Cannabis Act

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

Sponsor

Status

Report stage (House), as of Nov. 9, 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

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 9th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.

I think all members will agree that protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a key priority for all orders of government in Canada. With this in mind, on April 13, Bill C-45 was introduced in the House. Its goal is the creation of a strict national framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis in Canada. The bill would provide for legal access to cannabis where adults could obtain it through an appropriate legal framework, sourced from a strictly regulated industry or by growing it safely and in limited amounts at home.

The bill would also establish safeguards to protect youth, including prohibiting the sale or distribution of cannabis to anyone under 18 and restricting marketing and advertising activities geared towards youth.

Growers and manufacturers of cannabis would require a federal licence and be subject to a strict oversight regime intended to control product safety and quality, and to prevent diversion to the illegal market. Effective oversight and control of cannabis cannot be achieved by working in isolation from our partners in the provinces, territories, and municipalities.

From the outset, our government has been clear that the control and regulation of cannabis requires a pan-Canadian approach, involving all orders of government, at all stages of development and implementation. This reality is reflected in the important role that our provincial and territorial partners played in the work of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation.

The task force was established in June 2016 with a mandate to provide advice to the federal government on how to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis. Input from the provinces and territories, as well as from indigenous communities, was essential to the successful work of the task force.

The provinces and territories nominated experts to serve on the task force, and made suggestions as to who should be consulted. These individuals met with the task force, and shared their views on cannabis legalization and regulation and on how best to achieve our shared objectives of better protecting public health and safety.

It should come as no surprise that the input from the provinces and territories was instrumental in shaping many important provisions of Bill C-45.

Consistent with the task force report, Bill C-45 proposes a shared framework for the control and regulation of cannabis that would require ongoing federal, provincial, and territorial collaboration. The bill sets out clear controls and standards around cannabis, and provides flexibility for each government to work within their own jurisdictional authority and experience. Those who are best placed to implement each aspect of the framework would do so.

At this time, I would like to explain how the various roles and responsibilities would be shared between our governments, beginning with the federal role. Bill C-45 proposes that the federal government would be responsible for establishing and maintaining a national framework for regulating the production of cannabis, setting standards for health and safety, and establishing criminal prohibitions.

This would include establishing restrictions on adult access to cannabis and serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal system; creating rules to limit how cannabis or cannabis accessories could be promoted, packaged, labelled, and displayed, in line with the rules in place for tobacco products; instituting a federal licensing regime for cannabis production that would draw on lessons learned from the current system for access to cannabis for medical purposes; establishing industry-wide rules and standards, for example, serving sizes or potency limits, as well as a tracking of cannabis to prevent diversion to the illegal market; creating minimum federal conditions to provide a national framework to protect public health and public safety; and enforcing cannabis importation and exportation prohibitions at the border, except when legally authorized.

At the same time, Bill C-45 recognizes that provinces and territories and municipalities have a key role to play in the new system.

The legislation would respect that provinces and territories, together with municipalities, have the authority to tailor certain rules in their own jurisdictions and enforce them through a range of tools, including administrative sanctions. Consistent with the recommendations from the task force, the provinces and territories, working with municipalities, would be able to establish rules with respect to where cannabis-based businesses could be located within a community, and also where cannabis could be consumed in public.

Provinces and territories could also set additional requirements to address issues of local concern. For example, provincial and territorial legislatures would have the authority to set a higher minimum age for cannabis possession. Provinces and territories could also set more restrictive limits on possession or personal cultivation, including lowering the number of plants or restricting where they may be cultivated.

Thus, Bill C-45 is drafted in such a way as to provide the provinces and territories with the ability to establish stricter rules under their own authorities.

We are pleased to see that the provinces and territories are already taking action to prepare for the legalization and regulation of cannabis. From coast to coast to coast, provinces and territories are continuing the conversation with Canadians about how best to regulate the sale and distribution of cannabis in their towns, cities, and communities.

While provinces and territories will decide on a system that responds to their particular circumstances, it is clear that all jurisdictions share our government's responsibilities to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth, to shut out organized crime, and to protect public health and safety. This is true for all orders of government.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, having served with my colleague across the way from Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and being the only two non-lawyers on the committee, I know that he is a very common-sense and practical kind of person. Therefore, my question to him is this. Does the legislation really meet the objectives that the Liberals have stated, that is, to minimize the access that youth would have to cannabis? Does he believe that allowing every household in Canada to have four mature marijuana plants would minimize the exposure and access that youth would have to cannabis?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I also appreciate serving on the justice and human rights committee with the hon. member for Provencher.

In answer to his question as to whether the legislation would serve to protect Canadians and youth, absolutely. It also recognizes the role of parental responsibility in households in the same way that parents and adults in a household now protect their children from access to alcohol that may be widely present in the home. If there is cannabis present or being grown in the home, it would still be part of that parental responsibility to maintain control in a responsible way, just as parents do when looking after their children, and as they will do throughout their lives.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I lived in Lincoln Park in Port Coquitlam for 10 years, and I still have friends who live there. I know how important this issue is to the people of Port Coquitlam.

In my own riding, I held a town hall about a year ago where 3,300 people stayed on the phone for an hour to learn about this initiative, and of course to express some of their concerns.

About a year ago, I met with the Canadian Nurses Association. I asked one of the nurses there what she thought about the legalization of marijuana, and some of the concerns. I appreciate that the member talked first and foremost about safety. She said that she has a friend who works in emergency rooms in Colorado, where marijuana has now been legal for a number of years, and that this friend had said that the number one thing that was now bringing people through the doors of emergency rooms in Colorado was related to marijuana, either because of impaired accidents, both automobile and otherwise, and paranoia from combining mental health prescription drugs with marijuana.

Therefore, I would like to ask the member this. Do you feel comfortable that the proposal you have brought forward will actually keep Canadians safe?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, the legislation will keep Canadians safe in many ways. For example, marijuana is currently very widely used among our youth. Canada has one of the highest per capita rates of marijuana use among youth in any developed country. The problem is the marijuana they are getting is from an unknown source, of unknown potency, and unknown quality. It also puts them into contact with the black market, which is a gateway to many other serious drugs and substances.

Providing a controlled source of marijuana of a known provenance, with a known potency and purity, would help that situation. It would also provide a way for people to buy and sell it legally, controlled in a similar way to tobacco.

The biggest effort to keep children away from using marijuana is going to be around education, not by prohibition, and not by threatening them with some sort of criminal prohibition. It devolves upon all the adults in the equation to look after the children, to keep them educated, and to advise them of the danger of this substance.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not detect much enthusiasm when my colleagues on the government side are talking about Bill C-45, the marijuana legalization bill. Many of them simply read out prepared speeches and do not really believe everything they are saying.

Since I live in a rural area, in a community that is very worried about what is happening in Canada for the first time in its history, I cannot honestly imagine that, deep down, the members opposite are happy about moving forward with Bill C-45. I am not the only one who thinks so. There is very strong opposition in my riding, of course. Police bodies, municipalities, and provincial governments are also opposed to having this kind of legislation imposed on them and especially object to the government's utterly irrational agenda with regard to Bill C-45. Doctors, psychiatrists, scientists, and leaders everywhere are speaking out.

Just before coming here to give this speech, I asked some of my constituents about their thoughts on Bill C-45. Here are some of the comments I received:

I no longer live in the area, but I am still 200% against it. People are not allowed to smoke anywhere, but soon people are really going to start complaining when they realize just how much pot stinks. Legalizing the drug is a really stupid idea.

Here is another comment:

We have enough trouble dealing with drunk driving, and now they want to add another driving problem with this legislation. The accident rate went up in countries where they legalized cannabis, and we will be no exception.

I am not the one who is saying this. Here is another quotation:

I am 100% against. I have seen the havoc drugs have wreaked on the lives of users and their loved ones, and it really is not pretty. We cannot forget that this “soft” drug is a stepping stone to other hard drugs. Therefore, people will be saying that it is no big deal because it is legal. This is very dangerous, especially for our youth.

That is not all. Here is another one:

It seems that politicians have not consulted, or have not consulted enough, with experts on the subject.

Here is one final comment:

They are already having a hard time providing mental health care, so how are they going to deal with growing demand because statistics show that marijuana use often leads to problems like that and makes a lot of people depressed. This makes me worry about the future.

If the proper process had been followed, these people would not be so worried. If this bill were addressing an actual need, these people would already have answers to their questions. They would not be so worried about how marijuana legalization will affect our roads and our young people, the very young people the government claims it is helping by legalizing marijuana.

I recently read a comment about how this legislation will normalize marijuana to the point that young people may be even more interested in using it. I am trying to keep my feelings out of this, but I must admit I am having a hard time.

July 1, 2018, is nine months from now. In September, the Ontario Provincial Police Deputy Commissioner told the Standing Committee on Health that more time and more resources are needed to train police officers. Those two elements are lacking here. This is how the Deputy Commissioner described the likelihood that police officers will be ready by July 1, 2018:

...it's impossible. The damage that can be done between the time of new legislation and police officers being ready to enforce the law...can make it very hard for us to ever regain that foothold.

We heard the same message from Mario Harel, the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights:

...are we delivering on the public safety objectives Canadians would expect of us? We are 10 months away, so allow me to put this into perspective.

We have 65,000 police officers in Canada who require training to understand the new legislation once it is passed into law....Provincial governments for the most part are still developing regulatory and delivery schemes, which directly impact law enforcement.

Quite frankly, the capacity currently is not there to deliver the amount of training required.

The police themselves are the ones saying this.

Why are the Liberals so determined to rush Bill C-45 through? What are they hiding? What is the hurry? Who do they have to answer to, if not Canadians, police chiefs, doctors, and psychiatrists? Who is the government trying to pander to by rushing to legalize marijuana?

This will have a serious impact on young people. We know this. I have heard from many people who are saying the same thing. What the government is claiming is totally false.

If young people under 25 are allowed to use cannabis, this will have a serious impact. It has been proven that this can have a permanent and possibly very serious effect on their mental health and brain development. I will not start quoting scientists and all the studies that have been done on that, for there are too many to name.

All I know is that if the government goes ahead with this on July 1, 2018, Canada will not be the same, Canadian society will not be the same. The Liberal government and every Liberal member will be to blame. The hon. member for Compton—Stanstead, the hon. member for Shefford, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, the hon. member for Québec, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean, the hon. member for Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation, the hon. member for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, the hon. member for Louis-Hébert, the hon. member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi, and the hon. member for Saint-Jean and all the others will be to blame for everything that happens after July 1, 2018.

They still have a chance to get this right, but, if they continue to impose Bill C-45 on Canadians, after July 1, 2018 it will be too late.

Police chiefs have said that they are not ready. The damage will be done and we will never be able to go back. This is where this government is taking us. This is where this government is taking our society. This is where this government is taking Canada after July 1, 2018.

History will be defined by what came before July 1, 2018, and what came after July 1, 2018.

Those are the facts and that is what we are up against. I hope that the members I named and all the others, such as the hon. member for Pontiac, the hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville, the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, the hon. member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, the hon. member for Bourassa, and the hon. member for Laval—Les Îles will understand this before the damage is done.

We are at a point where individual members of the Liberal government must assume their responsibilities towards their constituents, the youth in their ridings, and Canada.

I regularly see the member for Scarborough Southwest defend this irresponsible date of July 1, 2018. I invite him to come and tour our regions and to speak with our mayors and police chiefs so that he will understand once and for all that the date of July 1, 2018 is premature. Canada is not ready to deal with these changes.

Personally, I prefer the Canada as it exists now prior to July 1, 2018, to the Liberals' Canada after July 1, 2018.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his invitation to go to his riding to give his constituents information, not to cause fear but to help them be better informed.

I find the member's comment that he prefers the situation as it currently exists intriguing. Let us be clear what that situation is. Today we have the highest rate of cannabis use among children of any country in the world. The member apparently prefers that. The current supply of cannabis being sold to our children comes from organized crime. They make billions of dollars from that. The member prefers that.

I am just curious. Does the member not see that with the imposition of a strict regulatory regime for the production and distribution of cannabis we would have an opportunity to do a better job of protecting our kids and a better job of making our communities safe, displacing organized crime from this business?

I find the current situation unacceptable, but the member opposite laments its passing. I would like him to explain why the current situation is his preferred environment.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, we are looking to the facts.

With respect to Colorado, consumption of marijuana rose after legalization. That is why I prefer the Canada as it exists now to the one that will take shape after July 2018.

I will remind the member for Scarborough Southwest, who was a respected police chief, what his colleagues say when asked if it is possible for the police to be ready for July 1, 2018.

“Impossible. Senior police officials tell MPs they won't be ready for legal cannabis.”

That is the reality, and these are the facts. I am tired of hearing them insist otherwise.

In my riding's high schools, it is not true that most students consume cannabis. It is simply not true. The students who consume cannabis are far outnumbered by those who do not. Unfortunately, once marijuana is legalized and normalized, the scales could tip the other way, with consumption becoming more common among youth than not. That is what will happen.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, for his remarks. I thought one thing he said was particularly interesting, namely that he holds the Liberal members to blame.

I was under the impression that every member of this Parliament was elected to be a lawmaker. We did not choose this poorly crafted bill, evidently. However, I have trouble understanding how my colleague, as a Conservative, would bear some of the blame, given that his party proposed no amendments or changes, not even to postpone the coming into force of what I must say is a rather poorly crafted bill.

Listening to his speech, I shared some of the concerns expressed by the people of his riding, because we hear these concerns in many ridings.

Why are the Conservatives not proposing any amendments to this deeply flawed bill?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, the government is continually saying that this legislation would keep cannabis out of the hands of our children, but that is not true. The provinces disagree. The New Brunswick health minister just came out with some added provisions to try to protect children from homegrown cannabis. I see that Saskatchewan advocates are looking for more things.

Subclause 8(c) of the bill would allow children aged 12 to 17 to have up to five grams.

Could the member share what they think in Quebec about those provisions?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, everyone agrees that it makes no sense for children between the ages of 12 to 17 to be in possession of marijuana.

Unfortunately, that is probably what is going to happen, particularly since this bill will allow people to grow marijuana at home. Who is going to start counting the leaves on their pot plants to make sure that three or four of them have not been stolen by children between the ages of 12 to 17? That does not make any sense. This measure is irresponsible and disrespectful toward Canadian youth.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to share a bit of information that will hopefully be of benefit to members and will get Conservative members to rethink some of the spin they are hearing from their Conservative colleagues, or possibly their research team. I do not know exactly where they are getting their facts. On the last question, about the five grams, it would be illegal under this legislation to have five grams in one's possession. Less than that would be under provincial jurisdiction.

Let me start by commenting that I was really touched by the comments made earlier today by representatives of all political parties. As someone who has served in the Canadian Forces, I have had the opportunity to participate in many marches in remembrance. I would like to briefly provide a comment of respect for those war veterans I marched with back in the early 1980s. I applaud and recognize their ultimate sacrifice to make Canada what it is today.

I understand that the New Democrats and the Green Party will be supporting this legislation. Canadians need not be surprised. Liberals talked about this in the last federal election. It was in our election platform that this was what we would do. At the end of the day, there has been a great deal of support for what the government is moving forward with. I am surprised at the degree to which the Conservative Party seems to want to fight this issue. What surprises me most is the fact that it does not have any problem using misinformation.

In Canada today we have the highest consumption rate in terms of young people engaged in using cannabis. That means that there are more young people per capita in Canada who have tried or used cannabis than in countries like the United States, the U.K., and Australia. We already know that our system is not working, and we need to address the issue. It might affect some ridings more than others, but at the end of the day, it is a national issue.

There are already too many young people being encouraged to use cannabis. There is a criminal element out there that wants young people to use it. They sell it to young people, because they have a vested financial interest in getting young kids to use cannabis. This legislation, in good part, would deal with that.

The Conservatives seem to have no problem with people going into our schools and telling children to buy bags of cannabis. Those students are going to be experimenting with who knows what, because criminal elements are trying to get our kids to smoke marijuana. We do not know what is in the bags being circulated in our schools, or in the cigarettes, or tokes, or whatever they are called. Excuse me for not knowing the word. We have no idea what the drugs are being laced with or what is sold to children in our schools. What we know for a fact is that there are too many young people in Canada who are being enticed to participate in the consumption of cannabis.

We finally have a government that is saying that it is going to strictly regulate, legalize, and restrict access to cannabis. In the area I represent, I believe that is good news. Every year we get gangs or that criminal element making hundreds of millions of dollars. A major amount of that money comes through selling cannabis to young people. I am talking about 11 to 13-year-olds.

When people talk about the impact on the brain and on a young person's growth, there is no question that we need to be concerned about this. However, if members are really concerned about this and they want to do something about it, they might want to consider voting in favour of the legislation. If they are really sincere in their comments about about young people, they will vote in favour of this.

I am concerned about the young people whom I represent in Winnipeg North. I want to see less money going to the criminal element there. I want to see fewer 11-year-olds consuming cannabis. This legislation is a giant step in the right direction to allow that to happen. The Conservatives seem to believe that if the legislation passes, people who have consumed cannabis will be driving around on streets all over Canada. I have news for them. That happens today.

When it came to training our police or our law enforcement agencies, the Conservatives committed $2 million. This government is committing $161 million for training of law enforcement officers and providing the type of equipment that is going to be necessary. Therefore, not only are we doing the right thing by bringing forward the legislation, we are also providing the financial means necessary to assist our law enforcement agencies. I do not share the opinions of Conservative members who seem to think that our law enforcement agencies will not be ready in time. The resources and the sense of commitment we see day in and day out from law enforcement officers will ensure we are in a ready position to deal with this good, sound legislation.

A great deal of effort has been put into this legislation. I made reference to the fact that we had an election platform. Canadians have been consulted extensively on this issue. We have had a task force on it. We have standing committees that have dealt with it, either directly or indirectly. A great deal of debate has taken place, not only in Ottawa but in our constituencies. We now have before us legislation that would make a positive difference.

I want to bring it down to the real grassroots communities we represent. Today, far too many dollars flow to the criminal elements in our communities. Cannabis is one of those things that contributes hundreds of millions of dollars every year to that. This legislation would help to get rid of that. By doing that, we will see fewer young people using cannabis because we will be taking the profit away from the criminal element, which has a financial interest in getting our young people on cannabis or at least trying it. That is one of the reasons why more young people in Canada use cannabis than in any other country in the world.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

There are 338 members of the House of Commons. The government has a slight majority, which means that it is in charge of planning our country's legislative agenda. That brings us to the bill proposed by the Liberal government. The 338 MPs are the ears and the voice of the people we represent. The members on this side of the House are not all complete idiots who do not care about what our constituents say.

How is it then that not one of the 38 amendments proposed by the NDP to try to strengthen this bill was accepted? One has to wonder.

How is it that the Liberals always seem to have all the answers?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / noon
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, whether with this legislation or other legislation, we have seen a change in attitude at the standing committees. I am very familiar with the amendments and the process in which amendments are brought forward. The standing committees control the committee, what is debated, the votes, and so forth. We have had standing committees in which amendments have been brought forward and have passed. Opposition amendments have passed, many in fact, on a wide variety of legislation. We can contrast that to the former government. I could not name one amendment that ever passed during the years of the Conservative majority government.

Our government listens. It is very responsible with all ideas brought forward. I do not want to comment specifically on the amendments the member across the way might have brought forward, but our government gives consideration to all amendments.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / noon
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Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague defend this bill with great passion, but I do not know where this passion is coming from.

The Liberals want to usher in the type of world where, starting July 1, 2018, a 12-year-old will be able to legally access marijuana. I have children and grandchildren. In all honesty, I cannot believe that, in a developed country like ours, we are going to be sending a message to kids that it is perfectly acceptable and easy to do drugs whenever they want.

Does my colleague have any grandchildren? Does he think that the day when they can easily buy drugs on a street corner will be a good day for his grandchildren?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / noon
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I have grandchildren. Like the member across the way, I do not want my grandchildren to go in a direction that is unhealthy for them. That is one of the reasons why I think this is good legislation. I do not want some 22-year-old individual trying to sell my grandchild marijuana. If he sells him that little bag of marijuana, he will make money that will go into criminal activities. Millions of dollars go into criminal activities, and that happens today. It is out of concern for my grandchildren and other children that we need this legislation passed.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / noon
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all, I want to congratulate the member for Winnipeg North on being nominated for hardest-working MP. Well done, dear colleague.

I have tremendous respect for my colleague, but I would add the caveat that just because a person is hard-working does not mean everything they do is right.

I also want to take this opportunity to remind members that November 5 was municipal elections day in Quebec. The 28 municipalities in the beautiful riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier voted in a mix of new officials and re-elected incumbents. The day after the elections, I wasted no time in congratulating the mayors and councillors. However, a warning was in order as well. In eight months' time, these municipal councillors and mayors will have a problem to deal with. These elected officials will be responsible for making sure life goes on in their municipalities after July 1, 2018. They will have decisions to make. They will have to keep an eye on their parks. What will be happening around schools?

My colleague said earlier that 12-year-olds could be walking around with drugs in their pockets. We must not forget that children are more impressionable than adults. I am deeply troubled.

Municipal elected officials will also have to look at what this means for highway safety codes. Those are under provincial jurisdiction, but municipalities do have local responsibilities. Recently, the Government of Quebec enacted legislation giving municipalities additional responsibilities, including speed limits in residential areas. Municipalities handle that. What a gift for our newly elected officials.

I take no pleasure in rising in the House today to speak to a Liberal bill that will destroy our youth, theact respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.

I was talking about municipalities. We also have to talk about the other level of government, the provincial government, which will have to deal with all these problems in return for a portion of the federal government's revenues from legalizing this product.

Many studies have made it abundantly clear that using marijuana affects people's health, especially the health of our young people. We must not forget that health is under provincial jurisdiction.

We also have to talk about road safety. We have no idea how our hard-working police officers are going to enforce that. There has been talk of training and investment, even of sending people to the United States for training. Nobody is ready for this. We should be taking our time.

As for personnel management, the Quebec minister of labour does not know what to do about the problem. People will be going to work after using drugs. It is a lot harder to verify people's state after they use drugs than after they drink. This is just one more thing being downloaded onto the provinces.

A university president from the Quebec City area asked how they are supposed to deal with this and manage it on campus. A myriad questions remain unanswered, and yet the government is fixated on one thing: July 1, 2018. Why is there such a rush to get this bill into law?

I recognize that drug use exists and that we need to do something. However, just because the government cannot control an existing problem does not mean that we should trivialize and legalize it. We should be taking more responsible steps and taking the time to come up with better solutions. I do not think this is the right way to tackle the problem.

We need to work on prevention. We need to encourage our youth to play sports and get involved in the arts and in their community. Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier has 500 organizations. Their problem right now is that they cannot renew their membership lists or find new volunteers.

Why has the federal government not developed a program to encourage our youth to get involved in their community? When they are involved in sports, dancing, singing, or arts and crafts, whatever the activity, that is all they think about. They do not have time for mischief or smoking marijuana.

The government opposite outlined specific purposes in the legislation. They are:

a) protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis;

However, it will be sold everywhere. Furthermore, people will have easy access from home since they will be allowed to grow their own pot plants. I will continue:

b) protect young persons and others from inducements to use cannabis;

Once again, it will be available everywhere. Here is the the third purpose:

c) provide for the licit production of cannabis to reduce illicit activities in relation to cannabis;

In other words, the government is saying that it will kill organized crime, but the Canadian Police Association said that it was naive to believe that organized crime activity could be restrained, reduced, or influenced. That is the word the Canadian Police Association used to describe this government. Then, the bill goes on:

(d) deter illicit activities in relation to cannabis through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures;

Young people from 12 to 17 will apparently be able to go around with 5 grams of marijuana, which is the equivalent of 10 to 15 joints depending on their size. I will keep reading:

(e) reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis;

Yes, we agree on decriminalization, but let us make the distinction between decriminalization and legalization. All 338 members of Parliament probably made some mistakes in their youth. It is certainly better to pay a fine, as we do for speeding, than it is to have a criminal record. The bill goes on:

(f) provide access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis; and

(g) enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.

The government is saying that marijuana is not good for people's health, but it is going to legalize it. The government is saying that people should not use it, but it is going to put measures in place that will make it more accessible to our young people. I rise in the House today to protect our young people. That is important for any self-respecting society. It is naive to think that this is going to get rid of organized crime.

My goal is to protect young people under 25. All studies show that the brain development is complete by age 25. Why put young people between the ages of 18 and 25 at risk? The government is treating our young people like lab rats. We are the first G20 country that wants to legalize this drug. Why? We will become a testing ground and that is unacceptable. We are sacrificing a generation. That shows a lack of respect for our young people and makes it seem the government does not believe in the future of our country.

This government is here for the wrong reasons. It is spending money hand over fist and now has backed itself into a corner, so it is looking for a way to make some fast cash. First, that is an irresponsible way for a government to behave, because it has no vision. Second, it is using our young people to fill its coffers. The government has failed to mention what the cost of the consequences will be. We need to take the time to find a more respectful solution.

Even the tax is set out in budget 2017. We are wasting our time here today. The Liberals want this measure to take effect on July 1, 2018, and they did not agree to any of the amendments proposed by the NPD. They are looking forward to July 1, when they can raise some money for the friends of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's heir, our famous Prime Minister.

It does not take a genius to understand that this government is implementing measures that will take money out of the pockets of Canadians and harm our young people. That is unacceptable. This government needs to listen to reason. I am calling on the government to take more time before implementing this legislation, to be serious, and to show some respect for our young people. I am rising today on behalf of our youth.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to begin by simply advising the member that I spent most of my adult life fighting crime, and crime and violence can be reduced in our society, but not through tough talk, through smart action.

I also wanted to clarify something. The member opposite said that he supports decriminalization. I suggest to him that we have recognized the harm that can be visited on young people from being criminalized by getting a criminal record. That is why we have set limits. For example, if a young person under the age of 18 has more than five grams of marijuana, that would be a criminal offence. However, below that, we have worked with the provinces and territories so they could enact provincial legislation that would enforce an absolute prohibition on the possession, purchase, and consumption of cannabis. In every province, a provincial offence would prohibit a person under the age of majority in that province from possessing cannabis. It would give the police the authority to seize that cannabis and ticket for that offence. What it would not do is give that kid a criminal record.

I have spoken to people on both sides of this House, and we all care about our kids. We care about their health, their safety, and their outcomes. One of the greatest impediments to their outcomes is that criminal record. This government has listened to that, and have done exactly what the member wants us to do. We have removed the threat of a criminal sanction from those kids, but we have enforced the prohibition through smart provincial regulation, exactly as we do for alcohol, by the way.

If we look at those provincial regulations coming forward, we see that we would be getting exactly what the member thinks is the right thing to do. Does it ease the member's concern knowing that is happening? Does it ease his concern with respect to young people having prohibited access to this drug?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I am aware of my colleague’s past, and I am surprised and disappointed with his position.

He is saying that, because the penalties imposed on young people in the past had no effect, we should give up. That means that we are unable to curb the distribution and sale of drugs.

Mr. Speaker, correct me if I should not be saying this, but that is a cowardly approach. It is unacceptable, because it means shirking our responsibilities. Instead of dealing with the problem, we are legalizing marijuana because we are unable to take control of the situation. That means that, if there are other problems in society, we will simply say that, because we are unable to take control, because we cannot find a solution, we will give up and open the door wide. It is irresponsible.

Unfortunately, I did not really understand the question, because it was too long, but I hope I answered it to my colleague’s satisfaction.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will return to what my colleague has just said about criminalization. All the studies show that criminalization and the longer minimum sentences implemented by the Conservatives for cannabis-related offences have not worked. They have not reduced drug use in young people, and they have not reduced the involvement of organized crime in the sale of cannabis.

On the contrary, according to the statistics on drug-related offences reported by the police in 2014, one year after the Conservatives’ repressive laws were passed, cases of methamphetamine possession rose by 38% and trafficking by 17%, while cases of heroine possession rose by 34% and trafficking by 12%. The minimum sentences did not work, the war on drugs was unsuccessful. Why do the Conservatives not want us to adopt and implement a new strategy, an approach based on public health? Right now, the number one drug, the most commonly used drug in Canada and throughout the world, is cannabis. The people who use cannabis the most are young people between the ages of 12 and 25. We need a new strategy to continue to work with young people and improve prevention. Obviously, there are shortcomings in the bill we are debating, but we can work on these shortcomings and make improvements.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my colleague had really listened to what I said, she would see that I agree that there is a problem and we need to find solutions. Decriminalization is not a magic wand to solve all our drug-related problems, but it is a step in the right direction. Now, let us take the time to determine the best way to proceed.

What I said earlier is that we need to protect young people aged 25 and under and set up a prevention program. In fact, I might not have said it because I was short of time, but I included it in my speech. We need to establish a prevention program, a program to encourage young people to become involved in sports, the arts and volunteering, and put in place the means to eliminate the distribution of drugs to young people.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to engage in this debate. Bill C-45 is, of course, the bill that would legalize marijuana in Canada.

When we talk about legalization, we have to understand what this legislation would do. It would normalize the use of marijuana in everyday life across Canada. Like cigarettes, which were normalized many years ago, and the same with booze, marijuana would now become an accepted part of Canadian life. The message we send to our children would be a terrible one. It is one that says we give up, we surrender, because we are no longer going take action to eliminate the use of marijuana and other drugs in our society. We are simply going to go, as my colleague said, the coward's way: acquiesce and legalize it.

I am absolutely confident that Bill C-45, which represents the normalization of the use of marijuana in Canada, would become a massive public policy failure for the Liberal government, just like its tax reforms, where it attacks small businesses, diabetics, those who are getting employee discounts, and the mentally ill. That has become a massive policy failure, and Bill C-45 would also become a massive policy failure for the reasons I will articulate.

The bill would effectively legalize the sale, use, and cultivation of marijuana. As I said, it would normalize its use. We have worked so hard as a society to discourage cigarette smoking, and yet here we are opening the door to what is arguably an even more dangerous substance. The irony is that the current government, while it would pass the bill to legalize the use of marijuana, would then engage in a public relations and communications strategy telling young people who would be purchasing marijuana that they should not buy it because it is very dangerous and they should not use it, but it would be legalized and normalized. I mean, the hypocrisy of that is jaw-dropping.

I was an elected official in the City of Abbotsford for many years. I was very pleased to serve there as a city councillor. I can tell members that, as a council, one of the biggest challenges we had was the growing of marijuana plants at home. Many of these were illegal grow ops. Eventually, medicinal marijuana was approved for use in Canada, and homes are now growing this under the auspices of providing some kind of medicinal relief. What has happened is that we have communities and neighbourhoods within Abbotsford that are wonderful neighbourhoods, but they have houses in which marijuana is grown. Historically, they would cover the windows with foil, and the stench emanating from those properties was overwhelming. There was a constant stream of neighbourhood members who would come to us council members and complain about it.

This bill would authorize the growing of marijuana plants at home. I can assure members that many Canadians, unfortunately, will take that opportunity to grow more than the four plants that would be allowed under the proposed legislation. This would result in continued challenges with our neighbourhoods across Canada.

There was a stated objective of the government that it wanted to protect youth, and that the regulation and legalization of marijuana would achieve that end. The Liberals stated that they also wanted to eliminate organized crime, but we know that children under the age of 18 are not supposed to be buying marijuana. Anyone over the age of 18, under the proposed legislation, would be able to legally purchase and consume marijuana, but those under the age of 18 would not. Ironically, those between the ages of 12 and 17 would be allowed to possess small amounts of marijuana. Where would they acquire that marijuana? They cannot buy it legally. Who are they going to go to? Well, organized crime would supply that drug.

There is a bigger problem. All of the medical and and scientific research says that marijuana use among young people has a very negative impact on their developing young brains.

Why would the Liberal government want to legalize a drug that we know will be used by our youth in increasing numbers, because it will be that much more available to them? Why would we allow this to happen when it is very clear from the medical literature that the use of marijuana amongst young people invariably leads to significant mental health issues? In fact, I am predicting that if this legislation passes, in 5, 10, 15 years from now, Canada will face a mental health crisis. All of these youth who have had greater access to marijuana will be suffering from significant mental health challenges. What a terrible legacy for us to leave for our children.

I want to address the issue of the timing of this legislation. As we know, the Prime Minister has said he is going to ram this thing through and implement the legislation by July 1, 2018. However, we have heard from police chiefs across Canada that it is impossible for them to get ready and implement this legislation with all the challenges this bill represents. We have heard from communities across the country, including from my own city of Abbotsford, which communicated with the federal government, made a submission to the committee that studied this bill, and said, “Please, you cannot do this by July 1”. The provinces and territories are saying to the Prime Minister that July 1 is way too ambitious a date to implement this plan by, that they will not be ready for it. Their police services will not be ready, their educational system will not be ready, and Canadians will not be ready for it.

Generally speaking, it is going to result in a fiasco. However, that is what we have to expect from the Liberal government. Whatever file it touches, it it ends up being a huge mess. That includes ethical failures like those of the finance minister and the Prime Minister and his fundraiser having offshore accounts. No one trusts the government anymore. There has been a fundamental breach of trust.

Let us look at some of the other challenges. I want to be very clear that we support ticketing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. We are supportive of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. We do not want to leave young children with a criminal record.

However, this bill goes far beyond decriminalization. It is clear-cut legalization of the use of marijuana and the normalization that will follow. We run a huge risk as we normalize the use of marijuana in Canada, where people will be entitled by law to possess small amounts of marijuana. Many Canadians will be travelling. They will have used marijuana regularly. They will have some of it in their glove compartments. When they get to the U.S. border, suddenly the border agents will be asking, “Hey, what do you have in your car? Do you have any guns or drugs?” People will say, “No, we do not.” The agents will rifle through the car and find marijuana in the glove compartment. Those people will probably be apprehended on the American side of the border. They will have a criminal record on that side of the border. They will have to go through the legal process there. That is one of the many small consequences the bill will generate.

Finally, it is very clear that the government has run out of money. That is why it is taxing Canadians to death. It has gone after small businesses, diabetics, employee discounts, the mentally ill, and now it is going after marijuana. The government is going to tax marijuana. More and more, it is because the government is running short of money. Can members imagine that being the reason for passing a bill like this that will have enormous consequences for Canadians?

I say to my Liberal friends across the way in closing that they should give their heads a shake and reconsider what they are doing here. This is bad policy that will hurt future generations of Canadians. They should not do it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by the member for Abbotsford. We get along great at the environment committee and had a great discussion this morning.

Regrettably, I see some challenges with what he has presented here today. In particular, he talked about normalizing the use of cannabis. Is he aware of the fact that 21% of our youth have used marijuana? Is he aware of the fact that 30% of young adults use marijuana? What more is required for him to realize it is already a problem?

He then talked about access to cannabis, particularly the access of young children to cannabis, and how it will somehow give rise to the criminal activity behind production and distribution. How many of these young people are getting alcohol brewed at home, or tobacco that has been grown and dried at home and rolled into cigarettes? It simply will not work like that.

The reality of the situation is that when we have legalized it and regulated its production, and when we can start to properly inform and educate children about the challenges involved, as we have done with cigarettes, we will be so much more successful. I am not creating a brand new scenario here. This has already been the case. We have already seen this happen with alcohol and tobacco. We have had a much higher success rate at keeping those out of the hands of children.

Would the member like to respond to the fact that so many youth are already experimenting with cannabis?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did want to reiterate what my colleague said. We do work very well at committee and get a lot of things done, which indicates there is a lot of goodwill around the environment committee table.

He has suggested that a significant percentage of Canadian youth already use drugs to some degree. He is right. Therefore, the member asked if this was not already a problem. Yes, it is.

This bill would make that problem much worse for the reasons I articulated. Just because there are youth who have been using it illegally, like our Prime Minister did, it does not mean it is good for them or that we should normalize its use. It means we should find new and creative ways of discouraging the use of marijuana.

The irony is that with this bill, the government's legalization of the use of marijuana will increase marijuana use amongst our youth at the same time the government is establishing a policy to communicate with youth telling them not to use marijuana. The hypocrisy is jaw dropping.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. However, I often have difficulty understanding the Conservatives’ logic when it comes to finding solutions to problems. Often, their first reaction is to say that all the answers are in the Criminal Code. They want to criminalize everything, as though that would solve the problem.

My other colleague even drew a parallel with cigarettes by talking about the awareness campaigns, which, statistics have shown, enabled us, over time, to reduce tobacco use without having to criminalize the toxic substance.

I therefore wonder why we should not use the same approach with cannabis that we used with cigarettes; in other words, legalize it and launch awareness campaigns to reduce its use.

Since it worked for cigarettes, why would it not work for cannabis?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will say this. The member suggested that we in the Conservative Party want to make the use of marijuana criminal. Here is a news flash: the use and selling of marijuana in Canada is illegal right now. We want to preserve the state of the law as it is. The best thing we can do, something that has been resisted by the NDP and the Liberals for time immemorial, is to come up with targeted mandatory minimum prison sentences for those who produce and sell marijuana, especially those who sell marijuana to our youth. I articulated in my speech the terrible impact that marijuana use has on the young developing brain. Therefore, we should be going after the predators who produce the stuff and sell it to our kids, rather than simply saying that we should give up and normalize it. That is a backward solution.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour and privilege to represent my beautiful community of Langley—Aldergrove. I want to thank the member for Abbotsford for his hard work over the many years, representing his community well. He brought up many good and important points. I hope the government is listening.

I want to congratulate the parliamentary secretary for being recognized for having spoken more words in Parliament than anyone else. What a great record. He sure talks.

The parliamentary secretary asked where the facts were coming from. If the government does not know where the facts come from, we have a problem. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Canadians are concerned with the government and why they are losing trust in it. The decisions the Liberals make are not logical.

The member for Abbotsford addressed the national issue of too many young people using marijuana. It is a problem when 21% of children use it.

I took a one-week bike training course with the RCMP. I wanted to be with RCMP members as they travelled into parks. I wanted to see how they dealt with the issue of drugs. It was being confiscated from youths because it was bad for them. The officers also took their names. Yes, it is illegal. Yes, 21% of youth using it. It is a problem. I was very proud of how they handled the situation.

I agree with the member for Abbotsford that it should be decriminalized and that it should be a ticketable offence rather than a criminal offence. However, right now it is illegal and we have a problem.

The government is talks about the 21% of children and 30% of young adults. Young adults are on my youth advisory board. These are bright young people who, hopefully, will be our leaders in the years to come. I did not ask what percentage of them were using cannabis. I asked them what they thought of the government's goal to have it legalized by July 1, and they all smiled. I asked if they thought the Liberals were on the right track. Almost all their hands went up and they all wanted to have input. Overwhelmingly they criticized the government.

Young people from all political persuasions sit on the youth advisory board. I did not want just Conservatives, I wanted a full spectrum representing our community of Langley—Aldergrove. They said that the government should not be moving so fast, that it should be listening to the different police forces across Canada, and that It should be listening to health authorities across Canada, all saying that Canada was not ready for this.

The Prime Minister may have smoked some joints or been in the room where joints were being smoked while he was the leader of the opposition, which is inappropriate. However, because we can do something does not mean we should do something. The youth advisory board overwhelmingly said that the government should slow down the process. It is a problem, so it needs to educate youth on the risks associated with it. That is how we dealt with the tobacco problem, and it has been quite successful.

Past governments maybe should have done more to address this through education. Maybe there should have been research on what the medical benefits were from marijuana, because it is a problem. The logic of the government is that we have a problem, so let us legalize it and that will solve it.

In criminology, one can determine what somebody is likely to do by past behaviour. It is the same in psychology. It is common sense; it is logic. Therefore, why not look at what has happened in other jurisdictions that have legalizing marijuana? Did it make things better or worse? Actually, it made things way worse. The criminal connection to the distribution of pot has increased in Colorado. These are the facts and the research that has been done.

In the years since it was legalized in Colorado, the state has seen an increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths, in poison control calls for aid, and in emergency room visits. The marijuana black market has increased in Colorado, not decreased. Numerous Colorado marijuana regulators have been indicted for corruption.

Dr. Harry Bull, superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools, said, “We were promised funds from marijuana taxes that would benefit our communities, particularly schools.” This superintendent is in charge of one of the largest school districts in the United States. He went on to say, “So far, the only thing that the legalization of marijuana has brought to our schools has been marijuana.”

I have been with the police bike unit and also in police cars. I have seen how officers professionally protect our communities, how they try to keep our communities safe in practical, realistic ways, and how they confiscate.

The government is proposing that if somebody is driving a car with some buddies in it and there is an open bottle of alcohol in that vehicle, if the care is stopped by the police, the police can confiscate that open bottle of alcohol. However, if police officers stop a car that has four people in it and marijuana is found, every one of in the car can legally have 30 grams of marijuana, or 60 joints. That is 240 joints in total.

It is illogical to say that this is the way we will fight the problem or this how we will fight organized crime. The parliamentary secretary said that too many criminals wanted young people to use pot but the government did not. Therefore, the Liberal government is going to compete with the criminal element. The Liberals will ensure that the quality of the pot is good and people can have lots of it. The Liberals are saying that anybody aged 18 and older can have 60 joints. If it were a child, the Liberals would confiscate it. Under this legislation, children between the ages of 12 and 18 will be able to have five grams, which is 10 joints. What the government is saying is illogical.

We should learn from others who have made mistakes. The government has proposed that we go way beyond what Colorado did. Our roads will be less safe and there will be more deaths, yet the Liberals are rushing the legislation through before there is any technology to determine drug-impaired driving.

We just dealt with Bill C-46. How will the government get tough when somebody gets killed by a drunk driver? There will be a fine of at least $1,000 for driving drunk and killing somebody. The second offence will result in at least 10 days in jail, a 30-day sentence for killing the second time. What the government has proposed is bizarre. Our communities will be less safe. This is wrong.

I would remind the government that just because a government can do something does not mean that it should.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the unfortunate attempts of my colleague across the aisle to show that there is a problem by trying to explain why we need to decriminalize cannabis.

In other words, he is telling parents and Canadians in his riding and mine, among others, that there is no problem, we will leave the profits to organized crime. We will just give offenders a small fine and reduce the penalty.

By what lack of logic can they promote the status quo? They have done nothing for 10 years, and they admit that it is a problem. By what twisted logic can they explain to parents in our ridings that we prefer to keep organized crime in charge rather than taking control as we are doing?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite wrong to insult police chiefs and health professionals and say that is bombast. There is a problem. The solution the government is proposing and stubbornly moving ahead with is wrong. Canadians and professionals are telling the government that it is wrong, asking it to please reconsider what it is doing.

As the official opposition, we will work with the government, if it listens to Canadians, the police chiefs, and the health care professionals and does the right thing. We would support that. However, what it is doing now is foolish and wrong.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must address what was just said, because my colleague is offering no solution. In fact, he thinks that the status quo will do the job. In his opinion, allowing marijuana to remain illegal, as it has been for decades, works. How can he offer the status quo as a solution?

Can my colleague at least acknowledge that what his government did for 10 years did nothing to improve the situation? In fact, the situation got worse, since cannabis use increased over the 10-year period in which his government was in power.

How can he stand up today and say he wants to reduce cannabis use, while the strategy his government used for 10 years did absolutely nothing? In fact, it made things worse. How does he explain this?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member may have missed some of the comments that were made in the House. I do not know why he would have missed those, but he is incorrect.

I think all members in the House realize there is a problem and are open to discussion to make appropriate changes. The status quo is not working. That has been acknowledged by members on all sides of the House. The question is whether the Liberal plan is the right one. Is it the solution? Professionals are telling us no. Others that have legalized, not even to the degree that the government has proposed, have warned us not to do this because it is wrong. The small revenue the federal and provincial governments would get would be outstripped dramatically by the social and medical costs, so it would hurt Canada.

I ask the government to please slow down.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's commitment to our shared province. The government has proposed legislation that it feels is the proper approach to legalization. It is doing two things.

First, it is saying it is going to keep marijuana out of the hands of children. Second, it is saying that it is also going to get rid of organized crime. The problem is this. We have a heavily regulated industry like tobacco, but there is a tremendous amount of contraband tobacco, because organized crime moves in. On the flip side, if we try to regulate something like marijuana to stop children from getting a hold of it, we kind of end up in a circle where we cannot achieve either goal because one is almost fundamentally at odds with the other one.

The member has mentioned a third option. Could you maybe suggest what the Conservative policy is in addressing marijuana and its use?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a genuinely important question. We need to have a true study on the possible benefits of medical marijuana. There is a lot of opinion on that. We are seriously considering that we should perhaps decriminalize marijuana so it could be confiscated and be a ticketable offence. No one should have a criminal record for possession, unless he or she is part of a criminal element that distributes it to our youth.

The government proposes that youth would now be able to have it, which is illogical, because its goal is to keep it out of the hands of children. However, now it is saying small children can walk around with 10 joints in their pockets. When they turn 18, they can have 60 joints in their pockets. No one should have that in their pockets.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-45 will legalize cannabis use within the limits my colleagues have already mentioned.

Many decisions fall to the provinces, including the legal age for using cannabis, the development of a point-of-sale system, and education. The government is pushing for a very short deadline. We are talking about passing this bill before July 1, 2018, which is only eight months from now. In politics, eight months goes by fast.

However, we are still waiting to see how the federal government intends to make sure that the law is applied from Vancouver to St. John’s, Newfoundland, by way of Quebec. Despite everything, I think it is very clear that we must go ahead with this bill. I support the legalization of marijuana, provided that it is done effectively and that we can prevent the sale of cannabis to children, that a reliable long-term source of revenue is devoted to public health, prevention and research, and that a comprehensive strategy to fight impaired driving is adopted.

We know that the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis, which the Conservatives have maintained in place in the past 10 years, have proven to be completely ineffective in reducing cannabis use and related criminal activity in Canada.

Earlier I touched on the statistics concerning drug-related offences reported in 2014, when the Conservatives were in power and had already implemented an extremely repressive system with longer minimum sentences, in an attempt to manage drug use. One year after the Conservatives passed their repressive laws, cases of methamphetamine and heroine possession had increased by 38% and 34%, respectively. Methamphetamine and heroine trafficking had increased by 17% and 12%, respectively.

Thus, drug use was not reduced, but actually increased, as did trafficking. We need to determine a strategy for making sure that those who use cannabis the most, young people aged 25 and under, are truly taken into consideration, and that we stop hiding our heads in the sand and practising denial. We must realize that the war on drugs has not worked, and that we need to find new solutions.

We agree with the solution proposed by the Liberals, namely adopting a public health approach. There are, however, many flaws in their approach, hence the need for discussion. Unfortunately, we are already at the third and final reading stage. We are concerned because we proposed several amendments that were rejected out of hand by Liberals at committee.

The government set up a task force, and in their report, the experts on the task force explained that legislation must be enacted to do the following:

reduce the burdens on police and the justice system associated with simple possession of cannabis offences; prevent Canadians from entering the criminal justice system and receiving criminal records for simple cannabis possession offences; protect public health and safety by strengthening, where appropriate, laws and enforcement measures that deter and punish more serious cannabis offences...

The bill addresses those issues by legalizing the consumption of up to 30 grams of dried cannabis and the possession of up to four plants per household.

However, as I said, the bill is scheduled to come into effect on July 1, 2018. Around 100,000 people have been given criminal records over the past two years for simple cannabis possession even though the government is planning to legalize it in less than a year. How many more young people is the government willing to put in jail for something that will be legal in about 10 months? Will it at least direct the police and judicial authorities to stop enforcing the existing law until such time as the new law is in force?

The Liberals' own working group was given a recommendation to decriminalize marijuana. They do not agree amongst themselves. The Prime Minister recently said that granting pardons would certainly address some of the backlog in the justice system. We know that, since the Jordan decision, a number of investigations have been halted and charges have not been laid in cases involving offences much more serious than simple marijuana possession.

We are going through the same thing with Bill C-45, as they do not want to proceed with decriminalization in the interim. This will only add to the burden on the judicial system and to the monumental costs associated with arresting people for simple possession.

Statistics Canada and other organizations have repeatedly demonstrated to us that these arrests and ensuing criminal records disproportionately affect young people, racialized persons and aboriginals. I wonder how many criminal records from young people arrested for smoking a joint end up on the desks of my colleagues from Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. How many applications for pardon do they process each year?

As elected members, do we not want the Liberal government to fulfill its promise while making the right choice for Canadians, regardless of their age or the colour of their skin, meaning to go ahead with decriminalization, at the very least, and consider granting pardons? I cannot understand why this would be a problem in light of the fact that it appears in the Liberal Party's platform in 2015.

These long overdue amendments will only come into force in 15 months, at the earliest. Delays and lack of resources are causing a crisis in the justice system. We cannot afford to continue to allocate police and court resources to charging and convicting people for simple possession of cannabis, a substance that will be legalized in a few months.

The working group will continue working toward meeting its objectives, which now focus on youth, prevention and education. The bill must protect Canada's youth by keeping cannabis out of their reach, and must ensure that Canadians are well informed through public health campaigns so that young people especially are made aware of the risks of cannabis use.

Bill C-45 imposes heavy sanctions on whomever traffics, sells or gives cannabis to a minor. How is this a public health matter, I wonder? First off, we need more scientific research not only on the short and long-term effects of cannabis use, but also on the properties of this plant. Some people already use it for medicinal purposes. We have often heard of patients undergoing chemotherapy or veterans using it, for example.

Since they claim to want to protect youth, will the Liberals increase funding for research on the chronic and long-term effects of consumption on the health of young people in particular?

I am also looking at the 2017 budget, which announced a ridiculous budget of less than $2 million per year over five years. Last week, it was announced that this budget will be increased to $6 million per year over five years, but it still totally ridiculous. On top of education, awareness campaigns and prevention, we need federal funds for frontline community organizations. Along with the schools, they will be ready to engage with young people on the ground when they want information. However, how will $6 million ever be enough to help the millions of community groups in Canada? Will the burden fall on the provinces? It is a fair question.

If we do a comparison with American states such as Colorado, we are far from doing all we can. Colorado spends nearly $37 million per year in prevention alone. That is seven times what the Canadian government provides for in this major bill on the legalization of marijuana. I would remind members that will happen in less than eight months.

I also know very little about what the government intends to do with the money that will be made from the sale of marijuana. What types of prevention programs will be available? Who will they be targeting? Will there be funding for community groups? We should keep in mind that this is extremely important.

The bill also raises a lot of important questions concerning the provinces. Will they need additional time to establish their regulatory system? This is another reason why we would have wanted the process to start earlier or go beyond July 1, 2018. The issues relating to the sale system and the legal framework are also very important to minimize the risks associated with the legalization of marijuana.

Another issue we need to clarify has to do with the nature of the cannabis tax structure and revenue. How will they be shared among the provinces and the federal government? The provinces and Canadians are looking to the Department of Finance to make a decision on this issue. In Quebec, Minister Charlebois has already expressed her displeasure about the time granted to the provinces, and Premier Couillard did the same regarding taxation.

I would like to talk about many other things, but I see that my time is up. I want to simply point out that the NDP proposed 38 amendments in committee and that all 38 amendments were rejected. That is rather absurd.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin with a point of clarification for the member. I thank her for her conditional support for Bill C-45. I want to simply advise her that the government has, in fact, announced $46 million for a public education program that will begin to roll out very shortly. I hope that addresses one of her concerns.

I seek clarification from the member. She has stated that she supports decriminalization, but let us be really clear about what decriminalization is. Decriminalization maintains the prohibition and simply replaces the criminal sanction with a civil penalty: a ticketing scheme with a fine. In an environment in which the prohibition remains, one cannot regulate the substance.

When the member described her vision of decriminalization, she said that the law would not be enforced, not that it would be enforced in a different way with a different outcome, a civil penalty. I submit to the member opposite that what she was describing was, in fact, legalization without regulation.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have once again shown that they do not listen at all to the NDP's recommendations.

First, my colleague announced $45 million. However, that is over a five-year period, which means about $9 million per year, total, and that includes all the drugs in Canada, not just marijuana.

As for his argument on decriminalization, we recommend that the government decriminalize marijuana while waiting for its legalization in eight months. We are not asking for either one or the other. Since the legalization is supposed to happen anyway, why would we allow thousands of young people across the country to have a criminal record that will prevent them from having a job, buying a house, and travelling? That would be a crippling disadvantage for a young person.

We are talking only about decriminalizing the simple possession of marijuana, not about more serious crimes. This is really a matter of nuance. I think that my colleague across the way is very smart and can understand the nuances.

We hear about increased investments in prevention. Community groups have been calling for this for years now. There is not enough money. I used to be a teacher, and many young people are falling behind in school because they are under the influence of drugs, marijuana being the most popular among young people. I am not sure if my colleague has visited any schools.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made many good points. It is clear that the government is not going to achieve its stated objectives with Bill C-45. It is certainly not going to offload from the criminal justice system, because there is more criminality in this bill than there was already. It is certainly not going to keep cannabis out of the hands of children, because it would allow home grow, and it is certainly not going to get rid of organized crime.

If we want to implement something, we tend to look at who else did this and who else did it with positive results. If we look at Washington State, it actually reduced organized crime to less than 20%. Young children there are finding it hard to get hold of marijuana. What did it do? It did not allow home grow, except for the medically fragile, and it controlled all the distribution. It took its medical marijuana system, which was very well regulated, and expanded it.

It seems to me that this bill falls really short in many areas, but especially in the area of public awareness. There was clear testimony that we needed to get on that. We only have 234 days left before the government would arbitrarily roll things out. Can the member comment on the public education needed?

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, as my colleague just pointed out, not enough is being invested in prevention or in awareness and education campaigns. We want young people to understand that our intention here is not to normalize marijuana use, but rather to educate them about its effects. There is also not enough being invested in research on long-term use and the effects of chronic use on young people's health. The Liberals need to invest more money in that area. I cannot say enough about the importance of prevention, and my colleague talked about it too.

In addition, we need to stop criminalizing and increasing penalties for the simple possession of cannabis. Many studies have shown that the war on drugs did not work. Over the past 10 years, drug use and drug trafficking have continued to rise. We need to work harder and change our strategy.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on an issue I care deeply about. I am thankful to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-45. This is a piece of legislation that pertains to an issue very close to my heart. Today, I am going to speak to why Bill C-45 cannot be passed.

I want to provide some context. Marijuana is a dangerous drug. With all the pro-marijuana publicity lately, it can be hard for many Canadians to remember that marijuana is indeed a damaging and addictive drug. Further, it causes harmful effects on youth brain development, and a greater incidence of psychosis and schizophrenia.

The Conservatives oppose this legislation on marijuana in Canada. Our opposition is based on the concerns we heard from scientists, doctors, and law enforcement officials, who said that the government's plan is being rushed through without proper planning or consideration for the negative consequences of such complicated legislation.

Most concerning is that this bill does not keep marijuana out of the hands of children, nor does it eliminate organized crime or address issues with impaired driving.

Canada will be in violation of three international treaties if this bill passes. The three UN treaties to which Canada is a signatory are as follows: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. This legislation will be compromising Canada's integrity on the world stage. How can Canada hold other countries to account on their treaty obligations when Canada does not honour its own?

Almost daily, I hear about another new report on the harmful effects of marijuana, yet the Liberal government refuses to consider the mounting evidence and is recklessly pushing ahead with this legislation. The government claims it wants to protect our youth and that this legislation will be regulating the industry and eliminating the black market. However, Bill C-45 will not accomplish even one of these goals. The Liberal government is not listening to medical professionals. It is not listening to the police forces. It is not even listening to concerned Canadians who believe this bill is fundamentally flawed and is being rushed through Parliament in order to meet an arbitrary and irresponsible deadline.

For these reasons and many more, I am entirely opposed to this legislation. When it comes to our youth, I want to ensure that they are safe, and able to have a better life and more opportunities than we did. Allowing easier access to drugs does not achieve that.

Currently, the bill recommends the age of 18 as a federal minimum. However, the provinces are being given the power to set a higher age. If we look to our southern neighbour the United States, the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized marijuana, have used the age of 21 as the minimum. As of now, Ontario says it will set its minimum age at 19, and Alberta at 21. This is not safe. A number of medical professionals have testified that the brain continues to develop until the age of 25. According to the Canadian Medical Association, the increased use of marijuana before the age of 25 increases one's risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, by up to 30% compared to those who have not used marijuana under the age of 25. Is this what we want for our children? This is most certainly not what I want for my children, my constituents, or Canadians. For these reasons, the Canadian Medical Association and various other medical professionals recommended increasing the age at which a person can consume marijuana to 21 at the very least. The government would fail our children if it goes through with this proposed legislation.

The second goal the Liberals claim would be achieved through the bill would be regulating the industry. I will explain why they will not reach this goal either.

Bill C-45 would allow for four plants per household with no height restriction on the plants. If grown in optimal conditions, this could yield as much as 600 grams of marijuana. The vast majority of witnesses at the health committee spoke strongly against home grow in their testimony, including most medical groups and the police forces that appeared.

Allowing home grow will most certainly not regulate the industry. Further, the police have said before the health committee that, because they cannot see inside homes, they would be unable to enforce a four-plant household quota. Even more concerning is that a large network of legal home grows could easily become an organized crime network. This would not be regulating the industry. It would not eliminate the black market. It is internally inconsistent.

This brings me back to my worry for our youth. The bill would not keep marijuana out of the hands of youth, which is one of the stated goals of the bill in clause 7(a). If marijuana is in the home, youth will have access to it, not to mention the issue of impaired driving, which will increase as a result of legalization.

There is currently no instrument that can accurately measure the level of marijuana impairment roadside. Canada is unable to train officers at home on how to recognize marijuana-impaired driving. We do not have the technology or resources, so the government needs to send officers for expensive, lengthy training in the United States. Our police forces do not currently have the resources and the training required to manage the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana. This training currently has backlogs and wait lists. Canada is not ready for this.

As it stands, the proposed legislation is not what is best for Canadians. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. Elected representatives can and should provide guidance on drugs to reflect the views of all Canadians. Let us all remember that we are talking about the health and safety of Canadians, and they deserve better.

There are only 233 days to go until the arbitrary date of July 1, 2018. Let us not rush through this proposed legislation. We need to do what is right for Canadians. The provinces, municipalities, and police forces are not ready to implement this legislation. I cannot support Bill C-45.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments. I think that his concerns are valid, from a scientific and medical perspective.

However, the problem I want to point out to him is that we have a larger population of 18-to-25-year-olds who use this product, and that is illegal. How will setting the legal age right in the middle of the 18-to-25 bracket solve the problem for those who are 18 to 21?

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many issues in solving this problem.

The hon. member for Scarborough Southwest was the police chief for the metro police. He probably jailed 200,000 or 300,000 people. It was the honourable thing to make sure that the youth understood that this drug is bad, and it could be an issue with their mental development and many other issues.

I think this is more Liberal hypocrisy, since the Prime Minister smoked it, as he said. His brother and other family members smoked it. This is just pushing it down the throats of all Canadians. I think it is simply wrong to push through somebody else's personal beliefs. This is another reason we simply will not support the bill.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, last year, I held a telephone town hall and 3,300 of my constituents stayed on the phone for an hour to hear from a panel I had put together, an addictions expert, a municipal official, and a retailer, who were trying to deal with some of the challenges. They produced a list of questions and concerns, which I then submitted to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health, who were able to put together a very nice report that is available to my constituents. The number one thing that came out of all of that was a concern about the safety of children and the public. From my perspective certainly, we need to make sure that a lot of money goes into education moving forward to try to deal not only with the issues associated with marijuana use but also to keep the public safe.

If the member does not agree with the path that the Liberal government is currently on, what is the best way to keep Canadians safe moving forward since mandatory sentences certainly have not worked in the past? What does he see as a way to keep Canadians safer going forward?

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I held town hall meetings last year and 98% of people said no to this legislation in Markham—Unionville. Many questions came out, such as how we would educate kids, what is bad, and how much the budget will be if it is legalized. After this legislation goes through, what happens if somebody has a glass of beer, smokes cannabis, and has an accident? The police cannot deal with what they are handling today; imagine the burden on police. What happens to a kid who eats a brownie at home that had marijuana oil, or other things in it? What if dope keeps going to schools? What happens to people who drive to work impaired and show up at work impaired? What about the accidents? Who will pick up the tab for police? According to the Colorado report, it tripled the cost for policing, tripled the cost for paramedics, and doubled or tripled homelessness.

The government has not done the homework. It is pushing the bill through quickly, it is not ready, police are not ready, and people are not ready, they are not educated. Conservatives are simply asking the Liberal government to go back to the table and rethink the whole thing. Why the hurry for July 1, 2018? We should be celebrating Canada's birthday on that day. Why is it being pushed through?

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, today the House deals with one of the largest changes regarding controlled substances in my lifetime. Throughout the debate on the larger issue of legalizing recreational marijuana, I have discovered that the issue is not as black and white as some members have put forward in their arguments. I agree with many of the points my colleague from Markham—Unionville raised. However, I said that it is not as black and white, and I will give an example. Every time the Liberal MPs talk about how marijuana legalization would keep the substance out of the hands of youth, it is asinine. For anyone to think that youth currently do not have ready access to illegal marijuana is also rather absurd. I am well aware that Canada has some of the highest rates of adolescent marijuana consumption in the world. It is available far too often in our high schools and I have heard horrible stories of how marijuana consumption has led to disastrous life decisions.

This can also be said of alcohol. It can also be said of crystal meth, fentanyl, and cocaine. I do not for a moment believe that marijuana is in the same column as the illegal substances I just referenced, and it is not my intention to degrade those who consume marijuana for recreational purposes. My intent is to emphasize that we parliamentarians should wade very carefully into legalization of recreational marijuana, which would soon allow every household in Canada to grow four plants.

I have carefully reviewed many of the submissions to the health committee, such as by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses' Association, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. These are just a handful of the over 185 briefs tabled with committee members, and in many respects the concerns these well-respected organizations put forward were almost identical to those voiced by my constituents during the five town halls I hosted on this topic this summer.

The best way to describe Bill C-45 is by quoting a Brandon Sun article published the morning after one of our town halls. I can assure those who think the Brandon Sun is under the umbrella of Postmedia that it is not. The article stated, “If a consensus could be drawn from a wide-ranging town hall in Brandon about the proposed legalization of marijuana, it’s an acknowledgement the legislation is flawed.”

I fully agree with what the article said. That is why I submitted a brief not only to the justice and health ministers, but also to the entire committee tasked with studying this legislation. It was not surprising, but still unfortunate, to report that I received a boiler-plate response from the Minister of Justice that did not even acknowledge the recommendations I put forward. If a duly elected member of Parliament cannot even get the correspondence team in the Minister of Justice's office to go above and beyond just copying and pasting a response, it begs the question of whether the current government has any intention of listening to concerned Canadians.

For a government that pretends it listens, the only way to get its members to back down from a proposal is for thousands upon thousands of angry taxpayers to show up en masse at town halls and write some of the funniest tweets I have ever read. For example, during the taxpayers' revolt this summer, many farmers took pictures of themselves sitting in their combines while harvesting, referring to them as their tax shelters.

I ask the government not only to implement my recommended change to push back the bringing-into-force date of Bill C-45 to 2019, but also that its members listen to the brief by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which stated, “Canadian police services will not be equipped to provide officers with the training and resources necessary to enforce the new regime within the existing contemplated timeframe,” or to the Canadian Medical Association, which recommended a comprehensive public health strategy with a health education component before Bill C-45 is implemented.

If the government thinks that police services, the medical community, and our education system will be ready within the next six months, and that municipalities and provinces will be fully prepared for July 1, I would humbly remind it on its own part, two years later, it still cannot accurately pay public service employees.

It is sad to say, but the government's credibility in implementing and executing effective policies within a reasonable time frame is not that believable. My hon. colleagues across the way have essentially ignored the plea by provinces and municipalities for more time to properly prepare for the government's politically driven July 1 deadline.

Not a single member of this House has any idea what the rules will be in their communities, because their municipal governments have yet to determine what they will be. It will cost serious money for municipal governments to properly train their law enforcement and bylaw officers, and even more, they will not receive adequate financial assistance to do so. They will be stuck with all of the headaches, while the Prime Minister, on Canada Day, will proclaim that marijuana is now legal.

To expand on my recommendations to the government, the majority of my constituents believe that the federal government should not look to marijuana as a cash cow, but should provide a significant portion of the federal taxes it collects from marijuana directly to municipalities in the same manner as it does with the gas tax fund.

For any of my colleagues who believe that police and law enforcement agencies will see cost savings from the legalization of recreational marijuana, it would be naive at best to think that such a highly regulated, controlled substance that will have even more strings attached to it than alcohol will somehow free up their time. Any time a government has decided to legislate, regulate, and control something, I have failed to see the resulting cost savings.

Regardless of the flaws of this piece of legislation, there is still no overall consensus among my constituents that marijuana should be legalized for recreational use. There were many questions about the effects on someone's cognitive abilities and the lack of general education about its long-term impacts.

While we debate this legislation and put a heavy emphasis on educating our youth, we must not forget that millions of middle-aged adults have next to zero experience with recreational marijuana and, therefore, that any educational programs must include this demographic.

It is absolutely imperative that the legalization of recreational marijuana not be rushed until the various law enforcement agencies, provinces, and municipalities are fully prepared.

I urge the government to rethink how the tax revenues will be distributed to those who will have to absorb many of the costs of regulating and policing marijuana use. I ask the federal government to heed the advice of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities not to move forward with this legislation until it receives further direction from its municipal partners.

In closing, I am under no illusion that the government has any intention of listening to the concerns of the good people of Brandon—Souris. It would be an understatement to say that I have hesitations regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana. Regardless of my personal trepidations, it is clear that the country is not ready for the July 1, 2018 implementation date. It is my hope that even if the government ignores every other concern or recommendation put forward, either by me or stakeholders, that it at the very least would push back the bringing-into-force date to allow more time to properly prepare for legalization.

With that I will finish my remarks and urge my Liberal colleagues to break ranks with their whip and the government to listen to its local law enforcement agencies, provinces, and municipalities to do the right thing.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the hon. member for Brandon—Souris that we listened very carefully, particularly to the point he made about ensuring that learning and education are available to all Canadians who may choose to use this drug. There are significant risks that need to be properly managed and that could help people stay safe.

I want to address some of the concerns he raised about what we have heard from law enforcement. I have been engaged in that conversation for almost two years and want to share it briefly with the member.

First of all, in 2008, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police unanimously urged the government of the day to make resources available for the training of drug recognition experts, and for all officers in standardized field sobriety testing. That plea fell on deaf ears.

Second, in 2013, by unanimous declaration in CACP's resolutions, they again urged the government to make available to them oral fluid testing technology, acknowledging that this technology was being used in other jurisdictions to help keep our roadways safe. That fell on deaf ears as well.

Additionally, very important public safety advocacy groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, urged the government to bring forward effective legislation to address some of these concerns and, prior to 2015, that plea fell on deaf ears.

Therefore, we have listened to the concerns of law enforcement. We have made available $161 million to provide them with training, resources, and access to technology and legal authorities that they have asked for. When they came before us, naturally, after a decade of being ignored, they were skeptical. However, we have assured them that we are making those resources available to them and that they will have what they need to keep our communities safe.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's concern, but it is the biggest oxymoron I have ever heard. They obviously have not listened to what the Canadian public has said, and they are the ones bringing forward the licensing of recreational marijuana.

Why the rush? If they need more time, they have lots of it. They could do that and still put in place the proper analysis and training that police forces across Canada have asked for. The medical association has given them that background as well.

There are many reasons to take more time, such as those relayed by the nursing association and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which are going to have all of these costs dumped on them. This government is not going to make any money out of this process. In spite of that, the Liberals are trying to suggest to the public that they need this money to bail themselves out of their huge debts. The government is not going to make a cent on this because it will all be used up in enforcement and administration.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think everyone here agrees that we all want to make Canada a safer place, and we all want our young people to be safer and healthier. However, I think we would also all agree that the situation as it stands is untenable.

I am just wondering what my Conservative colleagues are offering up as an alternative to this pathway to legalization of marijuana. What did they do in the previous 10 years that helped the situation, and what do they offer up for the future?

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, of course, that is exactly what I am speaking of today. After listening to the people at the five town hall meetings and other events I attended throughout the summer in my riding, I felt it necessary to offer the plan that I did.

I even sent a letter to the parliamentary budget officer back in June, before the House rose for the summer, requesting all of the information around Bill C-45 and the enforcement bill, Bill C-46. I had many questions about how much money would be spent on enforcement, what would be needed for administration, and how it would be done. I had two pages of questions. We got back a reply from the parliamentary budget office that basically said that the government had the information but had not given it to them, and thus they could give none to me.

I find that atrocious. If the money to be made in this process is broadcast, and then the government is so ashamed of the results that it cannot even put out there what it will cost, including administratively, it shows that the government does not know what those costs are, that this process has been done too quickly without the necessary detail behind it, just like the government has done with its small business tax program.

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November 9th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to contribute to the debate on Bill C-45, which proposes to legalize recreational marijuana use here in Canada. The medicinal use of marijuana in Canada is, of course, already permitted when prescribed by a doctor, and I support that measure. However, what we are considering here today is the recreational use of marijuana, using drugs for fun.

The health committee, on which I serve, heard in September from more than 100 witnesses from across Canada and from all parts of the world. They presented their thoughts and their concerns on a number of issues related to the legalization of marijuana. We heard from many who literally called marijuana a miracle drug, a miracle antidote for relieving and in some cases eliminating conditions such as epileptic seizures, migraine headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, arthritis, and I can go on. The testimony from these individuals was heartening.

Even hearing about the option for physicians to be able to prescribe marijuana instead of opioids such as OxyContin and fentanyl for treating chronic pain is enough to convince many that medicinal marijuana has a place in our society. However, Canada is now on the verge of normalizing recreational marijuana use, and we have heard a number of serious concerns from a variety of stakeholders.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at length on Bill C-46 and the issue of drug-impaired driving, so I will not reiterate what I said back then, but I will say that drug-impaired driving is of deep concern to many, and we heard that day in and day out at committee. I will focus on a couple of other serious concerns.

As we have heard many times, there are many studies that show marijuana does have a negative impact on the developing brain. The Canadian Medical Association, which represents 83,000 physicians in Canada, said:

Existing evidence on marijuana points to the importance of protecting the brain during its development. Since that development is only finalized by about 25 years of age, this would be an ideal minimum age based on currently accepted scientific evidence...

Last month at the World Psychiatric Association's world congress in Berlin, the community was presented with further evidence that marijuana use by youth can facilitate the onset of schizophrenia and other psychosis conditions in certain people. Complications may include cognitive impairment, social isolation, and even suicide.

These are the doctors who are talking. These are the physicians, the scientists, and the health care providers who are saying this. The reality is that not all our youth are aware of this body of scientific research and so they are not making informed decisions when it comes to marijuana drug use, and that has to change. It is imperative that we inform our young people that using this drug, marijuana, will likely have serious, permanent, and negative effects on their brain and their mental health.

Without question, the largest single concern that we heard at the health committee is the Liberal government's complete failure to properly execute a public education campaign.

In just eight months, we will most likely have marijuana for sale as a fun recreational drug. Is that not great? Witnesses testified that, if we are going to achieve the primary results we want—and that is to reduce marijuana use and lower youth consumption—then we need to educate Canadians well in advance of the proposed July 1, 2018, legalization timeline set by the Liberal government. Unfortunately, there has been no real education campaign started by the government, and time is running out.

It has not gone unnoticed that we are spending a great deal of time and money to legalize marijuana, but very little time and money on a public education campaign. An immediate public education plan is critical. The Liberal government claims it has committed $46 million to a plan, but I have not seen it in my community. I have talked to health care people in my community, and they have not seen a dime of that.

Even the former Liberal cabinet minister and head of the task force on cannabis, the Honourable Anne McLellan, said at committee:

I think the most important part of prevention, which we have learned from tobacco, alcohol, and probably some other things—I might include gambling—is public education. That's the lesson you hear over and over again in states like Colorado and Washington. You have to have robust public education, and you need it out of the box early.

Not a single witness in committee advocated against an early and intense public education campaign, so why is the Liberal government not starting now with an education campaign?

Another serious concern that was brought forward in committee is the impact the proposed legislation would have on Canada in the eyes of the world. We heard in committee that there are three United Nations international treaties that we are bound to violate if this legislation is passed.

We heard great testimony from Dr. Steven Hoffman, who is a professor law at the prestigious Osgoode Hall Law School. He is also an expert in international law. He is very concerned, as are we Conservatives, that Bill C-45 would in fact violate international laws. The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 is one of the three major UN drug control treaties currently in force that we as a nation have signed onto and committed to. The treaty provides additional legal mechanisms for enforcing the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which is to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use, and possession of drugs.

The passing of Bill C-45 would put us in contravention of these three UN international agreements. The Liberal government has failed to tell Canadians how it will handle the situation. It should tell us, but it has refused to. As Dr. Hoffman said:

I really would love to emphasize that the consequences actually are quite severe in the sense that it's not just our reputation. It's not just Canada's standing on the global international scene. If we violate international law we are actually undermining the best mechanism we have to get countries to work together and solve some of the biggest challenges we face in the world. One only needs to think about examples like serious use of chemical weapons, or North Korea testing nuclear weapons, or even closer to home, the United States imposing illegal trade barriers against softwood lumber. Canada wants to be in a position that we are able to rely on our fellow countries, our partners around the world, to follow these rules that make Canadians safer, that make Canadian businesses prosper, yet it's very difficult for Canada to be taking moral stances on international laws if Canada is also violating them.

We are not ready as a nation to rush into marijuana legalization, and the consequences will be severe.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
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Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's concern for education. We are taking a public safety approach with Bill C-45, with $240 million to support law enforcement to detect and deter drug-impaired driving, $161 invested in training front-line officers, another $81 million for provinces and territories, and $46 million for a public awareness campaign. Does he not agree that this is a comprehensive approach to providing education and training?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the investment, because we need it, and law enforcement agencies need it. They told us at committee that they welcome the money but they need time, and they do not have enough time. July 1 is eight months away. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and numerous associations around the country are thankful for the money but they need time.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Calgary Confederation for all the work he has done on this issue. He has been a shining star in our party and on the health committee for a couple of years.

Canadians will be facing a very serious situation in the next eight months.

I was a trustee for 10 years. There has been no dialogue with the government. It has not reached out to the Canadian School Boards Association. It has not reached out to one province or territory with respect to how it is going to deal with 12-year-olds bringing five grams to school in their pockets. The government has not reached out to teachers' associations in this country, and yet we are eight months away.

The Liberals have a simple answer. They are going to throw some money at it and leave the decisions to others. There is no game plan.

I thank the hon. member for Calgary Confederation for bringing this up. Education is first and foremost.

I ask my colleague how he thinks the government should deal with this, other than throwing money at it, which is two years too late.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for his kind comments. They are much appreciated.

I am very passionate about this issue, as many of us are here in the House.

I have a background in education. My family runs a private school in Calgary, the Webber Academy. There are more than 1,000 children in our school. We care about these children. We care about informing them and educating them about the harmful effects of marijuana, yet it is not happening in the school system. It is not in the curriculum. If it is, it is not enough.

The public education plan that we need should have happened two years ago in anticipation of this bill passing by July 1. It is too late. By the time the government legislates the bill into place, marijuana will be on the streets, with uneducated children throughout the country unaware of the harmful effects of this drug.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend just mentioned harms. Three thousand Canadians are born every year with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. That is 3,000 Canadians and just one issue. That is not counting drunk driving. That is not counting domestic abuse. That is not counting rape and sexual assault, including on campuses, and all of the harms that come from alcohol.

Perhaps the member could explain to me why he thinks cannabis, according to the evidence, is more harmful than alcohol. Why does he think we ought to throw young Canadians in jail for having a joint, but it is okay to allow glossy flyers to come to my doorstep advertising alcohol?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

It is well known, Mr. Speaker. Testimony given by the Canadian Medical Association stated all about the very harmful effects marijuana has on the developing brains of youth. We all know that.

If we smoke marijuana during the brain development period between zero and 25 years of age, we are highly susceptible to conditions that could occur. I am talking about the recreational use of marijuana. It will create a lot of problems for the mental health of children at this age.

There is clear scientific evidence that marijuana causes schizophrenia in individuals with a developing brain. Schizophrenia has been blamed for many—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and very proud to represent the people of Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

When I was elected, I started touring my riding. In the spring, I visited our schools to explain what the Government of Canada was, the way it worked, and the process of passing a bill. Since at that time the Liberal Party had already introduced the possibility of passing a bill to legalize marijuana, that was the example of a bill that I used. We already had an idea of what this bill was, and I spoke about it openly, mostly to primary and secondary school students, as well as CEGEP students.

At some of these meetings I led in 10 different schools, I talked to 300 students between the ages of 12 and16 in an auditorium. I presented them the bill as it was written. I explained to them that it legalized the production of marijuana at home, among other things, and that it did not contain meaningful provisions addressing drug-impaired driving. In short, by discussing the various elements of the bill, I asked the students to tell me, by raising their hand, if they agreed with the legalization of marijuana.

To my amazement, 80% of the young people in my riding raised their hands to say they did not agree. These were not seniors in homes, these were students. I was stunned because I thought that the Prime Minister's sunny ways would have encouraged open-mindedness and the liberalization of pretty much everything. However, these young people unequivocally showed me that they did not at all agree with legalizing marijuana, for all kinds of reasons. This also gave us more opportunities for discussion.

That said, I was also able to meet with groups of seniors, including members of all the senior citizen clubs in my riding, and some groups of farm women. These women do a lot of work with young people, since they train them for all kinds of trades. All these groups are in daily contact with young people. They also told me unequivocally that they oppose the legalization of marijuana.

I have no words to describe the government’s level of hypocrisy with this bill, which would be in violation of three international treaties, among other things. The government claims to respect the UN and to abide by international treaties. It says that it works all over the world and that it has taken all sorts of steps to ensure international consistency, and yet this bill is in violation of three major international treaties on drug control. Apparently, that is no big deal.

Also, the Liberals keep on boasting that their actions are based on science and the facts. That is what they have been telling us non stop for the past two years, and yet, the science is quite clear—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is very good of you.

Obviously, the party across the aisle does not want to listen to what we have to say. There were studies in committee; we were asked to propose amendments. The NDP proposed 36 amendments, all of which were rejected, one after the other. The Liberals are calling us out for not proposing any amendments, but what is the point of doing so when we know that the bill is going to stay the way it is?

Here is another example of the absolute hypocrisy of this bill. It mentions the cultivation of four marijuana plants at home. I raised my children at home, and they are raising their children at home. I am trying to imagine having four marijuana plants at home and explaining to the children that they are not to touch them. That would be really confusing for them. It is total hypocrisy. How can we protect children when people can grow marijuana at home?

When you do the math, people looking to really maximize their yield can grow quite a lot of marijuana in six weeks with four plants. I did the math, but I do not have the exact figures with me. However, it takes about six to eight weeks. Imagine that over 52 weeks. There can be many harvests over the course of a year, which holds tremendous financial potential. I can just imagine young children at home helping their parents water the pot plants because they want to sell them later on. That is obvious. Can we be so blind as to think that young people will not help themselves directly from the plants at home?

The other concern is that we keep hearing that this will reduce organized crime. I have a report from Colorado, where marijuana was legalized four years ago. There has been an increase in organized crime. There is a reason why it is called organized crime. These people are able to react and adapt to situations like these. Legalizing marijuana will increase organized criminal activity, not decrease it.

Worse still, this bill does not deal with cannabis derivatives at all. In Colorado, these derivatives are now more profitable for the government in terms of sales and taxes, than the sale of marijuana itself. What are we going to do in Canada? People have already started asking me if they will have access to derivatives. Will they be sold in the equivalent of SAQ in Quebec and LCBO in Ontario? If employees are making $25 an hour, what will be the price of the marijuana? I can understand that the quality would perhaps be the same across Canada, but the reality is that organized crime will only increase the rate of THC in the marijuana and drop its prices. It will not stop selling it. It will increase its sales, even. This is the reality. This is what could happen.

We have talked about training and information. This is ridiculous. The Liberals are barely allocating any funds, only $40 million over a five-year period. They have just invested $500 million in an infrastructure bank in China. This money was spent outside of Canada. They should have invested it here for training and prevention. This is not what is happening at all. An investment of $40 million for the whole country is peanuts for prevention.

The Liberals accepted not a single amendment. We proposed only one, which aimed to scrap the bill and start again from scratch. The problem is that the government across the way does not listen to us at all. The Liberals gave no consideration to the NDP's 38 proposed amendments. I am certain NDP MPs came up with some very well thought out amendments to improve the bill. The Liberals thinks that they know everything on that. I cannot believe it.

People can hear us and see us from the gallery. I am convinced that not all of them are in favour of legalizing marijuana. In my riding, 80% of the people who responded to a survey said they were opposed to legalization. Our government does not listen at all; it just says everything will be fine and we should proceed.

I could talk about this issue for hours. Once again, the government is being completely hypocritical on this issue.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:15 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, when I look at Bill C-45, for me, personally, it is saying that we need to do what we can for our children. I hear a lot of the arguments from the Conservative benches that under the new law, somehow our children would be worse off, not recognizing that Canada already has the highest participation of youth in the consumption of cannabis in the world. A big part of that driving force is the criminal element. Criminals realize that they can sell and profit by selling to our kids. Would my colleague not at the very least concede that for criminals, it is a viable option to make money by selling to minors? That is something that is happening today.

This is a step in the right direction to deal with crime and deal with young people and the issue of cannabis and marijuana.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear my colleague's question. In the 1980s, we introduced the GST and the Liberals were adamant that they would eliminate it as quickly as possible. Quite the opposite happened and, even worse, they increased this tax several times. It was lowered again under Mr. Harper.

In reality, the government is now proposing a tax on a good that will be sold to young people. Not only are they taxing all Canadians, they are taxing young people. The goal is to collect money to pay off the Liberal deficit at the expense of young people. That is what they are doing.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want my colleague to address something we have heard over and over, and that is the deceitful approach I see in bringing this to Canadians. The Liberals have said that the status quo is not working. I would like to cite a study from the Canadian community health survey, mental health, from 2015. It said that for teens aged 15 to 17, which is the target group, they have lowered marijuana use from 40% to 25%. In other words, the status quo lowered it by 15%.

The Liberals say that they want to keep this out of the hands of children and keep it out of the hands of organized crime. Experts at committee said this bill would not do that.

Could the member comment on the deceptive nature of the Liberals? They are telling Canadians one thing, when they know that the facts do not support this bill.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question clearly exposes the Liberal's hypocrisy with respect to this bill.

The facts are clear: the legalization of marijuana will not reduce its consumption by youth. On the contrary, it is being legalized. That tells young people to go ahead and enjoy it, and it is no big deal to use it. That is the message the government is sending our youth.

This makes no sense in terms of public health. My children and especially my grandchildren, who are still growing up, are going to be part of a society where, as of July 2018, a 12-year-old can possess five or six grams of marijuana. That makes no sense. If that is what you call protecting children, it makes no sense.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am really glad to hear the member talk about children and the impacts of cannabis on children, but we know as fact that over 20% of children under the age of 18 already have access to marijuana and are using it. Thirty per cent of young adults are already using it. We know the status quo is not working. Given that, why would the member suggest continuing with the status quo?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, an expert came to committee and said exactly the reverse of what my colleague just said. The Liberals do not believe the facts. That is the reality. They do not believe what the police, the doctors, and all the associations across Canada say to them. That is a fact. That is a problem with the government. It does not believe them.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to talk again about Bill C-45, a bill that will legalize cannabis, which has been illegal for nearly 100 years in Canada. This bill will come into effect in the next eight months.

The hasty passage of this bill raises several concerns, as was pointed out by a very large number of provincial organizations, experts, police forces and health-sector groups. Such a huge and complex bill requires time for reflection and a comprehensive study. It is difficult to understand the Liberals' sense of urgency on this bill, unless they are thinking of the next election, which is slowly but surely approaching. I will add “fortunately” to that.

I oppose this bill because it simply does not meet the objectives that it claims to achieve. To prove it, I propose that the various objectives announced by the Liberal government be reviewed to see whether they pass a reality check, what we call in Quebec l'épreuve des faits, the smell test.

First, the government claims to be protecting the health of young persons by restricting access to cannabis while protecting them from inducements to use it. This objective will simply not be met. To begin with, if we allow Canadians to grow up to four cannabis plants at home, it will be impossible to control children's access to the drug. Therefore, it will be impossible to regulate consumption by the young people who live in these homes. I am not claiming to be an expert in this area. I only observe and listen to what the experts tell us.

Even Health Canada is warning us that marijuana is a dangerous drug for young people. This is what is posted on the department's website: “Youth are especially vulnerable to the health effects of cannabis, because adolescence is a critical time for brain development”.

We know that the brain continues to develop until age 25. During those years, the brain is especially vulnerable to the health effects of marijuana, and use is associated with a disturbing increase in the risk of developing mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. It is estimated that young people who use marijuana are 30% more likely to develop these disorders. When we talk about those under 25, that includes 12-year-olds, who, under the bill, will be able to possess up to 5 grams of marijuana. Yes, members heard me right, children in grades seven to twelve, and even those in grade 6, will be able to have an equivalent of 10 to 15 joints on their person. In short, there is nothing to protect the health of young people. It is more likely that they will be encouraged to use.

Second, the government believes that it will deter the illicit activities associated with cannabis. For now, that is by no means a given. If no improvements are made to the price, packaging, and distribution of cannabis, it is rather unlikely that we will be able to take this market away from organized crime. This is what we have seen in the states of Washington and Colorado, and in several countries such as Uruguay, where home growing did not reduce the involvement of organized crime. In fact, nothing prevents homegrown from being sold for illegal purposes.

That is what Cynthia Coffman, Attorney General of Colorado, said. She is not a Conservative here in the house. She said that criminals were still selling marijuana on the black market, that a host of cartels were operating in Colorado, and that crime has not gone down since marijuana was legalized.

Third, the government claims to be making our roads safer. However, in every state and every country where cannabis was legalized, the drug-impaired driving rate increased. That is what Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to Barack Obama, said about drug policies. He said that there has been an uptick in marijuana-related car accidents in Colorado.

I would like to remind members that drivers who have used marijuana are six times more likely to have a car accident than sober drivers. Also, we recently found out that the government still does not have reliable scientific data on the quantity of marijuana that an individual can use before it hinders his or her ability to drive a vehicle or on how long a person should wait after smoking marijuana before driving. The paper that was presented shows that everything is still vague, even though we are eight months away from legalization. There are no facts and no evidence, but the government is rushing the bill through anyway.

Fourth, the government thinks it will be providing access to quality-controlled cannabis. That is an odd goal considering that this government cannot in any way regulate the home grow that it is allowing.

It is impossible to measure the toxicity, the use of fertilizer, the amount produced, or the presence of mould. Furthermore, in Ontario and Quebec, building owners will not be able to prevent renters from growing marijuana, with all the risks that entails, such as a 24 times greater likelihood of fire, according to experts.

The government thinks it can raise awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use. If it really wants to achieve that objective, it must address the growing concerns expressed by police officers, provincial governments, municipal governments, and indigenous leaders, all of whom have said they will not be prepared to implement the proposed measures eight months from now.

The government should start by listening to these groups of elected representatives and citizens who have sounded the alarm about the Liberal government's pie in the sky objectives. Raising public awareness means launching massive campaigns and providing law enforcement training for police officers and addiction treatment training for mental health workers. These measures will cost Canadian taxpayers dearly, but responsibility for them will most certainly be downloaded onto the provinces, which will have to pick up the tab for the Liberals' promise. Just as they are getting no help now, they will not get any then either.

To sum up, we have reason to seriously question why the Liberal government is in such a hurry to pass this bill.

Perhaps it is so everyone will quickly forget its promise to reform the electoral system or the many other promises I could mention that have really disappointed Canadians, and especially young Canadians, in this case. This kind of commitment requires a great deal of preparation, but instead we are seeing nothing but improvisation in this case.

I therefore urge the members to look at this bill with a critical eye, be prudent, and vote against it. As the many experts I consulted and discussed this with said, this bill does not in any way meet the government's objectives, which are to keep drugs away from kids, make our streets safer, and eliminate organized crime.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to know if the member realizes that doing nothing is not an option anymore? Cannabis has been banned up to this time, but consumption of it has increased. Today it is easier for our kids to buy cannabis than to buy a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of beer. Putting our heads in the sand, assuming everything is all right, is not an option.

Stakeholders such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Assembly of First Nations, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Canadian Nurses Association have come out in support in this.

Does the member not realize that it is best to regulate and educate in order to have healthy growth rather than ban it outright?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I am not sure where my colleague opposite is getting her information from, but it is completely contrary to all my research. Yes, it is true that many young people are already getting and using marijuana.

Do the Liberals really think that the drug will be harder for them to get once it is legalized and legally available pretty much anywhere? That is completely false, and anyone who believes that is the one burying their head in the sand. The Liberals are simply minimizing the impact this product will have on Canadians and especially on our young people.

I want to point out that if the government had at least listened to the experts who confirmed that using marijuana is dangerous for people under 25, if they had at least banned it for people under 25, we could have begun talking about it. Health experts all agree on that. I say this with great emotion because I have three children: the Liberals are doing exactly the opposite of what health experts are saying. They are therefore putting our kids' health at risk.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, on the member's last point, he said that cannabis was dangerous when consumed by young Canadians. We know that 30% of young Canadians are currently consuming it. The status quo, the approach we have been taking, is not working. It is time to try something different, and we do not have look too far from where we have come with the way we have regulated tobacco and alcohol to ensure we keep them out of the hands of children. That is exactly what we are striving toward now. Why can the member and the opposition party not see that the status quo just does not work?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, the member just stated that young people under the age of 18 do not consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes. I think that he has never spoken to young people.

In fact, even if it is illegal, some of them consume it all the same. Just because something was legalized for people over 18 does not mean young people will not consume any. It is wrongheaded to claim otherwise, and amounts to willful blindness. I keep having to say this.

There are certain pieces of information I would like to share. According to Health Canada, “Young people are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of marijuana because adolescence is a critical time for brain development.” This is Health Canada highlighting this.

I have one last thing to point out. The number of hospital visits has increased dramatically in Colorado since marijuana was legalized. It has almost tripled, reaching 803 diagnoses per 100,000 people from 2001 to 2009, as a result of legalization. Therefore, in every jurisdiction where this happened, there was a resulting increase in the number of accidents and intoxication problems for school age children. All the figures are there to support these facts.

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November 9th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to salute my colleague. He is in Quebec, just like me. We had a consultation on the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis. Dr. Goyer, director of public health services in the Laurentian region, was among the guests. According to him, 32% of youth under age 18 in Quebec used marijuana in the previous year. In the Laurentians, the area where I come from, it is 50%.

It is clear that the current system is not working. It is easier to buy marijuana than it is to buy alcohol or cigarettes. That is why it is so critical that we regulate and ensure that this works with the young people.

What does my colleague think about that?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

The answer is simple, Madam Speaker. Currently, yes, we all know that the young people consume cannabis. However, it is not true that, by legalizing it, those numbers will drop. With regards to what the doctor she met with said, I can tell her of a bunch more specialists who are extremely worried about the message that we are sending to young people by legalizing drugs.

It is unbelievable that this government has made this a priority. If it put the same energy into rolling out programs to make young people aware of healthy lifestyle, consumption rates would drop right away.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I am glad to have a chance to speak to Bill C-45 regarding the legalization of cannabis across Canada. I would like to recognize the work of my colleague, the member for Sarnia—Lambton, and thank her for her tireless efforts in ensuring all aspects of this matter are considered before the legislation moves forward.

There are many areas of concern surrounding the bill, mainly in the areas of how the legalization of cannabis will affect the general health of population and issues surrounding youth. I have some deep-rooted concerns about what the legalization of cannabis could do to Canada's youth. I will discuss these concerns in my remarks.

It is necessary to point out just how rushed this legislation is. The government has set an arbitrary date of July 1, 2018, for the legalization of cannabis. This means that by that date, all provinces and territories, including the municipalities and the police forces within these regions, will need to have implemented legislation that allows members of the public to access recreational marijuana. This is a huge ask.

There needs to be time for the appropriate authorities to figure out just how they will handle this new endeavour. It is a serious matter, and should absolutely not be rushed. I worry that the Liberals are more focused on keeping a campaign promise than they are about the health and safety of our communities. Indeed, this is one promise we wish they would not keep, given the wide-ranging implications it could have on society. The legislation needs to be picked apart with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that every aspect of it is considered by the provinces and territories, which will have the responsibility to implement it. Less than one year from now is not enough time, and the government needs to realize that.

In my previous life, before becoming a member of Parliament, I was a chiropractor in my hometown of Estevan. Having a medical background allows me to see the bill through that lens and gives me a unique perspective on just how the legalization of cannabis could affect the general health of our country. I have also been very involved with sport in both a medical capacity and as a coach for youth. I will draw upon those experiences when discussing the use of recreational cannabis.

As most of the members of the House likely know, Bill C-45 recommends the age of 18 as a federal minimum for access to recreational cannabis. While the provinces will be given the power to set a higher age, the federal legislation puts it at 18. This creates an issue from a medical perspective. Given what we should all know and given what health care professionals have testified before committee, the brain continues to develop until the age of 25. In fact, the use of cannabis before the age of 25 increases one's risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety by up to 30% compared to those who have not used cannabis under the age of 25.

This is a very significant number and should not be ignored. For this reason, the Canadian Medical Association, CMA, recommends raising the age at which a person can consume cannabis to at least 21. This reflects the assumption that if the age is raised too high, illegal consumption of cannabis will continue.

I need to reiterate the fact that the CMA is bending when it says that the minimum age for cannabis consumption should be 21. All scientific evidence to this point states that there are significantly increased risks with the use of cannabis under the age of 25. It is simply irresponsible for the government to set the minimum age at 18, let alone at 21.

That also leads me to this question. What is the government's motivation? It says that it is a party of scientists and constantly remind us of just how important science is. However, on this issue, the government chooses to ignore the facts. It is clear and utter hypocrisy. The science is clear on this health issue.

Could this be because the Liberals are trying to appeal to a younger demographic of voters in hopes they will win the next election? Is it appropriate for them to ignore the health and safety of young Canadians so they can rush through legislation that will make them appealing to young voters?

Furthermore, if it comes out 10 years from now that the effects of cannabis use are much more damaging than was initially thought, as it was with tobacco, will the government be responsible for that? Given that there is not a plethora of medical-based research on the long-term effects of cannabis use and given how rushed this legislation is, will these Liberals take accountability for the results of legalizing recreational cannabis use? I think not. I do not want to be the person who said, “I told you so”, but I will. The Liberals need to do their job to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians, and the bill simply does not do that.

Another issue I have with this bill, and that many others have expressed to me, has to do with the marketing and, more specifically, the packaging. All Canadians know that in recent years there has been a serious crackdown on how tobacco is marketed. We have all seen the grisly warnings on cigarette packaging. I am sure that many of us are familiar with the idea of plain packaging and other measures that serve to deter people from tobacco use. We know the consequences of smoking tobacco, such as breathing problems, emphysema, and lung cancer, but 50 years ago we did not. When the same happens in regard to cannabis, who will pay that bill? It will be the taxpayer once again, whom the Liberals have no problem deferring their expenses to.

Bill C-45 has absolutely zero provisions on how cannabis can be marketed. While tobacco products need to be covered in warnings and hidden from view behind store counters, cannabis will be allowed to have bright, flashy packaging, with no limitations on how it can be marketed. To me, this is a clear double standard. Both products are harmful to one's health, so why is one regulated and the other not? It is yet another major oversight that this bill does not deal with.

Of course, there is also the matter of public safety in general and how the legalization of cannabis could have serious negative impacts on the well-being of Canadians. Drug-impaired driving is simply not addressed at all in Bill C-45. A recent study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction put the costs of impaired driving from cannabis at $1 billion. If we look at our neighbours in the U.S. who have legalized recreational cannabis, we see that there has been a dramatic increase in fatal car accidents involving the use of cannabis, not to mention the fact there is currently no instrument that can accurately measure a person's level of impairment roadside.

We cannot forget about the impact this legislation will have on our businesses, manufacturers, and employers. There are too many questions and no answers with respect to liability and workplace safety. This will affect on-the-job employee performance. Again, how do we test for this? The increased cost to employers to account for this in policy, procedure, and implementation will further add to the increased economic burden they are already experiencing under the current government.

The legal technicalities and challenges will be astronomical, not to mention the costs of training a police officer, which will be charged to municipal governments, as well as provincial and federal police agencies.

It is absolutely irresponsible to move forward with legislation that is clearly missing some major provisions that would keep our country and Canadians safe. There needs to be some sort of public education program before the legislation can be put in place so that Canadians, especially our youth, can understand the risks associated with partaking in recreational cannabis. One month, two months, three months, even nine months, assuming education starts today, will not be enough. It astounds me that this was not considered by the federal government when drafting this legislation.

As with other matters, such as the framework for palliative care, I would not be surprised to hear that the government is hefting the responsibility over to the provinces and territories, rather than taking on this task itself. It needs to put on its grown-up pants and take on the responsibility to look at all aspects of this legislation instead of focusing on what makes it look cool.

In conclusion, we on this side of the House oppose the legalization of recreational cannabis based on evidence and testimony from professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, scientists, law enforcement officials, and many others. We will do everything possible to ensure that cannabis does not end up in the hands of children, something this bill would actually allow.

Unlike the Prime Minister, we will listen to the experts on this matter who say the bill is flawed. I call on the government to stand up and do what is in the best interests of Canadians, and not what is in the best interests of the government in achieving its political goals. This issue is more than about politics; it is the health, safety, and well-being of our country that is on the line here.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I will provide some reassurance to my colleague across the way when he speaks about the lack of legislation dealing with impaired driving. Just last week this House passed Bill C-46 at third reading. My colleague's party did not vote for that bill, but it would provide all the authorities now required to keep our roadways safe. We have included in that bill, which is now headed to the Senate, a promise to provide all the money that has been asked for and required to train police and to provide them with the required technologies.

The member mentioned that he is concerned about the lack of regulations regarding packaging, promotion, and advertising, etc. The legislation would allow for that, and those regulations are also under development. He talked about the public education campaign. Our government has committed $46 million for such training.

Finally, the member talked about expertise. About 18 months ago, we formed a task force. That task force had representatives and experts in public safety, justice, public health, and problematic substance use. The task force received over 30,000 submissions from Canadians across the country, over 700 written submissions, and held hearings in every region of this country, where it heard from hundreds of experts. Based on that testimony, the members of the task force provided a series of recommendations to the government, which took these very seriously. We have in fact engaged very broadly with that level of expertise. This is public policy based entirely on that evidence, and I hope that the knowledge of that will provide some of the reassurance my friend opposite seeks.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, the hon. member brought up a number of points. He talked about the money being put forward for education. That money, as I stated in my speech, is not there today. It is not there for the education of young people. This legislation would allow 12-year-old children access to marijuana. It would allow children to have up to five grams of marijuana, to walk around through schools or wherever they are and have it in their hands. It is a shame that we see and hear such in this legislation. We talk about educating children, and yet here we are leading them on by giving them access to this medication.

The member talked about the legislation dealing with impaired driving. The member may not know, but I was a victim of a stoned, impaired driver when I was 16 years old. That impaired driver got off free of charge. I was left for dead on the side of the road, with brain matter draining out of my ear. Half of my face was gone. It took me years to recover from that. Yet this member stands in front of me, unfortunately, and tells me that this legislation is there to stop people on the road when it will not keep people off the road. They are going to be out there and driving because there is no way to test them. There is no piece of equipment available to test and make sure that these people are off the road.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate our colleague on this side for his personal story, because it will be the personal stories of all Canadians that will come out. This is just one of many that we have heard in the House.

The packaging that the member for Souris—Moose Mountain talked about is a major concern. This country has hidden cigarettes from consumers when they go into stores, and now we are hearing that marijuana will be marketed in bright packages. I absolutely cannot believe this. We have spent the last decade hiding cigarettes from everyone in society and having big messages on cigarette packages. Is it true that marijuana would be packaged in bright colours for everyone to see?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, it is true. As the member said, we have spent many years trying to hurt the owners of small convenience stores for selling tobacco and have buried their product behind their counters. That hurts them in two ways. First, they are being attacked by the current government for being small business owners, and second, the people who are out there selling marijuana would be able to market it in a big fancy way, put nice flavours into it, and sell it free of any hindrance. I was a regulator once of the chiropractic profession and know that regulation is one thing, but that it needs to be done appropriately to protect the public. This legislation would not protect the public.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with a lot of interest to my colleague's remarks. He is a chiropractor and said that he is concerned about medical hazards, and I believe him. I believe that he truly is concerned. I am a physician, and would like to explain why I support this bill.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

I do know better.

I support this bill. It is important to look at a 2015 UNICEF report that showed that Canadian youth have the highest rates of cannabis smoking in the developed world, but at the same time also have the lowest rates of cigarette smoking in the developed world.

The hon. member is right: cigarettes are legal. They are sold, regulated, and subject to restrictions and legislation on how they are sold and packaged. The point is that 80% of Canadian youth in that survey said it was easy to get marijuana. Now, if we are concerned about youth, if we are concerned that 80% of them have access to this illegal drug and have the highest rates of smoking this drug in the developed world, it tells us that what we had been doing has not been working. It tells us that we have been unable to stop our young people from getting access to cannabis, young people whose frontal lobes are very susceptible to the effects of cannabis.

As for all the things the hon. members spoke about regarding impaired driving, etc., it also means that they are going to be driving impaired, and that everyone is going to have access to this drug without our having any ability to regulate it, look at it, or look backward at what the surveys are showing us to see what the issues are that are affecting people. It is obvious to me that we have to do this because we have to get rid of organized crime. The people profiting off our youth are organized criminals, because they are selling it to them.

It is very clear in the legislation that we will legalize this drug, then regulate it, and then put all of the legislation penalizing the sale of tobacco to minors, with the same penalties, behind the selling of cannabis to minors. I do not know of any drug that is equivalent to tobacco. Tobacco is the only drug that, when used as directed, will kill us, because we will get heart disease, high blood pressure, emphysema, chronic lung disease, or a stroke as a result. The issue is that we have this currently legal drug, but thanks to all of the policies, programs, and legislation we have put in place for tobacco, our children are now among the lowest users of tobacco in the world.

If we take that template, look at the evidence that suggests that 80% of our youth can get cannabis, and recognize that we currently have the largest number of youth in the developed world smoking cannabis, we have to do something. Therefore, let us look at the experience we have had with tobacco. Let us look at this and continue to regulate it. Let us us make sure that it cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18, and let us make sure we are monitoring impaired driving and use.

For instance, we know there are tools that exist right now to monitor impaired driving. At Christmas time we see the police out on the roads looking for people who are drinking and driving. Look at how much MADD has done with respect to the issue of drinking and driving. What we are trying to do now is to try to achieve the same results so that we can eventually have our young people among the lowest users of cannabis in the same world, in the same way they are among the lowest users of tobacco.

Not to do this would be absolutely irresponsible of this government, given that evidence, and so I do support this bill. I agree with the member that we have to keep monitoring. Cannabis is not used or consumed just via smoking. We need to look at the impact of smoking or using cannabis in other forms. There is oil, leaves, and brownies, and all kinds of other ways of using cannabis. We need to consider we look at the quantity and quality of the cannabis, because we want to make sure that people are not getting what they are now. I understand that the best bud in the world comes from British Columbia. We need to be able to look at that kind of qualitative analysis when considering the amount of cannabis in a cigarette, or whatever a person is using.

These are important things for us to regulate and monitor if we really care about the medical effects and if we really care about the use of it, and yet, I point out that cannabis has positive benefits, which I cannot say for tobacco. Cannabis has positive benefits, and we know it is used for neurological pain and in terminal illness to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy. We know it is useful in many instances. There is proof that there are some medical uses. How we monitor that will come through regulations. How we look at what the impacts are will come through regulations.

It also means that, when we have a piece of legislation, we do our homework and we do our surveys and we check out how many people are using, how many children are using, what the reasons are that they still use, how we can tighten that legislation. All of those things are things we will treat the way we did with tobacco.

At the moment, I see this as a good bill. Prohibition did not work. I see this as protecting our youth. I see this as preventing the supplier right now, which is organized crime, from being able to supply on the black market, in schools, and everywhere. I see the idea of putting a ban on promotion to youth so that we are not going to have the nice gaudy little things that appeal to youth, but packaging that is not going to appeal to youth. That is part of the legislation when we talk about looking at packaging. The devil is in the details.

It is important to look at the fact that we are talking about non-promotional packaging to youth. It is important to work with the provinces, because it is provincial police and city police who are going to be looking at impaired driving. We have tools now to look at cannabis-impaired driving, and we are going to have the training ready that is necessary for law enforcement officers.

What I like about this, which we never had with alcohol and tobacco that are still legal, is that we never put the kind of money into that proactive public education, public awareness, public understanding that there are side effects to this drug, as there are to alcohol and tobacco. The appropriate usage, the amount of dosage, this is where we will be able to start building the research capacity, the indicators, etc., that will tell us what is the appropriate way to use this drug.

Keeping it out of the hands of our children is the priority for me. It is the biggest responsibility this government has, and looking at all of the evidence—and our friend talked about evidence-based decision-making; this is evidence-based decision-making—at least we will be keeping our children safe; at least we will be monitoring usage; at least we will be checking up on who is selling and why. The penalties for people selling to minors is particularly high. It is a maximum of two years in jail, or is it $5 million, or $3 million? We are looking at the same kinds of penalties we have for tobacco, yet I do not hear any members across the way talking about tobacco. I do not hear them talking about the ills of tobacco. Maybe we should not legalize tobacco. Maybe we should make tobacco illegal, if they care that much for the health of Canadians.

Maybe we should look at how we deal with alcohol, because at Christmas when police are standing on the streets with a Breathalyzer, they are checking for what drug? They are checking for alcohol. We know that these drugs have negative effects. We know that one or two of them have some positive effects. I understand that there was work being done to say that red wine taken in moderate amounts is good for our heart and our blood pressure.

I am saying we have a responsibility to bring forward this legislation, and anyone who stands in the House and says they care about our youth and about the health of Canadians would support this, because it is a way to begin to control something that right now is not controlled at all.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, a medical doctor by profession, for her speech today. She mentioned the provinces and she mentioned prohibition. She did not mention the fact that all responsibility for the sale, distribution, monitoring, and enforcement of the laws has been downloaded by the federal government to the provinces.

My riding of Thornhill is in the province of Ontario where the premier has told us that cannabis will be distributed by what is known as the LCBO, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. It was set up after prohibition to control the distribution of alcohol, but it should be rightly characterized today as the liquor promotion board of Ontario because once a month a shiny, glossy magazine is delivered to virtually every Ontarian promoting the variety of exciting ways people can consume alcohol.

How can the member ensure and guarantee Ontarians that the LCBO will not promote cannabis in exactly the same way, which would be counter to all of the concern we hear from the government side about the status quo not working, Canada being the largest youth consumer of marijuana and marijuana products? How can it guarantee governments like Ontario are not going to actually accelerate and increase the number of young people using cannabis?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is a very thoughtful man and I appreciate his question.

He mentioned the downloading, as he calls it, of the sale, distribution, and use of cannabis to the provinces. At the moment, the provinces are responsible for the sale, use, and distribution of alcohol. At the moment, the provinces are responsible for the sale, use, and distribution of tobacco. We are actually following what is an appropriate place for this to be monitored, at the ground level, not somewhere up on high in the federal government. The overarching legislation is still there.

The idea of promoting it is an interesting one, because the legislation talks about fines for promotion. Obviously, this was not so for alcohol. We have legislation here that looks at promotion, so the provinces are going to be guided by that idea of promoting this drug and of promoting it the way we see alcohol being promoted.

We have learned some things from tobacco and alcohol that we are implementing here with regard to promotion. It took us a long time to stop the promotion. Members may recall all the nice fireworks that we had that were run by tobacco companies. It took us a lot of time to stop that promotion. I was one of the people who fought in the House for us to stop that promotion. We learned a lesson. We are not going to allow that kind of promotion to occur.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, I was astonished to hear my colleague opposite talk about the health benefits of marijuana. Here is the position of the Canadian Medical Association:

The CMA has longstanding concerns about the health risks associated with consuming marijuana, particularly in smoked form.

Children and youth are particularly at risk for marijuana-related harms, given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development.

I would like to focus, however, on the government's claim that somehow legalizing marijuana will put paid to the illegal trade. A perfect policy experiment just happened in the last decade or so, and that is the case of cigarettes. Cigarettes are legal. They are so-called controlled. They are kept out of the hands of children, and so on. However, the illegal trade has not only flourished, but it has expanded, and that is because, as the taxes on “legal” tobacco are increased, it is very easy for organized crime to undercut the so-called government cigarettes. The exact same thing will happen with marijuana. The government wants to increase the tax. It will make the price so high that organized crime will easily—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, the member answered his own question. No one is talking here about raising taxes on anything. We are talking about regulating a drug that has very negative side effects. We are talking about keeping it out of the hands of our children. We are talking about regulating the ability to promote. We are talking about selling to youth. This is what we are doing here. We are not talking about taxes. The hon. member needs to read the legislation better.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak again to Bill C-45 now that it is at the report stage, having previously commented on certain aspects of the bill at the second reading stage. I will not go over that again, but I would like to address certain elements that were changed in committee, especially the 100-centimetre limit on plant height, which seemed a bit arbitrary to me. I could not understand where that number had come from.

In committee, experts told us this limit might actually backfire, because shorter plants tend to have higher concentrations of THC, producing stronger psychoactive effects. The 100-centimetre limit was therefore removed, which was a good thing.

In committee, it also became clear that the Liberal government is not interested in getting the best bill possible. It was so partisan that when the NDP proposed an amendment to eliminate the 100-centimetre limit, the Liberals insisted on voting it down and proposing their own version a few minutes later saying the exact same thing, just because they did not want us to beat them to the punch. That may not be the best way to treat such a serious issue. I am disappointed.

Initially, we did not plan for edible products to be allowed, but this has changed. We will allow them but only in one year. I would like to speak to this particular issue, which I believe is quite important.

Dried cannabis has to be smoked, which is toxic for the lungs. Any inhaled smoke has a certain degree of pulmonary toxicity, whether it comes from a cattail or a cigarette. However, according to the studies I have read, cannabis smoke is apparently 10 times more toxic for the lungs than tobacco smoke. Let me be clear: I am not telling people to smoke cigarettes. All I am saying is that cannabis is highly toxic for the lungs when it is inhaled.

Thus, by allowing that substance to be included in food, we would at least eliminate the issue of pulmonary toxicity. In spite of that, it was decided to allow people to smoke cannabis before allowing them to eat it, which is illogical. Many people in my riding did not understand why people were being encouraged not to smoke tobacco just about everywhere, while at the same time, smoking another substance would become legal. I can see why people might be confused.

Furthermore, when cannabis is ingested in its edible form, be it as a syrup or lozenge, it is much easier to determine accurately the concentration of its two active ingredients. I would like to say a few words about these two ingredients, because they are important. These studies have yielded some interesting results.

First, cannabis contains two cannabinoids: THC and CBD, also called tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. These two substances seem to have a different effect on our body's endocannabinoid system. THC is the psychoactive ingredient, and it is believed to act on the immune system in such a way as to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, enhance the mood, trigger euphoria, increase appetite, relax the muscles, reduce certain types of seizures and relieve nausea.

We must not forget that it is also the substance that produces euphoria.

Cannabidiol does not produce a euphoric effect. It is used much more for pain relief, reducing nausea and anxiety, controlling epilepsy, immunosuppression, and muscle relaxation. It is also an anti-psychotic, it reduces inflammation and insomnia, and it is calming.

The reason I wanted to take the time to explain this is that many studies have shown the pot available on the streets has increasingly high concentrations of THC and lower and lower concentrations of cannabidiol. That is why we are seeing more and more episodes of toxic psychosis: cannabidiol tends to neutralize the more psychotic effects that may occur.

The product on the streets has higher levels of THC, which means that it is becoming riskier.

The reason I wanted to explain this is because it would make it possible to have edible products in which all chemical substances could be carefully controlled. It would also make it possible to prevent some of the side effects that are common with the increasingly stronger strains of street drugs. One way to better control side effects and psychosis is to increase cannabidiol and reduce THC.

When it comes to dried herb products, it is really hard to control the concentration of substance in each product. What that means is that we are about to legalize a product that is much more difficult to control, but we are waiting to legislate on edible products, even though they would be much easier to control and it would be easier to limit THC and cannabidiol concentrations.

I find that a little strange. It would have made a lot more sense to legalize edibles right away, while imposing limits on the various substances, such as THC and CBD, to determine how much of each substance could go in the products.

The other reason it might be particularly useful to allow edible products and to be able to control each chemical is for the purposes of research and improving our understanding of this substance. Even though medical pot has been in use for a decade or so, the fact remains that knowledge of its effects on the human body is often based on anecdotal evidence. Essentially, this means someone started taking it on their own and found that it helped with a condition they had. Our knowledge is not based on conventional clinical research, but on personal experiences compiled over time. Since some discoveries were based on anecdotal medical evidence, the results are not 100% reliable.

It is important to bear in mind that even though we are talking about recreational use, many people still take cannabis for medical purposes. Even though they do not have a prescription, they decide to try cannabis and find that it helps with their insomnia or other health problems.

Singling out recreational use and completely ignoring those who use cannabis for self-medication is not right. We need more information so we can better educate people on the actual effects of cannabis.

One of the problems is that we currently do not have that information, and many people who might decide to take cannabis could be endangering their health, because they do not fully understand the substance or the circumstances in which it might be useful or dangerous.

This bill should have placed more emphasis on health and the prevention of side effects. I also sincerely believe that not allowing edible products, only dried herb products, is somewhat illogical.

Bill C-45—Notice of time allocation motionCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Edmonton Mill Woods Alberta

Liberal

Amarjeet Sohi LiberalMinister of Infrastructure and Communities

Madam Speaker, I would like to advise that agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the report stage and third reading stage of Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings of the said stages.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, first, how outrageous is this. The Liberals want to bring in legislation that we have studied at committee and experts have said that the bill will not do what the Liberals have told Canadians it will do, that it will not get not get the job done.

I have a question for my NDP colleague. Many of the things she brought forward are reasonable and sensible. They identify the problems with the bill. It will not get the job done, as the Liberals have promised Canadians, to keep it out of the hands of kids and away from organized crime.

My question for the member is one that many people have ignored. It is about the three international trade agreements to which Canada has been a signatory. They basically state that stated we would not legalize marijuana. If the Liberals wanted to get out of these trade agreements, they had to state that in July. What effect will the bill have on our international reputation, on our international ability to trade, especially with our most important trading partner, the United States, especially when we are undergoing NAFTA negotiations? Will it be detrimental or will it help open up the border?

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I may not have the expertise to know what impact this will have on the free trade agreements, but it is clear that the Liberals need to immediately get to work with regard to the three trade agreements that my colleague mentioned.

I also think that we need to take into account the fact that two U.S. states decided to legalize marijuana. I do not know what sort of impact that will have on the free trade negotiations, whether it will be positive or negative, but I do know that the Liberals need to act now to resolve the issue of the three agreements we have signed that prohibit the trade of cannabis.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, could the member comment on the government's plan to properly prepare for the implementation of the legislation. This afternoon we have heard a lot about this. In particular, there are $274 million to support law enforcement; another $161 million for training front-line officers; $81 million over the next five years for continued training of officers; and $46 million over five years for public education, awareness, and surveillance.

What does the member think of that money? Does she concur that it is necessary to put the funds into the preparation, as the government has done?

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, the problem with the current government is that it seems to believe that money is the solution to all problems.

It is not the amount that is important, but what is done with it. The government needs a strategy. The Liberals can throw as many numbers around as they like, but what counts is how that money is used. Does the government have a specific plan? Does it know where it is going? The government seems to think that money is the solution to all problems. The Minister of Finance throws money around saying that he will repay what he never should have earned because he was in a conflict of interest and he thinks that will magically make everything better. That is not a responsible attitude. It is not the amount of money that counts. It is what is done with it.

The government could allocate smaller amounts if it knew exactly where it was going and what it was going to do. In my opinion, it is not the amount that matters. What matters is knowing exactly what is going to be done with the money and having a strategy. The government cannot just say that it is going to make investments and then leave it up to others to take the necessary action.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise this afternoon to speak to Bill C-45, the government's marijuana legalization legislation.

It is a little more than 200 days until July 1, 2018, and a little more than 200 days before the Liberal government plans to legalize marijuana in Canada. With a little more than 200 days to go, the provinces are saying that they are not ready. The municipalities are saying that they cannot be ready. Law enforcement agencies are saying that they are not ready and they cannot be ready for July 1. In turn, the government is saying it really does not care that they are not ready, because it is moving ahead with July 1, 2018, ready or not. Talk about irresponsibility on the part of the government. Then again, we are dealing with a reckless government that is prepared to put the health and safety of Canadians at risk, all so their pot-smoking Prime Minister can actually keep an election promise.

The issues the municipalities and the provinces face in order to deal with the effects of legalization are manifold. The provinces will have to deal with issues around workplace safety, employment standards, and traffic safety. The municipalities will have to deal with issues around licensing, zoning, enforcement, and inspection.

With so much work to do and so little time to do it, no wonder the provinces and the municipalities are saying to the government, “Slow down. Give us time to do what we need to do”. In that regard, some provinces have not yet even unveiled a plan, not even announced a plan to deal with issues around implementation and regulation of marijuana.

Lisa Holmes, who was the mayor very recently of Morinville, about 10 kilometres north of my home town of St. Albert, appeared before the health committee in her capacity as the president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. She indicated that 96% of urban municipalities in Alberta did not have bylaws or policies in place to deal with the regulation of marijuana in their communities because there was a lack of clarity about the breadth and substance of regulations, both at a provincial and federal level. I think 96% of urban municipalities in Alberta is not unique to Alberta. I think we would find a similar pattern right across Canada.

With respect to law enforcement agencies, it is clear they are not ready. They are saying that they are not ready, and they cannot be ready. The government has basically put them in an impossible position with the rush and the arbitrary July 1, 2018, deadline.

Let us look at the facts in this regard. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police indicated that in order to deal with impaired drivers and more Canadians who would be consuming marijuana, and in order to train their officers, there was a need for about 6,000 officers to receive training. That training takes about 100 days. The association is saying that it cannot take 6,000 officers off the streets for 100 days by July 1, 2018, that it is just impossible.

Then there is the issue of drug recognition experts. Right now, there are approximately 600 drug recognition experts in Canada. It has been said that there is a need for as many as 2,000 drug recognition experts to deal with the effects of marijuana legalization. When an official from Public Safety Canada came before the justice committee during its study of Bill C-46, I asked that official where things were with respect to drug recognition experts and where we would be by July 1, 2018. The response I got was that by July 1, 2018, there might be an additional 100 drug recognition experts. In other words, we would go from 600 to 700 drug recognition experts, when there is a need for as many as 2,000 drug recognition experts.

I know that a little earlier the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice alluded to the fact that this House had passed Bill C-46 in conjunction with this legislation, Bill C-45. One aspect of Bill C-46 is per se limits for THC levels for drug-impaired drivers. The only problem with that is that there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between drug impairment and THC levels. What that is going to mean is that people will get behind the wheel impaired and get away with it. They will get off because of the government's arbitrary and unscientific per se limits.

Municipalities, provinces, and law enforcement are not ready, and frankly, Canadians are not ready either for the July 1, 2018, date.

In the justice committee's study of Bill C-46, and when I read the transcripts from the health committee, there were a number of witnesses who cited various surveys and studies that indicated that a large percentage of Canadians, particularly young Canadians, have misconceptions about the effects of marijuana usage. This was recognized by the government's own marijuana legalization task force as an issue. The task force, in its report, recommended to the government that it have an early and sustained public awareness campaign. What we have seen from the government is not an early and sustained public awareness campaign. We see a campaign that is barely off the ground, with little more than 200 days before the July 1, 2018, date.

Do members know who else is not ready for July 1, 2018? The government is not ready. Its marijuana legalization bill, Bill C-45, is an absolute shambles of a piece of legislation. It is going to create more problems than it solves.

Let us look at the whole picture. Bill C-45 is going to make our kids, our roads, and our communities less safe. We have a government that has absolutely no plan in terms of a coordinated effort with the provinces and municipalities, Law enforcement does not have the tools and resources to be ready for July 1, 2018, and there has not been a sufficient public awareness campaign to get Canadians ready. Taken together, the government needs to put the brakes on July 1, 2018, and go back to the drawing board.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I have often heard comments from the other side about the people over here just not being ready, but I want to tell the member opposite what I am not ready for. I am not ready to leave the health and safety of Canadian kids in the hands of criminals. I am not ready to see organized crime make billions of dollars of additional profit by delaying action that will check that profit. I am not ready to leave in the hands of criminals, those who really do not care about our kids, the health and safety of those who would consume what they are selling. I am not ready to continue to deal with the violence that is visited on so many communities in this country by people involved in illegal drug trafficking.

I ask the member if he is ready to tolerate those circumstances, because in my experience, there seem to be two things the group opposite hates. It hates the way things are and it hates changing the way things are.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, if the government was truly interested in keeping marijuana out of the hands of our kids, it would back off from its policy on homegrown marijuana. How is that going to keep marijuana out of the hands of our kids? I do not know if it occurred to the government, but just about everyone under the age of 18 happens to live in a home, and it is proposing to allow up to four marijuana plants per home. There was evidence before the health committee that a one-metre tall marijuana plant can produce up to 600 grams of marijuana.

There we have it. The government would keep marijuana out of the hands of kids by putting it in their homes, not to mention all the issues around diversion and crime in the state of Colorado associated with homegrown. According to the parliamentary secretary, the government wants to keep it out of the hands of our kids. What a load. What hypocrisy. What nonsense.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, what does my colleague think is the biggest problem related to cannabis at the moment? Is it the pressure on the legal system because of people charged with simple possession and all the repercussions that go along with that, for instance, the delays because of the number of cases before the courts, or is my colleague more concerned about the taxes not being collected? Which of those two problems regarding cannabis is the member more concerned about?

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, while the government often talks about reducing the backlog in our courts, what this legislation may actually do is increase the backlog. For example, this legislation provides that Canadians could possess up to 30 grams of marijuana. However, it contains provisions that if they possessed 31 grams of marijuana, they would be criminals, with serious penalties. We have sentences in Bill C-45 of up to 14 years. Arguably, those are not consistent with other similar offences. On that front, I think the government has really not thought this through, and what Bill C-45 would result in is a further backlog in our courts. The bottom line is that no matter how one looks at this, Bill C-45 is a complete and absolute failure.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Ajax Ontario

Liberal

Mark Holland LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Madam Speaker, the problem I have with the speech the member opposite gave is that it fails to reflect the reality of what already exists today, which is that Canada has the highest rate of cannabis use by young people in the world. The use of tobacco, including illicit tobacco that is not sold legally, which a member spoke about earlier, is half that rate among young people. With the total and abject failure of policies to this point, would the member not agree that the status quo is not working for young people and that we need a different approach?

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I would say that I reject the approach taken by the government, which is to legalize, normalize, and promote the use of marijuana. We can look at the state of Colorado, for example, which went down this road. Prior to legalization, marijuana use among youth in the state of Colorado ranked 14th in the U.S. After legalization, Colorado is now number one. One only need look south of the border and apply some basic common sense to know that legalizing and normalizing marijuana is not the way to reduce marijuana usage among young people.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great disgust and sadness that I rise today to speak again to this bad bill that will have a major impact on the lives of our children, adolescents, and parents. If by some misfortune this bill is passed and the government's goal of legalizing marijuana on July 1, 2018, is achieved, this will have an adverse and terrifying effect on Canadian families.

Legalizing marijuana normalizes it and that is not the message we want to send to our young people. From now on, under the Liberal government, it will be legal to smoke pot, a gateway drug for all other drugs. No one knows anyone who just one day decides to start using cocaine or other hard drugs. It always starts with a little joint and ends with hard drugs. This Liberal government is practically giving unholy permission to use drugs for the first time. After that, the procession of family tragedies that this will generate, the procession of lives destroyed, and the procession of incredibly destructive problems that Canadians will face, like the people of Colorado and Washington have for far too many years, will be on the Liberal government.

In Canada, the Liberal government's initiative did not meet with the approval of the police, municipalities, or the provinces. Let us first talk about the police. They are telling us in all honesty that in the unfortunate event that this bill goes ahead, there will be a host of problems on our roads, in society, and with the preventative measures that we will need. It is impossible to assemble and appropriately equip every police force from coast to coast to coast in order for them to respond directly to the new challenges that this bad Liberal legislation will give rise to. The head of the RCMP recently said that it would be naive to believe that the new Liberal legislation will help eliminate organized crime. The head of the RCMP said that.

Those people who know the business, those people who have to deal day after day with the reality of the consumption of marijuana and other drugs, will tell them clearly that if they think criminal people will put that aside and kill their criminal activities, they are being naive. This is totally unacceptable. Those who know the business say do not go there.

It is the same for the provinces. Whether we are talking about British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Quebec, or any other province, not one minister of health, not one minister of justice, not one minister of housing, not one provincial premier cheered for the Liberal government's new approach. On the contrary, our provinces are grappling with the implications for their jurisdictions. The provinces will also be saddled with millions of dollars of spending on health, social services, security, training, and equipment. All of this thanks to the Liberals in Ottawa. The provinces could really have done without this.

This is being rushed through. Municipalities are being affected too. They have to adjust their bylaws to accommodate the Liberal government's ridiculous plan to allow every Canadian household to grow four pot plants up to three feet high. Will that be great for Canada or what? As everyone here knows, a house where pot is being grown is not two times or four times or 10 times more likely to catch fire, but 24 times more likely to catch fire. That is a fact. People are going to have to deal with that situation. How are multi-unit building owners supposed to deal with that? How can they check on things? How can they be sure everything is safe? They cannot retroactively prohibit people from doing it because there is already a lease in place.

How is this going to work in each of the provinces? Every province has its own jurisdiction. Every province will do things its own way. Every municipality will have to pass bylaws, and that opens up a whole can of worms. What is the government doing about that? The federal government says this is all up to the provinces and it will not interfere. The Liberal government is the one causing these problems.

The current Liberal government, which is proposing to normalize marijuana by legalizing it, is creating a whole host of problems and washing its hands of them because they do not fall under its jurisdiction, but that of the police, municipalities, and provinces.

Even worse, the government, because of an obsession unbecoming of any elected representative of any stripe, is pushing for the bill's passage and implementation by July 1.

I will never understand how the government decided, without laughing at people, that the launch date for legalization would be Canada Day. There are 365 days in a year, and it chose Canada Day to launch its bad policy. It is totally unacceptable, and un-Canadian to do that.

I will be proud to sing O Canada, but be assured, I will never sing O cannabis on July 1. We are laughing, but it is not a joke because here, in the House of Commons, we have seen so many great Canada Days. On the other hand, we have also seen so many stupid and obvious demonstrations by those who smoke marijuana in front of Parliament. We will see people there, smoking marijuana. That is a real shame. It will not be a great Canada Day in 2018, thanks to the Liberals.

Let us remember the example: unfortunately, two U.S. states, Colorado and Washington, decided to legalize marijuana. What has happened after some years of legalization?

In Colorado, three times as many people have been hospitalized for marijuana related problems since it was legalized. The Liberals tell us that the problem will be solved. On the contrary, it will make it worse. There has been a 108% and 68% increase in overdoses in Colorado and the State of Washington respectively. Will that solve the problems? On the contrary, it will generate twice as many problems and give rise to new ones.

The number of traffic accidents has doubled in the State of Washington and tripled in Colorado. The Liberals are saying, with a straight face, that, on the contrary, it will resolve problems, because we are currently unable to manage them. They are going to legalize marijuana and solve the problems.

It is quite the opposite. There will be twice as many problems in certain situations and we will make things worse. Is it not a fact that, after California, Colorado has the largest illegal production of marijuana?

Those people say, with that, we will kill, we will attack, we will be aggressive with the criminals. That is not true. The criminals are laughing today. They are saying: “Oh, that's great, the dirty job of introducing people to marijuana for the first time will be done under the Liberals. That's fantastic. The government will do the dirty job, and after that we'll enjoy it because those kids will then be able to use other harder drugs”. That is a Liberal reality. That is why we will never accept this kind of bill.

We need to remember that normalizing the legalization of marijuana has an unfortunate effect on children. I will quote Ms. Seychelle Harding, director of communications for the Portage group's addiction rehabilitation centres, who said, “It is clear that just saying it, writing it, talking about it sends a message to young people that it is okay.” That is the reality of the Liberal government. It sends a message saying it is okay when, in fact, nothing good will come of this.

Also, beginning July 1, if the bill unfortunately passes, 12-year-old children will be allowed to have five grams of pot in their pockets. I was very surprised to hear that five grams can be 10 to 15 joints. That is the reality.

Come June, young boys and girls, 12-year-old sixth graders, will walk around the school yard with 15 joints in their pockets thinking it is okay. They will come home and say everything is okay because the Prime Minister of Canada told them they could. Is this the type of country we want to build for our children? Not at all.

The same goes for the four pot plants which the Liberal government will authorize in every household. This represents 600 grams of pot per house, and yet, we are told this is meant to protect children. The opposite is true. Children will have direct access to 600 grams of pot. For these reasons and many others, we must reject this bill.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of points I want to raise.

First of all, I assure the member opposite that the date of enactment will not be July 1, Canada Day, a day that is special to all Canadians. I can say with great assurance that it will not be that day. In my opinion, that day is a sacred day for the celebration of the birth of this country, and we will not be doing the enactment of this proposed legislation on that day. We will not be doing it on July 1.

I also want to remind the member and a number of people on the other side who are saying that we cannot fight organized crime, that I respectfully disagree. I would also remind them that in this proposed legislation, the offences of illegal production of cannabis, illegal trafficking of cannabis, and illegal importation and exportation of cannabis would remain serious criminal offences with substantial criminal penalties for those who would break the law. The only cannabis that would be available for purchase and consumption by adult Canadians would be cannabis produced under strict regulation.

I offer that to the member simply to remind him, in response to his concerns about dealing with organized crime, that law enforcement will still have all the tools and authorities it requires to fight the scourge of organized crime in our communities.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, what he said is brand new to me, and I think brand new to Canada. The parliamentary secretary just announced that it will be not July 1. Is that true? Is it written in the bill? Is it not written in the bill that everyone should be ready for July 1, and that every province and municipality should be ready for July 1? If they have changed their minds, that is a first step toward reality, but there are also some other steps for them to take.

The parliamentary secretary talked about people on the criminal side, because the bill would be very strict, and so if they import drugs, they will be very careful. They are doing that now, and will continue to do so. However, the problem is that with the Liberals' bill, the kids will have access to that.

We are going to downplay the use of marijuana, and that is the problem caused by the Liberal bill. From now on, teenagers will tell their parents it is legal and it is their right. They will use it and go to the neighbour's house because he has pot.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague for describing the situation with enthusiasm and passion. He says that this is not good for young people, but in fact young people 18 and under have access to marijuana.

In my riding, we held a consultation in September. Dr. Goyer, director of public health in the Laurentian area said that 32% of people 18 and under in Quebec had used cannabis over the past year. In the Laurentian area, it is 50%. That is not good. That is why we have to put this in the hands of the law and engage in education and prevention.

I imagine that the hon. member, whom I have known for many years, has children. Mine are 25, 23, 21, and 18. They all told me that it is easier to buy marijuana than it is to buy alcohol and cigarettes because those are legal and cannot be purchased without showing identification. I come from the retail sector, which is subject to very strict laws with very harsh penalties for those who sell products to people 18 and under.

We need to legalize cannabis and put very strict measures in place. I would like to know what my colleague has to say about that.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I just want to point out that this is the second time a Liberal member has asked me a question, even though people on this side had risen.

The worst thing we could do would be to let children as young as 12 carry 15 joints. The member and the Liberals may well say that educating young people is important, but where is the educational value in letting 12-year-olds, grade 6 students, walk around the schoolyard with 15 joints in their pockets?

I am sorry, but a sign of normalization like this would be the worst thing this government could do.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-45, the cannabis act. I have been here since 2004 and it is probably one of the most badly written pieces of legislation I have ever seen, and there is some frustration on this side in that regard because we have heard the Liberals are going to bring in time allocation. For a bill of such importance and such reach within our provinces and territories, the requirement to have different Houses of Parliament coordinated on this is totally irresponsible.

I want my colleagues, especially on the Liberal side, to understand that there are certain important points to bear in mind in my speech. First of all, everyone agrees that too many kids are smoking marijuana. In my community of Oshawa, no one wants to see a kid who has a couple of joints get a criminal record or get thrown into jail. Most Canadians would agree with that, and that is why it is really important that Canadians recognize that the Conservatives favour making the possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offence only. This is exactly in line with the position of the chiefs of police. This is a responsible approach, one that Canadians would be very supportive of, but not of the bill that we see in front of us.

The Liberals claim that the status quo is not working, but how does the Liberal government define that? According to a Statistics Canada report dated April 2015, based on data collected from the Canadian community health survey on mental health, the total percentage of teens aged 15-17, which is the target group, reporting having used marijuana had dropped from 40% in 2002 to 25% in 2012. That is a 15 percentage point decrease. This means that something in the status quo is working, but why are the Liberals not telling Canadians about that? What are the Liberals saying? They are saying they want to legalize marijuana because it will it out of the hands of our kids and keep the profits out of the hands of organized crime. We agree with that. These are good ideas, but does C-45 accomplish that objective? Anyone who has read the bill would say no.

At the health committee we had scientists testify, and the science is clear. Any use of marijuana under the age of 25 can cause permanent psychological damage to our kids, and currently the bill allows kids aged 12 to 17, as young as grade 6, to possess up to five grams of marijuana, equivalent to 10 to 15 joints. That is ridiculous in light of the medical evidence of the harm it can cause our youth. There is no provision to prevent them from selling or distributing cannabis. The amount should be zero.

I am asked if a child in grade 6 could share it with younger kids. That is an important question. It is a great concern of parents and teachers. It would allow drug dealers to target kids and use them for profit.

Bill C-45 allows up to four plants to be grown in the home. Any home can become a grow op. Four plants under the right conditions can yield up to 600 grams or 1,200 to 1,800 joints. This is a concern for homeowners, landlords, law enforcement. Moreover, there is no mandatory testing for the potency or toxicity of the homegrown plants, and no money for inspection. There is no federal requirement to lock up the marijuana. This is going to expose kids and even pets to the drugs. Grow ops lead to a 24-fold increase in incidents involving fire. Landlords are concerned that they will not be able to forbid grow ops or smoking if they are already renting their properties.

Other jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana have said that home grows were hugely penetrated by organized crime. We know it from the science and the evidence out there. For this reason, Washington state does not allow home grows, except for medically fragile people who cannot get to a dispensary. It has been able to reduce organized crime to less than 20% of the market.

The legal opinion is that allowing four plants per dwelling will end up being challenged in court as well. The government has not thought through the bill. There will not only be danger in the homes of Canadians, but on the roads too. Drug-impaired driving is not addressed in Bill C-45. It is encompassed in Bill C-46, but a study recently issued by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction put the cost of impaired driving from cannabis at one billion dollars. The AAA found there has been a large increase in the number of fatal accidents in Washington state involving the use of marijuana after the state legalized the drug. In fact, impaired driving has increased in the American states that have legalized it, and there is no current instrument that can accurately measure one's level of impairment on the roadside. The science is not there yet.

Canada is unable to train our own officers in Canada and needs to send our officers to expensive, lengthy training in the United States, and this training currently has wait lists.

The legalization of marijuana will definitely impact our ability to trade internationally. Have the Liberals noticed that we are negotiating NAFTA? Do the Liberals think that having a drug policy way out of sync with our American neighbours will improve trade or thicken the border? For Oshawa and my community, this is a huge problem, as it is for other communities as well.

Let us look at the treaties. Passing Bill C-45 would violate three UN treaties to which Canada is a signatory. In order to legalize marijuana by July 1 and not be in violation of the UN treaties, Canada would have had to withdraw by July 1 of this year, and the Liberal government did not do that. How can Canada hold other countries to account on their treaty obligations when Canada does not even honour its own?

This leads me to this question. Why the rush? There are only 241 days to go until this arbitrary date that the Liberals selected. Provinces, municipalities, police forces, and our indigenous communities have stated they are not ready to implement this legislation. The government knows this; members have heard it in committee.

So many questions have been left unanswered. Will Canadians who use marijuana be able to cross the border into the United States where marijuana is still illegal? No department has been able to answer this question, and Canadians deserve an answer before the legislation is implemented.

How will enforcement officers test for drug impairment on the roadside? Can these tests be constitutionally challenged? Is the science valid? Canadians deserve an answer.

What education programs are in place now to inform youth about the dangers and consequences of marijuana? If they are not in place now, when will this education process begin? The health minister said today $43 million, but there is no timeline.

What will happen to the current medical marijuana system and how will recreational sales impact medical marijuana pricing and distribution?

Canadians deserve answers to these questions before the legislation is passed.

The Liberals talk about the black market. One of the stated goals is to eliminate the black market by creating a legal framework for marijuana, but this is a flawed way of thinking. A variety of factors are being left up to the provinces, such as pricing, distribution, which products are included, and packaging.

We need to listen to the real experts on the ground.

Assistant Commissioner Joanne Crampton, of federal policing criminal operations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said:

As Kathy mentioned, organized crime is a high priority for federal policing, in particular, for the RCMP. We target the highest echelon within the organized crime world. We're very cognizant...and realize that the chances of organized crime being eliminated in the cannabis market would be.... It's probably naive to think that could happen.

Naive, that is what the experts say about the Liberal approach.

Our Conservative position is the same as the Canadian chiefs of police position, to issue tickets for the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. This approach is more sensible regarding marijuana possession. Instead of rushing to legalize marijuana, Conservatives are working with law enforcement to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Canadians would be spared a criminal record for simple possession of small amounts.

To summarize, the Liberals promised that they wanted to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids. They also promised that they wanted to keep profit out of the hands of organized crime.

My speech ultimately has proven that the Liberal approach is wrong. This bill would not accomplish what they are promising Canadians. This is like a big bill of sale. The bill would actually place children further in harm's way by permitting possession for kids as young as 12. That is grade 6. Home grow ops will expose children living in a dwelling to dangerous living space and increase the production of marijuana and diversion to organized crime. This approach will increase the rate of impaired driving.

The bill leaves so many questions unanswered, which has blindsided law enforcement and other levels of government.

The question is why the Liberals are force-feeding us this deeply flawed bill. The only answer I can come up with is that the government has no problem being deceitful to Canadians in order to keep the Prime Minister's irrresponsible election promise, muddying the water about the implications of full legalization under the bill.

Instead of blindly trying to keep campaign promises at the expense of Canadians' health and safety, perhaps the Liberals should refocus their attention on protecting kids and protecting the public, protecting our trade agreements, and not putting international relationships in jeopardy, particularly the one we have with the United States. They have had no problem breaking other promises, whether it is the balanced budget, electoral reform, or openness and transparency.

It is time the Liberals put the brakes on this legislation until the science supports the ability to ensure the health and safety of Canadians, particularly our kids.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Ajax Ontario

Liberal

Mark Holland LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, we know that many states in the United States have already legalized marijuana within their own jurisdictions. Again, I am going to come back to the point I made earlier, and maybe I will come back to it a little more precisely. Over the preceding 10 years before we came into power, where there was an election fought on this very issue, rates of cannabis use by young people continued to edge up higher every year. The reality for cannabis use is that it exceeds 20%. The idea that suddenly people are going to start driving while high, as if it is not already happening, is to ignore a very serious existing problem. That is why we are introducing legislation to deal with the problem of those who would drive while high.

However, I would ask the member specifically this question. We have the example of tobacco, where prevalence rates for tobacco are now half what they are for cannabis among the youngest cohort, but they used to be incredibly high. Rates used to be over 50%. Through a process of legalizing and making sure we had control, we were able to bring that number down below 10%. Does the member not think that the example of tobacco, how it was regulated and the denormalization campaigns used, is applicable here with cannabis?

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, there were so many fallacies in that statement. First of all, we cannot really compare tobacco to marijuana. This is the bill of sale: the Liberals keep repeating their talking points. It is not me; it is the Canadian community health survey on mental health that said the total percentage of teens aged 15 to 17, the target group, went from 40% to 25% from 2002 to 2012. Let us take a look at it; maybe it was working.

We are not saying we do not have to do something, but we have to responsible. This entire approach by the Liberals is an experiment. It is hypothetical. They want to take all our kids and put them into a system that no one else in the world has used before. What we are saying is let us take a breath and let us put the brakes on this legislation, instead of using closure so that we cannot even finish debating it properly. I am talking to my municipality, and the police officers in it are not going to be ready. There is going to be horrible case law that is going to develop from this because the proper rules, regulations, and testing are not going to be in place.

My colleague and I agree on a lot of things in this House. Truly, too many Canadian kids are smoking marijuana, but this bill is a rotten piece of legislation. We are not going to let Canadians be sold a bad bill of sale. It is a very deceitful way of putting this forward.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, we can look to other jurisdictions to see what has happened. Currently, in Canada, there are about 1,000 people a year who die because of an impaired driving incident. When Colorado legalized marijuana, deaths due to impaired driving went up by 40%. In Canada, that would translate to about 400 deaths per year.

Can the member comment on who will be to blame for these deaths after legalization?

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, the sad part is that we are all going to be blame. This is an issue about the health and safety of Canadians. If we look at the facts, we see there are no roadside tests, no tools that can actually test if somebody is impaired or not. We are going to be relying on drug recognition experts. Earlier, my colleague said that these experts are well trained. However, we have to send them to the States to be trained, and they are not going to be ready. We may need thousands of these police officers to be trained, and it is going to take resources away from other things on the road. The entire system is not set up for this yet. The science is not there. This is something that is totally irresponsible.

I have to give credit to my NDP colleagues as well. They realize that things have to be done, but not through this bill. This is a horrible bill. Canadians need to know they are being sold a bill here that is not going to do what the Liberal government is claiming, just based on that irresponsible promise the Prime Minister came up with during the last election campaign. This is not the solution.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Madam Speaker, I am going to enjoy getting involved in this debate, having listened today to many of the remarks that have been provided by my colleagues. I have listened with particular intent to what the Liberal members have been saying and what their underlying argument is for this legislation. The case they have been making in the House is that the legislation would lower usage, make it possible to make it safer, and provide more protection for young people, for people who are abusing, misusing, and getting involved in the marijuana drug scene.

Having listened to that, I specifically tailored my remarks to deal with it, in particular looking at the jurisdictions throughout the world—Uruguay, Washington state, and particularly Colorado—that have legalized this. I find it interesting that they have made arguments about it becoming safer, that it would be safer with the legislation, that there would be less usage, and that we would be able to bring down the usage rates by young people. It is interesting that when I am out in the general public and people talk to who want to see the legislation go through, they never talk about increased safety. They argue for wanting to be able to use their joint recreationally without any hassle. The push from the general public, the people behind the scenes, is somewhat different from the argument that the government is making today.

I will deal with the argument that the government is making today. The argument that, “I want to have my fun and I do not care about the consequences” is not one that I am prepared to deal with today. There is a basic argument for dealing with that on its own. The argument I will deal with today is with the facts, and I will be using a couple of studies in particular.

The first study I would like to refer to was sponsored by France's National Institute of Higher Security and Justice Studies. The institute hired a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Erika Forbes, to look into marijuana usage around the world. The argument that the government is making is that, if we legalize marijuana, we will in fact have less usage. We have very few jurisdictions around the world that have gone for complete legalization, but there are three: Uruguay, Washington, and Colorado. It has been noted that in each and every one of those three jurisdictions, usage rates actually went up. In Washington and Colorado, the study says, usage rates did not move up uniformly in all age brackets and all demographics; they tended to move up more among adults than among young people. In Uruguay, the study found complete across-the-board increased usage of marijuana by every age cohort that was measured, the whole spectrum.

This is what we have. With what the Liberals are experimenting with in Canada, the experiment has been done in three jurisdictions and in each of these three times—from my perspective, not surprisingly—we have ended up with higher usage rates of marijuana. That is what I am anticipating as we go forward. If we legalize, as the other jurisdictions have, Canadians should not be surprised if we have higher usage rates.

On the question of whether I believe that will vary across the country, absolutely. The way the situation is now in Canada, if we read police reports and study anything about arrest rates and charge rates, we see that the usage rates in the Canadian public and the rates at which police charge and prosecutors prosecute vary dramatically across the country. Interestingly enough, according to one study I read, the place in the country with the lowest use among major cities was Saskatoon, where the police are also most likely to charge people; there is the most aggressive enforcement. Vancouver and Halifax were at the other end of the spectrum, both for youth who report usage and also for charge rates. There are different things that may be at play, but the government needs to think about this. Where the law is more strictly enforced in Canada, marijuana is less likely to be used. That would fit with the information that we get from the Uruguay-Washington-Colorado studies. Therefore, I would urge the government to look at this, because the very practical reality is that in some places in Canada it is almost legalized now. That is how slack the charge rate is.

Another thing that was noted in particular in the study paid for by the French institute of higher security was that marijuana poisonings have gone up in all of these jurisdictions. That is not something any Canadian politician wants to see happen. That is a problem across the board.

As I was getting ready for this, I found a report produced in October of this year on the situation in Colorado since it legalized marijuana. This is very fresh data. This report was produced literally a few weeks ago. For any members who are interested, I will try to have this posted on my website or on my Facebook page by Monday or Tuesday of next week.

The study pointed out that in 2006, Colorado was 14th among young people for usage of marijuana in the whole United States of America. In 2015, it was number one. It went from someplace above average to high, to being the place where marijuana was most used. In fact, Colorado currently has 55% higher than the national average marijuana, cannabis usage among young people. It found the same thing among adults. Colorado has about 124% higher usage rate of marijuana in general than the national average across the United States.

People who may be watching this might be thinking that they will use marijuana, that this will not cause them a problem, that this is not a stress for them. They may think their kids will not use it, or they hope they will not use it. However, let look at these statistics again.

Marijuana-related traffic deaths, when a driver was tested positive for marijuana, doubled from 55 deaths 2013 to 125 deaths in 2016. Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 66% in the four year average, 2013 to 2016, since Colorado legalized it. During the same period, all traffic deaths only increased 16%.

When we take out the marijuana-related traffic deaths, the roadway is as safe or getting safer. However, marijuana is making it more dangerous to drive in the state of Colorado.

Youth usage has gone up in Colorado, and it was a high-usage state already. We are not comparing someplace where there was almost no marijuana. Colorado was in the top quarter, or third, of U.S. usage among youth, and it continued to go up after the legalization.

College age usage increased 16%. College-age students usage, second in the United States usage, was in eighth position in 2005-06.

Emergency department and hospitalization marijuana admissions was up from 6,300 in 2011 to 6,700 in 2012, and to 11,400 in 2014, and was on track to blow past that number in 2015.

In literally every measure we look at it is getting worse. Colorado's health system is getting worse; its driving situation for safety is getting worse; usage by young people is getting worse; usage by adults, the entire population, is getting worse.

The government has also said that it something like what it did with tobacco. Passing this legislation is not that. In fact, we could do the same thing about making marijuana more socially unacceptable, pushing marijuana back in other ways, in the same way governments have on tobacco over the years. We can do that right now. We do not have to legalize to go in that direction. In fact, if the government dropped this bill and went in that direction, I think it would find widespread public support.

Marijuana exposure has gone up. There are still criminal issues and all sorts of problems going on in Colorado.

I want to point to two final things. The other week I was at a family funeral in Saskatchewan. My uncle had passed away. I was visiting with a relative, who is a member of the Edmonton city police force. I asked him how many Edmonton city police officers wanted to have legalized marijuana. He said , “Us guys on the streets, absolutely none.” That tells us what the people on the front lines are thinking.

Finally, if we are to deal with drug problems in Canada, we have to deal with them in a broad-based culture, not just in Parliament but across the country. We need to do this not just now, but in perpetuity.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, my colleague talked about unintended consequences. I am interested to hear his comments on Canadians who go to the U.S. I bring that up because one of my constituents, a good friend of mine, went to Las Vegas. I know he does not have anything to do with drugs or marijuana. He smelled something strange in his hotel room. When he went to the airport, the sniffer dogs found traces of marijuana on him. He was pulled aside and embarrassed, while the dogs went through his bags. He was being accused of something he did not do.

Could my hon. colleague comment on other actions that may happen?

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

This is a perfect question, Madam Speaker. When I talked to my family member on the Edmonton police force, he said that one of the strange things that politicians would not get was that marijuana was a drug that had a strong smell. Once it was legalized, drug dealers would have little pouches of pot on them, hoping the smell would cover up the other drugs they might be dealing. He said that the legalization of marijuana would make it harder for him, as an Edmonton city police officer, to enforce actions against other illegal drugs.

These issues are going to continue to pop up. The government has not thought this legislation through.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Ajax Ontario

Liberal

Mark Holland LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Madam Speaker, I want to discuss some of the comments about about Colorado. The Washington Post recently contained an article by the Drug Policy Alliance. It said a couple of things. One was that the statistics in Colorado of individuals who said that usage had increased were simply not true on a couple of bases: first, those numbers were already way up above the national average before legalization ever occurred; and second, the effect on teenagers was, in fact, unchanged, that it had not come down and it had not gone up. Traffic fatalities were the same, but arrests and police resources were way down.

I hope the member would agree with me. What we did on tobacco with respect to investing in de-normalization, explaining to young people the dangers of the drug, pulling it from the shade into the open, making those types of measures and the success we saw with tobacco, mean we could have the kind of prevalence rates we enjoy with tobacco, which are under 10%. They could be lower, they could be better. However, (a) we cannot misrepresent what happens in Colorado, and (b) there are some good examples we could follow to make things work.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Madam Speaker, we can deal with marijuana the same way as tobacco without legalizing it.

In response to the hon. member, his statistics are wrong. He is citing statistics from only one year after legalization, when there was a very modest dip, but not the last three or four years when rates across the board went up. The other thing the hon. member did not note, and may not be aware of, is that Colorado had large-scale commercialization due to incredible liberalization of the medical marijuana industry. If we look at when Colorado was essentially similar to other states, when it had de facto commercialization to when it had whole legalization, we see almost a straight line going up in usage rates.

The hon. member is actually incorrect. I would urge him to table the article in The Washington Post in the House. I will happily table my studies in the next few days. Mine is updated from October 2017, the 127 page report. I will email it to the member next week.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

My question, Madam Speaker, is about an aspect of Colorado policy, which I think is very good and is not present in Bill C-45. In Colorado, individual municipalities and counties can decide whether to allow marijuana sales. Some have allowed it; some have not. There is no availability of this kind of local option in Canada. Could my hon. colleague comment on that distinction?

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Madam Speaker, something like that would be useful, particularly as this issue was brought up to me by an aboriginal chief from northern Saskatchewan, who said they had enough problems with alcohol and the legalization of marijuana would cause more issues for them. He wishes he had the power to deal with it in his communities. This is a disaster for many remote communities that deal with severe social problems.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to the proposed legislation on marijuana.

This is nothing more than the Liberals raising taxes once again. I have been spending quite a while trying to figure out what drives the Liberals. I have come to the conclusion that it is how to raise taxes on all Canadians.

This legislation makes no sense. There is no coherent message to it whatsoever. The Liberals say that they want to keep marijuana out of the hands of children and, at the same time, they will legalize it. If we look at it through the lens of raising taxes, it starts to make some sense. This bill is all about that.

The Liberals have this figured out that if they legalize marijuana, there is perhaps a tax windfall, although not a great tax windfall. The Liberals do not go after the big fish. They go after people who have small tax credits, and things like that.

I do not think this will raise a whole bunch of money for the national coffers, but it will raise a little cash from legalizing marijuana, and therefore taxing it. The bill is all about that.

People may wonder why the Liberals need to raise taxes. They need to raise them so they can give it to their friends around the world. They have given nearly half a billion dollars to an infrastructure bank in Asia. In turn, that bank will use some of that money to build pipelines in Asia. We cannot even get pipelines built in this country. However, we are giving money to infrastructure banks across the world and they are building pipelines with that money.

This Liberal government is completely out of touch with the needs of Canadians, and this bill is nothing more than that.

What else are the Liberals doing with this money? They are bailing out Bombardier. I sent out a ten percenter to my riding, asking if anybody was in favour of the Liberals bailing out Bombardier. Believe it or not, nobody sent it back to me saying he or she was totally happy with the Bombardier bailout, that this was amazing work.

Bombardier is being sold to Airbus, a company out of France. Will Bombardier repay the taxpayer? Will it make them whole? No. Do the Liberals have a balanced budget issue? Yes. How will they raise the money? One of the ways they will raise it is through taxing marijuana.

As I said, this bill is nothing more than a way to raise some tax money. The government has been spending it on infrastructure banks in Asia and on Bombardier.

When I questioned the innovation minister on why the taxpayer would not be made whole with the deal between Airbus and Bombardier, he said that I did not stand up our aerospace industry. However, I do stand up for the aerospace industry in Canada and I am very proud of it. In fact, one of the greatest airplanes ever produced in the world would be the Avro Arrow, and that came from Canada. I am very proud of that fact.

What I am not proud of is the way the Liberals have treated the oil industry. The Liberals have never once stood up for the oil industry. They went to Calgary to announce an innovation cluster. We would have expected they had gone there to announce the innovation cluster for the oil industry or the energy sector, which is one of the most innovative sectors in our economy, but no. It was for agriculture. Agriculture in Calgary is completely out of touch.

What else do the Liberals need the money for? Members may have seen a $5 million skating rink on the front lawn. A hockey rink or a skating rink is quintessential Canadian and I grant that. However, I believe that within spitting distance of this very fancy hockey rink being built on Parliament Hill is the longest skating rink in the whole world. It is called the canal. That is the kind of thing the Liberals need to raise money for with the increase in taxes.

How do we know the Liberal government needs money so badly? I do not think putting a tax on marijuana is going to raise a great deal of money, particularly because I do not think the method the government is using to introduce it will stave off the black mark.

We already have a lot of contraband products when it comes to cigarettes. I do not see the difference here. I am not sure that when we get the government involved in regulating the prices, it will get the price perfect, and we will see the black market disappear. I am not convinced of that at all. Therefore, I do not see that there would be a great windfall.

The Liberals do not have a particular philosophy on how they raise taxes. They just think they can raise taxes wherever they can get it. We have seen this with the cancellation of the tax credit for folks with diabetes. Eighty per cent of the people who were formerly approved for the type 1 diabetes tax credit have now been taken off that list. It was not a great deal of money, but it was for those particular individuals. We can see the Liberals are not worried about raising taxes on everyday Canadians.

When we look at legalizing marijuana in order to tax it, suddenly it all makes sense. This is not about legalizing marijuana, or keeping it out of the hands of kids. It is not about making our country a safer place. This is about raising some tax dollars. As we look at it, we see the legalizing of marijuana is going to have some very detrimental effects. Granted, we may raise some money. I will give them that, but we will see increased traffic fatalities. We have seen this in other jurisdictions that have brought this on. Colorado, for example, has seen a 40% increase in traffic deaths in its jurisdiction since it legalized marijuana. In Canada, we have about 1,000 impaired driving fatalities in the country every year. A 40% increase is another 400 deaths. I do not know how we can justify legalizing marijuana when we know it is going to cause deaths across the country.

Not only that, we always get the comparisons with alcohol and smoking. They say those things are legal, why can marijuana not be legal. First, there is not really a direct connection with either of those other products. Neither of those other products permanently alter one's mind. Marijuana does permanently alter one's mind. I speak at schools, and the marijuana issue comes up. I always say that that is the number one thing. If someone smokes marijuana, there is a significant likelihood of them not graduating from high school; I am not sure exactly what the number is. I tell them that all the time.

Also folks who smoke marijuana have double the rate of psychosis. It doubles the rate of schizophrenia. Someone who is susceptible to schizophrenia and smokes marijuana is twice as susceptible to schizophrenia.

I do not understand this at all. The Liberals say they want to keep it out of the hands of children. To tell children that we are now legalizing it and then at the same time tell them we do not want them to use it, those two messages cancel each other out or even encourage marijuana use. It has nothing to do with the age limits they put on this stuff. I think that is left to the provinces, but they have definitely not put in an age limit. We hear everyone saying after 25 it may not affect your brain, but before 25, marijuana definitely affects one's brain in very detrimental ways.

I can come to no other conclusion than this particular bill to bring in legalization of marijuana has nothing to do with keeping our country safer, has nothing to do with keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and has everything to do with raising a tiny amount of taxes.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was quite interesting to listen to my hon. friend on the other side. On one hand he said this is not going to raise a lot of money, but on the other hand he talked about the Asian infrastructure bank, Bombardier, Airbus, the oil industry, agriculture, and a hockey rink. He did not even mention some of the negative aspects of cannabis consumption. Does he think the option of not doing anything is the only option, like the Conservatives did in their 10 years? Does he not recognize that a judicious use of legislation and education is required to protect our youth from the negative aspects of cannabis consumption? I would like him to speak about that.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is it precisely.

If we were going to build legislation to reduce the level of consumption by youth, we could do just that. In fact, over the last 10 years, we had a successful track record of reducing the consumption of marijuana by youth. For the age group of 15 to 25, the rate of use went down from 34% to 24%. We had a system that was working. We were reducing the rate of consumption.

Could we have done more? Definitely, and we could do more. I would be all in favour of having a national strategy for reducing consumption of marijuana. However, I am not in favour of the bill before us whatsoever.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, one the goals of the bill, the government tells us, is to try and keep marijuana out of the hands of young people. The Liberals also tell us that they want to keep marijuana sales out of the hands of organized crime.

I had the chance to ask the justice minister that question. As someone who is not opposed to the legalization of marijuana, I did say, nevertheless, that the only way we can keep marijuana distribution out of the hands of organized crime is to undercut the price that organized crime is selling it at. If we do that, we would be lowering the price for all those who buy it, including young people. However, if the government tries to make direct sales to young people unlawful, presumably that would open up the space for organized crime.

I have not seen the Liberals square the circle on this particular policy point, and I wonder if my colleague could shed some light on this issue.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly what the government is doing. Pardon the pun, it is sucking and blowing on this particular bill, because there is no way to square that circle. We cannot undercut the black market and keep it out of the hands of children at the same time. The government has no concept of how economics work. Therefore, with the bill before us, it is “a pie in the sky, just trust us on this”, and that is exactly what the government is asking us to do with the bill. Therefore, I will not be supporting it.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:30 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, it is unfortunate that the member has drawn the conclusion that he will not support this proposed legislation. This is legislation that was campaigned on in the last federal election, and the government got a very strong mandate. I think that Canadians as a whole want to see cannabis and marijuana dealt with in a very progressive fashion, and we have a bill that would really make a difference.

In terms of the criminal element, and the number of young people, this is good-news legislation. I would suggest to my Conservative colleagues across the way that they might want to reconsider their position on this proposed legislation. I believe society will be in a better place if we have a regime where there is strong regulation and the ability to keep more cannabis and marijuana out of the hands of children. We know that, here in Canada, we have the highest percentage per capita of children using cannabis of any country in the world.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, what we have here is a bill that is nothing like what the Liberals ran on in the federal election. In addition to that, the strong mandate that the member talked about is 39% of Canadians in support. It is not the majority of Canadians who have supported them. If the member is so adamant about the Liberals' position that they ran on in the election, they would have come up with a much more coherent bill.

The bill before us tries to say two opposite things at the same time. I do not know what to say on it anymore. The entire point of my speech was that the bill is nothing more than wanting to raise taxes off the legalization of marijuana. When we look at it through that lens, suddenly the bill might make a little sense.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-45.

Before I start my comments on Bill C-45, let me take a minute to reflect on the upcoming weekend and the remembrance services that many of us in this room will be attending this coming weekend, and to thank our veterans for the freedoms that we enjoy. Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending a number of remembrance services in New Dundee, New Hamburg, Linwood, and Elmira. This coming weekend, I will be in New Hamburg, Waterloo, Kitchener, and Elmira again. Let us just to think of the sacrifice that our veterans have made, and thank our legions for the great work that they do in not only supporting our veterans but also in helping us never to forget. I want to highlight that before I get into my remarks on Bill C-45.

There are a number of really important issues that are dealt with in this chamber on a daily basis. Over the last number of weeks, we have discussed a number of them, from rising debt to taxation, supposedly fair taxation, the economy, the deficit that is growing every day, and the amazing excessive interest we will be paying on that over the next four years of $33 billion per year. All of these things are important. However, in relation to the topic before us today, really they are of minor significance. This topic we are discussing today will have a life-changing impact not only on our youth and our citizens but on the very nation of Canada. I think it is important that we think clearly and soberly about the changes we are making, especially as it relates to three areas.

I first want to refer to our youth. That has been referred to many times today, the health, safety, and well-being of our children and our grandchildren, the safety of all Canadians on the roads, and the social risks that are involved in our communities with complaints and issues that will arise between neighbours.

However, let me first refer to our youth.

In question period today, my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska, and I just happened to catch it, made this great statement that the decisions we make reveal the values we hold. How much do we, as members of Parliament, in this room value the youth of Canada? That is a question that we need to ask. I believe youth are a sacred trust that every one of us in this room has an obligation to guard seriously. We cannot take this obligation lightly.

The Liberals claim repeatedly that the purpose of this legislation is to protect our young people and to increase public safety. How can we keep this drug out of the hands of our youth when we are actually allowing four plants per household? How can we say we are keeping it out of the hands of our youth when we are allowing 12-year-olds to have up to five grams in their possession? We often hear of people being polled about whether they favour the legalization of marijuana, and the polls are all over the place, but it is somewhere around 50:50 or 60:40. However, I am convinced that if we were to give the details of what this bill entails with respect to the availability of four plants per household and up to five grams for 12-year-olds, we would get a much different answer.

The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Psychiatric Association have both stated that Canadians who consume marijuana recreationally under the age of 25 have a higher risk of developing mental illness, such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. We can all probably tell some anecdotal stories of family members or neighbours who have been derailed by the early use of marijuana.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association says:

Regular cannabis use in youth and young adults can affect aspects of cognition...attention, memory, processing speed, visuospatial functioning and overall intelligence. Worse performance is related to earlier adolescent onset of use.

I do not know how much earlier an onset one could get than offering this availability to a 12-year-old. Therefore, parents and grandparents are very concerned about the direction in which this bill is going.

Dr. Diane Kelsall in the Canadian Medical Association Journal wrote, “Most of us know a young person whose life was derailed because of marijuana use. Bill C-45 is unlikely to prevent such tragedies from occurring—and, conversely, may make them more frequent.”

There are far too many young people who have already been derailed. These are not just opinions, these are medical and psychiatric experts, and it is important that we listen to them.

I want to use the bulk of my time today to listen to one of the youth of Canada, who is concerned that this legislation and the actions we approve here in this House would, or could, in fact derail young people. She does not want to be one of those derailed, and she does not want her friends to be derailed. This young person is my granddaughter who wrote this two years ago, in November 2015, when she was 15 years old. She wrote:

Marijuana, the dangerous substance that damages our lungs, brain, educational value and social activity is the substance the government of Canada is trying to legalize. Claims say that legalization will erode the black market but in reality, legalizing marijuana will give people easier access to the drug. Recently I heard the testimony of a man who at age 14 was heading to Toronto for 420 with one hundred dollars worth of Marijuana. The fact that ten years ago a 14 year old boy who had no job and no car was able to get his hands on one hundred dollars worth of weed blows my mind. Can you imagine how easy it would be for someone to get marijuana now, especially if it were to become legal? Easier access to Marijuana will have many negative effects for Canada such as major health damage, ruining our educational system, our workplace and our society. The future of Canada rests in the hands of our generation, there is no way marijuana will be a positive tool in that regard....

With long term and short term effects the list of things that marijuana does to damage your health is endless. Short term effects include impaired memory, impaired body movement, changes in mood, hallucinations, paranoia, difficulty thinking and problem solving. Along with temporary damage Marijuana proves to once again be a dangerous substance having a long lasting effect on your brain and mental health. A study showed that people who started heavily smoking marijuana in their teens lost an average of eight IQ points between ages of 13 and 38. Even after quitting as an adult the lost mental abilities did not fully return. There are many different ways to consume Marijuana but no matter which way, it is harmful. Marijuana smoke contains the same tar and chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke which will lead to the inflammation of bronchitis. The drug harms cells lining and respiratory tract leading to precancerous changes that are associated with lung, head and neck cancer. Marijuana also stimulates your heart rate and blood pressure which can increase the risk of heart attack among individuals. I have named only a few of the health risks that occur when marijuana is consumed however, I hope that this is enough to strongly discourage you from believing the legalization of medical marijuana will infact be a positive thing in any way shape or form.

She went on:

The damage of marijuana does not end with your health, the drugs negative effect leads into your educational life as well. A review of 48 different relevant studies all found that marijuana use is associated with reduced chances of graduating. A recent analysis of data from studies in Australia and New Zealand found that youth who have used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely to finish highschool and obtain a degree than their non-using peers. Marijuana is encouraging lazy work habits and a 'don't care' attitude, leading students down the path of becoming a high school dropout. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that while under the influence of marijuana the still developing brain will have difficulty retaining memories, when related back to school this can seriously affect your learning skills as a student. “Falling behind in school is par for the course when marijuana use is a factor. It's not an issue solely based on loss of memory; they also report that psychological skills are reduced among students as well, decreasing their ability to sustain their self-confidence and remain focused on achieving academic and other goals”—NIDA. Even though marijuana is an illegal drug it has not stopped teens and students from buying and using the drug, what is to happen now if marijuana becomes legal? By legalizing this drug we are practically encouraging students to go out and get high, ruining their high school career and affecting whatever may lay beyond that....

Believe me when I say that marijuana not only negatively affects your health, your education but your social and work life as well. Studies show specific links between the use of marijuana and the workplace such as increased risk of injuries and accidents. One study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and 75 percent greater absence compared with those who tested negative for marijuana. After all of the papers you wrote, tests you studied for and emotional trials you went through over the minimum of 16 years of schooling, is it really worth it to throw that all away for the temporary high of marijuana?

....Before make the decision to legalize this dangerous substance lets first think of all of the health risks caused by this drug, the negative effect that it would have on our educational system and how different and harmful the workplace and our economy would be with marijuana easily accessible and legal.

I have so much more to share.

Let me finish with some comments by Dr. Diane Kelsall, director of the Canadian Medical Association, in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. She says, “If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.”

I hope my colleagues will listen.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I believe my colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga is sincerely concerned and I want to address some of those concerns so I might perhaps ease his mind.

My colleague has said, as did many of his colleagues earlier, that this legislation authorizes 12-year-olds to possess cannabis. That in fact is misleading, and it is really important for every member of the House to understand exactly how this law will be applied.

One of the harms that we are attempting to reduce in this legislation is the criminalization of kids. We do not believe the best way to protect our kids is to put them in jail, so under this legislation possession of over five grams will remain a criminal offence, but for amounts less than that, young persons aged 12 to the age of majority will be subject to an absolute prohibition on the possession, purchase, and consumption of this substance under provincial regulation.

We have worked with all of the provinces, and those who have already announced their regulatory regimes have made it very clear that they will enforce a prohibition. A young person between the ages of 12 and 18 or 19, depending on the provincial decision on what the age would be, would be subject to an absolute prohibition enforceable by a provincial offences ticket. The police could seize the drug. The police can charge the youth, not under the criminal law, but under a provincial statute. That is precisely how we deal with alcohol in each of our provinces and territories. This actually reduces a significant harm.

I hope this information might assist the member by addressing the concerns he has raised.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member said anything above five grams would be a criminal offence. The bill does not indicate that anything above five grams for those 18-years-old and beyond would not be a criminal offence. My concern remains.

When we give a message to youth aged 12 to 18 there will be no prohibition for being in possession of up to five grams of marijuana, and in addition give homeowners the ability to grow up to four plants within each household, we have a recipe for easy access for youth, and not one that would keep this drug out of their hands.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for sharing what young people are actually saying about this legislation. I have heard the same thing. My youth group also told me that this is a bad idea.

I would like him to address two important things that the Liberals keep repeating over and over again that I find very misleading. They have said the reason they are doing this is to keep it out of the hands of kids and organized crime. Everyone in the House would agree that that is a great thing to do, but this legislation would not do it. The Liberals are trying to push a message out, but I find it is really misleading and, in a way, very deceitful.

Could my colleague please address why the bill would not keep it out of the hands of kids and not keep the profits out of the hands of organized crime? We know it will not do that.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, the deceitful aspect of the bill is very similar to what the Liberals are doing on the taxation front. They say they are going to tax the wealthy and put those dollars into the hands of the middle class, when in fact in the last couple of weeks we have seen exactly the opposite. Those who are wealthy and well-connected have been left totally alone, with not a cent increase in their taxation, while those in the middle class who are working hard, including farmers and small business owners, are being accused by the Liberals as tax cheats.

To imply that this legislation would keep drugs out of the hands of youth is certainly not accurate when we see that kids aged 12 to 18 will be able to have five grams in their possession. This is not the way to go.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member mention the negative aspects of cannabis consumption, but he did not mention any solution. He did not offer anything.

The fact is that five or ten years ago when his party was in government, it did nothing. He would know their solution was often nothing. At least our government is taking steps to legislate and to invest in education. We are investing $46 million in public education and awareness. We are also investing $274 million to support law enforcement and border officials.

I request the member to address these issues also.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative position is not to go down this very dangerous road. We have heard many times today about the Colorado experiment and what that state is doing. I do not have the very latest report, but I do have this one dated September 2016 showing some of the negative impacts. Marijuana-related traffic deaths have increased 48% in over three years on average, from 2103 to 2015. Before that period, the increase was only 11%.

I would ask for unanimous consent to table this document or, better yet, the updated one from 2017 to allow my Liberal colleagues to see the negative results in jurisdictions that have authorized the recreational use of marijuana. The statistics are alarming. For my colleagues not even to want to look at this, I find unconscionable. We have an obligation in the House to stand up for the protection of the youth of our country, and I hope we will do that.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak in the House in regard to Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.

I am trying to think of an appropriate word to use that the people across the aisle would possibly accept and understand. The bill is harmful to young people. It is harmful to our society. It is poorly thought out. It is extremely rushed, and as a result, it is very dangerous legislation for us to be putting forward in Canada.

The Liberals claim that it will protect the health of young persons. That is one of their virtuous goals in putting this forward. Medical professionals have talked about mental health issues, including addiction, and the impact on the developing brain. Data shows that 30% to 40% of young people under the age of 25 who use cannabis will develop psychotic disorders, depression, or anxiety disorders. This is information from professionals, as my colleague was trying to present to the House to enable the Liberal Party to read and possibly discern that there are dangers in what they are suggesting they legalize in Canada.

The Liberals also talk about restricting access by young people. I have never heard a more confusing argument: trying to restrict the use of a dangerous substance by legalizing it and actually making it more available to young people. We know that the bill would allow young people between the ages of 12 and 18 to possess five grams at any one time. This would not say to young people that this is not something they should do. It would say it is okay for them to have this. Maybe it is because they do not want them to have a criminal record. It is irrational to say we do not want them to have a criminal record, so they can take and hold this much. It is not right, because it would encourage them to consider this.

In grade seven, I was part of a debate team. Our class was given this topic: grade seven students are juvenile and immature. Of course, we wanted to debate against that, because we were in grade seven, and we were not juvenile and not immature. My teacher told us to debate the other side, and somehow he convinced us to do that. We won that debate, because grade seven students are juvenile and immature. They are not grown up yet. They are formulating what their values are, and here we are with a government that is saying to them to go ahead and have five grams in their possession at any one time. It does not take long to realize that it would be a risk to them on many levels, besides their trying to process it with their own moral values. They could be coerced to carry it for others, possibly parents, or possibly older teens in the family who want more available. They could carry it for their siblings or their parents or a friend.

These young people also could be very much drawn into the black market to be handlers. I think especially of youth at risk. We like to think that this is not going to impact them in any way, but it will, because they are already at risk. They are vulnerable, and they are an easy target for people who are immoral and dishonest and will teach them behaviours that are not right and will draw them into a life of crime. There is also the opportunity to simply sell it personally and make money on something the government is saying they can have in their possession. Finally, there is the potential for them to say that they can have this, so why not just try it.

All these reasons totally negate this irrational argument that somehow, by legalizing this and making it available to children aged 12 to 18, it would restrict access. I have never heard a more disjointed, inaccurate, and inconceivable argument put forward. The government also said that it wants to protect young people from the inducement to use. Well, I have already said that just by putting the bill forward in this way, it is actually encouraging young people to consider using.

Another member on the other side of the House came back with the argument, on the question of youth having it in their possession, that it is the parents' responsibility. It is just like any other thing in the house they might have. The parents are responsible. On one level, I totally agree that parents are and should be responsible, above all other influences, for determining what direction their children should be guided. Parental rights, responsibilities, and privileges in raising children, which are our most precious and valuable resource as a nation, need to be protected. They actually need to be encouraged by government. Government should be supporting Canadian families through legislation. However, here it is working in opposition and challenging parents by telling teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 that it is okay, and legal, to have five grams of marijuana on their person.

I have worked a lot with teenagers, and I actually survived raising three amazing young adults myself. I have to tell members that at that point in life, the right thing for them to be doing is challenging things around them and trying to determine where their values are in relation to their parents and in what direction they are going to go.

When I tell my children that something is not right, and it is something they are thinking about, but their government turns around and tells them that it is okay and that it is legal, that is not supporting parents. The government is pushing this responsibility on them, just like it is pushing the responsibility on provinces and municipalities. The Liberals created the bill because they made an election promise, and they are having trouble finding one they can keep, so this is the one they will pull it off on.

This is entirely wrong. If youth should not use it, then they should not carry it.

The government also uses the argument that it is going to reduce illicit activities in relation to cannabis. In other words, it will somehow shut down the black market with the legal use of marijuana. We know how well that is working with contraband cigarettes.

I know from conversations with people I have helped in 10-step programs that there are rehab centres where black market drug dealers go to get healed. While there, they develop relationships with people they then meet on the outside, and they help them to become part of the process. This is not going to shut down the black market. It is money driven, it is greed driven, and it has nothing to do with caring for our society. The government is playing into its hands.

Canadians are very concerned all over this country. They are concerned about the workplace, law enforcement people, and our children, and they do not know what to do. They are throwing up their hands and asking how the government can do this.

Well, I have a few words I want to say to Canadians. I am going to post it, actually.

I will tell them that they have been amazing on so many fronts in dealing with issues this government has brought forward over the last two years, and they have made a difference. Opposition parties have a role to play, but we are here to represent Canadians, and as a result of their work and their telling this government what they will and will not accept, electoral reform is not on the table. They did that with their advocacy.

Punitive and unfair tax increases on the middle class, small and medium businesses, and farmers are not going to take place the way they would have if the Liberals had just been allowed to go ahead with their policies. Canadians made the difference.

They shut down the removal of section 176 and are protecting the right to freedom of religion in this country. They caused the Surgeon General to relegate the dangerous anti-malaria drug mefloquine to a drug of last resort, after decades of causing harm to our servicemen and women.

Canadians can do this. They can make a difference. I know that they see this law as irrational, dangerous, and rushed, everything that is not good. Therefore, I encourage them to do what they have done. I know they are exhausted. They should keep going.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc Québécois for his support for my amendment.

I stand before you, Mr. Speaker, in a position at report stage that were it not for a motion passed at committee that is identical to ones passed in every other committee to reduce my rights as a member of Parliament, I would be able to submit today at report stage substantive and detailed amendments such as I have had to do before committee. Previous Speakers have ruled on this discriminatory procedure, the first time in the history of Parliament that a majority of MPs in the House, at the request of a Prime Minister's Office, have reduced the rights of individual members of Parliament who have this artificial threshold. Only Canada among the Westminster parliamentary democracies has this rule that there is such a thing as a recognized party, so that if a party has fewer than 12 seats, it is not not a recognized party. It is unique to Canada, but I digress.

These PMO-directed motions, identical in every committee and dreamt up under former Prime Minister Harper's PMO and repeated under the current Prime Minister's PMO, reduced the rights of MPs like me to present detailed substantive amendments at report stage. This is called an “opportunity”. This is not an “opportunity”. This is a coercive process in which my amendments are deemed to have been presented. Therefore, I do want to make note of the fact that this procedure has become increasingly difficult, requiring me to run from committee to committee. Sometimes clause-by-clause consideration happens at exactly the same moment in different committees.

In this case, my amendments at committee went forward and I regret very much that my substantive opportunity to speak to these amendments was precluded by illness, so I want to put on the record that I had more detailed, targeted, substantive amendments. They were all defeated in my absence. I think they would have been defeated even if I had been there, but I did want to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway who, in my absence, attempted to argue that my amendments had merit and attempted to help some of them get through. At report stage, I am precluded from putting forward substantive amendments, as the Speaker will know, and I am bringing forward deletions of those sections of the bill that are most difficult.

Let us step back and explain what the difficulty is for members such as me. I lead the Green Party of Canada, the first party in Canada to call for the legalization of cannabis. That is for the very reason cited so often by government members in explaining why the Liberal Party campaigned for the legalization of cannabis, which is that it is very clear that prohibition of cannabis is a failed policy. It is very clear that prohibition of cannabis profits primarily organized crime and fuels an underground economy whose main beneficiaries are people in organized crime. It is clear that it takes people who are otherwise honest, law-abiding Canadians and gives them a criminal record. There are many ills that come from the failed policy of prohibition. One of them in particular is that it fuels grow ops, which take up residence in otherwise calm, quiet, residential cul-de-sacs, and fuels the gang wars that break out. In some cases, criminals have broken into the homes of innocent people because they think they are running rival grow ops. In some cases, police have kicked down the doors of people who are completely uninvolved in grow ops. There have been cases of mistaken identity because quiet neighbourhoods can breed grow ops. Therefore, I am entirely in favour of anything that would take away the profit-making criminal activity in trafficking and growing cannabis.

This legislation, therefore, is something that I should be able to support 100%, but the reason I cannot is that it appears that in drafting this legislation, the governing Liberals were seized with somewhat of a schizophrenia. On one hand, they want to legalize cannabis. On one hand, they recognize the overwhelming scientific evidence that there is nothing, for instance from the World Health Organization or other organizations focused on health, that would make the case that cannabis is more dangerous or more addictive than otherwise legal substances that we also know are health hazards, such as tobacco and alcohol.

The Liberals approached the drafting of their cannabis legislation with the apparent intention, as publicized during the election campaign, of legalizing cannabis. However, at the same time, they seemed to be carrying a prohibition mindset into the drafting of the legislation legalizing it.

Accordingly, I want quote one of the witnesses who was before the committee, Michael Spratt, a well-known and respected criminal lawyer. He has appeared a number of times before parliamentary committees, and I have drawn on his evidence in the past. I find his views compelling. However, this is from an article he published under the title “Marijuana bill another example of Liberals’ broken promises”. It reads:

When it comes to legalization of marijuana, it seems that the Liberals will keep their promise—sort of. They pledged to legalize marijuana because it “traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system,” because illegal weed funds criminal organizations and because legal but regulated cannabis better keeps drugs away from our children. So, in 2015, the Liberals promised to “remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code.”

The article continues:

...the Liberal's proposed cannabis bill actually doesn’t do any of those things very well. Sure, the new legislation does legalize some marijuana—some of the time, under some circumstances—but it does not “remove marijuana consumption and possession from the Criminal Code.”

In reality, the new bill is an unnecessarily complex piece of legislation that leaves intact the criminalization of marijuana in many circumstances.

Therefore, the intent of my amendment to delete clause 9 is to remove the distribution risk of cannabis being given to anyone under 18 years old. Distribution is defined as not selling cannabis but basically giving someone else a cannabis substance, which in some situations is legal but in others is not.

Now, I understand that it is illegal to sell alcohol, depending on the province, to a minor. It is illegal to sell cigarettes to a minor, and so it should be. However, this proposed legislation is sending out a signal that cannabis is far more dangerous than cigarettes or alcohol, but there is no evidence for that. It is also sending a message that it is legal for an 18 year old to ingest cannabis, but if that same 18 year old passes it to a friend who is in the same year in high school and whom he or she thinks is also 18 but is not, the onus is on that 18 year old to try to find out how old the friend is before passing the joint to them. Otherwise, that 18 year old could spend 14 years in jail.

This is an extreme punishment that is completely tone deaf to the Liberal campaign to legalize cannabis. It is out of sync with all of the evidence. I would hope that judicial discretion would step in, but I cannot imagine for a moment why we would think that someone who, without a profit motive, without any idea that what they are doing is illegal, distributes some cannabis, that is, gives it for free to someone whom they know and who also happens to be under 18, should be subject to a very harsh criminal sanction of 14 years in jail.

There are other parts of the legislation that I attempted to amend in committee, including the treatment of edibles. In terms of assistance to people who need medical marijuana, it is a safer way of ingesting cannabis for many people than smoking it. We are making a little progress on that at committee. I have to say that it was good to see the majority of Liberals accept amendments to remove some of the sillier provisions, such as a height restriction on plants. Some progress was also made in increasing the amount that could be possessed before one hits the criminal mark. Also, on the good Samaritan exception, again, I give credit to the Liberals for accepting that amendment, as well removing the height restriction of 100 centimetres.

That said, much more could have been done to fix the bill in committee, but we can still make progress here at report stage by accepting this amendment. I applaud the Liberals for their intent to legalize cannabis, but I decry the fact that this legalization is contaminated with a prohibition mindset that would undo a lot of what was promised.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have have substantive differences with the member's assessment of the risks, and I think the medical evidence clearly bears out the significant associations between marijuana use and mental health challenges, which we want to avoid.

I want to ask the member about her comments with respect to the Standing Orders. I do not go out of my way to agree with the government, but the way the Standing Orders work in combination with the motions passed by committees, and the way that most, if not all, committees work now, is that every member has an opportunity to bring forward substantive amendments at committee. Thus, they cannot bring amendments at report stage that they could have brought forward at committee.

The member in question wants to have the right to bring forward substantive report stage amendments, I understand that. However, as a member of a major recognized party, I am not able to bring forward substantive amendments at report stage either, except in certain very particular circumstances, which would apply to the member as well, where the Speaker judges the measure to be of great importance and makes an exception in its case.

Can the member clarify if, in this case, what she is asking for is actually a right that other members do not have? No one can bring forward substantive amendments at report stage if those could have been brought forward at committee.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for allowing me to amplify this point. The reason members of large recognized parties do not have the right to bring forward substantive motions at report stage is relatively new. It was in response to the over 700 amendments to the Nisga'a Treaty moved by what I think was the Reform Party. At that point, the majority Liberals took it to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, where, generally speaking, if we are to change the way legislation moves to the House it gets done. This reduced the rights of every Liberal, NDP, and Conservative member of this place, because if one their colleagues sits on a committee they do not get the chance to bring forward amendments here. Again that is a derogation of the individual right of every MP. We are all equals. We are not elected here as blocks of different parties. It is an unfortunate provision, but it did go through the procedure and House affairs committee and did change the Standing Orders.

For members such as me who are not allowed to sit on any committee, we are given a fake opportunity, a false opportunity, to have amendments brought forward in our name and deemed moved. Members in positions such as mine are not allowed to sit on the committee or put forward questions to witnesses. It is a fake, lesser opportunity for the sole purpose of depriving me of a right that I would have had but for the motions passed at every committee.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:35 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 commend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for being able to deal with what is a very important issue. If I were to best describe it, it is to minimize the impact of cannabis on our young people. Today, we have more young people than virtually any other country in the western world consuming cannabis in some form or another. We finally have a government that recognizes that we need to do something to deal with the criminal element, the hundreds of millions that go toward crime as a direct result.

That said, the leader of the Green Party indicates that she has a problem with the legislation. She is concerned that an 18 year old sitting in a high school could possibly go to jail for 14 years for passing a cigarette to a 17 year old. I am repeating what the leader of the Green Party said.

If that same 18 year old possibly passed it off to someone who was 13 or 14 years old, does she not believe that would also be problematic, if her amendment had passed?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reality of the way this bill has been drafted is that the sentencing is extreme. This was the expert testimony we heard at committee by those representing the Criminal Lawyers' Association, individuals with day-to-day experience defending people. There are a lot of people in this country whose personal reputations continue to be stigmatized because they are charged with a crime. As the hon. parliamentary secretary pointed out, a far higher proportion of our population than other populations has used recreational cannabis. Many people who are otherwise law abiding have used recreational cannabis over the years and are stigmatized with a criminal record.

This legislation should remove that risk of stigmatization, but it perpetuates it. To my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, the medical evidence from the World Health Organization and the report by the Canadian Senate are really clear. By the way, as I stand here, I am someone who would never want my kids either to ingest cannabis or to smoke cigarettes or access alcohol. These are health risks, but cannabis is no worse a health risk than the others.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today in the House to address Bill C-45, the cannabis act, and the amendment I brought forward, which has been grouped together with the amendments from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

I would have preferred to delete the whole bill, because it is a seriously flawed piece of legislation. However, in addition to deleting the section that I will talk about today, which is the section on home grow, I would point out that the government is rushing ahead with this legislation.

There are 243 days left before the Liberals are going to arbitrarily legalize marijuana, even though the provinces, municipalities, and police have said they will not be ready. There are numerous provinces and territories that have not even come out with a plan on how they will implement it. This legislation has not gone through the House or Senate. There has been no public awareness and education campaign launched. Therefore, I would again encourage the government not to rush forward with an arbitrary date as there are serious implications to this bill.

One of the many flaws in the bill is with respect to the subject of home grow. I will read from the bill what its intent was, and then show how this does not align. The bill states its goal are to:

protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis;

provide for a...[reduction in] illicit activities in relation to cannabis;

deter illicit activities...

reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis;

provide access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis; and

enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis.

In this legislation, the government is allowing the growth of four plants. We heard testimony at the health committee stating that those four plants, at a height of 100 centimetres, could produce up to 600 grams of marijuana in a house with no provision for storage and lockup. That was when there was a height restriction of 100 centimetres on those four plants, which has since been removed. I am not sure how the 600 grams of marijuana even lines up with the possession maximum of 30 grams. However, failing that, this will absolutely not keep marijuana out of the hands of our children.

In addition, we heard testimony from Colorado and Washington states, which had legalized marijuana. Colorado allowed home grow and the State of Washington did not, except in the case of medical marijuana users who were too fragile to get to a dispensary. In Colorado, where home grow was allowed, organized crime was involved in home grow, and it was a huge factor.

Obviously, if the intent of the bill is to keep it out of the hands of children, and to deter organized crime, home grow is not the way to go about it. The State of Washington saw that, by not allowing home grow, children and young people were having difficulty getting their hands on marijuana, and the organized crime portion of the marijuana trade had been reduced to less than 20% in less than three years. Therefore, with respect to keeping it out of the hands of children and deterring organized crime, we can see that removing home grow is absolutely essential.

Some of the testimony we heard was from the folks who grow medical marijuana. This is a very regulated process that traces all of the production, distribution, and who it goes to. There is also rigorous quality control testing to ensure there is no mould, to look at the potency, and numerous other factors with respect to cannabis. We can see that one of the goals in this bill is to provide access to a quality controlled supply of cannabis, and medical marijuana, as it is regulated today, meets that.

However, let us talk about that criteria with respect to home grow. There is absolutely no quality control testing in home grow. In fact, there are serious issues related to mould and ventilation. We heard testimony as well that home grow-type operations are 24 times more likely to have a fire. Therefore, there are hazards associated with these operations.

I had people from the Real Estate Association come and visit me in my office, to talk to me about what is required for them today when they sell a house that has had a marijuana grow op inside of it. They have to do a certification to make sure there is not any mould, and to address any of the issues that may have arisen. Their question was around what would be required when the bill passes. They wanted to know if they had to do that on every house where somebody had grown marijuana.

Those answers do not exist, because this flawed legislation is not well thought out, and nobody has the implementation plan that will occur at the provincial and municipal detailed levels. Of course, with 243 days left to go, we would think those answers and that information would be well in hand, but they are not. These issues continue not to be addressed by the government by having home grow in the bill.

With respect to the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, her amendment is talking about all of the extra criminal charges that exist in this bill. For example, if people have four plants, they are well within the law; if they have five, they then are criminals. If people possess 30 grams, they are okay; if they have 31 grams, they are criminals.

The member talked about some of the sentences of up to 14 years, which are not in alignment with other judgments on the possession of alcohol and drugs, which are more like two to three years. There are a huge number of issues with respect to that criminality, but all of those different charges will continue to plug up the courts. One of the things this bill was supposed to do was to off-load the courts, because there are murderers, rapists, and all kinds of court cases being dismissed because the Minister of Justice has not appointed enough judges. The courts are clogged up with these minor possession-type charges.

Again, this legislation is not meeting its goal in any way, but especially within the home grow area. I am really disturbed the government thought it was going to improve the legislation by removing the height requirement on home grow plants. Originally, it was a maximum of 100 centimetres, and if a plant got to 150 centimetres, then of course, that meant another criminal charge. The government took that away.

It is really disturbing, because right now there are videos out on YouTube that will show people how they can grow their marijuana plants with chicken wire, so that it can be stretched out and moved around. We saw pictures of trees from the folks who came and testified at committee. If four plants of 100 centimetre-size could bring 600 grams of marijuana, then how much more could we get if we grew four trees of marijuana. There is no specification now in the bill to restrict that amount.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is quite correct when she said there were issues with break-ins. There is a lot of evidence of that from Colorado, where organized crime would break into and raid various grow ops. The police have testified they are unable to police this home grow section. They cannot see into people's houses. They believe they will receive a lot of nuisance calls from Joe, the neighbour, saying his neighbour has five plants not four plants, or there is a smell, or there is a mould problem.

All of these kinds of things will put a lot of burden on the police force. They did not feel this should be part of the bill. The testimony they provided was that it was not enforceable, and they did not have the resources.

For the numerous reasons I have stated, this home grow section of the bill that I would like to see deleted does not protect children. It does not keep marijuana out of the hands of children. I would argue it makes it easier for children to access. It certainly does not keep organized crime out, as we saw in Colorado. It certainly does not provide access to a quality controlled supply of cannabis, which we see with the medical marijuana business, but not in home grow. There was no public awareness done.

The time is ticking away. There are 243 days remaining before the arbitrary legalization of this flawed bill by the government.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for her actions and activities on the committee, to which she is a well-contributing member.

Under Bill C-45, the act would create an offence in criminal law for the cultivation of more than four plants. It would also create an offence for the distribution of any portion of that. It is only for personal cultivation, and any attempt to commercialize it, sell it, or distribute any of it to other persons would result in a criminal charge. Those controls are in place.

The law would also allow for provinces, territories, and municipalities to implement such regulations as they deem appropriate for their jurisdictions and circumstances which may be necessary to exercise control on the circumstances under which those plants may be grown, to place additional limits on the number of plants, to put in regulations and requirements with respect to safety, security, sanitation, air quality, and its access to children.

There is also provision within provincial regulations for restrictions on where that can take place, whether it can take place, for example, in multi-use dwellings, such as apartment buildings or condo buildings. Given that, the criminal law addresses an offence for growing more plants, and contains provisions to prevent people from selling what is being produced, along with the appropriate level of legal jurisdiction for other restrictions and controls at the provincial, territorial, or municipal levels.

Does the member feel that level of control could be appropriately exercised to address the concerns she raised in her speech?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, there was a lot in that question, and I will try to address all the points.

First, in the discussion about landlords of apartment buildings, one point that ought to be raised has to do with homeowners in Ontario and Quebec. Today, with the existing laws, people who own homes and rent out part of or the entire home to somebody else, under the provisions of this bill, would not have the right to prevent tenants from growing or consuming marijuana in the house. That would be a concern to many homeowners.

In terms of the criminality in the bill, we know that organized crime has a $9 billion industry in Canada. It is a typical naïveté of the government to put laws in place when it is clear that criminals are not going to obey the laws. They are going to do what was done in Colorado. They are going to have multiple grow ops, break into grow ops, and that is the way that is going to go.

With respect to the provinces and municipalities being able to put their own extra criteria in place, it is a total abdication of leadership on the part of the Liberal government. This was its campaign promise. This was its promise to Canadians, and it has totally not nailed down the details of anything on how this should be done in a standard way across the country in order to protect our children.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague touched on an issue that was a major focus of this bill. It emanates from section 7 of the bill, which sets out the purposes of the legislation, one of which is to transfer the production and distribution of cannabis from the illegal world, and bring it into the legal, regulated world. My hon. colleague commented on her concern of organized crime still being involved in this industry.

My question has to do with edibles and concentrates. This legislation, once passed, would still leave illegal edibles, concentrates, and other non-smokable forms of cannabis. Leaving aside the health issues, those products would be left to the black market and organized crime, which will not be distributing cannabis products in child-proof packages, let me assure everyone.

Does my hon. colleague have any comments on the wisdom of the Liberal government leaving those products to the illicit market when one of the purposes of the bill is to actually stop the illegal black market production of cannabis products?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the purpose of the bill as stated is to get organized crime out of the picture, then it should be noted that if we look at all the jurisdictions where marijuana has been legalized and we look at the one that has had the best outcome with respect to getting organized crime out, it would be Washington State. That state had a very regulated system, with state dispensaries, that included edible products. It could control the amount of marijuana in the edible products as opposed to homegrown products, such as baked brownies, where one could not be sure how well distributed the marijuana would be through the brownies and whether children would eat them.

A lot of hazards were not addressed by the government.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the motions before us. I will focus my remarks primarily on the motion from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, that Bill C-45 be amended by deleting clause 9 in its entity.

I would like to first begin by acknowledging and thanking the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her thoughtful contribution to this ongoing debate and to this important issue. She has made a very significant contribution, and I very much value her opinion and her advice.

I would also like to commend the work of all members on the Standing Committee on Health for their study of Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.

The health committee returned to Ottawa in advance of the commencement of our fall session of Parliament, worked extensively throughout the month of September, and heard from many learned witnesses who provided their perspective on a wide range of issues from law enforcement to public health.

I would remind all hon. members that Bill C-45 would provide a legislative framework for legal and regulated access to cannabis when it would be provided by authorized sources. Beyond that, cannabis would be subject to certain prohibitions.

With that in mind, I would like to point out a number of important features of the bill that relate to the criminal law.

The architecture of the legislation is such that cannabis remains a controlled substance. It cannot be accessed legally by youth and it can only be accessed legally by adults by way of an authorized source.

Division 1 of part 1 of Bill C-45 shows that many of the offences that currently apply to cannabis under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will continue to exist under the proposed cannabis act. This is very much in keeping with the final report of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, which recommended to the government that criminal offences should be maintained for illicit production, trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, and possession for the purposes of importing and exporting cannabis.

Clause 9, the proposed distribution clause, is also consistent with the task force's recommendations that our government seek to limit criminal prosecution for less serious offences and create exclusions for social sharing. The proposed clause allows adults to share cannabis privately and to share up to 30 grams of cannabis in a public place. It exempts young persons from criminal liability for sharing very small amounts, up to 5 grams of cannabis.

It is important to recognize that every province and territory will also enact provincial legislation, which will enable those jurisdictions to enforce an absolute prohibition for the possession, purchase, and consumption of cannabis by a person under the age of majority in those jurisdictions. However, the enforcement of that will result in a provincial offences ticket and not a criminal record for that child, thereby eliminating one of the significant harms the task force and Canadians have recognized can be occasioned upon our young people as a result of enforcement of the current law.

I will discuss momentarily how the penalties proposed in Bill C-45 are already less stringent than the current penalties for cannabis offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Before I do that, I would like to review how clause 9 is designed to operate.

Clause 9 of Bill C-45 provides for the distribution offence. The term "distribute", as defined in clause 2 of the bill, includes administering, giving, transferring, transporting, sending, delivering, providing or otherwise making available in any manner, whether directly or indirectly, and offering to distribute.

Subclause 9(1) sets out prohibitions respecting the distribution of cannabis. Unless authorized under the act, for instance under a license or permit, the legislation would prohibit an adult 18 years of age or older from distributing more than 30 grams of any dried cannabis or its equivalent to another adult, any amount of cannabis to an individual who is under 18 years of age, any cannabis to an organization or any cannabis that he or she knows to be illicit cannabis.

The proposed clause 9 will also prohibit a young person from distributing more than five grams of any dried cannabis or its equivalent to another person or from distributing cannabis to an organization.

Subclause 9(1) includes prohibitions related to the distribution of plants as well as distribution by organizations.

Subclause 9(2) would prohibit the possession of cannabis for the purpose of distributing it contrary to any of the prohibitions described above, and again, unless such possession would be authorized under the act.

The penalties for adults who commit an offence under clause 9 would range from a ticket up to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment, depending entirely on the circumstances. Young persons who offend would be subject to a youth sentence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The distribution provisions, along with other offence provisions in the proposed cannabis act, represent a marked departure for how cannabis is currently dealt with under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Whereas most cannabis related offences under the CDSA are straight indictable offences, including the offence of trafficking, which includes most of the activities contained in the new definition of “distribute” under the cannabis act, and are punishable by up to life imprisonment, the criminal offences proposed in Bill C-45 are all what are commonly referred to as “hybrid offences”. This means they can be prosecuted by way of an indictment or as a summary conviction offence. In most cases under the proposed legislation, the maximum penalties, when prosecuted by indictment, will be up to 14 years imprisonment and up to six months imprisonment for prosecution on summary conviction.

It is very helpful for the members to understand that the maximum penalty, up to 14 years, is not for those circumstances that have previously been described as some young person passing a joint to another person who they mistakenly believe to be of age but might be under the age of 18. It is for those offenders and those offences that are deemed to be the worst case. The worst offence would be distribution to a very young child and the worst offender would be a repeat offender, someone who has done it many times.

The maximum penalty in our criminal justice system is deemed to be appropriate for those individuals who are the worst offenders and for those offences which are deemed to be the worst. In an overwhelming majority of circumstances, and certainly in the one described earlier by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, those would be dealt with in a more appropriate and proportional way by the police, the prosecutors, and the criminal justice system.

I would also point out that the cannabis act proposes, as an alternative to the summary conviction and indictment procedures contained in the Criminal Code, a ticketing scheme for minor violations of certain criminal offences, including some of the distribution offences. This is entirely consistent with what law enforcement asked us in 2013, by its resolution at the CACP convention seeking such a ticketing scheme.

During clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-45, clause 9 was the subject of seven motions to amend, none of which were carried. Several of these clause 9 motions sought to lower the penalties proposed for the distribution offences. One of these motions sought to remove the defence of mistake of fact where the mistake was as to age. These defences are necessary. They ensure that an accused who wants to raise the defence of mistake of fact as to age must show that he or she took reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the young person. Removing these defences would be contrary to the bill's purpose of protecting the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis.

The present motion from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands proposes simply to remove all prohibitions and accompanying penalties. If passed, it will serve to defeat many of the key objectives of Bill C-45, which is to deter illicit activity in relation to cannabis through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures, and to protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis.

By removing the offence of distribution, this amendment would allow for the unlimited distribution of cannabis between adults. Perhaps more concerning, it would allow adults to distribute cannabis to young persons under the age of 18.

I urge all hon. members to oppose the amendment. It is contrary to the purposes of Bill C-45. It would create a means whereby children and young persons could legally access cannabis from adults. It would result in what could only be described as a free-for-all in relation to cannabis in Canada. That is not the intent of Bill C-45 and it does not accord with our government's intentions.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask a question with regard to the possession amount. We know in the bill 12 to 17 year olds are allowed to possess up to five grams. We know that adults over 18 are allowed to possess up to 30 grams. We know that a single dwelling, a single person living in a house, could grow four plants, which could be of any size because there is no limit to that now. We heard testimony at committee that even four plants at 100 metres high could grow up to 600 grams. One could conceivably have quite a number of grams. Therefore, if someone is only allowed to possess 30 grams, or if one is 12 to 17, only five grams, and that person is in his or her house, he or she actually can possess way more than that. I am not sure how that could be reconciled.

Also, I wonder why the member ignored the input of representatives of the police at committee who said they opposed home grow.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me address the first thing the member said. It was not only completely incorrect, but, with respect, it was also a dangerous thing to say. The law is very clear. Under the cannabis act, we will not be creating a criminal offence for young people between the ages of 12 and 18 to possess cannabis. We have also been crystal clear that a prohibition for the possession, purchase, and the consumption of cannabis will be enforceable through provincial legislation.

We have worked very closely with our provincial and territorial counterparts. We have met with their justice officials and their first ministers. There is a common agreement and understanding that the appropriate level of control to keep cannabis out of the hands of our kids is not to criminalize them, not to give them a criminal record that can have devastating effects on their futures and their outcomes, but rather to enforce that law through provincial regulation, exactly, by the way, as we do with alcohol.

I will simply remind the member opposite, and all members of the House, that every province and territory has a liquor licence act. It contains provisions to prohibit the purchase, possession and consumption of alcohol for persons under the age of majority. That offence is enforceable under the provincial offences act and it does not result in a criminal record. This is the appropriate level of governance to enforce that prohibition.

I am very concerned when a rather misleading statement is made, I am sure completely unintentionally, by the member for Sarnia—Lambton. To leave the impression with young people that the law will allow them to possess is a dangerous proposition. I would remind all young people that there are very serious health and social consequences for the use of cannabis. The possession of that cannabis will be contrary to provincial regulation, which will be enforced.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister Health just pointed out something that was very true. Criminal convictions, particularly for young people, have, in his words, “devastating effects” on their lives. The Prime Minister has admitted to smoking marijuana while he was an elected official. His brother did so and through family connections was not charged. Notwithstanding the fact that the NDP has called on the government to instruct prosecutors under federal jurisdiction to not prosecute Canadians right now for simple possession when a bill will come forward to make that behaviour legal, the government has refused.

If criminal records are so devastating, why is the hon. member and his government so content to let 50,000 Canadians be charged in the last 12 months for simple cannabis possession, which will have devastating effects? Why does the bill not have a single provision that deals with pardoning those people once the bill becomes law?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway for his very strong contribution to the health committee and the discussions around this issue and this debate.

I pointed out in my earlier remarks that cannabis was a controlled substance. With the passage of Bill C-45, it will remain a controlled substance. We propose to control it through strict regulation rather than criminal law. However, until we have lifted the criminal prohibition and put in place a well-structured framework of strong regulation for the production, distribution, and the consumption of cannabis, until we replace that current prohibition, the law remains in effect so we maintain control.

The member has suggested that we should also deal with issues of record suspension and pardons within this bill. With great respect to the member opposite, there is other legislation. I have heard him speak against omnibus bills, and I am confident he would want us to deal with the cannabis control regulations in this bill separately. If he wanted us to turn to a different discussion on legislation that would control licence suspension and pardons, that would be a discussion for a future date.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start with the general context within which this bill comes before this House. That is that we in Canada, like other states, have spent the better part of the last 150 years pursuing a criminalized and prohibitionist model toward the regulation of cannabis. Colloquially, it is known as the war on drugs, where successive governments have regarded cannabis as a substance that is dangerous and that citizens do not have a right to access, possess, or use in any way. The official policy of successive Liberal and Conservative governments for the last 150 years has been to make it a crime to possess or use cannabis.

We all know, through long experience and reams of data, that this approach to regulating cannabis is a completely failed policy and it failed for a variety of reasons. Some people believe that what folks choose to ingest is fundamentally an individual decision, that as long as it does not affect others, the state really does not have a right to tell citizens what they should or should not put in their body. Others believe that if it is a crime it is a truly victimless crime. If someone chooses to smoke a joint on a Friday night, people have great difficulty regarding that in any way, shape, or form as a crime.

Canadians can legally ingest alcohol or tobacco, both substances that overwhelmingly and demonstrably have more serious adverse health effects when compared to cannabis. Most people have long believed it is an unacceptable contradiction to allow the state to criminalize cannabis while leaving these other substances that are carcinogens and substances that when used exactly as directed can cause death. I want to pause for a moment and speak about one of the most stark moments of testimony heard when we were studying this bill in committee. A person said that people can walk into a liquor store and walk out with a 26-ounce bottle of liquor and there is enough liquor in that bottle to kill them, to kill a child. I do not think we have to remind any members in this House of the effects of tobacco, which is a carcinogen that kills Canadians unacceptably every year.

The other thing that lies behind this context is that, I would argue, every harm associated with illegal drug use stems from the criminalization of the drug use, not the drug itself. That is because people who choose to smoke a joint on a Friday night or have a drink of scotch on a Saturday or share a bottle of wine do not feel that it is inherently a criminal act. There are problems associated with those substances because they are serious substances that have mind-altering properties. Obviously, regulation of these substances is in order. When people have a problem with cannabis and other substances like that, we in the New Democrats do not see that as a criminal justice issue; we see it as a social justice issue. Therefore, when we see a person with a drug problem, we see a health issue or an addictions issue or a poverty issue; we do not see a criminal issue. If experience has taught us anything after spending billions of dollars in Canada and the United States and other jurisdictions to try to stamp out drug use, we know that it does not work. In fact, the statistics before our committee were very clear that Canadian youth are among the first- or second-highest users of cannabis in the world. That is in a context where it is totally criminal and we have life sentences for trafficking in the Criminal Code, so in that context it has not done a darn thing.

Most important, we live in a democracy. The vast majority of Canadians, across party lines I would argue, overwhelmingly see the criminalization of cannabis as an unjustified approach. They want it changed. Last election, some 65% voted for parties that explicitly campaigned on decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis. Even some Conservatives believe, on individual liberty grounds and other such philosophies, that cannabis ought to be legalized. After the 2015 election, Canadians were entitled to assume that their expectation that marijuana would be legalized would finally be enacted. They are disappointed because this act would not legalize cannabis, and I will speak to that in a moment.

When we examine Bill C-45, I would describe it truly as a horse of two colours. On the one hand, it is a definite improvement over the status quo. Finally, Canadians would no longer be criminals simply for possessing and growing small amounts of cannabis. Second, it would create a production and retail market for legal cannabis, albeit highly regulated and controlled by the state.

On the other hand, it is a great disappointment for all those who believed that the Liberal government was going to legalize cannabis, because this bill would not. It would create more cannabis offences than we have at present. It would maintain the criminalized prohibitionist model of cannabis policy, would fail to capture the huge economic potential of cannabis as a sustainable, high-value product worth billions of dollars to our economy, and would be informed by and perpetuate many of the worst, unfounded myths of cannabis. This is truly unfortunate, because the Liberal government had an opportunity and the mandate from the Canadian people to bring in comprehensive legislation based on evidence and science to fix this long-standing social and legal injustice, but it failed to do so.

What would Bill C-45 do? It would allow the personal public possession of cannabis up to 30 grams. It would allow every household to grow up to four cannabis plants, originally limiting it to 100 centimetres in height. It would create a process for those who want to grow cannabis for commercial recreational production to obtain licensing from the federal government, would set the legal age for possessing cannabis at a minimum age of 18 years, and would delegate to the provinces the ability to design the retail distribution model they want to apply in their particular jurisdictions. This bill fails to eliminate criminal penalties for a host of offences, with many subjecting Canadians up to a maximum 14 years of imprisonment.

It would continue to make edibles and concentrates illegal in stark contradiction to the recommendations of the McLellan report and the purpose of the bill, which is explicitly to bring the production of cannabis products outside of the black market and into the licit world. It would prohibit the importing and exporting of recreational cannabis products and perpetuate the discriminatory application of criminalized cannabis laws to the most marginalized Canadians, including poor, racialized, indigenous, and young people. Finally, it fails to deal with pardons for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who bear convictions for simple possession offences, which, as the Liberal government acknowledges, has devastating consequences for Canadians employment-wise, travel-wise, socially, and economically.

The NDP believes strongly in the legalization of cannabis. In fact, no party in this House has the record of consistency on this issue than the NDP has, working since the 1970s to decriminalize cannabis use in Canada. New Democrats set out to work proactively and positively to examine this bill and improve it. We called the most diverse and informed witnesses before the health committee to obtain the best evidence we could to inform committee members, and we moved 38 amendments at committee to improve this bill. Unfortunately, the Liberals joined with the Conservatives to defeat every single NDP amendment. In fact, it was so bad that the NDP amendment to remove the ridiculous 100-centimetre limit on plant height was voted down by the Liberals, only to have them introduce the identical amendment so they could take credit for passing it. That is okay, progress is progress.

Liberals rejected the NDP amendments to add pardons to this bill. They were ruled outside the scope of the bill. Can anyone imagine ground-breaking cannabis legislation to change 100 years of a criminal approach to cannabis and the Liberals forgot to put in the bill any provision that would allow Canadians with simple possession records, to have at least a streamlined approach to obtain pardons after this bill becomes law? A Canadian could be convicted on June 30, 2018, for simple possession of cannabis for doing exactly the same thing that will be legal on July 1, 2018, and the current government is content with that.

New Democrats want to work proactively with the government and support this bill because it absolutely is an improvement over the status quo, but we will continue to work for legislation that actually reflects the science, the evidence, and the huge economic potential of this.

I will conclude by saying that the restriction on importing and exporting cannabis is absolutely going to hamstring Canadian business. We could be a global leader with first market access with high-quality cannabis products, as the rest of the world comes to the same conclusion that Canada has, which is that criminalizing cannabis is a mistake and poor public policy, and they will be moving to legalize cannabis in their jurisdictions as well. The NDP will continue to work towards those ends.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I have the utmost respect for my friend and colleague across the way, but I must have run in a different election in 2015, because I do not think that there was one issue that made a clearer definition of positions than the marijuana issue. The government's position at the time was very clear: legalize it.

I remember the former Conservative minister of justice at the time, Peter MacKay, saying that marijuana was the currency of organized crime. I thought to myself that he was right, and so we should take it out of their hands and make sure that we know what is in the marijuana on the market.

However, in an article in Maclean's that laid out the positions, it was clear that the NDP had crafted a position between the main rivals and called for decriminalization but not for legalization. Therefore, when the member across says that NDP members have been proponents for legalization, I think he is gilding the lily a little on that. Both the late Jack Layton and former leader, Thomas Mulcair, spoke in favour of decriminalization, but nowhere did they support legalization.

There are other issues around this, yes, but will the member support the bill for legalization?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is so much hypocrisy packed into that question, I do not know where to start.

Since 1972, and the Le Dain commission, the New Democrats have campaigned on decriminalization always as a first step towards legalization, which is what we have always said. My hon. colleague neglected to mention that second step. We have to decriminalize before we can actually legalize, and that is what we thought we would do.

Here is the real hypocrisy. The Liberals, just like their promise on electoral reform, seem to have gone backwards on this. They said they would legalize marijuana, but they will have to explain this to Canadians as soon as this happens. Canadians will start asking them why someone who has 31 grams of marijuana in public would be criminally charged and face 14 years in jail; why someone with five plants, not four plants, would face criminal conviction and would go to jail for that; and why an 18-year-old passing a joint to a 17-year-old would go to jail for that offence.

If cannabis is legal, the Liberals will have to explain to Canadians why Canadians are going to jail under Liberal legislation that promised legalization. I guess that is liberal legalization.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Vancouver Kingsway for his speech and for his work on the health committee.

Does the member think that Bill C-45 meets the stated objectives, which were restricting children from access to cannabis, getting rid of organized crime, reducing the burden on the criminal justice system, and enhancing public awareness of the health risks?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think mostly no.

The purpose in clause 7 is set out to do seven things. One is to remove the criminalized production of cannabis and one is to provide Canadians with a regulated source of cannabis supply. However, the Liberals forgot edibles and concentrates.

Anne McLellan, the former Liberal cabinet minister who chaired the task force to recommend to the government, told the government that it should legalize edibles. Why? It was to take them out of the hands of the black market and make sure that Canadians had access at least to safe, regulated, quality-controlled edible products. The government did not do that. Therefore, once cannabis is legal, Canadians are still going to get edible products produced by the black market. The bill did not meet that purpose.

In terms of education, the government, at the time we studied the bill, had committed $9 million over five years for the education of Canadians on cannabis. Just yesterday, the Liberals announced another, I think, $32 million over five years, bringing us up to about $45 million over five years, which is about $9 million a year. However, we heard from Colorado and Washington State officials at our health committee that this is what they spend every year, $9 million, for populations one-fifth the size of Canada. Therefore, in terms of educating Canadians and especially young people seven months before this becomes law, it is a poor job done by the government.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak in support of Bill C-45, the cannabis act, and the amendments that I and my fellow colleagues on the health committee introduced.

Back in August, I held a town hall in my riding regarding the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Not only am I in support of this legislation, but so are many of my constituents. Teachers, parents, and seniors, groups the loyal opposition regularly lists as being concerned about the legalization of cannabis, have all approached me either at my town hall or by contacting my office about their concerns.

They have concerns that a youth who makes a mistake by possessing a small amount of cannabis may be thrown in prison; concerns that this youth will have to carry a criminal record for the remainder of his or her life and that it will hinder the ability to find employment and lead a regular life; concerns that fellow citizens are unknowingly ingesting products that could be laced with dangerous substances; and concerns that the prohibition of cannabis is not helping to fight drugs but instead allows criminal elements to terrorize communities and profit, just like they did during the American prohibition of alcohol. These are the concerns of my constituents.

As a member of the health committee, I spent several weeks intensely reviewing this legislation. This included a week of back-to-back meetings where we heard testimony from over 100 witnesses. Most of these witnesses were in favour of legalizing and regulating cannabis.

This legislation strikes a balance between addressing the need to end prohibition while addressing the challenges other jurisdictions faced when regulating cannabis.

Bill C-45 would allow an adult to possess up to 30 grams in public, a measure that would ensure that no one would be criminalized for possessing a reasonable amount of cannabis, while ensuring that those who continue to illicitly sell cannabis on the street would be charged.

The legislation would allow home cultivation, with up to four plants per residence, an amount that is within reason for an individual while making it unfeasible for criminal elements to profit. This bill would also protect consumers by implementing industry-wide rules and standards for basic things such as sanitary production requirements, restrictions on the use of unauthorized pesticides, product testing, and restrictions on the use of ingredients and additives. We would create a framework so that Canadians could trust that the products they purchased would be safe and free of dangerous chemicals or substances, without having to take a criminal's word at face value.

As a physician who has spent over 20 years in the emergency room, I have treated patients who unknowingly ingested what they thought was just cannabis. This is indeed a concern worth resolving, and I applaud the government's commitment to the health and safety of Canadians.

This legislation would also protect youth by creating a framework for a minimum age of purchase of 18, through licensed retailers; requiring childproof packaging and warning labels; and providing for public education and awareness campaigns about the dangers associated with cannabis.

I will add that yesterday the government announced a new investment of $36.4 million over the next five years for an education and awareness campaign. This investment is in addition to the funding announced in budget 2017, bringing the total investment in education and awareness to $46 million.

The act would also prohibit products or packaging that were appealing to youth; selling cannabis through a self-service display or vending machine; and promoting cannabis, except in the narrowest of circumstances where the promotion could not be seen by a young person.

This act would also create two new criminal convictions to protect youth by making it illegal to give or sell cannabis to a youth and to use a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence. This bill also has a provision that would protect youth who made a mistake when in possession of five grams of cannabis or less to ensure that they would not carry a criminal record for the rest of their lives.

I want take a moment to address the notion raised by the opposition that we are normalizing cannabis use among youth. The truth is that cannabis use in Canada has already been normalized. With the second highest rate of youth usage in the world, it is obvious that the current system does not work. We need to stop focusing on a prohibitionist model for cannabis, hoping to get a different result in the future. We need to use an evidence-based approach that restricts access to youth while removing the financial incentives that embolden criminal elements.

I would like to touch on another item the opposition regularly states, which is that vehicle collisions and fatalities in jurisdictions that have legalized recreational cannabis have increased. This statement is incorrect. While statistics before and after legalization indicate an increase in impaired driving, public safety officials in the states of Washington and Colorado are in agreement that this apparent increase was the result of improved detection methods.

In a letter from the Governor and the Attorney General of the State of Washington addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they wrote:

...several of the statistics quoted in your letter on the increasing incidence of marijuana DUIs are distorted by the fact that the testing regime has changed with state legalization. Any amount of drugged driving and collisions is too high. Prior to marijuana legalization, blood testing for THC at suspected DUI traffic stops was substantially less common. Consequently, comparable statistics do not exist.

Additionally, in a letter from the Governor and Attorney General of Colorado, again to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they stated that they have enacted new laws, giving state and local law enforcement additional tools to prosecute individuals driving under the influence of marijuana, and have significantly increased the number of law enforcement officers who are trained to detect drug-impaired driving, allowing the state to identify and detain more individuals who are driving impaired than previously. More importantly, they wrote that the number of impaired drivers went down. The letter states:

In the first six months of 2017, the number of drivers the Colorado State Patrol considered impaired by marijuana dropped 21 percent compared to the first six month of 2016.

If the House wishes, I can table these two letters from Washington and Colorado for review.

It is evident that any amount of impaired driving or collisions is too high, and that is why I am pleased that the government is progressing with Bill C-46 in an effort to address and curtail impaired driving. It has also committed up to $161 million to train front-line officers in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving, to provide access to drug-screening devices, and to raise public awareness about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.

In May of this year, I had the honour of rising and speaking in favour of this legislation at second reading. Since then, the legislation has been amended by my fellow colleagues and I on the health committee. Many were technical elements to strengthen the bill, but there were several amendments of consequence as a result of our witness testimony during our intensive review.

One of the more consequential amendments made was the removal of height restrictions on cannabis plants for home cultivation so that no one who let a plant accidentally overgrow would be deemed a criminal. Additionally, the legislation was amended to ensure that it was in line with the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, which was introduced by my fellow health committee colleague, the member from Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, and which I was proud to second, to ensure that an individual who committed a cannabis-related offence would not be charged if he or she called the police or medical services to report an overdose.

I should add that I was disheartened when the Conservative members on the committee unanimously voted against this amendment that would save lives.

Additionally, our committee amended the legislation to ensure that edibles and concentrates would be entered under schedule 4 of the legislation as a class of cannabis that an authorized person could sell. It would be entered by either an order in council or a clause that would allow it to come into force on the first anniversary of the day on which clause 33 came into force. Essentially, this would ensure that edibles and concentrates would be legalized and properly regulated within a one-year time frame of when this legislation was enacted.

Given the transformative nature of this legislation, our committee introduced an amendment to require the minister to conduct a review of the act after three years and to table a report before Parliament. This would enable us, as parliamentarians, to determine if changes to the legislation were necessary to ensure the protection of public health and safety.

Our committee also amended clause 139 to provide the Governor in Council with the authority to make regulations that would restrict the characteristics of certain items, set limits on the amount or concentration of chemical compounds, and ensure that regulated products under the legislation would be consistent with the provisions found in Bill S-5.

The opposition has been constantly counting down to remind us how many days until legalization and have today reminded us that it is 243 days. While I am glad that my colleagues across the aisle can count backwards on a calendar, I think we should look at it in a different way.

In 243 days, we can end a system that victimizes ordinary Canadians and emboldens criminal elements in our society. In 243 days, we can end a system that ruins lives through lost opportunities and social stigma. In 243 days, we can end a system that should never have been put in place.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Scarborough Southwest said he did not want to mislead people, but then he did mislead people.

If we have an apartment building, with maybe 100 units, that could mean 400 plants. Under the Criminal Code, and under law in Canada, one's dwelling is one's dwelling. The member said that the municipality or the province could change that rule. That is not correct.

Would the member like to comment on that?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, municipalities have the right to make rules regarding real estate, and if they wish, could make such laws.

I should add that many of these dangers with respect to large units are suppositions. When I asked a member of the Ontario Provincial Police at the health committee, who surmised exactly that number, a 400-unit block that might have 200 units growing cannabis, what information had been used to make that supposition, the answer was that he had no facts to back that statement up.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and for his knowledge on this matter.

He was very involved in the study of this so-called legalization of marijuana bill, if I can call it that. My colleague mentioned that the possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana will be an offence under the Criminal Code, and that anyone in possession of more than the limit set by the government will be liable to imprisonment. This is the equivalent of saying that being in possession of more than 100 litres of alcohol is a crime. Fortunately, this topic is not being discussed here, since we do not want to go back to prohibition days.

I would like to know whether the government plans on fixing this flaw at a later date and to truly legalize marijuana.

Does my colleague think that marijuana is truly being legalized, when there is still a Criminal Code offence for marijuana possession?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, this is subject to review in three years. We have been advised by many jurisdictions that it is best to provide it in a stepwise pattern.

One of the things we are addressing is making legal a substance that is illegal, and one of the problems is that there is a substantial black market. We need to put firm criminal penalties on those who might be dealing. Thirty grams is a limit that someone might reasonably carry without dealing. One might say that this is arbitrary, but every criminal offence such as this has a limit. If I am driving a vehicle and my blood alcohol level is 0.079, I am within the law. If I am at 0.08, I am now a criminal. This is similar, and we must set these rules. Again, this is subject to review, and if we find that in the interest of public safety this needs to be changed, it can be.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with other members to share my personal experience and what it has shown me, as well as what experts have told many members of the House, which is that the decision to legalize marijuana is being rushed and that it is the people of Canada who will pay the price.

I support efforts to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, which would free up our courts and reduce the law enforcement resources otherwise required, and prevent persons with minor possession offences receiving a criminal record. Those minor offences could be dealt with by way of a provincial procedures act ticket and a fine. However, legalizing marijuana is a move in the wrong direction, in my opinion.

As I have said before, it is the top priority of members of the House and elected officials everywhere to place the safety and security of Canadians first. I expect nothing less of my colleagues on either side of the House.

Instead of helping, the bill would place an extra burden on provinces, municipalities, and police agencies. It could potentially allow organized crime to use legitimate licensing for trafficking. It would put the health and safety of Canadians at risk. It would jeopardize the development of our youth. It would increase the mental health of those who are most at risk and, subsequently, the demand on mental health services. In addition to these problems, there will be significant red tape and taxes, a theme of the current government as it makes life more difficult for the middle class and those working hard not to leave it.

I would like to address a few of the public misconceptions about marijuana before I address the government's misaligned agenda. Canadians often believe that marijuana impacts users much like alcohol. However, in speaking with experts, we know that marijuana takes seconds to impact the brain. The user feels and exhibits the effects immediately. That means that impairment can begin seconds after use. The peak effects are reached within 10 to 30 minutes. Marijuana users feel and exhibit the effects of marijuana for two to three hours. They feel normal again after three to six hours. However, when that feeling ends, unlike alcohol, the impact of the drug continues. It can take up to 24 hours for the effects of marijuana to stop impacting critical functions, depending on the strength of the THC in the drug and the frequency of use.

What are those critical functions? First, obviously, marijuana use is dangerous, as the user or others interacting with them do not recognize the impairment. Marijuana use has an impact on the complex system of critical thinking skills and reflexes. It impairs perceptions, like balance, motor coordination, reaction times, and it narrows the vision. It also delays decision-making. All of these things would have a broad-ranging negative impact on everyday life in Canada.

I asked my constituents for feedback on this issue over the summer. The results were overwhelmingly opposed. Eighty per cent of my constituents surveyed opposed legalization, 73% saw it as a threat to our public safety, and 75% said it would be an added cost to taxpayers in the years to come.

Listening to my constituents and the evidence of experts, I know that voting against the bill is the right thing to do. Many in my riding and across the country question the government's decision to rush the legislation forward, given that the Canadian Police Association and many others are urging patience and preparation. It would seem reasonable that good policy-making would make sure that all the necessary tools and research were in place first before moving forward, and yet we hear loud and clear from the police, provinces, and municipalities that they are just not ready.

The government has failed to address numerous issues around policing and how this legislation would work. First is the issue of how officers would manage drivers impaired by drugs such as marijuana. The chiefs of police have noted that 6,000 officers would require a three-phase training program that could take up to 100 days to complete, and yet there is not nearly enough time to complete all of that training before next July.

We know today what the legal limits and impacts of impairment related to alcohol are, and there are clear guidelines and testing for that. However, we do not have a clear idea of the impact of marijuana. With the potential 24-hour period in which impairment could exist, how will testing take place at roadside? There are a limited number of officers and equipment that could be deployed, if we have detection that is going to be court approved.

What if drivers have consumed both alcohol and marijuana? As experts pointed out to me, they may be able to pass a drug test and an alcohol test, but the two substances combined will mean significant impairment. In fact, smoking marijuana can increase impairment by 28% when combined with alcohol.

As pointed out by the Insurance Institute of Canada, there are disconnects been drug-impaired driving arrests and convictions. There is a precedent. An Ontario man was recently acquitted twice of drug-impaired driving because the evidence was deemed inadmissible. Consequently, police need time and equipment to get ready for legalization. We need research to know what the limits should be and how the testing needs to be accomplished. The risks are real. Thanks to the statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, we know there were more roadside fatalities due to drugs than to alcohol in 2012, but almost all convictions remain alcohol related.

Canadians are left to wonder if insurance companies are ready for the challenges and their customers are ready for the increased fees. Legalization would most certainly impact business, automotive, and private health care coverage. Drunk drivers face an immediate cancellation of their policy. We can guess the same may be true for marijuana users, but do users and insurers know about this drug's 24-hour impact, including impairment? In workplaces, would an accident caused by a worker impaired by marijuana impact the owner's personal liabilities? Would a workplace accident mean that the company could not get insurance any more or would have to pay hefty premiums? If marijuana is legal, can workers be punished for being high at work? Has the government thought through these ramifications and potentially increased costs for Canadians?

Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that the government has listed protecting youth as a reason for advocating and advancing this legislation. Governments have worked for over three generations to reduce smoking, a major killer in Canada. Recently, the use of marijuana by youth between the ages of 15 and 24 has dropped to 24%, yet today we are introducing access and conditions to allow more youth to use this addictive substance.

Changing the law to allow households to grow their own marijuana would undermine the government's intent of limiting access by youth. Putting plants in homes provides an opportunity for easy use. Allowing youth aged 12 to 17 to possess less than five grams of marijuana, which is 10 joints, would make it easier for them to acquire and possess the drug. To suggest that access would drop seems absolutely ludicrous. For youth aged 12 to 17, possession should be zero, not up to five grams. Marijuana is addictive and its use is linked to increased psychotic illness in those who are vulnerable. By making it accessible and readily available to our youth, we would decrease the possibility for success of our next generation. Can we learn nothing from today's opioid crisis? Teenagers are being hurt and killed by the illegal manufacture and distribution of this substance. How would legalization help our youth today?

Finally, I need to comment on the government's commitment to shift money away from organized crime by legalizing marijuana. Tackling organized crime does not involve making the criminals' activities legal and regulated. Legalizing gambling did not eliminate the mafia in Nevada and it did not stop the Hell's Angels in Canada from obtaining a permit to grow marijuana here and then sell it illegally. These are not simple, small organizations. They are complex and multinational, with extensive resources. To quote the government's own 2016 documents:

As the experiences of other jurisdictions and of the regulation of alcohol and tobacco in Canada have shown, regulating a substance does not automatically remove it from illicit markets as evidenced by importation and sales of contraband tobacco.... Given the degree to which organized crime is currently involved in the marijuana market, they could continue to produce marijuana illicitly and may attempt to infiltrate a regulated industry.

In conclusion, the government has said it is embarking on this path of legalizing marijuana to protect our youth, reduce the burden on the justice system, and reduce the flow of organized crime and money. The testimony and evidence suggest this bill would fail to deliver on all of these objectives. The question remains, will the government listen to the many groups pointing to the clear problems? Will it listen to police and to its own officials? Will it listen to those in the communities saying this is a bad idea?

It is rushing the process and it goes against the recommendations of police and medical professionals. It is our youth, our most vulnerable population, who would pay the price because of the current government's incompetence.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to say I am a bit confused. If I understood my hon. colleague's basic presentation, the status quo should remain. Right now, marijuana is ubiquitous in our society. Our youth are some of the heaviest users of marijuana in the developed world, so in his own riding right now people are driving drug-impaired, people are consuming cannabis whose source and contaminants they do not know, and the police are under-trained and under-equipped to deal with these problems. Our government has committed $274 million to support law enforcement, including $161 million for training front-line officers to solve these problems today. We are investing significantly in education to make sure that youth understand the risks and the hazards of marijuana use, and we are taking active steps to get marijuana out of the hands of youth.

Why would the member be so happy with the status quo when there are known abusers in his own community?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not proposing the status quo, but decriminalization of minor possession. I support the whole concept behind giving police extra powers and the opportunity to do drug testing with the proper equipment.

My concern is that the government seems so intent on rushing the legislation with a magic deadline of July 2018 that no one is ready for this. I do not support the legalization of marijuana at all, but if the government is so intent on legalization, it should at least attempt to put in place the mechanisms and equipment and training ahead of time before we get an onslaught, because it will affect public safety. It would be naive to suggest that we are all going to be ready by July 2018 and that everything will be fine because we are all going to have it under control. That is a little fairy tale, to be honest.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the points of clarification I would like to have is regarding something that is important to border ridings like mine. Here I refer to the issue of criminal records and continuing criminalization of possession. Say, for example, I represent a number of truck drivers who were caught with marijuana at 16 or 17 years of age and charged with a federal criminal offence, which in now on their record. They have gone through the rest of their lives with no other records but still have this one hanging over them. This is causing problems at the border despite the fact they drive for one of the big three and have no other record.

Would the member and the Conservative Party support decriminalization and pardoning of these people so that those records from something that might have taken place 20 or 30 years ago do not cause unnecessary traffic tie-ups at the border and problems for someone who has had no subsequent criminal record? For these cases, would the Conservatives support making sure that those individuals no longer have a criminal record?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is a mechanism that exists in law today whereby anyone convicted of a criminal offence can apply for a pardon. My suggestion would be that individuals whose previous records create problems for them in their occupation when crossing the border, and for their employment generally, should apply for a pardon.

It would be irresponsible for any government to suggest that we completely wipe away the records of the past. When these offences were committed five or 25 years ago, it was the law of the land. People in that day made a choice to commit an offence and they live with the consequences of those criminal offences.

Moving forward, as I said at the onset of my presentation, I firmly believe that we can lighten the load on our courts. We can make things easier on our law enforcement resources and can decriminalize the minor possession of small amounts. The latter could be subject to a fine or be dealt with as a provincial procedures act offence and not result in a criminal record. For those who might not understand how the provincial offences procedures act works, it could be dealt with much like a speeding ticket. We can eliminate criminal charges for minor offences.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise and speak in support of Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code, and other acts.

The principal objectives of the bill 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 on those operating outside the legal framework. My constituents of Oakville have expressed that these concerns need to be addressed and Bill C-45 does exactly that.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I would like to report the committee undertook a comprehensive review of this legislation. We took a focused week, meeting for five full days to hear testimony from a wide array of individuals and groups. We heard from over 100 witnesses on this legislation. Witnesses ranged from lawyers, law enforcement, department officials, tenant associations, community groups, activists, medical professionals, researchers, producers, retailers, and provinces. This built on the work of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, which travelled for six months and received over 20,000 submissions. The committee heard from most witnesses that they supported the direction the government was taking with Bill C-45.

Based on this background I would like to focus on why a new approach to cannabis is needed, why we need to act now, and how well suited we are to moving forward.

The evidence is clear. The current approach is simply not working. All that we have managed to achieve is to criminalize Canadians for possessing small amounts of cannabis, encourage Canadians to engage with criminals, and require Canadians to consume products of unknown origin, potency, and quality. It has also allowed criminals and organized crime to profit.

The committee heard quite clearly that the current model has not protected our youth. Despite the prohibition that has been in place for decades, Canadian youth use cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world.¸

We cannot allow this to continue. A new approach is required as soon as possible to better protect youth and to make sure that adults have access to products that are quality controlled, have a known origin, and no longer run the risk of having a criminal record for possessing small amounts.

During the committee hearings, Mr. Ian Culbert, the executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association, said:

Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of time, as Canadians are already consuming cannabis at record levels. The individual and societal harms associated with cannabis use are already being felt every day. The proposed legislation and eventual regulation is our best attempt to minimize those harms and protect the well-being of all Canadians.

That is why our government is committed to bringing the proposed legislation into force no later than July 2018.

Upon the coming into force of Bill C-45, Canadians who are 18 years of age or older would be able to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of cannabis for personal use. This would mean that the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis in a public place would no longer be a criminal offence.

The bill would, for the first time, also make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and create significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences.

Canada is more than ready for a new approach that would better protect the health and safety of Canadians. Our existing model that provides access to cannabis for medical purposes is recognized as one of the best in the world.

Let me tell members more about some of the features of that system that we can build on.

Under the existing regulations that have been in place since 2014, Health Canada is responsible for licensing and overseeing cannabis producers. These producers are required to operate within the regulations to provide quality-controlled cannabis to registered patients. This rigorous licensing process ensures, for example, that entrants to this market have gone through a thorough security check and that producers have appropriate physical security infrastructure around their facilities.

Canada also has a world-class compliance and enforcement regime intended to ensure that licensed producers fully comply with the rules in place. Over the course of last year, a licensed producer in Canada was inspected an average of seven to eight times for a total of approximately 274 inspections.

In May 2017, Health Canada announced that it would require all licensed producers to conduct mandatory testing for the presence of unauthorized pesticides in all cannabis products destined for sale. This adds to the system of controls in place that oversee the quality of federally regulated cannabis products.

The commercial industry now has more than four years of experience and serves over 200,000 active patient registrations. This licensed production under the existing medical regulations provides a solid basis to support recreational cannabis production under this legislation.

Industry representatives have indicated that they are getting ready to support the timely implementation of the new regulations and to ensure that high standards are met in the production of regulated product.

The committee also heard that while the government has been working very closely with provinces, territories, and municipalities to support the implementation of the new framework, more work is needed. The collaboration will be critical to ensure that all levels of government are ready to support the new legislation.

We were pleased to note that progress is being achieved by our provincial and territorial partners in developing their respective approaches. Provinces and territories have a key role to play in the success of the new system. They are responsible for the oversight and regulation of the distribution and retail sale of cannabis.

The timely passing of this federal law is important to provide clarity to our provincial and territorial partners. In circumstances where provinces or territories do not have a functional retail system at the time of coming into force of the bill, adults would be able to purchase cannabis directly from a federally licensed producer by ordering online with secure delivery at home by mail or courier.

A representative for the Cannabis Canada Association, Colette Rivet, pointed out:

Licensed producers are eager to work in collaboration and compliance with the federal and provincial governments to quickly establish effective, low-risk distribution and retail models that are well regulated, highly secure, and tailored to the needs of each province.

Upon the coming into force of the bill, adult Canadians would have access to a range of quality controlled products including dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, and cannabis oil, which could be consumed in a number of different ways including smoking. The committee heard from health groups that limiting legal cannabis to forms primarily suited to smoking had negative health impacts. They identified the need to permit the legal sale of edible cannabis products as part of the federal framework as soon as possible.

The committee also heard expert testimony that experience in other jurisdictions, such as Colorado, underlined the unique health and safety challenges associated with edible products.

It is important that the government takes the time to enact appropriate regulatory controls to address the health and safety risks posed by edible products. In this regard, I was pleased to introduce an amendment to Bill C-45, which clarifies the timelines for the government to develop regulations and legalize the sale of edible cannabis products and cannabis concentrates.

The amendment stipulates that the sale of edibles and concentrates would be permitted no later than 12 months following the coming into force of Bill C-45. Under this proposed timeline, the government would have the time to safely develop regulations and mechanisms to put these edible cannabis products on the market correctly.

I think it is important that we let Canadians and the industry know that we are listening and that these products will be coming. However, we must heed the advice from other jurisdictions, get this right the first time, and not put the health and safety of Canadians at risk.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the purposes of Bill C-45 is to prevent youth from accessing and consuming cannabis. Yesterday, the government announced a $36.4-million investment for cannabis education and awareness campaign aimed, in particular, at Canadian youth, to ensure that they understand the health and safety risks of using cannabis. Young Canadians need to know the facts.

The bill contains a range of provisions that would restrict promotion or packaging that could make cannabis appealing to youth. For example, the bill would ban the advertising and promotion of cannabis, except in limited and restricted circumstances, as well as set out requirements for packaging and labelling of products.

As I have outlined, protecting the health and safety of Canadians, and most importantly the health of our youth, is at the centre of the government's approach to legalizing, regulating, and restricting access to cannabis.

The Government of Canada is committed to a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to drug policy, which uses a public health approach when considering and addressing drug issues. I believe that is consistent with the wishes of the people in my riding of Oakville. I am confident that this public health approach, which focuses on reducing harms and risks of cannabis, rather than on criminalizing Canadians for possession, is the best path forward.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his work on the health committee.

He talked about how the Liberal government decided to delay the introduction of edibles by a year because of the health and safety risks. Why would the Liberals be willing to delay and slow down when they recognized the risks? They said they will follow the advice from other jurisdictions about public awareness and education before legalization, that police need to be trained, and that provinces and territories should be ready. While these things have been announced, they are not in place.

Will the government delay the implementation until it is ready to address the health and safety risks?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for her excellent work on the health committee as well.

We heard very clearly from other jurisdictions such as Colorado and Washington that tried to introduce legalized cannabis and edibles at the same time, that it had been a major mistake for them. They highly recommended we go slowly with edibles. There is a whole other set of laws, regulations, and requirements around the safe production of edible products. The best advice we had from experts was to move forward with legalization in slow, steady steps, and add the edibles at a later date when we are ready. We really were following the best advice from the experts we heard from at committee.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech in the context of this debate. I would like to talk about how the government has treated the provinces throughout the marijuana legalization process.

Does my colleague think that the provinces' reaction to his government's marijuana legalization agenda and the burden they will have to bear in terms of regulation, distribution networks, and costs to the health care system are appropriate?

Does he think the government is going in the right direction? What does he think is the best way to resolve this situation, which the provinces see as problematic?

Here in Ottawa, we are amending the Criminal Code, but the provinces feel that it is all moving too quickly and that they will not have enough money to deal with the tremendous burden being downloaded onto them.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the provincial level there is the bill, which looks to the province to regulate distribution and retailing of the product. However, if a province or territory is not ready at the time the bill comes into force, as I said in my remarks, in those provinces or territories Canadians will be able to procure directly from licensed manufacturers through online systems and receive products confidentially by post. That is exactly the model we use across Canada today for medical marijuana.

The government campaigned on this in 2015. The task force travelled for six months, and their recommendations have been out for at least a year. The draft legislation has been before the provinces and territories for some period of time now. Some of the provinces and territories are already responding and making good progress on this, and others are still working through the situation. There will be a legally available retail distribution model available at the federal level if a province or territory is not ready when the bill comes into effect.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Gatineau Québec

Liberal

Steven MacKinnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Oakville for his excellent speech. He is a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, and he spoke about what has happened in Colorado and Washington.

Could he elaborate on the experiences the committee analyzed and studied in order to inform its recommendations prior to putting them forward?

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the biggest sound bite I can give from the expert testimony from Washington and Colorado is that they have moved organized crime out of the business. Close to 80%, 70% to 80%, of the product sold now in those states is done through licensed control distribution methods, as we are proposing here in Canada, and organized crime is being pushed out. The advice we are taking in this bill follows exactly that advice, and I think it is the right course of action to get organized crime out of our neighbourhoods.

Motions in AmendmentCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-45.

As a pediatric surgeon, I spent most of my professional career putting children back on the playground to play. This bill does exactly the opposite of taking care of kids. This bill will make it easier to put marijuana in the hands of Canadian children. Liberals like to talk about evidence-based decision-making, and the importance of science. The science on this issue is clear: marijuana is a dangerous drug for our young people. It affects their developing brains.

We know that children's brains develop until the age of 25, and that marijuana can have an impact that is negative on that development. The results lower graduation rates from high school, fewer opportunities as adults, as well as high rates of mental health challenges. These are the evidence-based facts.

I accept that in limited circumstances marijuana can and should be prescribed by a qualified physician for purchase in a pharmacy for those who need it for medical purposes, whether that be someone with cancer, or a veteran with PTSD. However, as I stated earlier, I disagree with the Liberal government's proposed legislation. The government should be working on making sure marijuana is less accessible to our youth, not increasing its availability.

I have had the opportunity to meet with children in clinic regularly, and as a parliamentarian. I am always amazed at how well informed they are about current issues. Young people know about the proposed changes, and the reaction has been clear. They say they do not understand, as they have been told not to do drugs, but now want to know if they can do this drug.

Young people know that marijuana is a drug. They know that it is dangerous for them, and yet we now have a government that is telling young Canadians that using drugs is okay.

After years of respecting the science, and telling kids that drugs are harmful for their growing bodies, the Liberals are simply throwing these evidence-based facts out the window. Kids are confused. They know that marijuana is bad for their health, but they are now wondering if it is okay to do this based on the messaging from the government and the Prime Minister.

These are the kinds of messages Canadian parents do not want portrayed to their kids. Leaving aside the mixed messages the government is sending out to youth, as a physician I want to focus on the science of this issue.

Human bodies develop continually into their 20s. As I mentioned earlier about the science, the brain experiences the same development schedule until the age of 25. We do our best to ensure that youth are making healthy choices for their developing bodies.

Giving kids access to marijuana in their homes and throughout society is putting them in danger.

Let us begin with some disturbing statistics. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse reported, in 2013, on the Canadian tobacco, alcohol, and drug use survey that 10.6% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported cannabis use in the last year. It also reported that cannabis use is generally more prevalent among young people, with 22% of youth from 15 to 19, and 26% in young people 20 to 24. Approximately 28% of Canadians aged 15 and older, who used cannabis in the last three months, reported daily use.

In addition, in 2014, a study published by The Lancet found that youth who utilized marijuana on a regular basis have a 60% lower chance of graduating from high school or university.

Fergusson, in a 1996 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology; Ellickson, in a 1998 study in the Journal of Drug Issues; and Lynskey, writing in the journal Addiction in 2003, all found a strong and direct correlation between the increased use of marijuana in teenagers and an increase in dropout rates in high school.

Talk about limiting the opportunities for young Canadians in the future. Let us give them marijuana, so they can dropout of school.

Gilman, writing in The Journal of Neuroscience is also very clear on the impacts of marijuana on the developing brain. In a study published in 2014, Gilman demonstrated that people between the ages of 18 and 25, that used cannabis on a regular basis, will experience structural changes to the brain.

These are not temporary changes that happen when people are high. These are permanent structural changes to their brains for the future, which correlate with the negative impacts that I have been talking about.

The Canadian Medical Association has done some excellent work compiling and conducting research on marijuana use. It includes its submission to the government's 2016 task force on cannabis legalization and regulation. It talks about its long-standing concerns of the health risks to Canadian youth, given that their brains are undergoing rapid and extensive development. The CMA has also noted that the lifetime risk of dependency on marijuana is estimated at about 9%. That means about one in 10 Canadians, who use marijuana, has a chance of becoming dependent, with all of the serious negative health ramifications and social consequences of this drug use.

The CMA went on to further note that the risk of dependence actually doubles to 17% if this is initiated in adolescence. Again, we see that the earlier children start to use marijuana, the higher the chance of addiction, and the higher the chance of lifelong structural brain changes. Further, the CMA has also warned Canadians of the increased risks of anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia in marijuana users, particularly among youth. Those who are already prone to psychosis, for example, if they have a family member suffering from a psychosis, are especially at risk of developing psychosis with cannabis use.

Andreasson's extensive 15 year follow-up study of over 50,000 men, published again in The Lancet, reported that those who tried cannabis by the age of 18 were two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than those who had not. The study further estimated that 13% of schizophrenia cases could have been averted if cannabis use had been prevented. Just imagine what would happen if we did not allow children to have access to marijuana, as this legislation would allow. Do we want to protect Canadian kids?

There is also a public safety concern with this legislation. First, regarding young people, cross-Canada student alcohol and drug studies show 13% to 21% of students who try this are actually driving within an hour. Hall found, in his study in 1994, that short-term memory, attention deficits, motor skills, and reaction times are impaired while intoxicated with cannabis, but the evidence shows, and it is no surprise, that associated with this is a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents.

These are serious situations that place individuals and the public at risk. However, despite this substantive evidence, as I have outlined in multiple journals so far, the Liberals are pushing ahead with this legislation.

Now let us look at some additional evidence from Colorado, the state that was mentioned earlier. This includes a rise in traffic-related deaths, increased hospitalization, and cyclical vomiting syndrome. Most disturbing are the overdoses in children due to marijuana use in edibles, and those that are accidentally ingested. Negligence by caregivers is leading to increased overdosing in kids.

I wonder how many young people might have access to marijuana now that it is being grown in their own homes. Save for these shocking facts in Colorado, all of this research has primarily been done in places where this is actually illegal, not legal. I shudder to imagine how those statistics will escalate with this legislation.

Now the Liberals will say that this is not going to happen, and that this approach is better for children. I completely disagree.

As this legislation states, children would be allowed to possess, and parents to grow marijuana in their homes. Access would be easy, and that access is harmful to young Canadians. Young Canadians and children know they should not do drugs, and there is good reason for that. We do not allow children aged 12 access to alcohol. We spend millions of dollars telling children not to do drugs. Why is our society flip-flopping now? It is because we have a Prime Minister who has to justify his own use. By doing this, he is putting all Canadian children at risk.

I encourage all members of the House, especially those in the Liberal Party opposite, to have a hard look at the science and their consciences, because they are putting the children in their own ridings at risk with this legislation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Gatineau Québec

Liberal

Steven MacKinnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Mr. Speaker, it was very interesting to hear the member's speech and have that tour through science. It is good to know that science has come back in vogue over there.

The fact is that Canada has among the highest incidence of cannabis consumption among youth in the world, and that is also science. What is also science is that we are able to measure the impact with the recent efforts of states to the south, Colorado and Washington notably, where cannabis consumption among youth in a new legalized regime has actually diminished. The other fact, now that we are talking about facts, is that the member cites the impacts on youth, which is precisely why the bill sets out new measures to regulate and constrain the use of cannabis among young people.

These are things that the previous government, in that other regime where science was perhaps not as in vogue, never contemplated, such as efforts to constrain marijuana consumption.

As the member reflects on her long history of advocacy on this issue, would she inform the House of the measures she brought forward in the previous government to constrain the use of cannabis, about which she now seems so concerned?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the last I checked, we were debating a bill that the Liberals brought to the House, a bill that puts forward a message that young people under the age of 18 can possess marijuana.

As I mentioned in my speech, I actually meet individuals from one year of age to 18 years of age in clinics regularly. When I ask the older ones what they think of this legislation, they are confused. They have told me that they thought they were not supposed to do drugs. When I ask them if they think marijuana is a drug, they say yes, but they are being told now that they are allowed to use it.

What is the right answer? If people do not want to have a long-term impediment to their future, if they do not want to put themselves in a position where they drop out of high school, or have an anxiety disorder or schizophrenia, do not go near it. However, the government thinks that children should be allowed to possess it, that children should be allowed to share it with their classmates, and that their parents should be allowed to grow it at home and provide opportunities for children to have access to it.

Let us be serious. This is a dangerous drug. It should not be in the hands of children. The best way to do that is to ensure they are not allowed to have access to it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am a bit surprised to hear my colleague's comments.

The health problems associated with the use of marijuana are very real and have been documented. My colleague mentioned that. The same is true of alcohol and tobacco, whose effects have also been documented . However, we have never heard the Conservatives saying that the use of alcohol and tobacco should be made a criminal offence.

I have a very clear question. What does my colleague think would be the best strategy for effectively meeting the objective of reducing marijuana use?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, last night, I noted the government had said its marijuana legislation was designed to keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of organized crime. It is positively Orwellian. This legislation would very clearly do the exact opposite.

Last night, I spoke about the impact on children. To briefly review, the legislation would remove any criminal penalties for children aged 12 to 17 who possess up to five grams of marijuana. That is the equivalent of about 15 joints. It would also allow for people to grow marijuana in their own homes where, very likely, children would have access to it. Yes, we could put it in a locked room which has sunlight, but marijuana is a plant, so we cannot exactly store it in the same way we would store prescription drugs or alcohol.

Making marijuana legal would obviously make it easier for children to access it. In general, though, it would make it more prevalent, more readily available, and removing penalties for accessing it, naturally, would remove the risk associated with it. We have seen this across countries. In every case, where there is legalization, there is increase in use; most notably in the Netherlands. After marijuana use was legalized, consumption nearly tripled among 18 to 20-year-olds, and many municipalities in the Netherlands subsequently moved to ban so-called coffee houses completely.

This is clearly the result of legalization, and it is beyond fanciful that a government would claim that if we legalize something, if we make it easier to access and use something, if we make it legal for people to grow something in their own homes, we are to see less use. Yes, marijuana use is too high, and we can talk about the reasons for that right now, but it is fanciful to the extreme to suggest that making it easier to grow and get something will make people less likely to access it.

Let me speak, now, to this issue of organized crime. The government seems to believe that if we make something legal but still have rules around it, people will necessarily follow rules, and that it will necessarily starve out organized crime. The argument goes that if we eliminate a particular business in which organized crime is involved, organized crime will just close up shop. This is intuitively appealing, perhaps, but demonstrably false.

In addition to selling all kinds of drugs, organized crime is, or has been, actively involved in selling contraband versions of otherwise legalized substances, things like tobacco, and there is a major problem with contraband tobacco. Organized crime is associated with illegal practices in many perfectly legal industries. It has a history of being involved in areas like construction, garbage collection, gambling, and politics.

In fact, if we look at the history of organized crime, we see the roots of it are often cultural or sociological, as opposed to purely economic. The Mafia system, for example, originated in a Sicilian response to external occupation. Sicilians, over a long history, developed a system of self-government which, essentially, could exist in spite of, or in defiance of, occupying armies or ordinary rulers. It was a way for ordinary people to mediate their economic, social, and criminal justice relations in a way that did not involve going to occupying authorities. That, very clearly, was the history.

Organized crime will participate in illegal businesses where there is a profit to be made, that is certain. However, its existence does not depend on illegal business. It will apply its modes of collusion, corruption, and intimidation to legal, as well as illegal, businesses, and make a lot of money in the process.

Developing that Mafia example a bit further, of course, we can look at the history of the Mafia in North America. The Mafia benefited from alcohol prohibition. However, its history stretched for hundreds of years before that. It was a response to emergent cultural phenomena that led to that. Its ultimate decline was not the result of legalization of anything; rather, it was a change in the criminal law, with the introduction of laws that allowed law enforcement to target organized crime directly.

It is very clear with the set-up of this law that it would be very easy for organized crime to continue to be actively involved in the marijuana business, selling it to minors, facilitating the kinds of transactions that are illegal, but it would be legal and, therefore, much easier for people to carry around large amounts of marijuana, up to 30 grams for adults, up to five grams for minors.

It just does not make any sense to say this is going to be the end of organized crime, or even this is going to be a hit for organized crime. We are going to see, very likely, the evidence suggests, increased use, and new opportunities for organized crime to get around many of the fairly anemic, though they be, rules the government has put in place.

The point here is that the government is trying to use justifications for the law that it knows do not accord with the reality. It talks about children. It talks about organized crime. In reality, we are going to see increased use of this by children. Also, this will create new opportunities for organized crime to circumvent the laws that involve selling to children because adults and children will have a much easier time carrying marijuana around without detection.

We have a clear alternative. We do not have to accept the status quo as an acceptable reality either. Our party supports a ticketing option that allows a reasonable and effective criminal justice response, not one that applies disproportionate penalties to this but one that I think can emphasize treatment and public health while also still allowing a legal intervention to address that risk. I think the approach we have emphasized is a sensible alternative. It allows that kind of necessary intervention. This is the position that was endorsed by the association of police chiefs, not decriminalization but a ticketing option.

There is a lot of development that could be done around that proposal. Perhaps we might require people who are facing the possibility of conviction to seek an alternative that would involve education and becoming aware of the impacts of marijuana use. We could use the criminal justice system as a way of directing people toward treatment without being overly punitive. Our friends in the NDP caucus have pointed out the possibility of lifelong criminal convictions. We can address those issues through reforms to the pardon system.

However, the real problem we have right now is that marijuana is in this grey zone. It is illegal but there is not a ticketing option, and it clearly is not an enforcement priority. That is why so many people use it. On the one hand, there is no ticketing option, there is no alternative outside the laying of a charge, and on the other hand, clearly people should not be going to jail for mere possession offences. I think we can all agree on that. I think we can propose sensible reforms and alternatives that actually communicate the real dangers and risks.

We have a government that is trying to justify an election promise based on the fact that the Prime Minister has said that he has smoked marijuana while being a member of Parliament, and then talks about a public health approach. That clearly sets such a terrible example when parents, teachers, and others are trying to communicate with young people that there are real, dramatic, substantial dangers associated with marijuana.

A more sensible public health approach would be to calibrate our approach so that we can look at pardon reforms and things like emphasizing treatment and education, but we can also have the means of a ticketing option and a criminal charge so that the police can intervene. However, what the government's law says is that children between 12 and 17 years old can possess up to five grams of marijuana, and they can distribute it among themselves. They cannot sell it, but they can distribute it. It makes it a severe penalty for someone who is 18 to give marijuana to someone who is 17, yet someone who is 17 can give marijuana to someone who is 12 with absolutely no penalties. Therefore, there is a real demonstrable incoherence to the government's approach.

There is also not a coherent message among government members when it comes to the actual risks associated with marijuana use. We have multiple members who speak publicly and openly about the fact that they have used or use marijuana, and talk about it as if it is not a problem, when we know that marijuana use is associated with higher levels of mental health problems later in life, especially when it is used by young people, even at relatively moderate levels. Therefore, there is a problem here in terms of the government talking, on the one hand, about a public health approach, and on the other hand, not facing up, in a realistic way, to the public health problems that are associated with marijuana.

I have cited the studies. The information is clearly there. We are going to see an increase in use if marijuana is legalized. If the government proceeds with the legislation, I hope that, at the very least, it will be prepared to re-evaluate it, because it seems to not understand this point. Hopefully a year or so after the legislation is passed, it will be willing to re-evaluate the problems that it has put in place.

To summarize, there is a dramatic dissidence between what the government is claiming about this and the realities that are in place. The Liberals talk about keeping it out of the hands of children, but they will make it easier for children to access it. They will remove criminal penalties for very young children who carry marijuana with them. There will be no means for that kind of legal intervention. They will allow adults to carry very large amounts and distribute it among themselves, and children to give it to each other. They will allow parents with children in the house to grow marijuana in a place and in a context where very likely that marijuana may be accessible to children. The government is prepared to allow all of these things, yet it makes the outlandish claim in that context that somehow this will reduce the access children have to marijuana. It just does not make any sense.

Then the Liberals talk about the issue of organized crime, but the reality is that organized crime is a system that exists regardless of what is and is not illegal. Organized crime capitalizes on opportunities to work outside of the law, but it is not required that a thing be illegal for organized crime to be involved in that business. That is just a reality the government needs to understand.

Frankly, members of the government who have dealt with organized crime in the context of police work should know this, and I am sure they do, contrary to whatever the talking points say. Organized crime often grows out of distrust of authority, out of issues of social exclusion, and out of long-standing systems of authority that exist in place. It is not the result of just something being illegal. We know this from history.

With regard to the public health issue, the evidence is very clear with respect to marijuana that it is a dangerous substance. Not everybody who smokes a joint will experience those negative effects, but it is clearly associated with higher levels of mental health challenges. Another member has spoken at length about the carcinogenic effects associated with smoking marijuana, and a lot of this is new and emerging research with respect to the risks of marijuana.

We need to send a clear message as a legislature. I would just say to members as well that we need to set a clear example when it comes to the risk, because the Liberals say on the one hand that they will take a public health approach, that they will try to educate about the risks of this, but on the other hand, they are saying that there is not even clarity or agreement in terms of what those risks actually are.

It is very confusing in terms of the messages the Liberals are sending, which do not seem to acknowledge those risks and with different members saying different kinds of things. I would hope that through this debate at the very least, members would be willing to clearly say from all parties, whatever their position on the ultimate criminal question, that marijuana is dangerous and that the best medical science indicates clearly that the risks are in place. I hope members will join me in opposing the bill.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member has said quite clearly that he is concerned that if we were to legalize marijuana, we would put young people at risk and it would lead to other health and social harms for our youth. Quite frankly, I am quite prepared to agree with him. I think legalization alone would do all of those things. Legalization alone would leave the production and distribution in the hands of criminals, and it would make it more accessible to our kids. I would just point out to the member that this is not at all what we are proposing to do.

What we are proposing to do is to lift the criminal sanction, which is the first step of legalization, and to replace the existing system of cannabis control, for which the evidence is overwhelming it is currently failing our kids, failing our communities, and failing the health of all Canadians, with a system of strict regulation for production, which leaves in place a strict criminal sentence for those who produce outside of the regulated regime. It would put strict regulation in place for its distribution and leave in place a strict criminal sentence for those who would distribute and traffic cannabis outside of the regulated regime. It would also put in place, and allow to be put in place, at the provincial, municipal, and the federal levels, regulations that will control its consumption so it can be done in a healthier, safer, and more socially responsible way.

Given that, I wonder if the member might consider that a strict regulatory framework of production, distribution, and consumption might lead to better health and social outcomes for our kids—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, with the greatest of respect for the parliamentary secretary, he should read the legislation insofar as the sections, because the strict regulatory regime that the Liberals talk about is actually just for people to grow their own at home. People can grow up to four plants that can be a metre high, yes, but who is going to police that when there are no notification or registration requirements whatsoever for those who grow it? Municipalities are not going to be informed. The law says that people can grow their own marijuana at home. That is not a strict regulatory framework at all, and it is quite disingenuous to suggest that it is.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I have been listening to the relatively tense exchanges between the two members and I have a question for my hon. colleague.

Before getting into politics, he was a secondary school teacher for 25 years. When students are tempted to experiment with marijuana, it does not take a lot of resourcefulness to find a source. I do not quite understand how the new regulations are going to change things.

What worries me even more about this bill, and that is what I would like to hear about from my colleague, is that its chief obstacle is the normalization of the drug, as though it has absolutely no consequences. However, recently, health authorities—we are told that the health aspects are being considered—have told us that there should be a minimum age limit of at least 21 years.

Are we not normalizing the use of this substance in this debate?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, in terms of its being easy to access, marijuana is a plant. It is, I have been told, not that difficult to grow. This is the challenge we have in limiting access to it, but if we now make it legal for people to grow it in their homes and distribute it to others, even for minors to possess and distribute it to other minors, of course it is going to be easier to access. There is more we can do in the context of continuing criminalization to address the ease of access. We do not have to accept the status quo as being sufficient, but that certainly does not mean that we should move in the wrong direction toward legalization.

The member is quite right to point out that the government is not at all sending consistent messages about the risks. Again, I would hope that, at very least, through this debate we could send a clear message about the genuine risks associated with marijuana use. Members of the government are supposed to be leading and setting a positive example, and in the case of the Prime Minister, he used marijuana while being a member of Parliament. That is a real problem in terms of the message it sends.

The reality of the political process by which this has come about is the government trying to appeal to people who think there is no problem with marijuana. All of the best and real science shows that there are significant risks associated with marijuana.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am speaking today in support of Bill C-45, not just as the member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre but as a mother who wants to keep her children and all children safe from drugs and alcohol and as a citizen who wants to reduce the power and influence of organized crime.

The fact is, if we want to keep cannabis away from our children, we need to support this bill. Those who oppose this common-sense, evidence-based legislation are supporting a so-called war on drugs that has been one of the most spectacular and expensive failures in the history of public policy and has done nothing but line the pockets of those in organized crime.

The fact is, today it is easier for under-age youth to get their hands on cannabis than it is to get their hands on alcohol or tobacco. If members doubt that, they should talk to our nation's youth and visit schools, as I have. I hear from my own children that cannabis is more accessible to children than beer or cigarettes. It is in our schools and is leading to conflict, illegal activity, and expulsions. Cannabis is negatively impacting the education and lives of our younger generation.

The numbers back this up. Canada has one of the highest rates of youth cannabis use in the world. In 2015, use among youth aged 15 to 19 was 21%, rising to 30% among youth aged 20 to 24. This is simply today's reality.

While the sale and distribution of alcohol and tobacco is regulated by federal and provincial governments, there are strict rules against selling to minors. Retailers face severe fines and penalties if they violate these rules, including losing their licence to sell tobacco, for example, so they have a business interest in ensuring that they follow the regulations against selling to minors.

Of course, there are ways around any system. Yes, an older friend could buy beer for a younger friend. It is illegal, but it does happen. They could steal alcohol from their parents' liquor cabinet. Youth, desperate enough, will find a way around any system. However, the fact is, the regulation of alcohol and tobacco has clearly been more effective in restricting use by minors than prohibition. We need to bring the same system of regulation to cannabis, because it has been proven to be more effective in restricting use by minors.

Besides being more effective, there is another very good reason to support this legislation and the strict regulation of cannabis. With a single stroke, we would be dealing a massive financial blow to organized crime in Canada. Cannabis is a cash crop for criminal gangs, bringing in revenue they use to purchase harder drugs for distribution as well as guns, which fuel violence and crime in our communities. Legalized and regulated cannabis would put criminal gangs out of the cannabis business.

As I have said, a store owner operates under strict rules on who he or she can sell to. Criminal gangs and drug dealers do not care about such rules. They do not care how old customers are, as long as they have the money. Criminal dealers also do not just sell cannabis. They can expose their young customers to other far more dangerous illegal substances.

For the first time, Bill C-45 would create a specific criminal offence for selling cannabis to minors and would create heavy penalties for anyone who engaged youth in cannabis-related activities. The bill would also prohibit products, promotions, packaging, and labelling designed to appeal to our youth. This is why, if we want to make it harder for young people to access cannabis and strike a blow at organized crime, we need to support Bill C-45. If people say that they are tough on crime but oppose this bill, they are fooling themselves.

The proposals in Bill C-45 are common-sense, evidence-based policy that is the result of more than a year of extensive consultation with law enforcement and health and safety experts, led by my colleague, the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest, and the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, led by the Hon. Anne McLellan. This is legislation whose time has come.

I must say that I am saddened to have read the misinformation that some opposed to this bill have sought to spread, particularly within different ethnic communities. Rather than arguing against the merits of strict regulations, they have sought to use fearmongering and misleading statements to deliberately inflame tensions. As a member of one of those ethnic communities, I am insulted that they think so little of us and believe we lack the intelligence to see through their alternate facts. Members of my community want to make it harder for their children to access cannabis, and that is exactly what would be accomplished with Bill C-45. This is help parents need.

Another misleading attack on this bill I have heard is that it would make it legal for minors to possess cannabis. That is an obtuse and deliberately misleading statement. It is true that under Bill C-45 the possession of a small amount of cannabis would not be a criminal offence. It is not for the possession of a small amount of alcohol or tobacco either. This does not mean it would be allowed, though. Our government would work with the provincial governments to ensure that strict fines were in place for those caught in possession of small amounts.

Why a fine and not a criminal charge? On this side of the House, we do not think it is right to ruin the lives of minors by saddling them with criminal records for the rest of their lives because they made a mistake. While strong criminal penalties would be in place for trafficking and distribution, fines are the right approach for simple possession by youth.

It has been raised that there are a number of unanswered questions about the system of regulation that would be created by Bill C-45. Where and how would cannabis be sold, for example? I have also heard from my constituents concerns about how the use of cannabis by neighbours in apartment buildings could impact their enjoyment of their own homes. These are questions that would be addressed by provinces and municipalities, as they fall under their jurisdiction. Canada is a federation, and it would not be appropriate for the federal government to dictate these answers. What is right for one municipality may not be right for another. I am confident that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health would work with their provincial counterparts to arrive at the right answers.

We recognize that the use of cannabis and cannabis products, as with alcohol and tobacco, is not without risk. We recognize that the risk is particularly heightened for our youth. That is why it is so crucial that we abandon the status quo, which has utterly failed to keep it out of the hands of our youth.

With this legislation, we would replace a failed approach to drug policy that makes it too easy for youth to access cannabis and provides easy revenue to organized crime with an evidence-based approach of strict regulation and enforcement that would make it much more difficult for youth to access. It would provide severe penalties for those who engage youth, and it would take a large cash crop out of the hands of organized crime.

I would urge those who want to keep cannabis out of the hands of our children to support Bill C-45. As a mother, the bill offers help we very much need.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, the literature is very clear on this. Lancet has stated that of young individuals who utilize marijuana, 60% have a lower chance of graduating from high school or graduating from university. The Journal of Neuroscience is also very clear. If people between the ages of 18 and 25 use cannabis regularly, they will experience structural changes to the brain.

The young people who were in our galleries today know the difference between drugs and what are not drugs. They know the difference between smoking and not smoking. They talk to me about that in my clinic all the time, because they know.

I also want to correct the record. The member stated that in the legislation, children would not be allowed to possess. Section 8 of the government's own legislation states clearly that 12- to 18-year-olds could possess.

My question for the member is simple. If individuals are allowed to grow plants, and they have children, and those children take cannabis from those plants, are their parents going to be arrested, or did you plan on regulating that?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the status quo is not working. I am the mother of two teenagers, a 19-year-old and a 17-year-old, and I hear how easy it is for youth right now to access cannabis. It is easier for youth to access cannabis than tobacco or alcohol. With legalization, it would be controlled, and it would be difficult for youth to have access to cannabis.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, the member for Scarborough Centre mentioned at the beginning of her speech that the goal of the government is to eliminate the black market. When we look at the preamble of the law, it does not mention that as a goal. It is not a stated purpose of this legislation. Speaking as a father of three very young children, the youngest born at the beginning of the 2015 election, I cannot think of an easier way for them to have access to marijuana than to allow every single household to grow four plants, with absolutely no real supervision.

How can the member say that this legislation would better protect children, having talked about high schools and how easy it is to get it today? This legislation would make it easier. How can we say that this would make it more difficult for children to obtain marijuana, when it would make it easier by bringing it directly into their homes?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the status quo is not working. Through Bill C-45, our government would restrict access by youth and put in place strict safeguards to protect youth from being encouraged to use cannabis. It would create new offences for adults who either sell to or urge youth to commit cannabis-related offences.

As a parent, a mother of two kids, it is my duty to educate them about what is right and what is wrong. I do not drink or use tobacco, and I tell my kids what is right and what is wrong. They are not allowed to use alcohol because of their religion, but I cannot stop the shops from selling it because they should not have it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to discuss the proposed legislation in Bill C-45, related to the legalization of cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana.

Bill C-45 has been put forward on a rushed timeline. Many practical implications of Bill C-45 are to be decided by provincial governments. When implementing the bill, the Liberals are asking Canadians to trust them now and hope for the best later, a policy that will not work, like all of the other broken election promises.

Before I even begin my speech to outline my concerns with the policy put forward by the government, I would like to say that I do not believe the legislation would create sound policy for Canadians. Instead, we are being asked to sign a blank cheque on many regulation details to be decided later. The legalization of an illicit drug has a significant impact on all Canadians, and it is our duty to ensure that all Canadians are safe.

I will start with a bit of history of cannabis in Canada. Cannabis was first banned in Canada in 1923, under the Narcotic Drugs Act Amendment Bill. Other drugs on the list at the time included opium, morphine, and cocaine. I am glad those three are still on our current banned list. I do not know for how long though.

Cannabis use continued to steadily grow through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, bringing us to today. Cannabis use is at an all-time high. According to a University of Waterloo report on tobacco and cannabis use in Canada, around one in five students between grades 7 and 12 has used cannabis. The majority of them used cannabis over the past year. I do not think any member would stand up in this chamber and say that this is a good thing. Indeed, these numbers should be going down. Passing the legislation would most certainly mean student usage of cannabis will go up.

Cannabis has been illegal since 1923 for many reasons, but one of the most prominent is that cannabis is a drug that has real and damaging health effects on those who use it, especially in the age range where brains are developing. We heard from my colleague, a physician, who just quoted some of the hard facts about medical research and the kind of harm our children and youth will face once they start using marijuana.

The softening of attitudes towards cannabis has not resulted in lower usage, or more importantly, lower usage among young people. Many more Canadians who do not currently smoke marijuana, or cannabis, are likely to start once it is legalized. The legalization of cannabis will not curb interest. Indeed, it will help to promote it, as evidenced by the states in the U.S.A., such as Colorado, that have legalized it.

I have many concerns with the bill, but I will start with the legal access to cannabis proposed in Bill C-45. The government has stated over and over again that the bill is aimed to protect children and young people from cannabis. The irony in this statement, however, is that by legalizing cannabis and actually providing legal backup for the production, possession, distribution, and use of cannabis, the bill would actually encourage cannabis to be used more.

Under Bill C-45, adults will be able to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis while in public. To put this in perspective, 30 grams would fit into a small bag of potato chips, so it is not a small amount.

In private, there is no prescribed limit. We can stockpile kilograms as long as we do not intend to distribute.

The bill goes even further to allow adults to grow and produce their own cannabis with up to four plants in their homes. The problem is that these plants are already in the home. The government wants to protect children, but it is allowing cannabis to be grown in the very space that is supposed to be safe for children.

I understand that the legislation includes a few parameters to ensure that it is not possible for any and every adult to produce cannabis. I also wish to clarify that I am not speaking in reference to the use and the need for cannabis for medical purposes. That is a different issue.

That being said, I am not confident that there are enough safeguards to ensure that the four-plant limit is not rampantly broken or disregarded. Allowing individuals to produce on their own will make regulation and oversight much more difficult for the government and our law enforcement.

This leads directly into some of the other regulatory concerns I have. How the government plans to effectively regulate cannabis production and consumption is not made clear in the present form of the legislation. In particular, the clauses concerning search warrants include provisions that would allow a warrant to be issued through a phone call, or would allow inspectors to open packages and enter buildings based on their belief that activities contravening the law are taking place. These provisions lack substance and practical process to assist law enforcement officers to determine when a search warrant is appropriate and how they are accurately able to predict violations.

Finally, in my home riding of Richmond Centre, I strongly campaigned against the legalization of marijuana and was re-elected because this is a view that many of my constituents share. They tell me their concerns. There are concerns about the awful lingering smell of smoked cannabis, but there are also concerns about obtaining housing insurance if a tenant decides to grow cannabis plants in the unit without the landlord knowing about it. Parents are concerned about the safety of their kids. There are so many unanswered questions about the real-world consequences of legalizing cannabis.

The bill represents a huge shift in policy and for our society, as a whole. I find it infuriating that a government that is so preoccupied with consultations on even the smallest of changes deems it appropriate to rush through this legislation.

One journalist commented that, “Trudeau Liberals are legalizing marijuana as if they're being forced to”.

The safety of Canadians, and particularly, our young people are—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, this is an important piece of legislation and one that I think many of us in the House, and Canadians, have struggled with. We are clearly not winning the fight when it comes to the issue of drug abuse in Canada, which is something that I was a part of for many years. I almost feel like we are giving up. However, the reality is that we have the highest cannabis use here in Canada among our young people. Bill C-45 is, hopefully, going to help us get a handle on that.

As much as we are uncomfortable with the direction in which we are going, what alternatives are there to supporting Bill C-45?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, the most important thing we have not done successfully for a number of years is education. Whenever we talk about prevention of drug use, there are always many things that we should have done. The whole reason we have an increased number of young people is, number one, the softening of the attitudes. Number two is that they do not see the actual damage done to their brains.

I would like to quote a real example of a neighbour whose house was what is called a grow-op. In the basement we could see mould and a lot of things, and then finally the police discovered it was a grow-op. Then when the school board looked at the kids living upstairs, above that very basement, all those students showed signs of being stoned, as if they were smoking grass.

My question, as a former educator, is this. We need to educate young people so that they will not even go there. If we encourage them to use it and give them even more access at home, how can parents guarantee that their own kids will not have access to those four plants?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments, which help us all in thinking about this matter.

It seems to me that, from the very start, something fundamental is missing from this bill. I have a hard time understanding that after 18 months of study, nobody has come up with a standard THC level. That is the first important thing.

When the Liberals manage to get organized crime out of the schoolyard, as they say they want to do, what will organized crime offer other than a superior experience to what could be sold on the market? Nobody has even come up with the THC level of the product that will be legalized.

Could my colleague comment on that?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I think the most important thing is not even “have our kids tried that?” That is the safest thing. Looking at the drug to see if the quality of the drug is good or giving the best cocaine to the people at the injection site, this is following the same argument. That is not the right way to deter our students, our young people, from taking this very harmful drug.

My policy would be to not even go there. The current legislation actually would encourage and make it so much easier for our young kids to have access to drugs, not even talking about marijuana cookies, not even talking about how these kids can trade among themselves. These are very real issues, but the legislation would not be able to stop that.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to support Bill C-45, the cannabis act. This bill represents not only a fulfillment of a large campaign promise to Canadians but a meaningful step forward in protecting our youth and ensuring a safer Canada.

In 2012, 20% of youth aged 15 to 17 reported using cannabis in the previous year. This is an unacceptable statistic as it is harmful to our youth. In my riding of Don Valley East, I represent a large youth population. As government we have a duty to ensure that cannabis stays out of the hands of these constituents.

Bill C-45 would establish criminal prohibitions on the sale or distribution of cannabis specifically to young persons. This is the first time in Canada that a specific criminal office for selling cannabis to a young person has been created. The bill would create two new criminal offences, with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail for giving or selling cannabis to youth, or using a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence.

There is also strict legislation designed to prevent youth from using cannabis. Under the act, any kind of labelling, packaging, promoting, advertising, sponsorship, or endorsement that could entice young people to use cannabis, or make cannabis appealing to youth carries a heavy penalty. This includes a fine of up to $5 million and/or three years in jail.

A large problem with the current status quo is that it does not protect youth. As we have heard, there is a large number of young people who have had their lives irreparably damaged by minor cannabis possession charges. Cannabis possession is the fourth most frequent crime committed by youth in Canada.

Bill C-45 would seek to avoid subjecting youth to the lifelong consequences of a criminal record. Individuals under the age of 18 years would not face criminal prosecution for possession or sharing very small amounts of cannabis, and any violation of that act by youth would be subject to the youth criminal justice system. On top of these measures, our government has committed $9.6 million over five years to a comprehensive public education and awareness campaign designed to inform Canadians, including youth, about the risks and harms of cannabis use.

In 2012, 33% of people aged 18 to 24 reported using cannabis in the previous year. Currently, cannabis procurement is a very dangerous activity. It involves contacting criminal dealers or visiting illegal pot shops, arranging secret cannabis buys, and worrying about the content of the drugs. There is a serious issue with the cannabis that is currently in circulation that has been combined with other potent drugs or has an abnormally high THC content. While overdosing from cannabis is not likely, an impure form of cannabis can lead to an extremely unpleasant reaction to the drug.

Bill C-45 would allow those who are regular consumers, and those who are looking to experiment to consume safe and regulated drugs. It would also allow for the government to regulate the sale and production of these drugs, taking the profits out of the hands of criminals. In 2013, 67% of police-reported drug offences involved cannabis, and of those, 80% were possession offences.

The current criminal justice system is overrun with people who committed non-violent possession crimes. The bill aims to eliminate this burden, thereby allowing our justice system to be more effective in protecting Canadians.

The regulations introduced in the bill include the legal possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis when in public, the purchase of cannabis from regulated retailers, and the growing of up to four cannabis plants per residence. This would ensure that the cannabis market is safe and secure. New regulations on minor possession would also allow our police forces to focus on the important work of keeping cannabis out of the hands of our youth, and the proceeds out of the hands of criminals.

The bill represents political co-operation to the utmost extent. All three levels of government, municipal, provincial, and federal, worked together, along with private Canadian citizens, to ensure the best possible legislation that will protect Canadians.

I would like to congratulate the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation for its hard work. Through its tireless work, engaging in cross-country consultations with all levels of government, as well as experts, patients, advocates, indigenous governments and representative organizations, youth, employers, and industry, it provided meaningful advice on this new legislative and regulatory framework.

The proposed cannabis act would create a strict framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale, import, export, and possession of cannabis in Canada.

I am proud to tell the members of my constituency, many of them youth, that the government they elected is truly working for them. I am proud to tell them about the immense amount of work that our government did and is doing, above and beyond, to fulfill the campaign promises that many Canadians feel so strongly about. I am confident that the cannabis act will lead to a safer and better Canada.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member's speech gives me a couple of things to think about that are important, such as the continuation of the criminalization of youth and other people, which has serious consequences. For example, in my riding, we have a truck driver who has worked for Ford for 20 plus years. He does just just-in-time delivery, but he has a criminal record from 20 years back, when he was 18, related to possession of cannabis. He has no other record than that, but it creates problems with employment and so forth that he has to deal with on a regular basis.

The government will not be doing anything about convicted people until the bill is passed. Therefore, I would like to ask the hon. member some questions. Why is it that the Prime Minister, who has admitted to actually smoking cannabis while an elected member of the House, does not have a criminal record? Where did he obtain the marijuana from? How does she feel about the fact that her constituents could be receiving criminal records over the summer while the Prime Minister does not?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Madam Speaker, that is a valid question. We are talking about legalization versus decriminalization. Under decriminalization, the current law makes it a criminal offence. If we keep the current law, then we have no basis for conversation.

With legalization, we would make strict regulations for the sale and possession. We would ensure the safety of Canadians. We would remove the criminal activity, because it is the criminal organizations that are benefiting from it. By decriminalization, we could decriminalize it, but it still does not reduce the fact that the activity is still in the hands of criminal organizations. There is a balance to be had.

The bill cannot automatically remove the status quo at the moment until we have had discussions at the committee level, where I hope the committee will get more intelligent reporting and input.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I often hear Liberal members talk about how they are going to take marijuana and cannabis away from criminal activity. The first thing they want to do is to put a tax on it to get a tax revenue from that. How can the member possibly think they will take marijuana and cannabis growth, and trafficking out of the criminal element when the first thing they want to do is make it more expensive than the illegal sector can produce and sell it for because of the tax system? How do they think that is possible?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Madam Speaker, at any school, children are smoking cannabis more than they are smoking cigarettes, so it is important that the product is a safe product. We cannot be ostriches and hide our heads in the sand, and say the problem does not exist. What we have done with this bill is include municipal and provinces governments, and the police forces. At the moment, criminals benefit from it, and it goes into their pockets.

Does the hon. member want criminal organizations to benefit from it? If he does, then he does not support the bill.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-45.

Marijuana has been criminalized in Canada since 1923. Much has changed in the past century, including the conversation about marijuana. The Liberals promised to legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana in their 2015 platform. However, since the Liberal government was elected 20 months ago, more than 15,000 Canadians have been charged for simple possession. This is an incredible waste of resources.

What is even more alarming is that we likely will not see the government actually implement a plan until next summer. The government should be embarrassed about how long this is taking.

Not only have the Liberals broken their promise to Canadians, they are clogging up our justice system with arbitrary offences. While we wait for legalization, the Liberal government is ignoring the tens of thousands of charges and criminal records handed out for simple possession, which disproportionately affects young and racialized Canadians. People should not have barriers for the rest of their lives for finding good employment, housing, and international travel due to having had a charge or a conviction for a small amount of cannabis.

The Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. vs. Jordan last year imposed time limits on court cases. This decision exposed a chronic shortage of resources in the Canadian justice system, caused by a myriad of factors, such as judicial vacancies, underfunding in legal aid, and mandatory minimum sentences. Many serious criminal charges have been either stayed or withdrawn.

In my riding alone, many different municipalities are approaching this issue differently. Some local governments are directing the RCMP to take a hard stance against marijuana. Several people volunteering at medical marijuana dispensaries have been arrested for simple possession. However, in neighbouring communities, local governments have asked the RCMP to do the exact opposite. We are in a jurisdictional and legal grey zone, and the lack of clear direction is creating confusion for everyone.

With this crisis in the justice system, it is irresponsible to continue using police and justice resources to continue to criminalize young people for simple possession of cannabis. We cannot afford to continue to use police and court resources, and charges and convictions for simple possession.

The NDP has had a 45-year history of championing marijuana decriminalization. We have been asking the Liberals to immediately decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana as an interim measure and invoke prosecutorial and police discretion to cease enforcing a blatantly unjust law such as this one.

We support the overall goal of legalization and we will be preparing constructive proposals for the government, especially with respect to bringing in pardons for those previously convicted of cannabis possession. It would seem fair that those who have received previous convictions for marijuana possession should have some form of amnesty offered, given the looming legalization. However, there is no indication that the Liberals are interested in making pardons easier to obtain or if they will address the high $631 fee just for an application to do so. The inability to access a pardon remains a serious obstacle for many people trying to escape their criminal past and to move on with their lives.

While Bill C-45 is a step in the right direction, albeit late and long overdue, it contains several ludicrous points.

First, it would allow for a punishment of up to 14 years for anyone selling marijuana to a young person. This is absurd. It is akin to the punishments for producing child pornography and attempting to leave Canada to commit terrorism. I know it would give judicial discretion, but it is excessive and might not even comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Second, the legislation leaves many key issues to the provinces. The federal government has clear jurisdiction in the federal criminal law power, but when it comes to sales and distribution, it is very clearly a provincial power under our constitution. This means the provinces will need time to set up their own regulatory systems. This is another reason that we wish this process had begun earlier.

It is unclear what the government's plan is in terms of tax and revenue structure for marijuana and how it will be shared between federal and provincial governments. Unfortunately, the provinces will have to wait to hear from the Minister of Finance on that matter. These gaping holes need to be addressed before we can move forward with meaningful legislation that makes sense for all Canadians.

The New Democrats and I want to ensure that the funds will be generated for a reliable stream of long-term revenue for research and prevention, specifically in addiction treatment and prevention. The government needs to clearly outline provincial and federal responsibilities that balance health protection with the goal of reducing the illicit market and protecting youth.

It is important to note that the New Democrats are aware of some of the negative consequences of criminalization. It has been widely acknowledged that there is a lack of scientific research into the health impacts of cannabis use, especially chronic long-term use. We must be particularly concerned about the health impacts of chronic and heavy cannabis use among young people. Therefore, we will be pressing the government to begin establishing research plans and funding into these important areas.

It is time to take a new approach to marijuana. We currently have archaic legislation in place, and Canadians want change. For decades, research on the impact of cannabis decriminalization has shown that in a variety of jurisdictions, including Australia, Europe, and the United States, decriminalization does not cause an increase in consumer demand or ease of access.

People who are going to smoke or ingest marijuana need to ensure they are backed up with education and support services around them. About 30% of Canadian youth have tried cannabis at least once by the age of 15, which is the highest among 43 countries and regions in Europe and North America.

Clearly, our strategy currently has been failing. We need to work with society and not against it.

Decriminalization will decrease the related social problems, the criminal records that people have tied around their necks for the rest of their lives, and the impact on employment and people's ability to rent or to travel. It will also reduce the cost in our judicial system.

We support the legalization of marijuana as long as it is done effectively so it is not marketed to children, that a reliable, long-term revenue stream is created for public health, prevention, and research, and that there is a comprehensive strategy around safety.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member and I have had some very thoughtful conversations on this issue. I very much look forward to working with him as we move forward with this initiative.

I would like to share with the member a report and some statements made by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health with respect to the issue of decriminalization. It suggests that decriminalization is a half measure in which cannabis remains unregulated, meaning that users will know nothing or next to nothing about its potency or quality; that as long as it remains prohibited, it is difficult for health care or education professionals to effectively address and help prevent problematic use; and finally, decriminalization encourages commercialization of cannabis, enriching organized crime. This very respected body instead recommends that legalization presents governments with an opportunity to regulate cannabis to mitigate risks, something that cannot effectively be done under prohibition or decriminalization.

With that advice and knowledge, could the member comment on whether we have made the right choice?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for his comments. We have had some excellent conversations. He has helped me better understand the government's position on the bill.

We are supporting the bill. It gives us an opportunity to look at ways to curb youth from using marijuana through providing prevention, addiction treatment, and education around it, as well as eliminate organized crime, and I appreciate that.

In the interim, in the 15 months before we see the bill come to fruition and become law, the current crisis of delay is causing a huge lack of resources in our justice system and creating tons of confusion. The member knows better than many here that we cannot afford to continue to use police and court resources in charges and convictions for simple possession of a substance that will soon be legal.

Therefore, we call on the government to decriminalize so we can create an interim measure of decriminalization and invoke prosecutorial and police discretion to cease enforcing an unjust law in the short term.

We are supporting the bill. I support the member's direction on that. However, in the interim, we call on the government to decriminalize so we can free up the courts and law enforcement so they can do their job.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, even though the government is limiting debate on yet another subject, using closure at an astonishing rate, the debate has been interesting.

Yesterday, the member for Vancouver Quadra said that she had been advocating and having meetings for several years within the Liberal caucus on the legalization of marijuana. The Prime Minister's position and his experience in the area is well known. In recent weeks, we have seen how Liberal Party fundraisers and insiders seem to be occupying positions on boards of directors, leadership positions, as well as ownership stakes in cannabis companies.

I am curious about the NDP's position on this. There has been enough smoke raised here that causes some concern as to whether Liberal insiders are benefiting from this legalization regime, much like the same group of Liberal insiders benefited at Queen's Park in Ontario with the Green Energy Act. From the remarks by the member for Vancouver Quadra, it seems there have been discussions for several years.

I am asking my NDP friend if the New Democrats share our concern about these Liberal insiders benefiting unfairly.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for bringing forward a valid concern.

We have had concerns about appointments. We have concerns about government members and appointments and how they have had an affiliation to the Liberal Party in the past. Certainly we do have concerns around how this has unfolded.

We want to ensure that it is done right. We have a lot of questions. We are disappointed that this debate has been limited. We have questions about the revenue and where it will go. Will it go to addiction treatment and education? We have concerns around a lot of different issues.

We share the member's concerns around limiting debate on this very important subject for Canadians and about the burden that is going to be put on the provinces and local governments. At the same time, we think it is time for Canada to move forward. It is long overdue.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-45, a bill for which I have had some responsibility and involvement from the outset. I will not be using my limited time today to review all aspects of this bill, which I think have been discussed significantly in the House. I have had the opportunity to sit through every hour of debate that has taken place so far, and I have tried very hard to listen carefully to the questions and concerns raised by members of the House. I would hope to use my time today to do my very best to answer some of those concerns and to perhaps give members some insight into how these matters might most appropriately be dealt with.

To back up a minute, there was reference a little earlier to there perhaps being some malfeasance or something inappropriate with respect to individuals who have received approval for the licensed production of cannabis. In previous discussions in the House, a number of companies, specifically Canopy, Aurora, Tweed, and Hydropothecary, were mentioned as places where individuals who had some political affiliation had received some benefit. I want to point out to the House, as a point of clarification, that the four companies I just mentioned all received their licence approvals under the previous government. Therefore, quite frankly, the accusation is without merit.

I want to explain how I come to this position of speaking on behalf of the government for the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis and the restriction, in particular, with respect to access by kids. I want it to be clear. I took a position in my previous occupation as a police officer and a police chief of expressing sincere concerns about the limitations of decriminalization. My position has not varied from that. I will say that in my experience as the person responsible for the protection of the children of Toronto and the safety of communities, I tried always to look at the harms being perpetuated on our kids and our communities and at doing everything possible to reduce those harms and to protect those kids and communities.

In October 2014, there was a report prepared, which I quoted from earlier, by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. It recommended the implementation of a new system, a public health approach and framework, for the strict regulation of cannabis. It identified a number of harms that could be addressed in this way.

I will acknowledge right up front that I believe that every member of the House cares very sincerely about all our kids, all the youth of Canada, and I believe that every member of the House is quite sincerely concerned that Canada has the highest rates of cannabis use among young people of any country in the world. I believe that every member of the House, on both sides, understands that the high use by our kids represents a significant risk to our kids. There are very real social harms. There is harm to the development of the adolescent brain. There are other health risks our kids face as a result of the early use of cannabis, the frequency of its use, and the high potency of its use. I believe that everyone agrees that we have to do a better job. The current system is appalling and unacceptable, and it demands action from us. Now we can debate and discuss an appropriate course of action.

I believe that every member of the House believes that it is unacceptable that organized crime profits, in the billions of dollars, from this criminal enterprise. Street gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and other criminal enterprises are wholly responsible currently for the production, distribution, and trafficking of this drug in our communities and to our kids. I believe that every member of the House believes that we must take the steps necessary to make our communities safe, to take those profits away from organized crime, and to protect our kids, our communities, and the health of our citizens.

I will try to address some of the concerns that have been raised. A number of members have asked why the government's legislation has recommended that persons under the age of 18 be prohibited from access, but persons over the age of 18, the age at which a person is normally deemed to be an adult, depending on the jurisdiction in which a person resides, could have access to cannabis produced under strict regulation and sold only through a strict regulatory regime, as established by the province and the local jurisdiction.

I am well aware that the science indicates that there is a real health risk to people up to the age of 25. This was a matter considered at great length by our task force. It was the subject of substantial debate within the task force, within the government, and within this House.

Our government believes that adult Canadians between the ages of 18 and 25 have the right and the maturity to make decisions about their own health. We allow young people over the age of adulthood, as determined by provincial jurisdiction, to get married, to have children, to buy a house, to get a mortgage, to use alcohol and tobacco, and to make decisions about their own lives and their own health. As long as we enable them to make safer, healthier, and socially responsible choices, as long as we provide them with the information they need to made a well-informed choice, I think we are fulfilling our responsibility and respecting their ability as adult Canadians to make that choice.

As well, there has been some question of how the legislation would deal with the possession of cannabis by a young person under the age of 18, or as the provinces may determine. One of the harms that was identified in our discussions from coast to coast and with experts across the country was the criminalization of our youth, as was earlier mentioned. It is very much our government's intention to protect our children from the harm of having their actions result in a criminal record. We want to make sure that we can enforce a prohibition against the possession, purchase, and consumption of cannabis but without subjecting them to the risk of a criminal record. The right way to do that is through provincial legislation.

In every province and territory in this country, there is a liquor licence act. It is an offence, under provincial regulation, for a young person to possess, purchase, and consume alcohol. If they are caught, law enforcement can seize that alcohol and can give them a ticket for that offence. There are actual consequences for breaking that regulation, but that young person does not face the consequence of a criminal record. In my humble opinion, that is a significant reduction of risk for our young people.

I travelled across the country and talked to parents and families about what concerns them about cannabis and their kids. They are certainly worried about their health. We have a responsibility to do a better job of protecting those kids. They are worried about the social harms to their kids. They are worried about whether they will finish school. They are worried about who they are hanging out with. They are worried that if they are using cannabis, they are dealing with a criminal to get it, and that criminal may sell them other drugs or expose them to other risks.

Finally, parents have shared with me that they are also concerned that their kid may be in a car one evening and be innocently pulled over by the police, found to be in possession of cannabis, and end up with a lifelong criminal record, with all of its consequences. I believe that every member of this House is motivated by a sincere desire to do a better job of protecting our kids from all those harms.

I have also heard concerns about resources. I have met with mayors, city councillors, police chiefs, fire chiefs, bylaw enforcement people, and public health officials, and all have expressed concern. They are willing to take on their responsibility to keep their communities safe, but they have concerns about resources. I am proud that our government has committed that the revenues that could be generated from the taxation of this substance federally could be reinvested in research, public education, treatment, and rehabilitation.

There is an important discussion taking place with the provinces, territories, and municipalities across the country to make sure that law enforcement, municipal officials, and public health officials have the tools, the infrastructure, the administration, the oversight, the testing, and the enforcement capability that will keep our communities safe.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my friend from Scarborough Southwest for staying past midnight last night to address some of the concerns I raised on the public safety front. He has carried a file that he probably did not pray for before his time in politics, but he has tried to do so nobly, and that is appreciated.

My colleague suggested that because licenses were granted in the past under the previous government for the medicinal marijuana program, that somehow makes that conduct, whether lobbying or attending Liberal fundraisers or the fact that Liberal insiders may have been involved in developing the Prime Minister's plan to legalize it, all right.

As that member knows, my position is the position he used to have as chief of police, which is that a person could be given a ticket. They could allow it still to be criminalized but could give law enforcement tools.

My concern is that the member for Vancouver Quadra said that the legalization plan had been talked about within the Liberal caucus for several years. We see the former CFO of the Liberal Party and other insiders in key positions in cannabis companies. We all know that when it was medicinal marijuana, they were staking their claims, like a gold rush, hoping that full legalization was coming.

Could that member tell us that within the Liberal caucus there has been no direct access or early access by Liberal insiders to gain financially from legalization?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise and reassure the member that in all my experience with this file, I have not seen a single incident of anyone having insider advantage or knowledge, and I have had primary carriage of this file on behalf of my government from the outset.

It was once suggested in the House that we had given some advantage and foreknowledge that somehow benefited people who had invested in this. That suggestion was completely false. There was another incident about a month later when I made a statement about the importance of taking the time to do this right, which had an enormous and unintended impact on the stock market. We did not hear any suggestion that I had somehow done that against them.

I also want to assure members that although I would not ever name an individual, particularly an individual for which there was absolutely no evidence or suggestion that he or she had done anything wrong, there are many individuals in this business and in the queue to obtain licenses who represent all political stripes. It is not the political stripe. It is the ability and willingness to meet the very stringent requirements of those licenses upon which those--

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

The discussions we are currently having are quite educational. I heard solid arguments on a number of aspects, such as the legal age. For instance, it was proposed that use be permitted based on scientific studies or based on the age of majority, since at 18 people are responsible for making all kinds of decisions. I admit that I appreciated that argument.

However, I think that what is worrying the public is the lack of coordination. The federal government says that the legal age is 18, while at the same it is telling the provinces that they may review this standard if they want to raise it.

Would it not be better for the government to first sit down with the provinces so that everyone can come up with a measure they all agree on?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, the advice we received, particularly from our task force, which included people with great expertise in public health, neuroscience, and problematic substance use, was that it should be strictly restricted for those under the age of adulthood. For adult users, what we should be encouraging is lower risk, safer, and more socially responsible use. Those 18 to 25 are the highest users of cannabis in this country. To criminalize their acquisition of this drug would simply leave them to the black market and to organized crime.

The recommendation was adulthood. We recognize and we greatly respect that each of the provinces has the authority under our Constitution to establish an age of majority. In seven provinces it is the age of 19. In three it is 18. We have given latitude to the provinces to make their own decisions as to the age they believe is appropriate.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour today to rise and speak to Bill C-45, the government's draft legislation respecting cannabis and amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code, and other acts. This draft legislation is more than 100 pages long. As the title suggests, it is a complex bill affecting the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code, and other acts.

Beyond affecting these acts, this complex bill would also affect individuals. It will affect families and it will affect people's lives. It will affect the provinces and territories and the communities within them. The bill would affect our country in ways we cannot be sure of at this point.

As I begin to speak to the bill and its complexities, I would first like to recognize that the medical community has been studying the effects of cannabis as a drug to treat many illnesses, from chronic pain to anxiety and seizures to illnesses such as intestinal illness and cancer. There are a multitude of illnesses that may or may not be remedied by fully tested, properly prescribed and administered marijuana.

While scientific studies may be on their way to discovering the full potential of cannabis, they are only partway along that path. Much more testing is needed to establish what the full effects and benefits of cannabis are. Science has yet to reach complete conclusions and understanding of the possible detrimental effects of cannabis on the human body.

That said, science has established that cannabis has negative effects on the developing brain of young people. Science has also established the health risks of inhaling smoke, whether it be tobacco smoke, wood smoke, or marijuana smoke. The risk of smoke to human health is well documented.

At this point, cannabis is considered by the laws of Canada as a drug, still not fully tested, with many known effects and many unknown. As legislators, it is our responsibility to consider what the full potential benefits, detriments, and dangers are of any legislation that comes before us, as well as the impact of our decisions and the votes that we take on that legislation. As such, I take this responsibility very seriously, and while I have had some time to look over the bill, there are so many angles, so many components, so many potential impacts, and so many unknowns that I feel much more time is needed before we go down the path of legalization.

Sound and thorough review of this legislation is necessary to ensure that the House does its due diligence to ensure that we perform our duty to the people we represent and not pass haphazard legislation that we come to regret. While I do not disagree that the current status quo is not working, there are other policy options available. One is decriminalization without full legalization, which deserves consideration.

As I mentioned, there is much to be considered. We must consider not only what is on the pages of the bill in the House but also what will be on the pages of the bills in the provincial legislatures, in the territories, and the communities. How will impairment be measured? How will it be proven and penalized? Many of these issues can and likely will be dealt with by provincial legislation, but we have heard that the provinces need much more time and resources to complete the legislation and implementation required.

I have heard from municipalities that they are concerned about how they will draft new bylaws to regulate marijuana production in residential areas and in residential rental homes, which, by the way, will be permitted under this legislation. I have been informed that the provinces and municipalities are looking for funding from the proposed tax and licensing revenue stream that the Liberal government is developing. This funding is required to offset the costs municipalities and the provinces will encounter in dealing with the responsibilities being downloaded onto them by the federal Liberals' election promise, a half-baked idea with no decisive plan for implementation.

Another issue that concerns me as a former small business operator is the impact on small business. What about cannabis use in the workplace?

Large businesses and government agencies may be able to implement random screening processes on a large scale to manage cannabis use in the workplace, but what about the employer managing the corner store? What about the auto repair shop where people take their family car for repairs? What about the other small businesses that will not have the capacity to test or reprimand employees who choose to use the drug before they show up for work or, even worse, use it on their coffee breaks? How will small business owners deal with the challenges without having issues escalate to a point that they either lose the ability to serve their customers or face labour law complaints, be they founded or unfounded?

This kind of scenario is a real possibility, and the consequences could be dire for small businesses, small business managers, and other employees. These are the types of situations and shortcomings that are not addressed in this already complex legislation.

As I said, this bill would end up affecting Canadians in ways we do not think the Liberals have even considered. If the Liberals have considered these possible effects, they have chosen either to ignore them or to pass them on to other levels of government to deal with.

I would also like to address some of the ways in which individuals would be affected. We have heard from the medical community that the use of cannabis affects the function of the brain; that is very clear. We have also heard from the medical community that cannabis has detrimental and irreversible effects on the developing brains of young people. In fact, evidence shows that cannabis should not be used by young people because it has been shown to cause both functional and structural changes in the brains of young people who use it regularly. The Canadian Paediatric Society has cautioned that marijuana use is strongly linked to:

cannabis dependence or other substance-abuse disorders; the initiation and maintenance of tobacco smoking; an increased presence of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis; impaired neurological development and cognitive decline; and diminished school performance and lifetime achievement.

I am certain that I will be facing questions from the Liberals once I am finished speaking, so before they start asking those questions, I would also pose a question for them in my closing comments.

Part of the platform the Liberals have put forward supporting this legislation is that they are introducing it to protect the health of our children and keep them from harm. When we have health authorities saying that inhaling smoke is detrimental to our health; when we have statements like the one I quoted from the Canadian Paediatric Society, illustrating the risks of cannabis use in young people; when the government is promoting half-baked legislation that would do nothing to eliminate illegal marijuana growth and trafficking; when the Liberals' goal is to create tax revenue that would make the so-called regulated product more expensive than the black market or homegrown product; when the Liberals have no plan to share the potential gains with the provinces and municipalities that will be burdened with their own legal nightmares created by this legislation; when the Liberals have no plan that will actually keep cannabis out of the hands of children at home, let alone on the playground, how can any member on that side of the House believe this is good legislation?

We can likely assume that the Liberals will push this legislation through with their majority and a whipped vote. I believe their motion for early closure of debate on this bill shows that they are afraid to continue debate for fear the multiple flaws in this legislation might be exposed.

As a final comment, I hope at least some of the government members, or eventually the Senate, will take a non-hazy view of this legislation and send it back for a complete remake.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for the points he brought forward.

I have a son in the United States. He works down there and has business down there. In Oregon, which I think has legalized marijuana, there is concern. People do not want to hire people who are from Oregon because of the effects it has had on the young people there.

We have former peace officers here, and one has taken charge of this file. There are a number of road deaths of innocent people because of the legalization of a drug that has a mind-altering effect and affects the reaction time of people when they are driving. Apparently there is not yet a roadside test, but it may be close. We have one for alcohol. We may have one for drugs, but I am not sure how testing for a combination of the two is going to happen.

Do you have a concern in your area regarding road safety and the impact it will have in terms of victims who are killed because of the—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I have certainly heard concerns about the legal definitions of impairment under this drug and the legalities of the equipment that may or may not be available.

I do not believe any of it has been tested in court. Impairment levels could be different from individual to individual. There is so much data that has yet to be looked at, data gained from other jurisdictions that are trying legalization and are still really in the experimental stage. I believe there is a huge risk in it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5:15 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

Madam Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed by the member's comments, in the sense that we now have an option after so many years.

I think it is important that we recognize that in Canada, we have some of the highest usage of cannabis in the developed world amongst our young people. To defend the status quo does not do our young people any justice, nor does it deal with the issue of the crime element, whereby literally hundreds of millions of dollars are generated through cannabis-related criminal activities.

If the Conservatives are having such a difficult time with this particular piece of legislation, in hindsight, even though they had 10 years under Stephen Harper to deal with it, would they not recognize that we need to do something on this issue?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I believe that if the member had been listening, he would have heard me say that I certainly agree that the status quo is not working but that I do not agree that full legalization is the way to go.

Many times we have heard from members on the other side that they are going to keep it out of the hands of criminals and will remove the criminal element from it. I have yet to understand how they are going to do that. Not one of the members has explained how they can tell a leaf or a bud from a plant that was grown legally from one that was grown illegally. How can we possibly tell the difference? How can we tell if what is on the street is legal or illegal?

The only way buyers are going to be able to tell is by the tax that the government is going to put on it. That is the only way the government is going to be able to keep it out of people's hands.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on the cannabis act, also known as another poorly thought out, poorly written, rushed-through piece of legislation by the government, which needs time allocation to get it through, only to go to the Senate, where it is going to be butchered and sent back for further amendments, leaving the government wondering why in the world it bothered trying to have independent senators in the first place. However, I understand that is just the working title.

If anyone is watching CPAC at home right now and breathlessly waiting another nine and a half minutes for me to tell them whether I support the bill or not, I will give them a spoiler alert. They should go and have a cup of coffee or something so they do not hear the answer now. Clearly, I do not support the bill as presented. That is shocking, I know.

I want to discuss a couple of highlights, or lowlights, of the bill before I get into the bulk of my speech. We have heard repeatedly from experts and the medical association that setting the minimum age at 18 is way too low. Eighteen is the legal age in Ontario right now, where I am from. Just last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at two different high schools for their graduations, where the huge majority of these children were 18. The government wants to allow children 18 years old to legally smoke marijuana and to go into the stores any time to pick it up. It is disgraceful. Youth aged 12 to 17 would be allowed to have up to seven joints at the same time.

The legislation would put Canada in contravention of international laws and treaty obligations, including the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs. There is no plan from the government right now to address these issues.

There are problems with drug-impaired driving. There is no universally accepted limit for what constitutes impaired driving. There is no common line across the world that has a legalized system to say this is what impairment is. Current drug testing involves oral fluid samples, but it can only provide the presence of the drug, not the concentration. Chemical traces of marijuana stay in an individual's body for a long time after impairment is no longer an issue. Saliva tests are very expensive at $20 to $40 for every single test. Currently, checking for alcohol at roadside stops costs pennies. Now we are going to force this huge cost upon municipalities to bear.

One of the arguments we hear is that legalizing it will push out organized crime. Who in the world thinks the Hells Angels, or anyone else in organized crime currently taking in billions, is going to stop and say, “It's all over. Let's pick up our toys and go home. It's now legal. Maybe we can use our motorcycles to become Uber drivers, because we're obviously out of the business”? It is simple-mindedness to think that the Hells Angels, and all these criminal organizations that have been doing this for years and years, with amazing market penetration, are going to just pack up their stuff and go away. I am not advocating for organized crime or the Hells Angels, but this is reality.

One of the arguments we hear is that it will fill the tax coffers. We can legalize it, tax the heck out of it, and raise a lot of money. Unfortunately, the parliamentary budget office, the same PBO the government is trying to muzzle with its omnibus budget bill, says the opposite. It says the money raised by the government will be measured in the millions and millions, not the billions. To quote the PBO, “The illicit market, their profit margins are very high, so they have room to compete with the legal market, which makes it even more difficult for the government to set the price and the tax rate.”

The PBO says the government is not going to push out illegal drugs unless it keeps prices down. Now we are going to have the government helping to set the price of marijuana low to keep out organized crime, thus making it easier to access for Canadians.

The PBO estimates the pot market is worth about $4 billion to $6 billion. Of that, the feds are going to take $100 million or more, the provinces will take a bit more, and that is only if they keep taxes and prices down. When have we ever seen the government keeping prices or taxes down? Does anyone in Ontario or B.C., with their public liquor store systems, the B.C. Liquor Stores and the LCBO, actually think government is going to keep prices down and undercut organized crime? I do not think so.

President Reagan has many famous quotes, and one of my favourites was when he described governments' view on business as thus: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” I can very well see a future where the government, with its interference in this market, with regulations and added taxes, makes it difficult for legalized marijuana to compete with organized crime, and therefore, lowers taxes or changes the system, or perhaps even subsidizes it, to better compete with organized crime.

One government member argued that pot arrests are tying up the courts. I have to ask, why not just decriminalize it? The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police says so. My colleagues in the NDP do not disagree with it. What is so magical that on June 30 marijuana is going to be illegal but on the very next day, July 1, it is going to be magically okay? I do not often agree with my friends and my colleagues in the NDP, but they do have a point.

I am stunned that the Liberal member is using this argument about tying up courts when the government has failed to fill open positions in the courts for over a year. My colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, has been calling for the government to fill the judge positions that the government has neglected to fill.

Murderers are being let go because we do not have judges. Of the 101 applications for release by accused persons because of court delays, 51 were granted, including, from Edmonton, Adam Picard, who was accused of murdering a gentleman named Fouad Nayel, and another one, Lance Regan, also accused of murder.

Here we have the government not filling judge positions but we have another member of the government stating that we cannot tie up the courts with pot. She does not seem to care that we are not filling the judge positions and are allowing accused murderers to go free, but she is concerned about the courts being tied up otherwise.

Why such a big rush to legalize by July 1, 2018? Why the arbitrary cut-off? Is it perhaps because the government is under pressure from so many broken promises, such as balancing the budget by the end of its mandate in 2019, which will now be 2055; the $30-billion deficit, which will now be hundreds of billions of dollars; or the whole open and fair competition to replace the fighter jets, which it is not doing because it is going to CF-18s, so maybe we will throw them under the bus because we have to appease Bombardier.

Of course, the biggest promise the government may have broken is on electoral reform. We know the government rallied youth to its cause with the electoral reform promise, which it has now cancelled. Is it rushing through the bill, putting families and children at risk, just so it can draw this cohort back to Liberal support?

I have to wonder, again, why July 1? Is it so the Prime Minister can light the symbolic first joint on Canada Day, or maybe arrange to photo bomb a bunch of people toking up and get his PR experts to create a hashtag and call it a photo bong?

We have spoken to the RCMP in Edmonton. I have spoken to the police in our riding. They say they are not going to be ready by July 1. The training is not going to be done. The ability to detect levels of intoxication will not be ready. Municipalities have told us they are not ready, and they do not want to get stuck carrying the bill for this poorly thought out legislation.

Provinces are scambling to get ready. The Province of Alberta, just a week ago, started consultations on how it is going to regulate and distribute marijuana in Alberta. That is four million people, and we just started the process. Our schools are not ready. However, the government says not to worry; they have a plan for education and prevention of $9 million over five years. That is 5¢ for every Canadian, over five years.

Let us put that in perspective. The government, in its budget, has put down $120 million for the same time frame as free charging stations for Tesla owners. If people own an $85,000 Tesla, the government is there for them. However, if a family is trying to keep their kids away from marijuana, here's a nickel a year. It is ridiculous.

In conclusion, I wish the government would take a step back and realize it is too soon. I understand it has a majority, it has a mandate, and it is going to push this through. However, I beg the government to slow it down and let us have proper consultations with the provinces, municipalities, and families before it steamrolls this ahead.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
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Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, before we engaged in the private members' business, I listened attentively to my colleague from Edmonton West and heard him talk about the need to consult very closely with municipalities.

I am glad the government does that as a matter of not just habit but good governance. I am glad the Conservative Party is starting to realize that talking to municipalities has a value, especially when they tell us good things and give us good advice. We can build a great country with them. We have been talking with municipalities about the need to support them with maintaining standards around this and the law enforcement around this issue, particularly in those areas where municipalities run their police forces.

We have met with the mayor of Edmonton on this precise issue and on other issues related to this. We have met with the mayor of Calgary as well. Are there any other mayors or reeves or local politicians in Alberta that members think we could talk to, many of whom support the bill with a great deal of clarity, to get their advice around revenue streams and other components of this? We want to make sure we reflect all of the municipalities and incorporate their perspectives into this process as we move forward with the best legislation around this issue this country has ever seen.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. member made his way out west. He asked who else he could speak to.

He could talk to the mayor of Morinville, who is the president of the AUMA, whom we met with in Ottawa just a month ago. She expressed absolute disdain for the bill and how the government has not once picked up the phone and spoken to anyone in a rural area. She was absolutely disheartened by the government offloading all of its costs onto municipalities, while providing no support for policing and no support to the provinces.

There are a lot of people in Alberta the member could talk to. He could start with the head of the AUMA.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, at this late hour, I am pleased to rise to ask a question of my colleague, the member for Edmonton West. My specific question is on the enforceability of many portions of the act.

It is fine to write legislation, even if it very poorly written, as I think Bill C-45 indeed is, but there is a lack of enforceability for sections such as how we will actually enforce the limit on four plants in a dwelling. For the marijuana tracking system that the Liberals have proposed in the legislation, there is no real money assigned to it in the budget. We do not really know how it is going to work. How will they track marijuana produced privately in someone's home or are they even thinking of tracking this type of information?

We know this means that thousands of joints could be out there that a person could then sell illegally on the market. There is really no way to enforce many of the provisions of the act. How does the member think the government actually intends to enforce these provisions?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the government knows how it is going to regulate or track this. Right now, we have a bill that would allow every household in this country to have four pot plants that could produce over 3,000 joints. There is nothing in the legislation about how they are going to track that. There is no funding for this.

When I used to work in Burnaby, I was great friends with the head of the Burnaby RCMP. There were such rampant problems with grow-ops in that area because they did not even have the resources to go after grow-ops then, much less when every single household will be able to have their own grow-op. There is nothing in the legislation explaining how the government is going to stop people from having five plants, or six plants. Is the government going to separate a building into apartments if it is a duplex, or if it is an upstairs-downstairs building?

The government has left so many holes in the legislation, we could drive an 18-wheeler full of pot through it any time.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of constituents in the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke to highlight four problems with the PM's pot law.

This is a major piece of legislation the government has decided to push through Parliament. The government says the rush is so that weed will be legal for Canada Day in 2018. I am sure the Liberals want to have a great party next year, but I suspect there are other motivations behind this rush. Whether we are opposed to legal weed or support legalization, I think all Canadians agree, once they have learned the details, the PM's pot law is a bad trip.

As it currently stands, there are four fatal flaws in the Prime Minister's pot law. First, age restrictions are shameful. Second, the silence on edibles is deafening. Third, the costs are being downloaded onto municipalities, and fourth, who would benefit from the PM's pot law is a problem.

Those four problems must be corrected at committee, and none more so than the bill's treatment of young Canadians. Despite all the available medical evidence, the PM's pot law would legalize marijuana for Canadians over 18. Until the age of 25, the human brain is still growing and developing, and science shows that marijuana has a detrimental impact on that development. All the medical experts, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Psychiatric Association agree that anyone aged 25 to 21 should not be using marijuana due to the side effects on the brain's development. Let me quote from the CMA's journal:

The government appears to be hastening to deliver on a campaign promise without being careful enough about the health impacts of policy.... If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.

This is what Dr. Prasad, president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association had to say:

There is a strong evidence-base showing that early and regular cannabis use can affect cognition, such as memory, attention, intelligence and the ability to process thoughts and experiences....

The experts agree that this law would fail to protect young Canadians by making it legal for young Canadians, 18 years and over, to buy up to 30 grams of pot. Of course, that does not even address the bigger problem with the PM's pot law, which is how it deals with Canadians under 18. The pot bill would make it legal for Canadians between the age of 12 and 18 to carry up to five grams of marijuana in public. That is 15 joints. All the doctors recommend an age of at least 21, if not 25, but the government decided that 12 years old should be the real cut-off.

The PM's pot law needs to be changed to protect the minds of young Canadians and prohibit pot possession for youth under the age of 21.

My constituents were angry to learn the bill would legalize five grams for kids 12 and up, but when they found out how the bill would fail to protect children 12 and under, they were rightfully outraged. They learned the PM's pot law is silent on edibles.

The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state has revealed a disturbing trend. Once legalized, the fastest growing market for marijuana was consumable food products, such as cookies, brownies, lollipops, chewing gum, and gummy candies, the exact types of products that appeal to children. The PM's pot bill has no controls or regulations on these products.

Our previous Conservative government banned flavoured tobacco products for the reason that they are aimed primarily at children and teenagers. Similar restrictions and regulations must be brought into place on marijuana food products to protect children under 12. Left unregulated, edibles will fall into the hands of small children.

The costs of caring for children who ingest edibles will not be paid by these Liberals, but downloaded onto our provinces and local municipalities, which brings us to the third problem with the Prime Minister's pot law. The pot law would place new burdens on local services, starting with policing costs. Municipalities in Ontario, already struggling with an infrastructure deficit as a result of Toronto Liberal policy that treats rural communities unfairly, have seen their policing costs skyrocket.

Ontario municipalities pay the highest policing costs in Canada. Liberal policy has shifted the burden onto smaller municipalities from towns and cities. In my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, the Municipality of Greater Madawaska saw its policing bill from the province jump 192%. The Township of McNab/Braeside has seen its policing costs rise about $650,000 in the last two years alone. Barry's Bay is looking at an increase of $200,000 a year in policing costs. In the words of former Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon:

Not only are policing costs unnecessarily borne upon the residential tax-base, we are paying to enforce statutes which our municipalities did not enact. We are having real struggles accepting costs where we are footing the bill of federally and provincially-initiated legislation.

The costs of enforcement to municipalities will be astronomical. In this example, currently, there is no real roadside test for drug-stoned drivers. The current test can only confirm the presence of drugs, not the level of intoxication. Therefore, just the additional cost of testing required to determine the level of impairment alone will add hundreds of thousands of dollars to policing costs. In fact, the bill increases the role of police in pot enforcement, as officers will now be required to, among other things, measure the height of marijuana plants at private residences to ensure they are within the regulations. Residents will end up paying for the Liberal pot laws in one way or another. Demands on health care services, addiction treatment, and mental health services will also increase. All these increased burdens on our municipal services come with no new funding, meaning that our rural townships and small municipalities will be forced to choose between fixing roads and measuring pot.

Failing to protect children and downloading costs to provinces and municipalities are fatal flaws in this legislation. Those problems can be fixed by changing the legislation, but no amount of amendments can change the Prime Minister's real motivation for legalization. With the current government, all it takes is being one of the Prime Minister's billionaire buds to have preferential access to government funding and contracts.

The PM's pot law will have the effect of transferring the profits of the marijuana industry from organized crime to organized Liberals. Just like what happened with the Green Energy Act in Ontario, well-connected Liberals stand to make millions of dollars from the legalization of marijuana as owners of medical marijuana companies, law firms, and distribution shops. Just look at some of the Liberals who are already profiting from the PM's pot law. George Smitherman, a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, is now a shareholder in a medical marijuana grow-op. Chuck Rifici, a former Liberal Party financial officer, co-owns a medical marijuana grow-op. Mark Zekulin, a former senior advisor to Liberal ministers, is now the CEO for a medical marijuana grow-op. Even the government's own pot czar attended a fundraiser hosted by medical marijuana grow-ops. We have all heard the term “cash for access”, but this is cash for hash.

I wish I could tell Canadians that all of this is so outrageous as to be unbelievable, but this really is just business as usual with the Liberals. The only thing that is surprising is how the Liberals are not actually liberalizing anything. The regulatory hurdles facing prospective growers are designed to only be navigated by well-connected corporations. Farmers who have some experience with growing plants will need to buy a lot more tickets to Liberal fundraisers if they are going to have any hope of getting a permit.

The Liberal Party is falling behind on fundraising. That is why it is rushing through this legislation. It is obvious this is not about protecting teenagers and young adults, otherwise it would raise the age limits. This is not about protecting children, otherwise it would have legislated rules for edibles. This is not about saving taxpayers' money, the costs are just being downloaded to the municipalities. This is about Liberals helping their friends and lining their party's pockets.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
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Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I just got off the telephone with the head of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the mayor of Morinville, Mayor Lisa Holmes. I asked her whether the question that came from the opposite way was true, that she opposed this bill. She does not. In fact, she said she wanted it passed faster, so municipalities can start to get the bylaws and enforcement process in place. She also mentioned that she has had several consultations with our government, including the parliamentary secretary on this file.

Members from the other side put up these sort of pretend arguments, reefer madness 2.0 perhaps, about the responsible and fundamentally important way we are regulating and legislating cannabis. As all this happens, they pretend there are mayors and municipal associations that oppose us, when quite frankly, they do not. All they have to do is talk to them and they will get that message. When they hear all of this, is there someone else they would like us to make a telephone call to, to contradict everything they have to say?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her contribution to the debate, which I consider to be extremely important. It is dividing Canadians much more than the government wants to admit, because it refuses to acknowledge that anyone might have concerns about one of its policies.

The Liberals think they have all they answers and are always right. They are the natural governing party, after all, so they come up with this great legislation on pot, and everything is going to be sunny ways, and everyone is going to smoke pot, and everything is going to be so awesome, and there will be no more organized crime, and young people will be protected and can smoke their joints in peace. That is not really how it is going to work though.

They tell us that everything will be easy and everyone is okay with this. Not so. Not in Quebec, anyway. The government is going to hold its own consultation. Many surveys have shown that people in Quebec are concerned.

You do not want to hear about their concerns. You just want to carry on and keep your little promises. Another very worrisome thing is the money that you are getting from your friends at the cannabis production companies.

You are laughing because you think you are above suspicion, but the truth is that you are just spinning this the way you want. The truth is that you are dragging the entire country into a war—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I used the word “war”, but it was not the right word. The Liberals are dragging the entire country into a series of distressing consultations.

Does my colleague not have the impression that she is having to face a big communications campaign plagued with problems and that the government across is hurrying to raise funds for its own election bank?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree. The Liberals are spinning, rolling, whatever they do with the marijuana to enrich their friends. In fact, this is what happened in Ontario all over again. First, it was big contracts to wind turbine owners, one of which happened to be the president of the Ontario Liberal Party at the time. They awarded all these contracts, and our constituents, as a consequence, have to pay far more per kilowatt hour for hydro.

All this is doing is enriching the Liberal Party's friends by providing them with the contracts and the grow-ops. That is how they are making the money. Because they are Liberal friends and well connected, they get the permits. In turn, when the profits start coming through, they will be making donations to keep this party going.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to this important piece of legislation, a bill that would legalize and regulate the possession and sale of marijuana in Canada.

The NDP has been calling for the decriminalization of marijuana for 45 years. We support the legalization of marijuana as long as it is not marketed to children, as long as it generates reliable funding for public health programs, prevention, the treatment of addictions, funding for health research, and an effective impaired driving strategy.

Since the impaired driving piece is dealt with in a separate bill, Bill C-46, I will not say anything more about that. It certainly has been something that RCMP members and other concerned citizens in my riding have impressed on me as an important part of this project.

We in the NDP support the legalization of marijuana primarily because its criminalization has been a failed policy. The possession and use of marijuana has been illegal in Canada since 1923, but what has that accomplished?

I would like to point out some facts. About 30% of Canadian youth have tried cannabis by the time they are 15 years old. Some 12% of Canadians over the age of 15, that is over two million Canadians, have used marijuana in the last year. Through my door knocking experience in South Okanagan--West Kootenay, I would back that up. Use in my riding may well be higher than the national average. There were over 100,000 drug offences reported in Canada in 2014, and two-thirds of those related to marijuana. That is over 60,00 drug offences with regard to marijuana in one year.

The present law regarding cannabis has done little or nothing to stop young people from using marijuana. It has given thousands of Canadians criminal records, and has created a huge underground economy, much of it dominated by gangs and organized crime. It is clear that the status quo is just not an option.

At the moment we are in a state of purgatory around marijuana legalization. The Liberals promised legalization in the last election. They were elected 18 months ago, so Canadians have been anticipating the legislation since then. Despite that, people are still getting criminal records for simple possession.

More than 15,000 people have been charged for marijuana possession since the Liberal government took office. Now it is clear the government will not complete this action for another 15 months, and thousands are still suffering under their criminal records. These records severely impact people's lives. They have trouble getting jobs and finding housing. They cannot travel across international borders.

The NDP is calling for pardons for all Canadians who have criminal records for the simple possession of marijuana. This bill would legalize marijuana for that purpose, and the lives of thousands of people have been tainted by these criminal records. We are calling on the government to implement an interim policy of decriminalization so that no more Canadians will receive criminal records for something that will be legal within months. These actions impact young people disproportionately, young people who will face a lifetime of difficulties if they are convicted of simple possession.

These actions also fill our courts with pointless prosecutions. Even the Liberal Party of Canada website states that “Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses.”

These pointless prosecutions add significantly to delays in the court system, sometimes to the point of serious cases being dismissed. Since the Jordan decision on trial delays last July, over 800 accused criminals have been freed simply because their trials were taking too long, some of them charged with murder. Filling the courts with marijuana possession cases only exacerbates this unacceptable situation. Again, the NDP supports legalization, and calls for immediate decriminalization for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

I want to cover a few points on what the bill sets out regarding legalization and regulating marijuana.

First, it says that adults over the age of 18 could possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis and grow up to four mature plants in their homes. As other people have pointed out, there are regulations around the size of those plants.

Provinces, of course, would be free to set a higher age limit. An obvious strategy would be to harmonize the age of use with the age for alcohol in a province. Provinces may wish to have a higher age limit, as there have been concerns about the effect of cannabis on the development of young people up to the age of 25.

I was talking to a friend the other day who is in his forties now. He said that when he was young, he used a lot of marijuana, and it really affected his memory. It really affected his development, so he was pushing me to make sure that I stated that it would be better to have a higher age limit.

The bill would allow for punishment of up to 14 years in prison for any adult providing cannabis to a minor. Some may consider that overly harsh, yet it is the same punishment for producing child pornography or attempting to leave Canada to commit terrorism.

What the bill does not spell out clearly is what the tax structure for marijuana sales would look like and how taxes would be shared with the provinces. The tax system would be important. It would be best to keep taxes low enough so people were not tempted to buy from the black market, from gangs and organized crime, but high enough to generate important funds that could pay for programs generated by this legalization process, such as public health education, particularly on drug and alcohol use, and addiction treatment and health research.

In my riding, and I am sure across Canada, there are several programs that help people with drug and alcohol addictions regain their health and return to their families with whole lives. However, all the programs in my riding are struggling for funding. They could do so much more if they had the necessary resources. I assume, again, that this is the case across the country.

This would be an important goal of any tax measures around marijuana, in my view. I think we need to generate proper funding for programs that deal with addiction prevention and treatment.

Research on the health effects of cannabis, both positive and negative, are very poorly known. This is, in part, because marijuana has been illegal for almost the past century. Canada could play an important role in elucidating these effects.

I have met many people across my riding who use cannabis for medical purposes, for the relief of pain, for insomnia, and to reduce seizures. Many of them have had to experiment with dosages themselves to find out what works for them. We really need research to give us a better idea of what dosages, what ratios of CBD to THC, work best in each circumstance. The legalization of marijuana, combined with a revenue stream specifically for health research on its effects, would be very beneficial.

To conclude, I would reiterate that I support the bill at second reading. I trust that the committee will do its due diligence to answer some of the many concerns of Canadians, many of which we have heard here today. We certainly cannot go on with the status quo. I think Canada could play an important role in the world as it does this important work.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 6: