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 / 11:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would second the notion that the war on drugs is an abject failure, with cannabis no less than other substances.

When we look at the Colorado model, we see that those who were not convinced in the first place have seen the successes and have been converts. I expect the very same thing to happen here in this House.

I would emphasize as well that our approach is even more focused on public health than the Colorado approach, especially relating to the limitation on commercial advertising. I think we will have even more success here in Canada.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am inclined to support the bill, to get it to committee for further review, but I would like to hear the member's comments around an important implementation element, which is the decriminalization part of the marijuana discussion.

We have seen spending of over $4 million a year to prosecute marijuana possession, simple possession, of 22,000 people who got a criminal record in 2014 alone, hours of court time, all for something that the government and a great majority of the community I hear from agree should not be a criminal offence at all.

Given that young Canadians in particular are most likely to end up with a criminal record for simple marijuana possession, given that it has taken the government quite some time to get to this point in its mandate to fulfill a major election promise, and given the extreme impacts of a criminal record on young people, I would like to hear the member's comments on how we can move toward removing the penalties for simple possession well ahead of the July 1, 2018, implementation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am on record on multiple occasions saying that I do not think we should continue arresting Canadians for simple possession. I do not think we should continue charging them.

I can say I was comforted when I hosted a drug policy town hall in my riding, and I had a panellist who was a member of the Toronto drug squad, who said that is simply not something that happens in Toronto. It is obviously still a problem in other jurisdictions. It is obviously still a problem in some cases for certain minority groups who are unfairly treated.

I will say that, while my government is not looking to decriminalize in the interim, and we can see some worries with dispensaries having popped up—I had one right next door to me—without having interim regulations in place, there are some incredible worries. That is why I focused more on this notion of record suspensions and amnesty post-legalization.

There ought to be a consensus in this House. I have heard Conservative colleagues say that they do not want to see people negatively affected by criminal records. I think we can agree on this on this side of the House, and I expect members from the NDP agree as well.

Really, a focus post-legalization on an expedited record suspension process is the most obvious fair way forward.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have four kids and I am concerned about the regulations and the laws as written by the government and how they would deal not just with possession of marijuana but with distribution. The one thing the member has neglected to talk about is that there is no legal recourse for individuals who have five grams or less when they distribute the drug. What it is essentially saying is that they cannot sell to kids, but kids can sell to other kids and that is going to be completely fine as long as it is five grams and under.

Does the member across the way think it is okay for kids to sell marijuana to other kids?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the goal of a strictly regulated system is to ensure that we are not allowing people off the street to sell marijuana, whether it is kids to kids or whether it is others to kids. The notion of the five-gram limit is to ensure that we avoid giving criminal records for possession to kids who are in possession of five grams and under. I am not sure if the member opposite is aware of how small five grams is in terms of selling. I also would not want to see major criminal records punishing young Canadians for the sale of such a small amount.

Principally, the focus here is on possession. There obviously should be penalties, whether it is a ticketing penalty or whether it is not a harsh criminal penalty but some form of diversion in our criminal justice system, for people who are caught trafficking, regardless of amount and regardless of age. I do not think a harsh criminal penalty is the answer, but obviously no penalty at all is not the appropriate answer for selling outside of a strictly regulated framework.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:45 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the comments offered by my colleague from Beaches—East York were very thoughtful and reasoned. He clearly is speaking to members of his community and has given this issue a great deal of thought.

I am glad that he recognized the distinction between this and the approach that was taken in Colorado and Washington, which was overwhelmingly a commercial model for the regulation of cannabis. They passed referendum and ballot initiatives that really focused on legalization and revenue collection. The Canadian approach has been fundamentally different, in that our approach has been a public health approach directed entirely at reducing both the social and health harms.

I have travelled across the country and talked to parents who are concerned about their kids and they are worried about three things basically. They are worried about the health of their kids. They are worried about the effects that cannabis can have on their health and on their developing minds, and they want to restrict their access to it. They are worried about the social harms to their kids: whether they are going to finish high school; who they are going to be associated with; and, if they do get involved with cannabis, what type of people they will have to do business with. Finally, what I have also heard overwhelmingly from Canadians is that they are worried that their kids are going to end up with a criminal record.

Our government has approached all of those harms in a very comprehensive way to look at how we can do a better job of reducing those social and health harms. Could the member perhaps expand on his experience and his reflections after conversations with families and parents in his community?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no perfect solution to a consensual crime like this. If they want to stamp it out, good luck; it is impossible. Whether it is gambling, whether it is alcohol addiction, whether it is cannabis, frankly whatever it is, there is no way to stamp out drug use completely, including cannabis. In tackling supply and consumption, these methods simply do not work through aggressive law enforcement. We have the status quo. We know it does not work. What are the alternatives? There is an overwhelming consensus from every drug policy expert who has studied the subject that the status quo of prohibition is a failed model and that we ought to look to regulation and education.

In taking that public health approach and particularly looking at restricting commercial advertising and balancing that with treating Canadians like the responsible adults we are and recognizing that Canadians should be free to make decisions for themselves as responsible adults, it is important to strike that balance, and I think we have.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2017 / 11:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time, but since it will be another day, I will provide the name at that time.

I can say with some confidence that the bill has tremendous interest among my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia. I held a telephone town hall on this issue on March 14, and more than 3,300 constituents stayed on the call for the entire hour. That is how much interest there is. Much of what members will hear in this speech reflects their views, and I thank them for that.

It is estimated that growing cannabis and selling it makes up a significant portion of the economy in parts of my riding, and certainly the product is well used, legal or not, by many people, young and old. Those who grow marijuana in the Kootenays are not part of organized crime. They do not see themselves as criminals. Rather, they believe that they are just small-scale farmers producing a herb that has received a bad rap. While I do not think that is completely accurate either, I believe that it is important for post-prohibition licensing to include small producers and co-ops, and not just the large corporations that are currently offering medical marijuana.

That leads me to one of the biggest problems with the bill, the lack of detail. Canadians were promised a piece of historic legislation that would break new ground. What we got was a frame with much of the picture missing. Manufacturing licences will be provided to producers who meet undetermined standards. They will be set by regulations we have not seen yet. It will be legal to sell marijuana, but it is entirely up to the provinces to determine how. Again, no details are provided in the bill.

The age is set at 18, but provinces can change that too. In other words, we might be able to grow cannabis, but we do not know how we would get a licence. We might be able to buy it, but we do not know where, and we might be able to smoke it, but we do not know when. That is a lot of unanswered questions.

Let us look at the issue of minimum age for a moment. Health officials and researchers have been very clear that using marijuana before the age of 25 can be dangerous to brain development. I would like to read briefly from an article by the American Psychological Association. Jodi Gilman, Ph.D., at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Centre for Addiction Medicine, used an MRI to look for brain changes in 18- to 25-year-olds who smoked marijuana at least once per week but were not dependent on the drug. Compared with non-users, the smokers had changes in the shape, volume, and grey matter density of two brain regions associated with addiction. Participants who smoked more often had even more significant differences.

The Canadian Psychological Association recommended to the government panel that the minimum age be 21. The government has chosen to ignore this scientific and medical advice and has lowered the age even further to 18.

Of course, the impact of marijuana used by a pregnant woman could be even more severe. According to information provided to me by the senior policy adviser to the Minister of Justice, heavy cannabis use during pregnancy can lead to lower birth weights. It has also been associated with longer-term development effects in children and adolescents, such as a decrease in memory function, the ability to pay attention, reasoning, and problem-solving skills, and an increase in hyperactive behaviour.

Will marijuana carry labels warning expectant mothers to avoid use of the product, such as we see on tobacco and alcohol? Bill C-45 is silent on this issue.

Yesterday the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a powerful editorial about Bill C-45. The editorial, written by editor-in-chief Dr. Diane Kelsall, calls the minimum age of 18 too young, given the scientific evidence. Dr. Kelsall warns that growing marijuana at home will give young people too easy access. She is also concerned about the lack of national standards for retail sales as well as the limits on the potency of various strains. Dr. Kelso wrote:

The government appears to be hastening to deliver on a campaign promise without being careful enough about the health impacts of policy. It is not good enough to say that provinces and territories can set more stringent rules if they wish. If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.

As I said earlier, last March I held a town hall in my riding to hear from constituents about their thoughts on marijuana legalization. Their opinions were widespread, naturally, and many came with questions. I heard from many people who thought legalization was a good idea. I heard from others who oppose it. I heard from producers who said they did not want to be shut out of the action, and retailers said the same.

Deb Kozak, mayor of Nelson, B.C., was one of my guest panellists. She said she wanted to see a framework that would help her municipality develop appropriate zoning and bylaws for marijuana retailers. Sadly, so far the bill is lacking on that front too, downloading that responsibility to the provinces.

The money that comes from the legal sale of marijuana is another area not covered in the proposed legislation. Many constituents want that taxation aspect to be dedicated specifically to deterring the use of marijuana and other drugs and to reducing and treating the health impacts of using marijuana. They do not want the revenue from legalizing it going to general revenue.

One question I was asked was about crossing into the United States. Will legalizing marijuana in Canada make border crossings more difficult? I did not know, so I wrote the Minister of Justice and asked. Here is what the minister's office responded:

Travellers should remain aware that while some states have legalized recreational cannabis, cannabis remains a controlled substance at the federal level in the United States. Travellers seeking entry into the U.S. may be inadmissible if they admit to having consumed cannabis in Canada or disclose to U.S. authorities plans to purchase or consume cannabis while in the U.S.

Let us say that again: travellers seeking to enter the U.S. may be inadmissible if they admit to having consumed cannabis in Canada.

Canadians doing something that will be legal in Canada may be barred, as a result, from entering into the United States. That is an issue that the government needs to deal with.

Perhaps we should retaliate. It is illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21 in the United States, so perhaps we should ban anyone from entering Canada if they admit to having had a beer at age 20.

It is imperative that the government work with U.S. authorities to acknowledge our sovereignty and the ability to make laws that are different from theirs and to work out what is going to happen along the border.

Finally, I would like to repeat what many of my NDP colleagues have said. The biggest missing piece of Bill C-45 is the need to provide full pardons to any Canadians convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana in the past.

Last December, the Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, pardoned 192 individuals who were convicted of possession. He said, “My hope was to help as many individuals as I could overcome that stigma and the very real struggles that too often go along with [being convicted of marijuana].”

I appreciate the government's interest in ending the failed war on drugs and that the prohibition on cannabis, which has harmed more people than it has helped, is finally coming to an end. I hope that the government will get it right.

There is work to be done. This law is not finished yet. There are a lot of holes in it, so while the NDP will support Bill C-45 on second reading, I encourage the government to listen to members of this House and take the opportunity to correct the many deficiencies of the bill when it goes to committee.