Madam Speaker, I would like to say that this will probably be my last opportunity to speak to Bill C-45, so I want to make sure I give it full coverage.
The government says that the reason it is bringing in this legislation is that what is in place now is not working. What is proposed under Bill C-45 is not going to work either, even with the many amendments that have been brought forward.
What was this bill supposed to do in the first place? If we refer to the purpose of the bill, it is supposed to “protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis”. We can see right away a couple of things in the bill that are going to put cannabis into the hands of young children. First is clause 8, which would allow young people aged 12 to 17 to have up to five grams of cannabis. That is the wrong message in any universe.
We have talked about home grow and how when people have in excess of 600 grams of cannabis growing in a house, young people are likely to get hold of it, in the same way they get hold of liquor in the liquor cabinet. This is certainly not going to keep cannabis out of the hands of young children.
Furthermore, I would say that if the government has a belief that the systems being put in place in some provinces are going to help out, let me assure the House that Kathleen Wynne put in a process in Ontario of LCBO-type stores and delivery. For people in Sarnia—Lambton, the closest store is in London. If they called their drug dealers today, in about 30 minutes they could have whatever quantity they wanted delivered to their houses for about $7 a gram. The government has proposed a price of $10 a gram, with $1 in tax on top of that. If it thinks that is going to work to displace the organized crime that is in place, it is sadly mistaken.
The other item I want to talk about with respect to youth is the public education that was supposed to happen. The Canadian Medical Association has been clear that among young people under the age of 25 who use cannabis, 30% will have severe mental illness issues, such as psychotic disorders, bipolar, anxiety, and depression, and 10% will become addicted. Where is the public education on that? Where is the message to tell young people today that this is harmful? That message is not out there. Young people are saying, “It's no more harmful than alcohol.” They are not getting the message.
The only public campaign that has been done was done by the Minister of Public Safety, who did a brief TV commercial to let kids know that they should not drive while they are drug-impaired, which, while true, is totally inadequate to have the kind of public education that was recommended by Colorado and the State of Washington. Colorado did $10 million worth of public education for a population that is lot smaller than what Canada has. The State of Washington did the same.
We are certainly not going to achieve the first objective of keeping it out of the hands of children. What about some of the others? Will we provide for only the legal production of cannabis “to reduce illicit activities in relation to cannabis”? If we look at all the places that have legalized marijuana, we see that in Colorado, which allowed home grow, it still has significant issues with organized crime. The police have a lot of nuisance complaints, and there are entire residential neighbourhoods that smell. There are lots of problems there.
We can look at the State of Washington, which decided that it would not allow home grow, except in the case of medicinal marijuana. It was able, in three years, to reduce organized crime to less than 20%. Because it had set the age at 21, it was able to make it difficult for young people to actually get hold of marijuana. It is unlikely that 21-year-olds would be sharing with 17-year-olds, unlike with the legislation we have before us.
Another problem that has not been addressed by the government with respect to home grow concerns property-owner rights. In Ontario and Quebec, once this legislation is passed, property owners would be unable to prevent people from growing marijuana in their houses. For those who are maybe less experienced, when growing marijuana, there can often be a mould problem in the house. I have been approached by the real estate associations, which have asked questions. Currently, when there is a home grow in a house, and the house is sold, they have to do a total remediation for the mould and a recertification of the house. They want to know if they are going to have to do that for all the home grows. That question has not been answered by the government.
The other question that has not been answered by the government has to do with the impact at the border. I live in a border community. Conversations have been had with Homeland Security and with border officials. They have said, “Canada is changing its law. We are not changing our law federally. It still is illegal federally, and we are not adding resources because of Canada's law.” Dogs will sniff. If people have second-hand smoke residue on their clothes, if a kid borrowed the car and happened to be out with other kids who were smoking marijuana, if people smoke themselves and do not happen to have any with them but have the residue, the dogs will sniff it out, and people will be pulled over into secondary, and they will go through the standard procedure there. The problem is that there is not enough secondary for the number of people who will be pulled over. When asked what they will do then, they said they would put a cone in the lane the person is in and perform the secondary inspection there, which will back everything up. They have informed us to expect an increase of up to 300% in wait times at the border.
The government has known about this for two and a half years. It has done nothing to establish any kind of agreement with the government of the U.S., other than to say to make sure that people tell the truth. That, of course, is great advice, but it will not prevent the wait times and the problems that are going to be seen at the border.
Furthermore, the government has not educated young people to understand that if they are caught with marijuana in the U.S., it is a lifetime ban from that country. The U.S. is not the only country that will ban people for the possession of marijuana. There are a lot of countries in the world. Young people who intend to have a global career are not being informed about this, and there could be very adverse consequences from the public education that has not happened.
This bill was also supposed to “reduce the burden on the criminal justice system”. Unfortunately, we know that the justice minister is behind the eight ball in terms of putting judges in place. She is about 60 short. Because of that, we see murderers and rapists going free due to Jordan's principle. If there were an intent on the part of the Liberals to try to clear the backlog and make sure that those who have committed more serious crimes receive punishment, one of the things they could have done, as was suggested many times, even since last September, was let those who have marijuana charges drop off the list and get out of the queue so that the more serious offences could be prosecuted. Of course, the Liberals have done nothing with respect to that, and so again, they are not going to actually offload them from the system. In fact, there would be more criminal charges under this legislation than previously existed, because now, if people had five plants instead of four, that would be an offence. Now, if they had 31 grams instead of 30, that would be an offence. Now there would be offences for transferring it to younger people. There would be a lot of offences that did not exist previously, so definitely, we will not achieve that goal.
There was the goal to ”provide access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis”. Now that they would allow home grow, and everyone is going to be doing their own thing, there would actually be no management of the quality control of this product. That is also not acceptable.
Some of the other unanswered questions we see have to do with workplace safety. This was raised when the marijuana issue was studied by the original council. There was testimony brought to committee. There were questions raised all over the place. How are we going to protect the employers, who have the liability, and the other employees, who are worried? They are worried about people who may come to work drug impaired. We do not want to be flying with Air Canada and have the pilot impaired. We do not want to have people operating nuclear plants who may be drug impaired.
Bill C-46 was supposed to be the companion legislation to Bill C-45. Bill C-46 was going to allow mandatory and random testing on the roadside, because, as people know, it is dangerous to smoke drugs and then drive a car. That was going to open the door, then, for people to say that if it is dangerous to smoke drugs and drive a car, perhaps it is also dangerous to then drive a plane or drive a train or operate a nuclear plant, or any of these other things. The question of workplace safety and how we are going to protect and what legislation is going into place is a total blank space.
We have not looked to our neighbours to the south that have legalized and have both mandatory and random testing in place. I worked on many projects, and I actually had an office in the States at one point in time, so I know that American employers are able to screen people before they hire them. They are able to mandatory test them, and they are able to random test them. The government has totally lacked leadership in addressing the issue of workplace safety, etc.
With respect to the actual amendments that have come, some were good and some were not good. One amendment that was brought would allow 18-year-olds to share their marijuana or allow parents in a home to share their marijuana. I am glad the government decided not to accept that one.
I am still concerned about the fact that there is even marijuana in the house. However, if that amendment was accepted it definitely would not have not been keeping marijuana out of the hands of young children.
One of the amendments that they did not accept had to do with the banning of promotional things like T-shirts, caps, and flags that would have a cannabis symbol on them. The government did not accept this amendment from the Senate. I am very concerned about that.
There are a lot of Canadians out there who are worried that when marijuana is legalized in Canada they are going to use Canada Day flags that have cannabis on them. Everybody will have a T-shirt with cannabis on it. That will be disgusting. It will absolutely denigrate our country and the people who have served our country and made Canada a proud country. It will deface that. The government has allowed people to continue to have that kind of paraphernalia by refusing the language here. It is total hypocrisy because under Bill S-228, which talks about prohibiting unhealthy advertising to children, we would not want to see pop or something like that on a T-shirt or a flag. However, with cannabis, it is okay. I am totally opposed to that.
Another thing that the government should have taken into account was the amendment that was brought on capping the potency of THC. We have heard reports from all over Canada, as people are increasingly trying marijuana for the first time or experiencing B.C. bud, which purportedly has one of the highest THC contents and a lot of potency, that people are presenting at the emergency wards with uncontrollable vomiting due to THC poisoning. Knowing that a part of the intent of this bill is to protect the health of Canadians and of youth, I cannot understand why the government would not recognize that there needs to be some control on the potency of things that are out in the marketplace.
Some of the amendments were compassionate and talked about giving people more time to pay their fines. I thought that was good that the government accepted those. I also thought it was good that they would, for young people, ages 12 to 17, who were experiencing an offence, look at ticketed offences, which is something that we would have supported, and restorative justice options.
If we look to countries that are doing the best job of intervening and helping people to get off drugs, look to Portugal. If anyone is found in possession of drugs there, they are given an intervention with a medical person, a psychiatrist, and a legal person. They then try to figure out what the root cause is of why these people are self-medicating or why are they becoming addicted, and what can be done to help get them off of it, in terms of mental health therapies or drug addiction therapies, etc. We need to look at this whole thing.
The other part that I think is unfortunate is that the indigenous people have not been adequately consulted. I was very disappointed to find that in September of last year, when we first heard at committee from Chief Day and from the Métis nation, they said they had not been adequately consulted. It is disheartening to hear that again when this went before the Senate, the same message came out that they had not been adequately consulted, and that they wanted to have the ability within their own communities to define whether or not cannabis would be allowed. Apparently under federal law, it was clarified to them that if it is a federal right of Canadians to possess cannabis, then it is not something that they would be able to go against. There was some resistance about that based on the sovereignty of the indigenous peoples. I think that was not resolved to their satisfaction.
It is worrisome that the government continues to rush ahead. It says that this is the most important relationship, the nation-to-nation relationship, yet it is willing to go and throw gasoline on a fire in terms of moving ahead when it has been asked not to do so.
Some of the other questions that arose at committee that really have not been adequately answered have to do with a lot of the detailed specifics about who is going to pay. Municipalities are saying there will be a cost to them to implement it, but they have not been included in the cost breakdown or the agreements that have happened. That is of concern. There have also been concerns raised by people who currently are consuming medical marijuana, and their understanding is that they are going to be paying tax on that.
Typically, in Canada, prescription medicines are not taxed. Therefore, as long as people have a prescription from a doctor for their medicinal marijuana, my expectation would be that it would not be taxed. However, that is not what the government is saying. Also, there is language in the budget bill that is a little suspicious, which states it would exempt people from paying tax on medicinal marijuana that has a drug identification number. The problem with that is that there are no medications that have a drug identification number because there are so many different components in marijuana that the companies have not been able to spend the research dollars required to characterize them or to effectively control the quality of them so that they could acquire a number like that. Therefore, that is a meaningless promise, for sure.
There were some amendments that were brought to bring this legislation in line with the tobacco legislation. I am in favour of having those things aligned. However, it seems unusual that the government would be spending $80 million to get people to stop smoking and then $800 million to get people to start smoking marijuana, especially when the Minister of Health just stood up and talked about how the government knows there are harmful effects.
One of the things I find very interesting, from a timing point of view, is that today Health Canada took the harmful impacts of cannabis off of its website. That was something that had been on the website. I had someone that brought it to my notice, and sent me a screenshot of what used to be there and a screenshot of what is not there now. It is very interesting that on the day that the Liberals want to see this legislation pass into law, it would suddenly take off of the website the information that shows there are harmful effects from cannabis not only to young people but also others.
Therefore, I would request that the government not hide things. Rather, it should try to be open and transparent, as it says it is always trying to be, and put that information back on the website. Every place that has legalized marijuana has said that one of the most important things to do is to invest in public education, and target that education not just to young people so that they understand the harmful effects this would have on their brains, but also to adults and parents who can influence young people, and the general public so that they can understand as well.
I am very concerned about some of the unintended consequences that will happen as a result of this legislation. I know there are people already smoking marijuana in Canada today. However, when it becomes legal, there will be many more who will decide to try it. They may not be informed about what the impact will be when they cross the border or what the impacts might be on their mental health or that of their children. They may not understand what the health impacts will be for them. They may not understand the ramifications with respect to their place of work and how they are going to impact both their employer and those who work around them.
That said, I am very opposed to the legalization of marijuana, which I have said on many occasions, not just because it is bad for people but because this bill has so many holes in it and so many unanswered questions, and there will be so many bad, unintended consequences for Canadians, that it will be left to the Conservative Party, when we come to victory in 2019, to clean up the mess made by the current government's moving forward in this rushed and irresponsible fashion to implement this bill.
This bill will absolutely not keep marijuana out of the hands of young children. It will not get organized crime out of this business. It will not unload our criminal justice system. It certainly will not provide access to a quality-controlled supply.
What we can expect is that on Canada Day there will be a lot of people out with their T-shirts on, totally insulting those Canadians who are proud of our country and who are not in agreement, and there are a lot of Canadians who are not in agreement with this legislation.