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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reason I cannot get behind it is that I have spoken to front-line police officers who tell me, and I am sure they have told him the same, that there is no reliable method of discovering the level of impairment when it comes to marijuana. Right now, they are using what they call drug recognition experts, who go through various tests to determine the level of impairment. However, we have woefully inadequate numbers of these drug recognition experts across Canada.

Again, this comes back to a point we made earlier. Why are we rushing through to implement a bill when we do not have devices in place to adequately measure levels of impairment, like we do for alcohol, for example, where we can specify a certain number of .08 or .05? We can make judgments, but on marijuana the situation is totally different. Front-line police officers are worried that we are going down this track far too quickly.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I once again rise in the House to speak to 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 would provide legal access to cannabis for adults and would control and regulate its production, distribution, and sale.

Cannabis is and has been an illegal drug in Canada for 94 years. For those doing the math, that means it has been prohibited since 1923.

I have a number of concerns with the piece of legislation before us tonight. I will list a few, and then go into detail on all of them, and I believe it will take the bulk of my 10 minutes.

From the easy and direct pot access for children and youth to the cost of implementation, the taxation, revenue sharing, and allocation, the compromising of international law and treaty obligations, and the risk of jeopardizing our relationships with our allies, including the U.S., Great Britain, and others, there is quite a lot to digest here. I am extremely concerned that this legislation is going to be passed before any of these questions are answered.

Polls would suggest that as Canadians learn more about the details of the Liberals' plan to legalize marijuana and the potential harmful impacts that may follow, some are having second thoughts. This is especially true when it comes to the legal age for buying marijuana. A whopping 58% of Canadians surveyed feel that the legal age should be higher than the age the federal government has set, which is 18. That is more than two in five Canadians who disagree with the government's current trajectory. The Prime Minister's marijuana bill is a promise to pot smokers, not to parents, and there are so many unanswered questions here.

The bill would enable children to have direct and easy access to pot. The Liberals like to say that somehow their piece of legislation would make it harder for children to get their hands on marijuana, but let us be very clear. This legislation is not in any way going to decrease the amount of usage by our children. Allowing a 12-year-old to carry up to five grams of marijuana is unacceptable.

Canada has the highest rate of youth using cannabis of any country in the world. We are not disputing that. In 2015, use among youth aged 15 to 19 was 21%, while the use among young adults aged 20 to 24 was 30%.

As we get closer to 2018, the self-imposed legislation date put forward by the Liberal government, we need to recognize the many unknowns with this legislation. That will be the bulk of my speech.

There are 41% of Canadians who feel that Ottawa is rushing this legislative process, while 53% said they feel that the federal government is underestimating the overall impact on Canadian society. I know I am throwing a lot of statistics at the House, but it is important to underscore how Canadians are feeling on something as important as a drug that will impact the health and safety of all Canadians.

The Prime Minister must also be clear in how we sell this to our international parties. As mentioned earlier, Canada is one of more than 150 parties to three United Nations drug control conventions: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the 1988 Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. These are not to be taken lightly.

A government memo that came out last year stated that Canada will need to explore how to inform the international community and take the steps needed to adjust its obligations under these investigations. What does this mean? In order to withdraw from any of these treaties, Canada must do so before July 1st of this year. When will the government signal its intent to do so, or has it already?

Canada will be the first G7 country in the world to take steps to legalize this drug, and yet we still cannot answer the most basic of questions. What does it mean for someone crossing the border who may have consumed cannabis earlier in the day or even a couple of days previously?

If a U.S. customs officer finds that Canadians who are going through the border consumed marijuana at any time or within the last 48 hours or 24 hours, they will be deemed inadmissible. They could be detained. Will this affect border times? Will more resources be dedicated to dealing with this issue?

There is even reason to believe that the legislation around impaired driving may be unconstitutional. The National Post has highlighted this point by saying that science is yet to establish a solid link between a given level of THC concentration in the driver's blood or saliva and the level of impairment. I will say again, as I have said before, that impairment with THC or cannabis is completely different from impairment with alcohol, and to this date, despite all of the questions we have asked, all of the questions I have asked, the government has been unable to give us what level of THC needs to be in the bloodstream to determine that an individual is impaired.

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada, and we can only expect these numbers to increase when marijuana is legalized. There are serious questions also being asked about our transportation industry. I have stood in the House many times explaining that I know from my background, 22 years in the aviation industry as well as working with many organizations, that whether it is road, rail, marine, or aviation, these groups will all have serious concerns over this legislation.

There are tens of thousands of commercial trucks on the highways and roadways of our provinces, our communities. What is the government putting forth to communities that have these trucks going through at all hours of the day? What steps is the government taking to ensure that the conductor or engineer of a train hauling hazardous materials through our communities or that the pilots flying our families have not consumed marijuana? What are we saying to the organizations that employ these people?

Will the government provide additional resources? Will we still mandate that drug testing is required? How do these companies that we trust to operate safely and efficiently police their employees?

On the other side of that, we have also heard serious concerns from our insurance and mortgage industries. When a property is sold, there is a purchase contract in place as well as a property disclosure that is typically required. The exact wording from the statement is, “Are you aware if the premises have been used as a marijuana grow operation or to manufacture illegal drugs?” It does not state quantity or whether it was a legal or illegal operation, but simply whether there was any marijuana grown on that property. Once owners have knowledge of this, they are required to disclose it to any subsequent purchaser, which will drastically affect the marketability of that property. Furthermore, the stigma will remain attached to the property for the life of the home and potentially onward.

Financing options for properties that have had marijuana grown on them have become almost obsolete. As a matter of fact, many of the insurance companies that underwrite the mortgages in Canada are in the United States, and they have said that they do not want to touch the bill and do not want to see it go through. Most of our major banks will no longer allow it, and few smaller credit unions who will still consider, are typically charging higher premiums due to risk management.

A phase one environmental assessment is always required to determine the potential damage to the home, and then all remediation is to be completed prior to obtaining a new occupancy permit. This process can cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

In conclusion, has the Liberal government done a thorough analysis and consulted the mortgage and insurance brokers and the transportation organizations on the impact of this legislation? I think I have been very clear on my points today. The legislation is momentous. I do not have to say it is very dramatic. We are in uncharted territory and, if this legislation is passed, the world will be looking at Canada's model, and what it will find are flaws that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this very important issue, and I look forward to the questions.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:35 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my fellow British Columbian laid out some very valid points that the government really does need to address. What I wanted to highlight from his speech are the concerns he raised about Canada's involvement in international treaties. I have now asked the government on two occasions what it intends to do. As the member correctly pointed out, we have until July 1 to announce our intentions, because if we pass this legislation and do nothing, we will be in violation of those treaties, and I do not think we want to besmirch our international reputation and do that. I am just curious. The government has been unable to provide me with an answer. I would have thought that as a part of this legislation, the Liberals would have thought of this. They have been in government now for 20 months. I cannot figure it out. I am just wondering if the hon. member can give me his opinion as to why we still do not have an answer from the government on that important international obligation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, for a government that says it wants to consult and do thorough analysis, and that any of its decisions are based on science and are evidence-based, we see a piece of legislation that is being rammed through that really has not been well thought out. I have mentioned only a few of my concerns and the concerns of my constituents. I did not attack any of the other things that have been brought up today. I wanted to come at this with a very measured approach. My hon. colleague brings up a very good point. We have time and again asked this question, and to this point, the government has yet to answer.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:40 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George recite a number of the risks he thinks might emerge with the passing of this legislation. I believe that marijuana is present in our society, and those risks are real and potentially are here today, so I do not think that changes.

What the bill would do, though, is restrict youth access to and use of cannabis. It would protect young people by prohibiting promotion and enticements to use cannabis. It would enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with the use of cannabis. It would deter and reduce criminal activity by imposing very serious criminal penalties for those breaking the law, especially those who provide cannabis to young people. I would far sooner see them being punished than see a 10-year-old caught with five grams of cannabis being punished, which seems to be the view across the way. As well, it would protect public health through strict production, safety, and quality requirements.

These are very laudable goals, and every one of us in this House should be standing up and speaking to make these changes. Which of these goals is the member not happy with? If he thinks these are not valid goals, what is his alternative? Which of these very laudable goals do you not support, and if you do support them all, what is your alternative?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

I appreciate the question, Mr. Speaker, and I want to talk about the government's assertion that this would somehow take dollars away from organized crime.

In doing my preparation for this speech, I looked up information about contraband tobacco. We know that a third of the cigarettes sold in Ontario are contraband, and the Canadian Convenience Stores Association says that number could be as high as 80%. In Ontario alone, about $1.6 billion to $3 billion is lost in tax revenue because of the high amount of black market tobacco. Globally, these dollars from contraband tobacco are being seen as a major source for terrorist groups, such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah.

What I am saying today, and what I think is our whole message, to answer my hon. colleague's question, is that while there may be some merit to this bill, it should be further thought out, not rushed. While the Liberals like to trumpet that they consult on almost everything, I do not believe they have done nearly enough work on this to answer the questions I put forth in my speech or that any of my colleagues on this side of the House have put forth, whether today or in the previous days with respect to the impaired-driving law as it pertains to the cannabis law.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty hard to be interesting at this late hour, but I will try.

I had a chance, or the misfortune, depending on your perspective, to read this cannabis bill in its entirety, but I was left wanting more. I had a thousand and one questions I wanted to ask. Why is this bill being rushed through? Why does it not have more teeth? Why is it set up as a framework that absolves the Liberal Party of all responsibility and downloads it all onto the provinces and municipalities? That bothers me.

We are presented with a framework that outlines the use and legalization of cannabis, but the Liberals should have started with decriminalizing marijuana, for now, before legalizing it. They did not really listen to the stakeholders, and that also bothers me. A number of scientists who do research on cannabis use among young people have said in the media just how dangerous smoking cannabis can be for the human brain. Indeed, when people smoke, they inhale smoke; they do not fake it. They want to have fun, and apparently it happens quicker when you inhale.

Before I read this bill, I honestly did not know that the brain continues to develop until age 25. As the grandmother of a six-year-old boy, I have concerns about this bill and its content. Of course, I am concerned about the use of cannabis, but the government never talks about education or putting resources in place. The government is handing that work over to the provinces without establishing a financial framework.

When it comes to a bill that is as massive as this one, the government ought to have an exchange of ideas and have discussions with its peers, whether it be the provinces, the municipalities, doctors, or people who work with addicts. This government had other plans, however. It will leave it up to the provinces to do most of the work associated with this legislation.

The government is saying that the legal age will be 18, but that it will be left up to the provinces. If the government is going to go to the trouble of drafting a bill, why not standardize the legal age across Canada? When drafting a bill, why leave it up to the provinces to take care of legalization, public safety, the education system, and the health care system?

The government also did not think to make investments to deal with psychiatric issues. We have heard many psychiatrists and psychologists say that marijuana, like any other drug, can induce psychosis in people with mental health issues. This bill makes no mention of mental health, even though this issue should have been included and studied. The government is asking the provinces to do all of this at the same time, in just a year, by 2018, as though it were easy.

When it comes to a bill as massive as this one, and one that makes such an important change, we must build on a much stronger foundation that this.

The government is asking the provinces to think of everything. They are given a framework and directives, but apart from drafting the bill, what is the federal government doing? It did not consult anyone, as we have seen in the case of nearly every other file before the House.

The government says it speaks on behalf of all Canadians, but it does not seem to have spoken to the people of Charlevoix, because back home, everywhere I go, pot is not tolerated. No one supports this bill. I do not even talk about it all that much, but people know me and when they see me, they ask what I think. Personally, this bill bothers me. Even though this might not bother the Liberals, they still have to listen to people.

Ordinary Canadians are also concerned about this bill. Canadians were not consulted. This bill was written as an electoral promise, and since it was a Liberal promise, that party did not get the job done, just as it has not gotten the job done on so many other issues before the House.

In addition to being seriously lacking, this bill is designed to line the pockets of Liberal Party friends according to one newspaper report after another. Quite a few names come to mind. This is another way to make money at taxpayers' expense.

Now let us talk about offences. How is cannabis use supposed to be detected? Has anyone come up with a system like the one we have for alcohol that is sophisticated enough to detect cannabis use beyond a doubt? Has anyone considered people's rights, since this involves taking blood samples? Not all provinces have that kind of legislation and are willing to accept this. The government did not discuss this bill with the provinces before introducing it.

Who did the Liberals consult? I would sure like to know. When they drafted this bill and showed it to us, they said they had done consultations, but we know that nobody in our ridings was consulted. Municipalities were not consulted, nor were public safety people, police officers, or EMTs. Very few people were consulted, not in Quebec at any rate, because not a lot of people in my riding were consulted, and I can say that 90% of my constituents are against this bill for a number of reasons. This bill highlights our weakness.

When I read the bill, what was even worse was learning that the Minister of Justice will make all the decisions. He will even decide how much marijuana will cost. He is going to become the biggest dealer in Canada. He will be our children's dealer because this bill gives him all the power.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the member for her speech. It was a tad demagogic, but we have come to expect that from her.

I would like to end the evening on a good note. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I am asking my colleague to ask her colleagues, the other champions, to be more positive for the remainder of the session.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not accept anyone speaking to me like that. I have the right to express my ideas, that does not make me a demagogue. If my colleague does not respect women, that is his problem.

Someone talked about Al Capone and now I am being called a demagogue, even though demagoguery is a traditionally Liberal trait. I expressed my point of view, which is that I will not be supporting the bill because it is full of contradictions. I have never wanted the Minister of Justice to become Canadians' dealer.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:55 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts about something that happened during the election campaign.

I was participating in a debate with young people in grades 9, 10, and 11 at a school in Notre-Dame-du-Nord. When these young people asked the familiar question of what our party would do for them, the Liberal candidate said a few words and then she added that her party planned to legalize marijuana. That is how she answered the question.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that answer.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am astounded to hear that the candidate gave that answer at a high school debate. It seems to me that there are many things that the government could do for young people other than getting them high before they are even capable of making decisions.

That being said, the most important thing that we can do for young people is to educate them. They need to get the best education we can give them. The first thing that we need to do is to educate our young people, and we will not accomplish that by smoking pot.

When we talk to our young people, we need to give them hope for a better world. We should not necessarily tell them that they are going to be living in Care-a-Lot, but we should tell them that they are going to be living in a real world where they need to find jobs, be the best they can be, go to school, and have dreams. Being in an altered state is not the same as having dreams.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, speaking of altering things, will the Conservative Party be altering its stance on free votes? Will Conservatives be able to vote freely? We all know the member for Beauce said the vote on marijuana would be a free vote.

My colleague asked if we consulted Canadians. Absolutely. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police was consulted. The Barreau du Québec was consulted. The Canadian Association of Police Governance was consulted.

The Criminal Lawyers' Association was consulted. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association was consulted.

A whole bunch of Canadians were consulted. I cannot believe the Conservative Party is being so rigid. Will members on that side of the House be able to vote freely?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 11:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want my colleague across the way to know that members on this side of the House can vote freely when the time comes.

What we saw during yesterday's vote on autism was not a free vote. Many members on that side of the House wanted to vote as we did, but they had to toe the line.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak today to Bill C-45. The bill proposes a framework to restrict and strictly regulate access to cannabis in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians, to keep cannabis out of the hands of young people, and to keep the profits out of the hands of criminals.

I introduced Bill C-45 on April 13, alongside another important piece of legislation, Bill C-46, which proposes new and stronger laws to more seriously tackle drug and alcohol impaired driving.

In the 2015 Speech from the Throne, our government committed to legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis. This commitment is motivated by a recognition that Canada's existing approach to cannabis, one of criminal prohibition, is not working. It has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit, while failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of young Canadians. In many cases, it is easier for kids to buy cannabis than cigarettes or a bottle of beer.

Statistics tell us that the current system of criminal prohibition is failing. Youth in Canada use cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world. A 2013 UNICEF report found that teenagers in Canada used cannabis more than teenagers in any other developed country. The 2015 Canadian tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey found that 21% of Canadian youth aged 15 to 19 and 30% of young adults from age 20 to 24 reported using cannabis.

The current approach to cannabis has created an environment where organized crime reaps billions of dollars in profits from the sale of illicit cannabis, and thousands of Canadians end up with criminal records for non-violent minor cannabis offences each year.

A majority of Canadians no longer believe that simple possession of small amounts of cannabis should be subject to harsh criminal sanctions, which can have lifelong impacts for individuals and take up precious resources in our criminal justice system. Our government agrees that there is a better approach.

Bill C-45 would pave the way for Canada to become the first G20 country to enact legislation to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis at the national level. The overall goal would be to protect the health and safety of Canadians, with a particular focus on protecting young people. Our government understands the complexity of this initiative. That is why we have taken a cautious evidence-based approach.

To ensure that our legislation would be informed by evidence, my colleagues, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Health, and I announced the creation of a task force on cannabis legalization and regulation on June 30, 2016. Its mandate was to advise our government on the design of a regulatory system.

The task force conducted extensive consultations across the country, visited the states of Washington and Colorado, both of which have legal access to cannabis for non-medical purposes, and considered nearly 30,000 online submissions sent in by Canadians. It also sought the views of a diverse community of experts, professionals, advocates, front-line workers, youth, indigenous communities and organizations, government officials, law enforcement, citizens, and employers, as set out in its mandate.

All Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to the chair of the task force, the Hon. Anne McLellan, and the eight other distinguished members, all experts in their own right and all of whom volunteered significant amounts of their time throughout the second half of 2016.

The task force delivered its final report on December 13, 2016, entitled, “A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada.” The chair described this final report as the result of a truly national collaboration, featuring a diversity of opinions and expertise expressed by those who gave their time and reflections.

I would invite members who may wish to inform themselves of the complex and cross-cutting issues and challenges associated with cannabis legalization to have a look at this substantive piece of work. The report has been very well received, is comprehensive, and provides important background information on the issues this bill seeks to address.

The task force is comprised of over 80 recommendations for the development of the cannabis framework in Canada. It reflects a public health approach aimed at reducing harm and promoting the health and safety of Canadians.

The recommendations fall under five themes:

First, in taking a public health approach to the regulation of cannabis, the task force proposed measures that would maintain and improve the health of Canadians by minimizing the potential harms associated with cannabis use.

Second, the task force called for the creation of a safe and responsible supply chain and recommended the design of an appropriate distribution system. The task force noted that the government's principal interest should be to establish an efficient, accountable, and transparent system for regulatory oversight of the supply chain, emphasizing the protection of health and safety and reducing diversion to the illicit market. It recommended that wholesale distribution of cannabis be regulated by the provinces and territories.

Third, the task force highlighted the need for clear enforceable rules to ensure that all Canadians and law enforcement agencies understood what was permitted and what continued to be prohibited under the new legal regime. The task force also heard that penalties for contravening the new rules would need to be proportional to the contravention and that the criminal justice system should only be employed where truly necessary.

Fourth, the task force recommendations for a regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis were informed by the existing rules governing the medical system. These rules establish safeguards to ensure product quality and security, as well as safety provisions to prevent diversion.

Fifth, the task force report underscores that the regulation of cannabis is a complex public policy issue. As with other such issues, the depth and scale of the complexity increases as we turn to the practicalities of implementation. Our government recognizes that it will be necessary for all levels of government to coordinate efforts in order to implement an effective regime. We remain committed to working with our provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as with municipalities, to develop a framework that strictly regulates access to cannabis in a way that works for everyone involved.

Building on the recommendations of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, our government has proposed legislation that pursues a new approach to the regulation of cannabis. The approach sets national standards and will be more effective at protecting public health and safety, keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth and reducing the role of the illegal market and organized crime.

Our government's commitment to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis marks a major change for Canada. However, I am convinced that what is proposed in Bill C-45 is the best approach for Canadians.

I would like to speak to a few components of Bill C-45.

I will begin by highlighting the overarching purpose of the bill. Simply put, its purpose is to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Specifically, it aims to protect the health of young people by restricting their access to cannabis; to protect young people and others from advertising and other promotional activities that are likely to encourage them to use cannabis; to provide for the lawful protection of cannabis to reduce illegal activities in relation to cannabis; to deter illegal activities in relation to cannabis through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures; to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis; to provide Canadians with access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis; and to enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.

I want to emphasize that while our government is legalizing cannabis, we are also strictly regulating and restricting access to it.

Bill C-45 would create a new legal framework that would allow adults to access legal cannabis through an appropriate retail framework, sourced from a well-regulated industry or grown in limited amounts at home. Adults 18 years or older would be permitted to legally possess up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis in public, or its equivalent in other forms. Adults could also legally share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent, with other adults. Selling, or possessing cannabis to sell it, would only be lawful if authorized under the act. Under no circumstances could cannabis be sold or given to a young person. Production of cannabis would also have to be authorized under the act.

Possession, production, distribution, importation, exportation, and sale outside the legal framework would be illegal and subject to criminal penalties. These penalties would be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence, ranging from ticketing up to a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment. This reflects a measured approach to meet our legislative objectives.

Bill C-45 would exempt young persons who possess up to five grams of cannabis from criminal prosecution. Our government has proposed this approach because we do not want to expose young people to the criminal justice system for possessing what amounts to very small amounts of cannabis.

For possession or distribution of more than five grams, young people would be subject to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which emphasizes community-based responses that promote rehabilitation and reintegration. For less serious offences, alternatives to charging would be encouraged, such as taking no further action, warning the young person, or referring the young person to a community program or agency to help address the circumstances underlying the offending behaviour.

Moreover, our government would be engaging with the provinces and territories to encourage them to create provincial offences that would apply to youth possession under five grams of cannabis. This would provide police with the authority to seize cannabis from a young person while not subjecting the person to the consequences of criminal liability for these small amounts. This would be similar to the approach that has been taken in the context of alcohol.

Such a measured approach for youth is consistent with the task force report, which stated that simple possession for youth should not be a criminal offence but that sanctions should focus on adults who provide cannabis to youth. It is also consistent with the substantive body of evidence concerning the heightened risks of cannabis use for young persons, including the effects on brain development. This approach would also address our objective of keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth while ensuring that they do not enter the criminal justice system for minor possession offences.

Bill C-45 would allow cannabis producers to promote their brands and provide information about their products, but only where young persons would not be exposed to it. These limits are reasonable. They would allow adult consumers to make informed decisions, but they respond to the greater risks cannabis poses for young people.

Under the proposed legislation, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments would all share responsibility for overseeing the new system. The federal government would oversee the production and manufacturing components of the cannabis framework and would set industry-wide rules and standards.

Provinces and territories would generally be responsible for the distribution and sale components of the framework. They would also be able to create further restrictions as they saw fit, including increasing the minimum age in their jurisdictions to, for example, align with the drinking age, and lowering possession limits for cannabis, which could be pursued to further protect youth. Further, the provinces and territories, along with the municipalities, could create additional rules for growing cannabis at home, including the possibility of lowering the number of plants allowed for residents and restricting the places in which cannabis could be consumed.

In addition to working with the provinces and territories to establish a secure supply chain, jurisdictions would be key partners in our government's efforts to raise public awareness about the potential risks associated with cannabis use.

Our government believes in evidence-based policy. We would monitor patterns of and perceptions around cannabis use among Canadians, especially youth, through an annual Canadian cannabis survey. The data gathered would inform and refine public education and awareness activities to mitigate the risks and harms of use. In this regard, as spelled out in budget 2017, existing funding of $9.6 million would be directed to public education and awareness and monitoring and surveillance activities.

Our government intends to offset the broader costs associated with implementing this new system by collecting licensing and other fees and through revenues generated through taxation. This is currently what we do with the tobacco and alcohol industries.

Subject to approval by Parliament, our government intends to bring the proposed legislation into force no later than July 2018. At that time, adults across Canada would be able to legally possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent, when in public. They could share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent, with other adults. They would be able to purchase dried or fresh cannabis or cannabis oil from a provincially regulated retailer, or, in jurisdictions that have not put a regulated retail framework in place, online from a federally licensed producer. Adults could choose to grow up to four cannabis plants per residence, subject to a height restriction of one metre. They could also make legal cannabis-containing products, provided that dangerous solvents were not used.

Upon the legislation coming into force, adults would be able to legally purchase fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils, and seeds or plants for cultivation. Other products, such as edibles, would become available at a later date, once federal regulations for their production and sale were developed.

I would note as well that the current program for access to cannabis for medical purposes would continue under the new act. This is in keeping with the task force recommendation to initially maintain a separate medical access framework to support patients.

Our government has been clear that to meet its objectives of keeping cannabis out of the hands of kids and the profits out of the hands of criminals, there needs to be a legal means by which adult Canadians can purchase cannabis. Our government's objective is to provide room for the provinces and territories to establish distribution and retail systems that align with their unique circumstances.

Recognizing that some provinces and territories may not have systems set up and running upon royal assent, our government is proposing to facilitate access for Canadians to a regulated, quality-controlled supply of cannabis through a secure mail system via existing licensed producers.

I would like to conclude by encouraging all members to support Bill C-45. I know that the status quo is not working. All members of this House understand that we must do better, especially for our youth. The proposed legislation represents a balanced approach designed to protect the health and safety of Canadians. It would provide adults with regulated access to legal cannabis 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.

By reducing demand in the illicit market, the proposed regime would also cut the profits of criminal organizations that are benefiting greatly from the current regime.

Bill C-45 would also help reduce the burden on police and the criminal justice system with respect to non-violent minor offences. In addition, the bill proposes to strengthen laws and enforcement measures to deter and punish more serious cannabis offences, particularly selling and distributing to youth and selling outside the regulatory framework.

Following the debate at second reading, I urge all members of the House to support BillC-45 at second reading and refer it to committee.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two quick questions for the Minister of Justice. She indicated that this whole bill is based on evidence-based policies. She said that is the policy of her government. She must be aware of the fact that the Canadian Medical Association has already come out with its stand on this, which is that the use of cannabis has significant psychological impacts on brain development until the age of 25. In addition, the Canadian Pediatric Society considers that young people using marijuana, up to age 25, are jeopardizing their brain health. If it is evidence-based policy, would she not agree that this is completely inconsistent with that?

She mentioned on at least six occasions during her speech that the Liberals were very interested in protecting youth. Is there any easier way for young people to get marijuana than if their parents have four plants in the kitchen? Is there any easier way for them to have access than that?