Cannabis Act

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

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Nov. 30, 2017

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enacts the Cannabis Act to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale.

The objectives of the Act are to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework. The Act is also intended to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.

The Act

(a) establishes criminal prohibitions such as the unlawful sale or distribution of cannabis, including its sale or distribution to young persons, and the unlawful possession, production, importation and exportation of cannabis;

(b) enables the Minister to authorize the possession, production, distribution, sale, importation and exportation of cannabis, as well as to suspend, amend or revoke those authorizations when warranted;

(c) authorizes persons to possess, sell or distribute cannabis if they are authorized to sell cannabis under a provincial Act that contains certain legislative measures;

(d) prohibits any promotion, packaging and labelling of cannabis that could be appealing to young persons or encourage its consumption, while allowing consumers to have access to information with which they can make informed decisions about the consumption of cannabis;

(e) provides for inspection powers, the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties and the ability to commence proceedings for certain offences by means of a ticket;

(f) includes mechanisms to deal with seized cannabis and other property;

(g) authorizes the Minister to make orders in relation to matters such as product recalls, the provision of information, the conduct of tests or studies, and the taking of measures to prevent non-compliance with the Act;

(h) permits the establishment of a cannabis tracking system for the purposes of the enforcement and administration of the Act;

(i) authorizes the Minister to fix, by order, fees related to the administration of the Act; and

(j) authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting such matters as quality, testing, composition, packaging and labelling of cannabis, security clearances and the collection and disclosure of information in respect of cannabis as well as to make regulations exempting certain persons or classes of cannabis from the application of the Act.

This enactment also amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things, increase the maximum penalties for certain offences and to authorize the Minister to engage persons having technical or specialized knowledge to provide advice. It repeals item 1 of Schedule II and makes consequential amendments to that Act as the result of that repeal.

In addition, it repeals Part XII.‍1 of the Criminal Code, which deals with instruments and literature for illicit drug use, and makes consequential amendments to that Act.

It amends the Non-smokers’ Health Act to prohibit the smoking and vaping of cannabis in federally regulated places and conveyances.

Finally, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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

May 30th, 2017 / 10:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my colleague's comments. We have some similarities, in our backgrounds in education working with students and in what we are concerned about.

Also, public health is another part that I have been involved in through the administration of large health regions. I mean public health in the sense that the number that has been proposed is in singular millions. We spent that much in a health region for public health to deal with smoking and we were able to drive down the number of people who were smoking, especially teenagers, who are most at risk. The most at risk in that group were pregnant females, who were really at risk from smoking, yet even with singular millions in one health region, we did not get where we wanted to go with our students.

Would the member please respond again about the similar situations we had at schools as we worked with students and how we understand how critical education is, and the amount of money we need, which is sadly lacking in this proposal?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 10:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government has a majority. Will we be able to prevent this bill that will cause harm—irreparable harm in my view—to our young people from passing? I do not think so. If the government wants to go forward, all I ask is that the members opposite who are mothers and fathers insist that the government make every possible effort to convince young people not to use marijuana and to help parents and family members to cope with the situation.

Some people seem to take this lightly, when it is in fact a very real problem. We know that the Liberals have the power and the members they need to pass the bill, but if they do, they have to take responsibility. For those who are not part of cabinet, now is the time to speak up and insist that the government do things right and give money and resources to those who will be faced with the problems that the government is going to create. The government has to help marijuana users to stop and, most importantly, prevent people from using it in the first place if possible.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 10:55 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have listened very carefully to the member opposite. He seems to be focused on a very small, singular aspect of the bill before us tonight; that is, the issue of legalization. He seems quite loath to make any acknowledgement that there are 131 pages here that articulate very strict regulations for the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis, which will be a far more effective regime in responding to the access that children currently have to cannabis, and dealing effectively with organized crime. I want to assure him that my question does not arise from talking points; it arises from four decades of keeping kids safe and protecting my community in Toronto, as well as over a decade as the chair of the national organized crime committee. Therefore, I do have some experience and expertise in this. I will assure him, and perhaps reassure him, by drawing his attention to clauses 10 through 15 of this bill, that the bill maintains very strong prohibitions under criminal law for the illegal distribution, production, import, export, and use of kids for the sale of these drugs. They are very strong regulations to control organized crime.

I will also share with him my experience dealing with organized crime and gambling, which is an activity that is still on the books as gaming offences. However, over four decades ago, governments across this country began to strictly regulate gambling, and it drove organized crime out of that business. Perhaps more importantly, the revenue from that business is now invested into treatment and rehabilitation for those who suffer the ill effects of gambling. Therefore, I want to reassure the member, with respect to his comments, that this is not a fly-by approach but an exhaustive examination of the evidence and the best advice of experts. He raised a number of issues and quoted a number of statistics that I would hope to have an opportunity to clarify for him in the future with respect to the Colorado experience.

However, given the fact that this a very comprehensive bill, it clearly provides a regime for the strict regulation of the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis, which in my opinion, based on four decades of experience, will do a better job of protecting our kids. I would urge him to actually read the bill.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, my colleague should not doubt that I have read the bill. I have read it, because I am here to discuss it. I take exception to the member asking if I have read the bill.

It is true that the bill would increase penalties for selling drugs and do all the things my colleague just mentioned. The bill will also legalize marijuana. It will ultimately trivialize marijuana usage. It does not matter if the bill is 100, 200, or 1,000 pages long, the end result is that marijuana will be legalized, its usage will be trivialized and criminal organizations will keep finding ways to do what they do.

I acknowledge my colleague's wealth of experience. However, I think there is something fundamentally lacking in this process, and that is prevention and education. Really, $1.9 million per year over five years is ridiculous, considering the hundreds of millions of dollars of profit the Liberals will make out of this. It is pitiful.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-45, on which I worked very hard. This bill will allow the Liberal government to legalize marijuana; for those who might not know, the substance has been illegal in Canada for 94 years. To top it off, the government hopes to accomplish all this in under a year.

That is a very tight timeline for a subject as complex as this, especially when we take the time to look at what other countries have done. Why the rush? One has to wonder, given that the government keeps repeating over and over again and shouting from the rooftops that it has two main objectives, which are to restrict the activities of organized crime, perhaps even to wipe it out entirely, and to keep the substance out of the hands of children.

I will speak to a few different points. First, organized crime will not back off. Furthermore, young people will have even greater access to marijuana, there will be an increase in impaired driving, and workplace safety, which is nowhere to be found in this bill, will take a turn for the worse, endangering workers. Many business leaders are quite concerned about this. Housing-related problems will rise too. We will be faced with serious problems, and yet no one is talking about it. Among other things, there will be an increase in hospitalization rates and in calls to poison control centres, while ethical problems will grow.

Conservatives are not the ones saying all this, and I am certainly not pulling these facts out of my hat; these are the conclusions of studies done by experts who are not financed by pro-marijuana lobbies. These are the facts. These studies were conducted by experts and health professionals, and the results were presented by actual scientists. I would also add that there are real examples of places where governments legalized marijuana. I will go through them all one by one.

First, with regard to organized crime and according to my own research, no marijuana legislation will succeed in wiping out organized crime. In Uruguay and in some of the U.S. states that have legalized marijuana, black markets have only grown.

I will now quote someone who is not a Conservative MP or a mean old Conservative, as the Liberals like to put it.

Despite having legalized recreational marijuana use, Colorado has seen a rise in black market activity. The state is the second largest producer of illegal marijuana after California.

Who said this? The chief of the Denver Police Department.

Criminals are still active on the black market. We have a whole range of cartels active in Colorado, and illegal activity has not dropped one bit.

Who said this, now? The Colorado Attorney General.

The decriminalization of cannabis use has not eliminated organized crime. It has merely adapted and managed to gain a foothold in coffee shops, while retaining control over cannabis production.

Who said that? A criminologist analyzing the situation in Uruguay. Again, this person has is a non-partisan opinion.

Let us now talk about protecting children. I think it is completely inconsistent for the Prime Minister to want to limit access to cannabis for young people while allowing people to grow up to four plants in their own house or apartment.

Even worse, he makes it legal for kids under 18 who are not even supposed to be allowed to use marijuana to have five grams in their pockets. It is illegal, but who cares, kids can have five grams. It boggles the mind.

This government claims to make science-based decisions, but what does the science say? It says that marijuana is dangerous for young people under 25. What is the government's response? It says that it does not matter and that the legal age will be 18. If they had the courage, the Liberals would stop quoting scientists and stop trying to sell this nonsense to Canadians.

I have a few more quotes. I did not make them up, but they come from surprising sources.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of marijuana because adolescence is a critical time for brain development.

I found that quote on Health Canada's website. It is from the government's own public servants, who are neutral and have nothing to do with the Conservative Party.

Here is another quote. In Colorado, the number of patients admitted to hospitals after the legalization of marijuana increased dramatically. It almost tripled, from 803 diagnostics per 100,000 people from 2001 to 2009 before legalization to 2,142 diagnostics per 100,000 people after legalization.

That is from a Colorado Public Safety report.

Here is another good example. Calls regarding overdoses made to poison control centres rose by 108% in Colorado and by 68% in Washington State since 2012.

These numbers are from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center. Would anyone say that these are not credible sources?

The safety of our roads and drug-impaired driving is another major cause of concern in my view. It is already a terrible problem. There are almost as many accidents caused by drug-impaired driving than by alcohol-impaired driving, and the numbers will increase. The facts are clear.

In Washington State, after legalization, fatal accidents caused by impaired driving doubled. In Colorado, they tripled.

Here are a few more quotes:

CAA-Québec members are worried by marijuana becoming legal in Canada. [We could do the same survey in other provinces and I am convinced the results would be the same.] Some 73% of respondents to a survey done by the organization expressed concerns that this measure proposed by the [Liberal] government would negatively impact road and highway safety.

Here is another one, from a surprising source: “The number of car accidents in Colorado increased because of marijuana usage.” Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to Barack Obama on drug policy, is the author of that quote.

“Close to half of Canadians who drive while under the influence of cannabis think that they are not a danger on the road.”

That is over 50%. In his budget, the government is setting aside $1.9 million for awareness campaigns in the entire country, knowing full well that legalization will occur within a year. That is absolutely ridiculous. Half of marijuana users currently consider that they are not dangerous.

Let us now turn to workplace safety. Many Canadian business leaders are concerned that the legalization of marijuana could lead to workplace safety problems. Many business owners and experts spoke to this in recent months.

“'It's so dangerous.' With cannabis becoming legal, he feels that the problem could get worse and he doesn't feel prepared.” This is a quote from Alain Raymond, owner of a roofing company.

“We know that cannabis can have an impact on concentration and reflexes. We also know that cannabis can be detected 15 to 30 days after use. How about an employee who uses marijuana on the weekend but doesn't want his or her employer to know? What does that person do?” That is from Hugo Morissette, a human resources consultant.

Judging by the Colorado experience, these concerns are justified. The number of employees affected by marijuana has risen dramatically in Colorado, from 2.7% in 2011 to 7.5% in 2015, after legalization. The numbers have tripled. It is not insignificant.

The CEO of GE Johnson even said that it was so difficult to find employees that could pass a mouth swab test for marijuana, that he had to hire people from outside the state.

In short, considering the obligations of every employer in Quebec and in every other province, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana will expose employers and employees to many legal and other associated risks, such as the risk of more workplace accidents, increased employee absenteeism, and lower employee productivity. Employees would also be at risk of developing a marijuana addiction, which would in turn require that employers provide proper accommodation. Lastly, there would be a risk of increased health care cost-related claims. That is yet another aspect of the marijuana legalization issue that is far from settled, and the bill does nothing to settle it.

I will now return to the issue I spoke of early on in my speech, that of rental properties. Not a single word on this can be found in the bill. Marijuana legalization complicates the management of rental properties. Landlords fear that growing these plants indoors, up to four per housing unit, will cause damage to the units. What is more, dangerous modifications to existing electrical systems will lead to an increased risk of fire and accidents. Those hoping for an earlier harvest will undoubtedly attempt to tinker with their grid.

I will move a bit more quickly through the other parts, as I do not have many people to persuade. Marijuana's effects on health are particularly troubling to me. Medical experts agree that marijuana is a dangerous drug for children and teenagers; I would add that it is dangerous for all vulnerable persons. Whether for or against legalization, everyone can agree on that.

The Liberals are reluctant to admit that cannabis consumption has the same effect on teenagers, unlike alcohol, and that is to cause permanent damage to the brain. The Canadian Medical Association has already warned the government that occasional cannabis use can have severe psychological repercussions on the brain's development, even up to age 25.

The Canadian Medical Association recommends a legal minimum age, and it would even agree to drop that number down to 21, if that would help the government make a wise decision. What was this irresponsible government's response? Eighteen years. The Liberals have the nerve to say they base their decisions on science and on experts, but the truth of the matter is that they base their decisions on their friends who will benefit from the legalization of marijuana. I will return to this a bit later.

Today, Colorado ranks first in cannabis consumption. Before legalization, and for ten consecutive years, it took 14th place. How can the Liberals assure parents that legal marijuana will stay far, far away from the children? On that, the Liberals are radio silent and offer no assurances.

How can the Liberals claim that legalizing marijuana and allowing the personal cultivation of up to four plants per housing unit will lead to limiting children's access to marijuana? Once again, the Liberals are radio silent. They are keeping mum on the real issues, which raises some serious questions as to the government's true intentions.

I am now getting to the really juicy part of my speech. I got a call from a friend of mine last week. He is always on top of the news cycle. He asked me to explain to him why, despite all the warnings, the Liberal government had decided to go forward with its legislation. I answered that there definitely had to be a reason. The reason is simple: the government has friends who will benefit from this move. It is a lucrative business for marijuana production company CEOs. This week, we learned that a third of these companies have at least one major Liberal Party donor on their board of directors. Those are the facts. These companies are run by people close to the Liberal Party. I will name a few. I will add that I did not even have to dig too deep, because the story is getting quite a bit of media coverage these days.

Here is one of the quotes:

The co-founder of The Hydropothecary, the only licensed producer of medical marijuana in Quebec, Adam Miron, was the national director of the Liberal Party of Canada and the national director of the Young Liberals of Canada.

That is something else, is it not? The only licensed producer in Quebec is part of the Liberal Party of Canada. Here is another quote:

At Aurora Cannabis, which is trying to open a plant on Hymus Boulevard in west Montreal, Chuck Rifici, who was on the board of directors, was the chief financial officer of the Liberal Party of Canada until last summer.

Last summer is not very long ago. I think that people know him, but we do not have the right to say these things about him outside the House because he files lawsuits against us if we name him. At least here I can say these things. Here is another quote:

Mr. Rifici was working for the Liberal Party of Canada when he co-founded Tweed, which became the largest producer of medical marijuana in the country, with a market capitalization of over $1 billion.

We need not look very far to see why the government is in such a rush to legalize marijuana. All of the research and statistics show that marijuana is dangerous for children and that we do not have enough information. However, no measures have been put in place to ensure that children will be protected against this product. There is also no evidence to show that there will be fewer motor vehicle accidents. Our police officers do not even have the proper equipment.

I sponsored Senator Claude Carignan's bill in the House, and it is already pretty far along in the process, but the government plans to vote against it, even though it could speed up the process if for no other reason than to ensure that our police officers are properly equipped and to give them the training they need so that they are able to actually take action on July 1 if the government goes forward with this.

Since a Conservative senator was the one who introduced the bill, the government decided not to support it. Instead, it decided to come up with another bill to draw things out, even though Senator Carignan's bill had the unanimous support of the Senate, including that of independent Liberal senators, or maybe they are not independent. We no longer know. The reality is that we are not going to be ready.

I will return to the topic at hand. It is also about ethics. President Barack Obama's former advisor on drug policies, Kevin Sabet, says that they were fooled. He believes that the legalization of marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and the State of Washington is all about money and benefits private equity firms, and that the decision had nothing to do with public health. He says that there is a huge industry in Colorado, which is like the tobacco industry and has its own lobbyists.

That is the reality. It has nothing to do with good intentions that go over well when the Liberals talk to Canadians. The reality is that what they are saying is false and that there is a lobby that is applying pressure. Every U.S. state where marijuana was legalized or is in the process of being legalized held a referendum. Moreover, in the states where marijuana was legalized, it was by a narrow margin of 50.5%, 51%, or 52% of the vote. Who provided the information? It was always the big marijuana lobby. That is the reality.

What is happening in Canada is surprising. I believe I spoke about this earlier. I named names, and I am not going to return to that. However, I have some interesting information about the person who will certainly ask me a question, and that is the parliamentary secretary responsible for the legalization of marijuana. He is being investigated by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with respect to a fundraiser attended by Liberal donors who are lobbying for the legalization of marijuana. He will ask me a question, and I will enjoy answering him.

One person at the fundraising cocktail party attended by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, who was the special guest, and also responsible for the legalization of marijuana, pointed out that there were many other people from the cannabis industry that were trying to get his attention. I think we are starting to get the picture.

A recent article in La Presse revealed that former Liberal politicians and former senior Liberal Party officials sit on the boards of directors of the largest cannabis producers in the country and make donations to the Liberal Party. It could not be any clearer. Pretending that the government is presenting a bill that will protect our kids and keep our roads safe is disingenuous. It is not true.

If the Prime Minister used his notoriety to promote healthy life choices, it would be much more useful and a lot less young people and other individuals would be smoking marijuana.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:20 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite correctly has said that he is protected by privilege in this room and, quite frankly, he uses that privilege perhaps quite inappropriately. I will respond to a number of things he said.

First, he maligned Canadian citizens in his remarks as somehow gaining some opportunity or advantage from this government. As I have already mentioned to his colleague, all of the companies and individuals he mentioned who received licences received them from the Conservative government, from him. I am beginning to suspect you are so well versed in malfeasance, perhaps you have better understanding of this than I do. The decisions to give those companies licences was a decision made by your government.

The member also raises an issue about something I have, a number of times—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned that as a result of a completely baseless accusation made to the Ethics Commissioner, I was the subject of an investigation. I have been completely cleared. I have also been the subject of a number of other similar baseless accusations that came from somewhere, of which I have been completely cleared. It seems to be a tactic used on the opposite side to bring these matters forward without any evidence or fact.

Let me give him some facts. The fact is that our children—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes, and the worst part about it is that they are going to continue to get it from organized crime. What did it say in the report that the working group tabled, the report that the parliamentary secretary relied on to draft this bill? The government is not going to legislate on THC levels. Instead, it is going to say that the higher the THC level, the more it will cost. What is organized crime going to do? It is going to continue to charge less. Even better, people will save a minimum of 15% in taxes by buying cannabis from organized crime. That is what is going to happen. This is going to continue.

Experience shows that this is the case. In Colorado, organized crime continued to operate. The Liberals need to stop talking nonsense. They need to rely on the sound evidence that is there and that speaks for itself. Their own report says that this will be the case.

I imagine that the Liberals are so defensive because they know that something is not right. I hope that they will start to wake up because that is what Canadians are doing. None of the states in the U.S. legalized marijuana without at least holding a referendum to find out what people thought about it. Right now, the Liberals are trying to shove this down our throats whether we like it or not.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:25 p.m.
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NDP

Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the examples that he gave regarding the United States and for the many arguments he presented regarding the Liberal government's bill.

I would like to ask my colleague whether he can better explain the Conservative's position on this issue. Are the Conservatives satisfied with the existing system? Marijuana is available everywhere in Canada, but Canadians can face criminal charges for using it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his very relevant question.

During the convention we had in Vancouver last year, I think we demonstrated openness to the possibility of decriminalization. This could perhaps be an intermediate step before we think about legalization. We all agree. My colleague talked about this earlier. No one thinks that a kid who smokes a joint at 15 or 16 years old for various reasons or because he wants to try it should go to prison or have a criminal record. However, that is not what this government has planned.

The worst is that the government is telling us that it wants to protect kids and educate people and raise awareness, but at the same time, it says that instead of giving money to organized crime, it is going to leave that money in government coffers. It talks about the millions of dollars generated by the sale of marijuana in their various organizations. If that is the case, why is it spending only $1.9 million in each of the next five years on education? $1.9 million will only pay for one 30-second ad to play during two or three shows. That is irresponsible. If the government were serious about this, we would see it in the budget. We would see measures and money to put the right equipment in police cars, to train police officers across Canada, to launch fundraising campaigns, to support the municipalities, schools, and health care systems, to prepare us for what lies ahead. The fact is that cannabis consumption will go up, because the government wants to make money. This Liberal government is a money making machine. It has a deficit to pay for, and this is the best way it has come up with to make money.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to commend my colleague from Victoriaville, who prepared a very thorough presentation on the devastating effects of the Liberal bill on both public health and safety. We saw this in particular with the safety of youth.

I know that my colleague is interested in safety, and I would like to ask him a question. He showed us that the Liberals' motivation is money. That is clearly what he told us. I would like to remind him of a statement by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which indicates that drug impaired driving will be one of the main threats to public safety if recreational marijuana is legalized. He spoke about his private member's bill that he wants to sponsor. Could he tell us more? How can we avoid this? The rate of impaired driving is already high. How can we reduce the number of accidents on the road caused by drunk driving?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very valid question. I had that in my notes, but 20 minutes is not a lot of time for such an important bill.

He is absolutely right. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police put out a report in February saying it was extremely concerned about marijuana legalization. It called for police vehicles to be equipped immediately with screening devices to detect impaired driving and said that officers should have the power to conduct tests the same way they use breathalyzers for alcohol. However, given the tight timelines, the government simply will not be able to do it.

If the government sticks to its timeline and legalizes marijuana on July 1 so everyone can party on Canada Day 2018, which seems to be the idea, the government will not be able to do that in time.

Any good manager knows that setting a reasonable timeline means starting from the end date, which is July 1, 2018, and working back in time, accounting for procurement and training. It just does not add up. It is already too late to get it done in time. Vehicles will not be equipped, and officers will not be trained. Our roads will become more dangerous, especially since, as I said before, 50% of drivers who use marijuana do not think they are at risk. That is because of a lack of education and awareness. I completely agree. Just how is this government planning to handle that? With a five-year, $1.9-million budget for the whole country. I am not sure anyone would call that a responsible move. I do not think it is.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the cannabis act. It closely follows the recommendations from the task force report of last December, and overall it is a public health approach that also treats Canadians like the responsible adults we are.

We talk a lot about protecting young Canadians in the House, and it is especially important during this particular debate. At the outset, allow me to spend some time to thank young Canadians, and young Liberals in particular.

In 2012, Young Liberals of Canada brought forward a resolution to legalize and regulate marijuana. That resolution noted that millions of Canadians regularly consume cannabis, that billions of dollars have been spent on ineffective enforcement that has resulted in expensive congestion in our judicial system, that progressive cannabis policies have been recommended by various commissions and parliamentary committees, and that the existing black market empowers organized crime. Young Liberals and the Liberal Party of Canada called for legalization and regulation, and that is exactly what we have delivered in the cannabis act.

We know that the status quo is unjust. Tens of thousands of Canadians are charged with cannabis possession every year. Whether or not it results in a conviction, it obviously negatively affects the lives of otherwise law-abiding Canadian adults at the border. Do these Canadians deserve criminal records? Do 43% of Canadians who say they have used cannabis in their lifetime deserve criminal records? Are they criminals? Do 15%, millions of Canadians, deserve criminal records for having used cannabis in the past year?

If I consume a substance and harm no one else in doing so, and do not harm myself in doing so, why is it a crime? There is a strong argument that it should not be, and that argument is grounded in the ideal of freedom. I know that Conservatives care about freedom. A lot of Conservatives care about freedom, because 49% of Conservative members voted for the member for Beauce.

The only explanation for the continued criminalization of cannabis is the idea that the social benefits of the criminal law will somehow reduce consumption and thereby help Canadian society and help others. The criminal law has been incredibly ineffective in doing so when 43% of Canadians self-report that they have used cannabis in their lifetime. We also know that the current approach of prohibition causes more harm than any cannabis use. The black market is empowered by prohibition, and we know that prohibition is the absence of regulations.

I am 32 years old going on 33, and no Canadian I know has ever had a difficult time finding cannabis as a youth—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the black market has no age limit and no quality controls. We also know there is a better way. With tobacco use, we have seen a public health approach succeed, not prohibition but a focus on regulation, restrictions on public use, restrictions on commercial advertising, and a focus on education.

Fifty years ago, 50% of Canadians smoked tobacco. That number is now less than 15%. We do not write tickets to responsible adults for smoking a cigarette or drinking Scotch. We regulate and we educate.

Our approach to cannabis is driven by public health. There is a strict possession limit of an ounce; an age limit of 18, which provinces can set higher if they so wish; and a strict but sensible limitation on commercial advertising. In taking this approach, we recognize the potential harms associated with cannabis use, but we do not overstate them.

In January, the National Academy of Sciences released a literature review of the current state of the evidence and recommendations. Yes, we know there is an association between high cannabis use and psychosis. It is dose dependent and may be moderated by genetics. We also know there is an association between high alcohol consumption and mental health, and we are not criminalizing alcohol. Yes, we should seek to limit the harms of gambling, of alcohol, and of cannabis, but prohibition is not the answer. Our policies should not be permissive. Nor should they be fearmongering.

The leader of the Green Party recognized this as well.

We have struck that balance between Canadians as responsible adults and a public health approach. Legislation on this subject that satisfies a civil libertarian like myself and a former police chief, like my neighbour from Scarborough Southwest, is no easy feat. CAMH supports our public health approach, as does the Canadian Nurses Association.

I have a few comments from constituents of mine. One constituent, Mark Bartlett, says, “Education is the key here, education and not fearmongering, but based and grounded in facts, and education focused on responsible use. Abstinence is the absence of education. We should focus on responsible use that's related to driving offences, related to the risk of addiction because of the frequency of use, and the potential for reduced academic achievement because of the frequency of use.”

I have a few suggestions from constituents related to this legislation.

It is a wonderful thing that we are removing criminal offences for five grams and under for young Canadians. My constituents are certainly skeptical of the value of any criminal records or criminal charges and the use of the criminal law for possession at all.

On the sale to minors, there is obviously an incongruity between the sale of alcohol to minors and the sale of cannabis to minors. A number of constituents have raised this, and it is not to be part of this legislation, but forward-looking record suspensions and amnesty.

I will end where I began. Once we pass the legislation, it is important to undo the past injustices of this incredibly outdated law and to suspend the criminal records of any Canadian affected by a possession charge and a record. This was part of the original Liberal Party of Canada policy resolution, and we should certainly see that policy through.

I have a few comments on the idea that it is driven by dollars, which I have heard from my Conservative colleagues from the other side. We have been very clear that this is not a revenue driven approach, as it largely was to varying degrees in Colorado, but it is a public health approach. We are not looking to maximize revenues; we are looking to undercut the black market. Where we do take in revenue at the federal level, we plan to spend it on treatment and education.

When it comes to the social harms of cannabis, and I cannot emphasize this enough for my Conservative colleagues on the other side, we can take as just one example the potential social harms of cannabis versus a substance like alcohol. We know from the large literature review from the National Academy of Sciences that there are obvious risks for women consuming cannabis during pregnancy. We also know, though, that fetal alcohol syndrom is incredibly costly to our society. Three thousand Canadians a year are affected by this, yet I do not hear anyone in the House proposing a criminal law or ticketing option related to alcohol. We know the answer is regulation and education, and that is exactly what the legislation proposes.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:40 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has given a very balanced speech. I took the bill back to the riding with me and spent a lot of time studying it right after it came out for first reading around April 13. I took it back and read it through over the Easter weekend, and I shared with my constituents what I distilled from it.

It has that sense of balance. I was concerned about a number of aspects. I also want to make sure that public health is central. I am a mom and a grandmom, and I may be the only person who grew up in the 60s who never smoked cannabis. I have concerns about putting anything in my lungs. I have always been cautious, and I am cautious with my kids.

That is why I thought the bill did a good job in terms of having public information and having strict controls. If anything, as I mentioned earlier in this place, the one concern I have about the bill as drafted is that the punishments are overly harsh in some of the criminal aspects for someone who is over 18 and is distributing marijuana to someone under 18.

How does my colleague think we will confront what I think are some fear-based tactics? I have looked up the Colorado experience online, researching it since we have been sitting here, as I had not been able to get in on the debate. It seems to me that what we have heard about Colorado—and perhaps the hon. member can throw some light on it—is not the case; rather, the teens in Colorado were already consuming cannabis much more than teens in other states before it took the measures to legalize. Their experience thus far appears to be cautiously optimistic. They are not seeing more fatalities or car accidents. They are not seeing more organized crime.

The governor, who did not want this to pass when it came forward as a referendum, now says that he would not want to go back to prohibition. He describes the war on drugs, in his words, as a train wreck.

Getting this right is going to be important for Canada, because I think we are going to lead the way for a lot of jurisdictions.