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

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.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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