other marijuana-induced injuries. For example, police chiefs across the country have expressed their concern that they will not be able to keep the public safe from drugged drivers. Thus, the proposal to legalize marijuana runs contrary to the charter provision, the right to the security of the person.

To the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, he wrote:

As Minister...your overarching goal will be to lead our government’s work in ensuring that we are keeping Canadians safe.

Here again, I would raise the report from the health department, but I would also make mention of a report that has just come out, “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact”. The executive summary states, “Marijuana-related traffic deaths when a driver was positive for marijuana more than doubled from 55 deaths in 2013 to 123 deaths in 2016.” This same executive summary states, “In 2009, Colorado marijuana-related traffic deaths involving drivers testing positive for marijuana represented 9 percent of the traffic deaths. By 2016, that number has more than doubled to 20 percent.” It goes on, and there are statistics that talk about what happens to the youth and how youth use has risen dramatically as well.

This might be my favourite. The Prime Minister wrote to the Minister of Science, the same minister who has repeatedly, in this House, stood up and said that the current government will listen to science, because the Prime Minister told her this:

We are a government that believes in science – and a government that believes that good scientific knowledge should inform decision-making.

I wonder if that minister told the Prime Minister about the report on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, or possibly this report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Here is a great one she should have read, from Frontiers in Psychiatry: “Persistency of Cannabis Use Predicts Violence following Acute Psychiatric Discharge”. There is this lengthy report from the World Health Organization: “The Health and Social Effects of Nonmedical Cannabis Use”.

It goes on and on. I am sure the minister read the “Market Analysis of Plant-based Drugs C. The Cannabis Market”, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Every one of these reports points to the same conclusion: the use of cannabis is restricted for a reason. There is a reason governments have, on a continual basis, made that their practice.

I have often stated in this House that I am genuinely impressed by the Liberal caucus. It is full of doctors and lawyers and Ph.D.s and Rhodes scholars. This is not a group of people who could be excused for not having the information.

I found a great article by James Di Fiore, written in the Huffington Post. He wrote:

I've written about my modest contribution to the elimination of pot prohibition before. To recap, in 2011 I was hired by the Liberal Party of Canada's upper brass to pressure their delegates to vote yes on a policy initiative that would push for legalization. For three months, my team approached marijuana advocacy groups and rallied their members to bombard [all] delegates via email, tweets and Facebook messages. The plan was to put enough pressure on delegates until they voted for a Canada who would shed its draconian views on weed. When we started, just 30 per cent of delegates [30 per cent of that caucus] were in [the] camp. After the votes were tallied at the Liberals' 2012 convention, more than 75 per cent of delegates voted yes.

This group can make the right choice. I know that there are many in the Liberal caucus who are opposed to what the government is doing and what the Prime Minister is forcing them to do as well. Now is the time for them to stand up, make the right choice, and vote against this dangerous bill.

I might add that the Prime Minister is not leading a bold charge that will make this an example of progressive nations. Let us listen to what Prime Minister Mark Rutte, of the Netherlands, said, in a 2014 article about the use of marijuana. “People should do with their own bodies whatever they please, as long as they are well informed about what that junk does to them”. The Dutch have a different approach to the whole idea of marijuana.

The article went on, “Rutte added in the same interview that cannabis legalization of the Colorado model”, and I should emphasize that the Colorado model is for those 21 years old and over, “where the state taxes and regulates all levels of the supply chain, and adults 21 and over are allowed to purchase weed from state-licensed stores—was out of the question. 'If we were to do that, ' he said, 'we'd be the laughing stock of Europe.'”

This not going to be a progressive move by the Prime Minister and the Liberal caucus. As a matter of fact, while the Dutch system has some major drawbacks, current UN treaties forbid countries to legalize and regulate drugs for recreational use. Specifically, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs,1961, states that member states have a general obligation “to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs.”

Piet Hein van Kempen, a professor of criminal law and criminal procedure in the Netherlands, was recently asked by the justice ministry to study whether international drug treaties offer any wiggle room to legalize, decriminalize, tolerate, or regulate cannabis in any other way for recreational use. His answer was an emphatic no. Maybe when the Prime Minister gets to meet his new best friend, Xi Jinping, he can tell him about his plans to legalize marijuana and ask for his thoughts. I am sure he would give the Prime Minister a history lesson on what took place in Chinese society.

The Liberals are on track to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes by July 1, 2018. They say they have had extensive consultations, conducted the largest online survey, and completed a report called “A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada”. The Liberals say they have consulted with Canadians; provincial, territorial, and municipal governments; indigenous governments; representatives of organizations; youth; parents; and experts in relevant fields. Ignoring the warnings of doctors, police chiefs, and first nations parents, they have pushed this bill rapidly through the House.

This bill would drastically change Canadian society, the full ramifications felt for years to come. They say it will protect us and take marijuana out of the hands of criminals. I suggest it would enslave our youth and make the government the new pusher on the block.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Health for the purpose of reconsidering clause 226 with the view to establish a coming into force date that complies with the wishes of those provinces, territories, municipalities, law enforcement officials and first nation groups who require more time to prepare for the legalization of cannabis.”

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:20 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 acknowledge the remarks made by my colleague from Chatham-Kent—Leamington, and I want to bring some clarification to one of the remarks he made. I listened very carefully, and he said that police chiefs, in the plural, but unnamed, did not support the effort or believe that we were going to bring forward adequate measures to deal with impaired driving.

I want to quote the testimony of Chief Mario Harel, the elected president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, who appeared before the justice committee on Bill C-46. He said:

We certainly commend the government for its commitment to consultation of stakeholders and the public. We commend the efforts of ministers, all parliamentarians, and public servants at Public Safety, Justice, and Health Canada who are dedicated to bringing forward the best legislation possible. All share with us the desire to do this right, knowing that the world is watching.

The government has put forward strong legislation not only focused on impairment by drugs but also addressing ongoing issues related to alcohol impairment.

He went on to say:

Steps that have been introduced to reform the entire impaired driving scheme are seen as much needed and very positive. The CACP has called for such changes in the past, specifically in support of modernizing the driving provision of the Criminal Code, supporting mandatory alcohol screening, and eliminating common loophole defences. Tough new impairment driving penalties introduced in this legislation are strongly supported by the CACP.

This, of course, includes all the chiefs in Canada. Finally, he said:

We also acknowledge funding announced recently to support law enforcement for cannabis and drug-impaired driving. The government has been listening.

In light of this testimony from the head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, would the member like to comment on his earlier remark with respect to an unnamed chief offering some other opinion?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I respect the member's office, and I thank him for his service for years as a police chief. He knows that I have three sons who serve in the police department, and as such, I have had much contact with the police force.

My colleague has passed me some information. I am not going to read that. The truth of the matter is that my eyesight is not good enough.

I do know that there is not a consensus among police chiefs. When we talk about Bill C-46 being the act to strengthen the Criminal Code in respect of driving, those steps are necessary and police chiefs would certainly agree with that, but I also know that police chiefs, police officers, and those involved in law enforcement have repeatedly said that at the very least, they are not prepared for this, and they do not have the tools or what is required to enforce this new legislation.

Municipalities would need a host of new equipment and much more money. These things have not been provided. That is a small point, but the member must also acknowledge that this is not a complete picture of what the police chiefs have been saying.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify this idea of what some police chiefs may or may not believe.

I have many family members, including children, who are in law enforcement. Many people reflect a lot of the emotion that sometimes goes along with this issue. The idea of mandatory minimums and a war on drugs approach is not as effective as had been envisioned at one time. As a matter of fact, a criminal record for this non-violent offence is a social determinant of health.

I wonder if the member has had a chance to consider what the public health approach might be, because we need effective solutions moving forward.

Would the member agree that we need to have a regulated environment? Would he also agree that a public campaign should include how to keep children away from this product? What does he think would be the most effective way for us to do that as we move forward with this?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Mr. Speaker, we must not confuse Bill C-45 with the decriminalization of marijuana, although that is part of this legislation. Conservatives also agree that for minor possession that portion should be struck from the Criminal Code.

Educating children and youth from the ages of 11 to 17 is important. Those under the age of 18 will not be allowed to smoke marijuana, but allowing them to have possession of up to five joints certainly is not the type of education that we on this side of the House envision.

Sweden has spent a lot of money and has done a lot of training and as a result has seen its rate of usage drop, and that country has not legalized marijuana.

The member is correct. We should and we must educate. We should be telling people. The report that I referred to from Health Canada should be in every home and in every school. We should be warning children about the dangers. We should warn young people about what marijuana can do to them if they use it before the age of 25 and who knows what could happen after that. That should be a part of our education system.

If we put the time and energy that the Liberal government is prepared to spend on this legislation into education, we would have a whole different scenario in this country.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Ontario for handling this issue with the seriousness it deserves, given the disastrous consequences of the legislation proposed by the Liberals.

The minister is telling us that there is a serious drug problem and that it will only get worse, as my colleague said, with more crime and organized crime involvement, more young people taking drugs, more fatal accidents due to impaired driving, and more health problems.

My colleague has just mentioned that the police are not ready. The police said so in committee. They do not have either the training or the equipment they need. The money offered by the government is not going to speed up the process. The provinces and health services are not ready.

My question for the member is simple: apart from the people who grow marijuana, and who, strangely enough, all have links to Liberal friends or to the government, will anyone actually benefit from the bill, and how do the Liberals plan to avoid this fiasco?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I concur with everything my colleague said. He is absolutely right when he points out the dangers, inability, and unpreparedness of the Liberal government for this legislation. What could be done? We need to stop this. We need to stop this train because this is a wreck. This is not just bad legislation, this is horrible legislation. This would affect generations to come for years and years.

I wish I had a little more time, but we know that marijuana usage lowers the IQ of the user. Now, we talked about the Liberals on that side, and they are a bright bunch, and maybe they can lose two or three points and still get through life. However, the majority of those users of marijuana, the young men who become disenchanted, lose their jobs, drop out of school, and are now smoking dope. Now they are going to have a whole new challenge to face in life. It is these groups we should be thinking about, and it is these groups of people who will get hooked on marijuana. They are the ones who are going to suffer from this poor legislation, the ones who will die in car wrecks, and whose parents will line themselves up here and look across to the Liberals. Maybe then they can answer to them as to why they were so persistent in passing this foolish, crazy legislation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals promised Canadians cannabis legalization last election, I think that reasonable Canadians understood legalization to mean the end of criminalization, the end of stigmatization, and the end of the prohibitionist approach to cannabis. It is why I, along with millions of other Canadians, was somewhat surprised to read the fine print of Bill C-45 only to discover that it is not legalization at all, but would just make cannabis less illegal. The proposed legislation would create a litany of new cannabis-related criminal offences, most of which carry a maximum sentence of up to 14 years in prison. As renowned criminal defence attorney Michael Spratt put it:

[Bill C-45] is an unnecessarily complex piece of legislation that leaves intact the criminalization of marijuana in many circumstances.

An adult who possesses more than 30 grams of marijuana in public is a criminal. A youth who possesses more than five grams of marijuana is a criminal. An 18-year-old who passes a joint to his 17-year-old friend is a criminal. An adult who grows five marijuana plants...is a criminal...This continued criminalization is inconsistent with a rational and evidence-based criminal justice policy and will only serve to reduce...the positive effects of [the bill].

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health has claimed that these harsh penalties are reserved for some “gangster in a stairwell” selling cannabis to children, but this is exactly the sort of reefer madness rhetoric that has fuelled prohibition for nearly a century. The evidence before the health committee was directly contrary to this view. In fact, 95% of cannabis producers and consumers in this country are non-violent, law-abiding citizens who have nothing to do with organized crime whatsoever.

If criminalization and the threat of imprisonment prevented people from using cannabis, then Canadians would not be consuming an estimated 655 metric tons of it every year when we have full criminalization and life sentences for trafficking. Indeed, the prohibitionist approach has been repeatedly discredited by its failures throughout history. Cannabis consumption has increased steadily throughout the so-called “war on drugs”, and Canadian youth consume cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world today. Of the 4.6 million people the parliamentary budget officer projects will use cannabis at least once in 2018, nearly 1.7 million, or more than one-third, would be in the 15 to 24 age group.

For far too long, we have wasted billions of dollars in resources in the criminal justice system by criminalizing otherwise law-abiding citizens at an alarming rate for simply processing and consuming cannabis. In fact, we still are. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, under the Liberal government after it promised Canadians legalization, the most recent year of available data, there were 55,000 offences related to cannabis reported to police, and police charged 17,733 people with pot possession. Given that cannabis possession will soon be made legal in Canada, the NDP has been clear from the outset that we should immediately decriminalize the possession of recreational cannabis for personal use pending full legalization.

Now, petty possession is a crime that the Prime Minister himself has admitted to committing while serving as an elected official. This admission of past cannabis use belies his repeated assertion that “Until we've changed the law, the current laws exist and apply.” I guess he meant that they apply to other people and not to him.

It is a shame and hypocrisy of the highest order that the current government continues to prosecute and convict Canadians for simple cannabis possession, which is something the government admits should be legal. The government knows full well that current cannabis laws are not applied consistently across this country. Indeed, their discriminatory impact has been well documented by Canadian researchers, like Simon Fraser University's Dr. Neil Boyd.

Furthermore, given the extensive body of research on the negative impacts of carrying a criminal record, it is clear that pursuing thousands of convictions for actions that we no longer view as criminal will needlessly harm vulnerable Canadians, particularly young people, racialized communities, indigenous people, and other marginalized groups, mainly the poor.

I want to be clear that because I support genuine cannabis legalization, I acknowledge that Bill C-45 is an improvement on the status quo. That is why Canada's New Democrats will support this legislation. This bill allows for the legal possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis, permits the legal cultivation of up to four cannabis plants per dwelling or house, and creates a framework for the development of a legal recreational cannabis industry in Canada.

I must note, however, that Bill C-45, inexplicably, allows the provinces and territories to derogate from these basic freedoms. This should be a major concern to anyone who wants genuine cannabis legalization in Canada, and those who are urging this House to rush this legislation through.

I also want the record to show that after we revealed gaping holes in the Liberal government's cannabis legislation, the NDP worked in the best spirit of Jack Layton to reach across the aisle to give Canadians what they actually voted for, genuine cannabis legalization.

For anyone who doubts the positive role an effective opposition can play, I will point out that we were able to convince the Liberals to do the following: drop the ridiculous 100 centimetre plant height limit belied by all evidence and the experts; bring in edibles and concentrates, albeit not immediately, but within a year; and recognize the necessity of craft cannabis growers being brought into the legalized production framework.

Mark my words, these improvements would not have happened had the New Democrats not worked diligently at committee to bring forth the witnesses and evidence, and push the government to do the right thing. I will give the government credit because, unlike the previous Conservative government, which hardly ever took any suggestions from this side of the House, the Liberal government has proven able to listen to the evidence and make adjustments, albeit not as far as we would like.

In addition, at the health committee, we put forward 38 practical amendments to fully align Bill C-45 with its purposes section and the evidence we heard from expert testimony. The purposes include bringing the illicit industry into the light; making sure that Canadians have access to safe, well-regulated cannabis products; and taking the production and distribution of cannabis out of the hands of organized crime and bringing it into the regulated legal industry.

That is what the New Democrats paid attention to when we moved our amendments to make sure that this legislation aligned with those purposes. Unfortunately, the Liberal government has refused to do that in all cases, edibles being the most notable example. The government is content to leave edibles and concentrates in the hands of the black market, in the hands of organized crime, totally unregulated for up to another year and a half to two years from now. It cannot explain why.

Our proposed changes, besides legalizing the sale of edibles and concentrates, included providing pardons to Canadians saddled with a criminal record for offences that will no longer be offences under Bill C-45. This amendment was ruled outside the scope of Bill C-45. However, given the Prime Minister's previous statements, it is rather shocking that the Liberal government would structure a cannabis legalization bill in such a way that pardons cannot be included via an amendment, with these ruled outside the scope of the bill. When the Liberals say they have taken their time and consulted widely, maybe they could explain to Canadians how, after two years, they somehow forgot to deal with the issue of pardons for the criminal convictions that Canadians carry for cannabis possession when they Liberals know how devastating the effects are of those criminal convictions on people's economic and social lives.

We also proposed amendments to empower provincial governments to create parallel production licensing regimes to give them the flexibility to implement legalization in the manner best suited to their jurisdiction. For example, this amendment would have allowed provinces to let craft growers, small-scale producers, outdoors growers, and artisanal growers compete against large federally licensed corporate entities. That was voted down by the Liberals.

We proposed decriminalizing the penalties section in line with the Tobacco Act, proposing instead that the legalization take a regulatory approach, with significant fines for offences, rather than criminal ones. One of the purposes of Bill C-45, as laid out in section 7, is to “reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis”. Penalties in the bill, in the NDP's view, should be consistent with that stated intent.

With the Liberal government's rejection of these amendments, I am very concerned that Bill C-45 will continue to harm many Canadians after it becomes law in this country. Unconscionable prison sentences, arbitrary possession limits, and barriers to small craft and artisanal producers are just a few of the damaging provisions that need to be corrected.

However, I am heartened that this bill would at least require a mandatory review of the act's operation in the next Parliament. I view this as a tacit admission by the government that it knows that this bill contains problematic sections that will need to be fixed. In fact, it was a Liberal amendment to move the review from five years to three years. I think the Liberals know that this bill has flaws that will need to be fixed.

Truthfully, I would prefer to get it right the first time around. As it currently stands, the federal government has left the heavy lifting of legalization to the provincial, territorial, municipal, and indigenous governments. The task force on cannabis legalization was very clear in the lead up to legalization that the federal government should “Take a leadership role to ensure that capacity is developed among all levels of government prior to the start of the regulatory regime”. Yet, when asked if the federal government had even been talking with first nations and indigenous governments on a nation-to-nation basis to ensure that capacity were developed, Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day told the health committee, “No, they haven't, and again, it's going to be really critical.”

By freezing out stakeholders and insisting on meeting an arbitrary politically motivated deadline, the Liberal government is clearly sacrificing quality legislation for speed. This has led to the emergence of a complex patchwork of different approaches to cannabis across Canada, and will put many Canadians in the position of perhaps breaking the law unintentionally. For example, some provinces may not allow any home growing. In fact, Quebec just announced this very measure. Some provinces may choose to lower the public possession limit from 30 grams. Some provinces may forbid public consumption. Some municipalities may ban cannabis sales and consumption completely.

I want to be clear to any Canadians watching this. The Liberals put forth legislation that will allow the provinces to deviate from people being allowed to grow four plants at home and from being legally able to carry 30 grams of cannabis in public. For those who are searching for and have waited for decades and decades for cannabis legalization, they should be aware that federal leadership in a national legalized structure for cannabis is not going to be delivered by this bill. We see that already, as I have mentioned, with the Quebec example. In that province, one will not be able to grow plants at home. I do not think that is what cannabis advocates have been working for all these years.

The Liberals' recent attempt to unilaterally impose an excise tax without consulting other jurisdictions directly contradicted the recommendations of the McClellan report. The Liberals' attempt to keep half the excise tax revenues at the federal level ignores the fact that the bulk of expenses related to legalization will fall to the provincial, territorial, and municipal levels.

For our part, Canada's New Democrats will continue to reach across the aisle to help ensure that legalization is done right and on time. Ever since the Liberal government of the day ignored the recommendations of the 1971 Le Dain commission, our party has been calling on successive governments to stop saddling Canadians with criminal records for using cannabis. We strongly believe and continue to maintain that these unjustifiable arrests must end as soon as possible.

I would be remiss not to use this occasion to outline some simple truths about cannabis that I fear are far too often drowned out of the public discussion by prohibitionist fearmongering. Number one, in almost all contexts, alcohol and tobacco are far more personally and socially harmful than cannabis. Cannabis does not make people aggressive, a person cannot fatally overdose on cannabis, and cannabis is not a carcinogen. We heard this point repeated over and over again by experts at the health committee.

Number two, cannabis has a broad range of therapeutic benefits. It is used as an effective medicine by Canadian patients suffering from conditions ranging from epilepsy to PTSD, from cancer to arthritis. I believe if this point were properly understood by the Liberals, they would not recently have announced a plan without consulting patients to impose a new excise tax of $1 per gram on medicinal cannabis, or 10% of the final retail price, whichever is higher.

At the end of 2016, there were 129,876 Canadian patients with authorizations from physicians to use medicinal cannabis, and since the first Canadian veteran was reimbursed on compassionate grounds in 2007, Veterans Affairs Canada now covers the cost of medicinal cannabis for over 3,000 Canadian veterans, yet the government wants to tax them.

Shockingly, however, the federal government does not cover medicinal cannabis for indigenous people, a discriminatory policy that puts a lie to the Prime Minister's claim that his most important relationship is with indigenous communities.

The Liberals' medicinal cannabis tax is misconceived, unfair to patients, and damaging to public health. It is simply poor public policy. The cost of medicinal cannabis is already high, given that unlike prescription drugs and medically necessary devices, it is not tax exempt under federal law. Medicinal cannabis is neither exempt from the GST nor eligible for reimbursement under nearly all public or private insurance plans, so patients are currently forced to spend hundreds, or thousands, of dollars each month to acquire a sufficient supply of medicinal cannabis, or choose a riskier option, like a prescription opioid because it is tax exempt and covered for reimbursement. That is perverse.

Medicinal cannabis should be treated like other medically prescribed therapeutic medicines. Looking forward, New Democrats will use every tool at our disposal to scrap that flawed policy decision.

Third, just yesterday, in the House, the Conservative member for Thornhill told Canadians that legal cannabis is just as dangerous as fentanyl, and home-grown cannabis is “virtually the same as putting fentanyl on a shelf within reach of kids”. This is an outrageous and dangerous falsehood, and grossly insensitive to those who have lost loved ones to fentanyl overdoses. Trying to capitalize on their personal tragedy for political purposes is shameful, callous, and unsupportable. I call on the Conservative Party to correct the record and for the member to offer a sincere apology to every Canadian who has been affected by the fentanyl crisis.

That brings me to truth number four. Cannabis and cannabis concentrates have been consumed by humans for thousands of years without bringing about the alarmist predictions peddled by prohibitionists. Cannabis is not a carcinogen, there are no lethal overdoses from cannabis and cannabinoids, and cannabis can be used to reduce anxiety and enhance enjoyment of many activities. Much like unwinding with a glass of wine, millions of adult Canadians find occasional cannabis consumption a relaxing and pleasurable way to spend their free time.

Ultimately, I have come to understand that a genuinely legalized and properly regulated cannabis industry in Canada has enormous potential in many respects. Done right, an appropriate legal approach can achieve impressive benefits economically, technologically, and medicinally. It can advance Canada's cannabis producers, retailers, and innovators on a global scale. It can generate world-leading intellectual property, innovation, and sustainable development benefits, and it can help establish an evidence-based understanding of cannabis that has been so marred by decades of misinformation and mythology.

At the very time that many other jurisdictions are also grappling with the failures of prohibition, why on earth would we pre-emptively cut ourselves off at the knees by legally prohibiting cannabis exports to markets where it would be legal to import it, and yet Bill C-45 explicitly prohibits all importation and exportation of recreational cannabis. The world is rapidly waking up to the potential of safe, regulated, and legal cannabis products. Countries like France, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Croatia, and Slovenia look to reexamine their approaches to cannabis, and Canada should be establishing itself as a first-to-market world leader. While the U.S. cannabis industry continues to be hindered by the Trump administration's reefer madness thinking about cannabis, Canada should be taking advantage by empowering our entrepreneurs and developing export markets all around the world.

Millions of Canadians use cannabis. They have used it in the past, they will use it today, and they will continue to use it in the years to come. They are not criminals. They are our parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, loved ones, and citizens of this great country who voted for genuine cannabis legalization in the last election. The NDP will continue to work positively and constructively to develop the smartest, safest, and most effective cannabis legislation and regulations in the world, because it is time we delivered.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the NDP members are going to support the legislation. The legislation was not easily achieved. There was a great deal of consultation, working with first responders, many different stakeholders, provinces, and interested groups. They had so much to say about this.

We have the best legislation that is possible at this point in advancing and doing what Canadians expect. This was a commitment by the Prime Minister in the last election. It fulfills, in a very tangible way, the election platform.

I listened to my colleague, as I said, I appreciate the fact that the New Democrats will be supporting the legislation. However, he seemed to emphasize the fact that we could have done so much more. He spent a lot of time talking about decriminalization and how important that was. He was somewhat critical of the government for not decriminalizing.

I know the NDP has a new leader in Jagmeet Singh, who has said that we should decriminalize all illegal drugs. Is the NDP advocating for that today?

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November 22nd, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member said a lot, and I would like to start with some of his early points. I thought the purpose of members of Parliament was to make legislation better. We were sent here by constituents to do that. In fact, we have done that. When the Liberals first tabled the legislation in the House, it banned edibles. It had a 100-centimetre limit on plant growth. It does not deal at all with pardons. It was very unclear whether small craft artisanal producers would be able to participate in a legalized industry.

The NDP rolled up it sleeves and we called evidence so we could work on the government to show it that the legislation was wrong and deficient in those respects. In fact, we got the government to change its mind on those issues. There are still other flaws in the bill, however. That is why the NDP will continue to advocate positive steps.

It is a good bill. It could be better. After 100 years of criminalization of cannabis, we can spend a few months to ensure the legislation works. Again, one of the NDP's primary purposes was to make the legislation align with the purposes of the act. There are several examples where the legislation does not do that.

My hon. colleague talks about consultation. Just because they say it, does not make it true. The NDP put forth a motion at committee to hear from stakeholders that had not been heard, such as licensed producers, dispensary owners, young Canadians, yet the Liberals voted that down. They did not want us to hear from those groups.

When the member says that the Liberals consulted widely, maybe he can explain to the House and Canadians why they did not want to hear from those groups. They did not have a chance to have their perspective on the legislation heard at committee in the Liberals' rush to get the committee process done in five days.

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November 22nd, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member just said “just because they say it, does not make it true”. He is right about that.

The member told us that apparently there was no association between the use of marijuana and a more violent state. I want to read from an article entitled “Chronic toxicology of cannabis”. It is not a newspaper article. It actually appeared in Clinical Toxicology and was written by someone in the medical school at the University of Queensland. He wrote:

Several studies from diverse cultures have confirmed the elevated risk of psychosis and schizophreniform spectrum disorders following high levels of cannabis use, particularly when cannabis consumption has commenced at a young age.

He said later:

Although the psychoneurological effects of cannabis are usually stereotypically characterized as a depressant, both its use and the withdrawal state are accompanied frequently by psychomotor agitation, which has been implicated causally with interpersonal violence. Interestingly, in a series of forensic examinations of suicide, cannabis use was associated with the most violent means of death, particularly severe motor vehicle accidents.

I would like to know if the member thinks the authors of this study at the medical school at the University of Queensland are falling prey to reefer madness?

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November 22nd, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had the benefit of hearing over 90 witnesses at the health committee who were drawn from a wide variety of disciplines, including people from Colorado and Washington state who have experience with legalization, as well as many academics and professors. It is quite clear that the health effects of cannabis are, without any doubt whatsoever, far superior to those of tobacco and alcohol.

I have not heard any of my friends on the Conservative side of the House talk about restricting the amount of alcohol someone can purchase from the liquor store. Perhaps it is because they are afraid to take on the alcohol lobby in the country. The health committee heard some very graphic testimony. A person can walk into a liquor store and come out with a 26-ounce bottle of liquor, which has enough alcohol in that bottle to kill an adult. However, there are no limits on how many bottles of alcohol someone can purchase.

Tobacco, of course, is a carcinogen, and the Conservatives are opposed to plain packaging for tobacco, a policy I laud the Liberal government for pursuing in the House. It is long overdue. Why did the Conservatives not, throughout their 10 years, pursue plain packaging on tobacco when it is a carcinogen that is addictive and kills our children? I am not so sure why they did not do that.

In answer to the member's question, the research is overwhelming that cannabis is a relatively benign substance. It does have some health impacts that need to be studied for sure, However, in terms of what he is talking about, there is a question about causation versus correlation. If people use cannabis at a young age and develop psychosis, we do not know whether they developed psychosis as a result of cannabis use or they seek to use cannabis as a way of dealing with their psychosis. Therefore, the correlation-causation aspect does have to be researched. I look forward to the government putting a lot of money into researching the effects of cannabis in the years ahead.

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November 22nd, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague really does work hard every day for the middle class and those seeking to become part of it.

My riding of Kootenay—Columbia has a very interested clientele in the use of cannabis. This includes a long history of being involved in the industry in a number of different ways. These people were interested enough that when I held a telephone town hall, 3,300 people stayed on the phone for an hour to listen to the experts we had in place. That was followed up by a whole series of questions, which I sent to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice. They did provide answers, and we now have a very good report available to my constituents if they contact my office. However, some things were not answered.

One of the concerns of my constituents was crossing the border into the United States. I live in a riding that borders the United States and we go back and forth on a regular basis. During the testimony, did my colleague hear what the government planned to do to try to alleviate their concerns about either having to lie at the border or be refused entry into the United States and are any of the other 38 recommendations rejected by the government that he would like to highlight?