Cannabis Act

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

Sponsor

Status

Considering amendments (House), as of June 13, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-45.

Summary

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

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

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

The Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

Nov. 27, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Nov. 27, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (recommittal to a committee)
Nov. 21, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Nov. 21, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (report stage amendment)
Nov. 21, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (report stage amendment)
Nov. 21, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
June 8, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
June 8, 2017 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (reasoned amendment)
June 6, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

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

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

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

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

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

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

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

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

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

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

He said later:

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

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

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

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

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

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP pointed this out early on, after hearing testimony about the difficulties some people had entering the United States when asked by border guards if they had ever used cannabis and they answered affirmatively. Even though they had used the cannabis legally in Washington state and Colorado, they were denied entry into the U.S. This led to a concern by the NDP that the government should be negotiating, or at least attempting to negotiate, with the Trump administration some form of agreement to recognize the reality that cannabis would be legal in Canada. We do not want to subject Canadians to being turned away at the border or being compelled to lie. The answer we got, unfortunately, was unsatisfactory. It appears that the government has not been entering into those negotiations. There is a real concern that after July 1, 2018, Canadians will be vulnerable in that respect.

I want to end on a positive note. Economically, Canada has a chance to be a global leader in producing safe, quality cannabis products. We are not the only country in the world that will legalize it. Other countries will do it, too. This is a classic industry that is sustainable, high tech, innovative, green. A $5 seed can be turned into $1,000 worth of product. Canadians are global leaders, and that is why we are so adamant that the ban on importation and exportation in Bill C-45 should be changed to give Canadian businesses a chance to tap into that market. This could provide billions and billions of dollars of economic activity once other countries do as Canada does and we abandon the old prohibitionist view of conservative parties around the world.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Vaudreuil—Soulanges Québec

Liberal

Peter Schiefke LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to discuss this government's plan to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis in Canada.

Bill C-45, the cannabis act, was put forward by this government to confront and address the realities of cannabis use in our country. It happens that Canadians are some of the most avid users of cannabis in the entire world.

In 2015, 21% of those aged 15 to 19 used cannabis regularly. The number was 30% for those aged 20 to 24. It is accessible to our children, it is available in schools, and it funds major organized crime to the tune of billions of dollars per year. Clearly the current approach is outdated, archaic, and just does not work.

Over the years, the Government of Canada's approach to cannabis use devolved into harsh mandatory minimums and unfair criminal justice practices. The reality we have found ourselves in does not match the policies that previous governments have enacted.

I am proud to rise to share with my hon. colleagues in the House and my constituents of Vaudreuil—Soulanges why the cannabis act is the plan we need now to build a safer and better Canada.

We need a new approach, one that takes care of our children and punishes organized criminals rather than everyday Canadians. The cannabis act would revamp the Government of Canada's policies in three key ways, to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis use in Canada.

First, we will prioritize working with the territories and provinces as equal partners to reforming the current cannabis regime in Canada. This work is well under way and it has been for quite some time now.

Second, we will address the simple fact that cannabis is accessible to Canadian teenagers, whether we like it or not.

Third, we will take billions of dollars out of the pockets of organized criminals and gangs.

Each of these pillars is critical for my community of Vaudreuil—Soulanges where thousands of new families settle each year, making it one of the fastest-growing ridings in the country. However, they also apply from coast to coast to coast, and work to address challenges we face with our provincial and territorial partners.

Our aim is to set a framework that the provinces and the territories can expand on in ways that best suit them. Our plan will succeed because the cannabis act works with our partners while safeguarding the underlying principles protecting our youth and keeping money out of the hands of criminals.

Working with our provincial partners and, in particular, my community of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, and the Government of Quebec is the cornerstone of this new approach. Last week, the Quebec government's cannabis legislation was tabled in the national assembly. Its legislation is complementary to the partnership we have established to ensure safety and security for our young people and for our communities.

In Quebec, the government will be creating the société québécoise du cannabis, a parallel body to the Société des alcools du Québec. This model has worked in Quebec to support alcohol regulation and I am confident our partners will get the needs of Quebecers right in cannabis legalization as well.

The strict regulation of cannabis under the cannabis act is designed, first and foremost, to protect Canada's young people. This is particularly important to me as parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister for youth, and also as a father of two young children. It is also a priority for the young families that choose to call my community of Vaudreuil—Soulanges home. I am sure all members in the House will agree that we owe it to them to get this right, and the cannabis act does not compromise on keeping Canadians safe, particularly young Canadians.

We are setting a national benchmark for a legal age to purchase and consume cannabis at 18 years of age. The Government of Quebec set the same age with its legislation last week.

We will not be punishing our teenagers for possessing up to five grams of cannabis. Instead, we are setting harsher penalties of up to 14 years in jail for selling or giving cannabis to youth or using young people to commit cannabis-related crimes.

This government believes that the abuse of youth by illegal drug trafficking networks is a real crime. I think that my colleagues on both sides of the House and in the provinces and territories share this belief.

We must ensure that young Canadians understand the dangers and potential consequences of using cannabis. In October, we announced an investment of $46 million over five years to raise awareness among Canadian youth of the realities of cannabis use.

By supporting large-scale campaigns to inform and educate Canadians, we are creating widespread awareness of the risks of cannabis consumption. As part of our plan, 114,000 brochures entitled “Cannabis Talk” have already been distributed in partnership with Drug Free Kids Canada.

On November 10, Health Canada hosted a partnership symposium on cannabis public education and awareness. Stakeholders from all sectors gathered in Ottawa to better identify possible actions.

These concrete measures are proof of our commitment to prioritizing health and safety risks based on facts, not on fear or disinformation. This includes prohibiting the use of attractive packaging and labelling in advertising and any other attempt to encourage young Canadians to consume cannabis.

The bill currently before the House would impose fines of up to $5 million, imprisonment for up to three years, or both for distributors who do not comply with the regulations. By setting national standards to meet the challenges associated with the widespread use of cannabis in Canada, we are taking fair action to protect young Canadians without punishing the one-third of adults who use cannabis recreationally.

Our government wants to protect our youth by instead focusing our efforts on organized crime and people who give cannabis to children despite the health risks associated with cannabis use at a young age.

By setting very strict penalties for selling cannabis to young people, our government is sending a clear message about our unwavering commitment to protecting the health and safety of young people first and foremost, in my riding of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, across Quebec, and across the country. This is something that all Canadians can get behind.

Canadians also know that we need to do whatever it takes to keep money out of the hands of criminals and organized crime. The cannabis act will make our streets safer by creating a legal, regulated, and safe supply of cannabis that will be available to all Canadians who have reached the age of majority.

Bill C-45 establishes a framework for purchasing product online or in person and allows Canadians to have access to cannabis outside the black market. The bill also enables the government to set reasonable prices that would be directly competitive with current prices on the black market.

We are also ensuring that those who wish to continue selling cannabis outside of regulated markets will be subject to penalties. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, they will face fines and up to 14 years in prison. This approach will allow the government to remain flexible while also going after the worst offenders.

The cannabis act will keep our young people safe and keep money out of the hands of criminals, thanks to a strictly regulated sales system for this country.

Our government is establishing a framework for our provincial and territorial partners so that the work reflects the will and concerns of the people.

I am proud to contribute to a plan that is built on fact-based decisions and reflects the reality we are currently facing in Vaudreuil—Soulanges, in Quebec, and of course in Canada.

I am proud to be part of a government that is taking action to address a problem that has existed for far too long. It is a problem that has existed for decades, and yet previous governments just made the decision to continue with the status quo. We knew full well the rates were high. In some cases, depending on the age group, rates were going up, but previous governments did nothing. We knew that those who were smoking marijuana, almost one-third in some cases or even more than one-third in certain age groups, were getting a product from organized criminals and drug dealers.

People had no idea what the product had been laced with. It was a product that people knew could have been laced with something that was more detrimental to their health, and yet they had no other option because governments turned a blind eye to the realities of a failing system. We knew the system that existed for the last 10 years and even for decades was putting billions of dollars into the pockets of organized crime.

I can say with a good amount of authority, and I speak on behalf of my caucus members from Quebec, that this had a serious impact on violence and violent crime in my home province of Quebec. Those people who are from Quebec, and who have been following incidents of violent crime related to organized criminal activities in Quebec know there have been significant rises and falls in crime relating to biker gangs, and that the primary source of revenue for these gangs was the illicit sale of drugs. Yet, federal governments did absolutely nothing.

Governments still tried to convince Canadians they were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a system that was working when we knew full well it was not working. We could have done better, and we should have done better, but it required courage to do so. It requires looking back as to why we are all here as members of Parliament.

We are here to put in place systems that work, and to use taxpayers' money effectively. Yet, for decades, we have not been doing that. We have been trying to convince Canadians we had the best possible plan in place, and their hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent properly. We knew full well that was not the case.

Therefore, this is what we did. We first started off by being honest and open with Canadians that this is what we would do if we were elected. Once we were elected, we followed through on that promise and started with national consultations, including committees that met and brought in experts on all sides to talk about how we can best do this. We studied other jurisdictions in the United States and around the world who have seen better success rates in the systems that they had in place. I and other members of Parliament from all sides of this House went across the country, hosting town halls and asking for feedback from our fellow constituents. We worked hard over the last two years to reach out to Canadians and to experts in various fields to make sure we were getting the information to get this right.

Second, we looked at all the data that was in place. There have been many studies that have been put forward talking about health benefits and about other systems that worked better. Because of the data, and because other jurisdictions had the courage to try something new, we were able to look at those jurisdictions, and see that they have reduced rates of cannabis use among their youth. They had reduced violent crime related to organized criminals and street gangs, and they had ensured that money was longer going into the pockets of organized criminals. They managed to do those things because they were brave enough to try something new. Because they tried something new, we are able to look at those jurisdictions and say, “What could possibly work in a Canadian context?”

Third, we have been working with our provincial and territorial counterparts to make sure there is a robust dialogue with them. Now, more than ever, we are also having a dialogue and working with our municipal counterparts to make sure that this is, at all levels of government, something we will succeed in doing, because we are working at it together.

The hope is that we would reduce the rate of consumption and use of cannabis by our youth. For those who do use cannabis regularly, they would get a regulated product that is safer for them to consume, and we would be ensuring we take money out of the hands of organized crime.

Fourth, we would ensure we provide funding where it is necessary, with over $40 million for an educational campaign at the federal level to ensure we are educating young Canadians on the negative effects of cannabis use. This would not be a law that looks to encourage young people to start smoking cannabis. This proposed law, that we are putting forward, is in the hope of reducing use among youth.

Part of that is a $40 million-plus educational campaign to make sure we are doing everything we can to educate young Canadians about the fact that cannabis is not something they should be using, and that there are health effects which could be particularly negative for youth as their brains are still developing. Therefore, we are putting our money where our mouth is, because we know it is a necessary step in putting this proposed law forward.

We would also put forward over $80 million to provide support to law enforcement agencies across the country to give them the tools to better understand how to detect those driving under the influence of cannabis, which is incredibly important. Whether or not we want to admit it in this House, there are already people who are driving under the influence of cannabis, and yet very little has been done, particularly by the previous government, which did very little but turn a blind eye and leave it up to law enforcement to try and figure it out on its own.

The previous government knew full well that the problem already existed, and that those law enforcement agencies could have used additional funding to better train law enforcement officials, and to put in place better systems to find out who was driving under the influence and take appropriate action. Therefore, this money would also go toward providing the tools necessary to test individuals for driving under the influence.

I did not come to this House to do easy work, and I know I speak for many of us who were elected in the election of October 2015. I came here to solve problems, particularly ones that have been plaguing Canada and Canadians for far too long. I say with all sincerity, and I know I share this with young fathers and mothers in this House, and those who have older children, that we need to make decisions now that are going to positively affect our youth later on. We should not leave it up to the next government, regardless of how difficult those decisions are. Instead, we need to make those tough decisions now.

My hope is that when my three-year-old son, Anderson, and my one-year-old daughter, Ellie, are at the age when they are going to high school, that they have a harder time accessing cannabis, that they have an educational system and a campaign in place at all levels of government that does not turn a blind eye to the fact that it is easier to get marijuana on a high school campus than it is to get cigarettes, and that we are actually taking action.

This is the kind of legacy I want to leave for my kids, and that is the kind of legacy that I want to leave for future generations of young Canadians. With that, I encourage all members of this House, regardless of which aisle they sit on, to vote in favour of Bill C-45. Let us take the next necessary steps in protecting our young people.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke about giving law enforcement the tools with which to work. He also spoke about impaired driving. I would like to give the member a little statistical data.

The Minister of Justice spoke earlier about using scientific data. I wonder if anyone from the Liberal Party decided to phone the state police in Colorado or Washington, because Washington has 33,000 cases of drug driving evidence that it is trying to analyze. They cannot analyze it. It costs $175 per analysis, which is $6 million U.S. The U.S. sheriffs are telling their deputies not to lay charges, because they cannot afford it.

Did the Liberals talk to any law enforcement agencies in some of the states that have legalized marijuana?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Schiefke Liberal Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, did my hon. colleague speak to any law enforcement officials here in Canada?

Had he done that, he would have seen that this is not a new problem that would be created by Bill C-45. Right now, there are Canadians who are driving under the influence of cannabis, and nothing was done by the previous government to address that issue.

Here we are. Bill C-45 is on the table. Now it has suddenly become an issue for Conservatives. They suddenly see it as a problem for Canadians. The former Conservative government could have looked at it and said that driving under the influence of cannabis is an issue in this country, and that it was going to work with our law enforcement officials, listen to them, and give them the funding necessary to empower them to do their jobs.

Conservatives have finally woken up and realized that this is an issue. Now, after we have announced over $80 million to provide law enforcement officials with the support they have been asking for for a long time, the previous government has decided to wake up.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague previously said, we will be supporting this bill.

However, we are concerned about a number of matters that are not being addressed. One of the matters that really troubles me, that I have become aware of, is that the government is refusing to call the opioid tragedy a national emergency. It is now saying that it wants to take measures to try to address opioids, and perhaps limit doctors' prescribing.

The government has decided that Canadians cannot get drug coverage for marijuana, a less harmful medicine than opioids. Can the member please explain why on Earth there has been all of this work, to legalize the use of marijuana, including medicinal, to encourage the marijuana industry to establish, and yet the government is not allowing people, for example, those who are suffering from nausea due to cancer, to choose to have marijuana prescribed as they would for an opioid, and have it covered through a drug program?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Schiefke Liberal Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very thankful that my hon. colleague and her party will be supporting Bill C-45 as a measure that will help protect our young people and ensure that they have less access to cannabis.

We are taking action on all fronts. We are looking at the opioid crisis, taking concrete action and have been doing so since we took office. I will say that that is actually something that has been supported by all sides of this House, because I think we all realize it is an urgent crisis that needs to be addressed. We are addressing it on multiple levels.

Specifically in relation in the question about cannabis, this is something we promised Canadians we would do, something that we realized needed to be addressed for a very long time. We had a failed system in place. We are no longer going to turn a blind eye to it. We are no longer going to look Canadians straight in the face and say that we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a system that is working, because it is not working.

The statistics I mentioned, and that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada mentioned in her speech, show one in five youth, and one in three aged 20 to 24, are smoking are marijuana. That has been ongoing for a while. We are taking action. It is something we promised Canadians we would do. That is exactly what we are doing.

Bill C-45—Time Allocation MotionCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2017 / 10 a.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

moved:

That in relation to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage and two sitting days shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said bill; and

That 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage and on the second day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.