Evidence of meeting #64 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was medical.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jacqueline Bogden  Assistant Deputy Minister, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health
Carole Morency  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Kathy Thompson  Assistant Deputy Minister, Community Safety and Countering Crime Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Commissioner Joanne Crampton  Federal Policing Criminal Operations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Diane Labelle  General Counsel, Health Canada Legal Services, Department of Justice
Eric Costen  Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health
Anne McLellan  Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP, As an Individual
Mark Ware  Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University, As an Individual
Michael Spratt  Criminal Lawyer, Abergel Goldstein and Partners, As an Individual
David Johnston  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management
Shelita Dattani  Director, Practice Development and Knowledge Translation, Canadian Pharmacists Association
Philippe Lucas  Executive Director, Canadian Medical Cannabis Council
Keith Jones  Chair, Government Relations, Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance
Dale Tesarowski  Executive Director, Corporate Initiatives, Performance and Planning, Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice
Sébastien St. Louis  Member of Board of Directors, Cannabis Canada Association
Colette Rivet  Executive Director, Cannabis Canada Association
Robert Rae  Director, Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance
Laurent Marcoux  President, Canadian Medical Association
Trevor Bhupsingh  Director General, Law Enforcement and Border Strategies Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Martin Bruce  Organized Crime Section, Vancouver Police Department
Jeff Blackmer  Vice-President, Medical Professionalism, Canadian Medical Association
Jennifer Lutfallah  Director General, Enforcement and Intelligence Programs, Canada Border Services Agency
Sergeant Bill Speam  Organized Crime Section, Vancouver Police Department

11:05 a.m.

Michael Spratt Criminal Lawyer, Abergel Goldstein and Partners, As an Individual

Thank you. It's an honour and a privilege to have been invited to make submissions before this committee. My name is Michael Spratt. I'm a criminal defence lawyer. I'll leave it at that in terms of an introduction of myself. I have a more verbose introduction in my written submission, which should be translated and distributed to all of you shortly.

On February 21, 2010, while a young man named Michael Swan was watching Canada's gold medal hockey team play the United States, three young men from Toronto were driving down a dark highway toward Ottawa. The Toronto three, as they would come to be known, had a plan to make some easy money. They were going to steal Mr. Swan's marijuana. Swan was murdered later that night, killed by a single bullet that pierced his lung and tore apart his heart.

There was nothing particularly unique about Mr. Swan. He was a typical teenager. He came from a good family. He had a tight circle of friends and, like almost half of Canadians have done, he smoked marijuana. He also sold it, mostly to his friends, but rumours of his large pot supply had reached Toronto.

I represented one of the Toronto three. Like Swan, he was 19 years old. He had no prior criminal record. Now, he didn't shoot Swan but he was there when Swan was shot and he was convicted of second degree murder and now he's serving a life sentence.

Some cases stick with you. That's an occupational hazard of being a criminal defence lawyer. Often we remember cases because of the result, the unexpected victory or the wrongful conviction. I remember the Swan case because it was tragic. A young man was killed. Three young men were sentenced to life in jail, and a family was destroyed. Sadly, this kind of tragic story is not an isolated incident. The simple fact is that criminalization of marijuana kills.

But that's not all it does. The criminalization of marijuana is a drain on court resources. It diverts law enforcement resources away from truly harmful activities. The prosecution of marijuana offences unduly stigmatizes otherwise law-abiding citizens through the imposition of criminal records. The criminalization of marijuana disproportionately impacts individuals who are young, marginalized, members of over-policed communities, or racialized. In our drug laws there are, indeed, echoes of racism and bias. The government should be commended for taking a tentative first step toward a rational and effective drug policy.

There is promise in Bill C-45, but there are also some serious flaws and room for improvement.

Bill C-45 contains no measures, for example, to address the tens of thousands of Canadians who have been stigmatized through the war on drugs counterproductive imposition of criminal records. The Criminal Records Act was first introduced in 1970 to augment the discretionary royal prerogative of mercy. The act detailed the manner in which persons convicted of criminal offences could apply for forgiveness for past wrongdoings. With the enactment of the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1985, offences for which people were pardoned could no longer be used as a discriminating factor by employers. Similar human rights legislation has been enacted provincially.

It is in the public interest to have a robust system of pardons. It is in the interest of society to reintegrate people back into society after they have committed a criminal offence. The logic is that even a partial removal of stigma of the conviction will aid in reintegration. It is well documented that the continued stigmatization of an offender is ineffective in reducing recidivism and reoffending. Those who have criminal records are less likely to be able to obtain employment, housing, cross international borders, and less able to fully engage in educational opportunities. Bill C-45 does not offer any measure whatsoever, such as an automatic, expedited, or subsidized pardon, to individuals who are convicted of activities that will now be legal under Bill C-45.

Nor does Bill C-45 take the opportunity to amend the currently unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Records Act that retroactively increased pardon ineligibility periods. These retroactive amendments were found to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by courts in Ontario and British Columbia. I was counsel in the case in Ontario. Both courts declared those amendments, the retroactive increase in pardon eligibility periods, to be of no force and effect. However, that unconstitutional pardon provision remains in force throughout most of Canada. As a result, if you don't live in Ontario or B.C., you're subject to an unconstitutional law.

Bill C-45 should amend the Criminal Records Act to remove the unconstitutional retrospective application of the pardon ineligibility period. It should restore pre-amendment waiting periods, and a further reduction in the waiting period should be available for individuals convicted of marijuana offences, offences that would now be legal under Bill C-45. Currently, 18-year-old, first-time offenders who are convicted of simple possession of marijuana the day before Bill C-45 comes into force will be required to wait five years before they're even eligible to apply for a pardon. Bill C-45 must remedy this situation.

Bill C-45 is also an unnecessarily complex piece of legislation that leaves intact the criminalization of marijuana in too many circumstances. An adult who possesses 30 grams of marijuana in public is a criminal. A youth who possesses more than five grams of marijuana is a criminal. An 18-year-old who passes a joint to their 17-year-old friend is a criminal. An adult who grows five marijuana plants is a criminal. An adult who lets his one-metre tall marijuana plant grow an extra centimetre is a criminal.

This continued criminalization is inconsistent with a rational and evidence-based criminal justice policy and will only serve to reduce some of the positive impacts of the bill. The disproportionate effect of continued youth criminalization is anathema to criminal justice policy. Nowhere else in the Criminal Code is a youth criminalized for an act that would be legal if committed by an adult.

A century of failed drug policy has demonstrated that criminalization is a flawed and ineffective mechanism to discourage drug possession. Simply put, there is no reason to believe that making it a criminal offence for a youth to possess five grams of marijuana will deter youth from possessing marijuana any more so than the current criminalization does. The distinction between illicit and legal marijuana and the asymmetrical criminalization of marijuana will only serve to perpetuate the disproportionate enforcement of laws on the young, marginalized, and racialized members of our society.

Even under the new law, marijuana will still be criminal in many circumstances. Only now, the government's vice squad will need to carry rulers and will need to learn to divine the difference between identical legal and illicit forms of marijuana.

Bill C-45 also creates a statutory mechanism for police officers to exercise their discretion to issue tickets in the place of criminal charges for certain offences. This is well meaning but problematic, given what we know about the exercise of police discretion. Remember, police discretion currently operates disproportionally against a variety of marginalized groups. The ticketing option relies on discretionary police action. The choice of whether to lay a criminal charge is also discretionary and the results have been manifest in much of the discriminatory impacts of the current law. There's no reason to believe that's going to change under this ticketing option. The discriminatory impacts of police discretion should be eliminated through full legalization and strict regulation.

To its credit, Bill C-45 does attempt to reduce the prejudicial impacts of this ticketing option and there are provisions designed to prevent the public disclosure of judicial records, but that is dependent on the offender's ability to pay a fine. If a ticket remains unpaid 30 days after a conviction is registered, there is no corresponding right to privacy in a judicial record. I think the problem is obvious. In other words, if you are poor and can't pay a fine, you are further stigmatized through a public record. If you are well off and can pay the fine, your record is sealed. That judicial record is non-disclosable.

Given the research on the impacts of the disclosure of judicial records, the inability of the poor to purchase privacy rights, and the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana offences experienced by marginalized groups, it's quite likely that this ticketing provision in Bill C-45 will be found to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canadian drug policy and legislation is in need of reform. The war on drugs has been a complete and abject failure. The social and financial cost of criminalization outweighs any illusory benefit. Every year, scores of young men and women are killed over relatively small amounts of marijuana, killed because marijuana is illegal. Bill C-45 may limit but it does not end this problem.

Continued criminalization imposes unreasonable penalties on a relatively low-risk activity. In the real world, a drug record means limited employment, limited opportunities to travel, and other devastating collateral consequences. Only full legalization, decriminalization, and regulation of marijuana will truly protect society and remove the unfairness, racism, and over-intrusion by the state into an activity that in the context of existing criminal law is relatively harmless.

I would be happy to answer any questions this committee may have.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you very much. We appreciate your perspective. It certainly leads us down some other roads.

We go now to the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management, Mr. David Johnston, president and chief executive officer.

11:15 a.m.

David Johnston President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management

Thank you very much.

My name is David Johnston. I am president and CEO of CAPDM, which is the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management.

CAPDM represents Canada's pharmacy supply chain, and counts within its membership, pharmaceutical distributors, self-distributing pharmacy chains, and prescription and non-prescription drug manufacturers. CAPDM was founded in 1964, and several of our distributor members have safely and comprehensively been distributing pharmaceutical products in Canada for over 100 years.

I would like to begin with a statement: distribution is not retail.

Effective coordinated wholesale distribution will be an essential element to the successful and safe legalization of cannabis. I'm also going to suggest that distribution has not yet been appropriately addressed by the federal or provincial governments in the current planning activities.

Let me start by providing some background information on the pharmaceutical industry.

Greater than 95% of pharmaceutical products pass through a pharmaceutical distributor. It is the system of choice for governments and industry in Canada for the distribution of pharmaceuticals. As a result, products ranging from over-the-counter headache medications to the most potent controlled substances are delivered to over 9,000 community pharmacies and 900 hospitals every day.

An order placed one day is on the shelf the next day regardless of the pharmacy's location. From a distribution point of view, the cost is the same regardless of destination. Consequently, in Canada there is no disadvantage, no difference, from a distribution point of view if you access your medicines from a small pharmacy in a rural town or a large chain in a downtown urban environment. This safe, secure, and efficient system is a global gold standard, and compares very favourably to other countries and jurisdictions.

Pharmaceutical distributors are also a buffer against drug shortages, helping to smooth out supply and demand between pharmacies and manufacturers by holding several weeks of inventory in their facilities, and working with manufacturers and governments to closely manage supply during times of constrained product availability. The industry is highly regulated through Health Canada, with multiple licences, and our members are subject to strict auditing and reporting requirements.

For a last point in this overview, pharmaceutical distributors support a two-way system; not only do they distribute but they also track the products, and have protocols in place that allow recalled products to be out of the market and back to the distributor within 36 hours.

Back to that opening statement that distribution is not retail, distribution is the movement of product between a producer and the access point, between, in this case, the licenced producer and whatever that public access point will be within the various provinces. Effective distribution is essential to the successful legalization of cannabis.

Discussions to date have been focused on production, and where legalized cannabis will be sold. In fact, in the 52 times the words “distribute” and “distributing” appear in Bill C-45, with little exception, they refer to selling and retailing, not the specific activities of distribution. The word “distributor” does not appear in Bill C-45.

With this background, I would suggest that distribution needs to be an active discussion point, and the pharmaceutical distributors are the natural partners for the distribution of both medical and recreational cannabis. By leveraging this proven and highly successful system, regardless of the final retail point, whether it be a government-controlled retail outlet or a licenced private retailer, Canada will avoid the pending hazards that are looming by not addressing distribution, which have been dramatically and negatively experienced in other jurisdictions. For example, just recently in Nevada's legalization experience, retailers ran out of inventory in the first two weeks after launch because a buffer was not provided by a wholesale distribution system.

With fewer than 10 months until cannabis legalization, this is a crucial moment for the federal, provincial, and territorial governments as they wrestle with many complex issues. The provinces are deeply concerned by the short and, some may say, unrealistic time they face in preparing for legalized cannabis.

From experience, we understand what the provinces face. There are daunting complexities and enormous investments associated with establishing a new regime that incorporates best practices for a highly regulated, secure, and cost-competitive supply chain, is mandated to safeguard public health and safety, and which by its competitiveness will reduce the prevalence of black market cannabis.

The final report from the federal task force stated that a well-functioning distribution system, where the chain of custody is well-controlled, is critical to the overall success of the new regime. We couldn't agree more.

Today, the direction is to have the responsibility of cannabis distribution in the hands of the provinces and the territories. With the regulatory demands we experience every day in our Canadian pharmaceutical supply chain, we cannot imagine a functional and cost-competitive cannabis distribution environment that is built upon a patchwork of varying provincial models and regulations trying to incorporate the federal mandate for tracking, reporting, and recall measures.

Why reinvent a system in each province and territory when a proven one already exists? This is a proven system that is well established and requires minimum government investment, a proven system that already fulfills all of the requirements defined by the federal government and has an existing oversight and audit system, and a proven system that is cost effective, therefore allowing the legal market to out-compete the black market on price.

The adoption of a ready-made cannabis distribution model will deliver a turnkey solution that is ready to go and that relieves significant system stress, as the pharmaceutical wholesalers already have secure infrastructure, processes in place for safeguarding cannabis from diversion, and efficient, low-cost distribution services, keeping cost structures competitive to thwart black market cannabis. This is a channel-agnostic distribution model that will service a wide range of retailers, whether they be government-controlled retail outlets or other channels, a model that is already vigorously regulated via national standards and inspected regularly by Health Canada. Provisions for shipment data on a timely basis, providing government full transparency of product movement and next-day delivery capacities mean that retailers could maintain low inventories, thereby minimizing losses from theft and diversion and a quick and efficient execution of product recalls.

CAPDM and its members recommend, first, that distribution be recognized as essential to the success of legalized cannabis and that effective distribution become a key deliberation point for both federal and provincial governments. Second, we recommend that a national perspective for cannabis distribution be established to avoid an inefficient and potentially dangerous conflicting patchwork of distribution systems, and third, that the safe, secure, efficient, cost-effective, and comprehensive distribution network of the pharmaceutical distribution industry be evaluated as a turnkey option for a national system.

Finally, to return to my opening line that distribution is not retail, for the legalization of cannabis to be successful, strong production, distribution, and retail models are all essential. There are thousands of decisions to be made in the legalization of cannabis. For the essential element of distribution, the pharmaceutical distributors have a turnkey and proven solution to the safe, secure, comprehensive, and cost-efficient distribution of cannabis.

Thank you very much. I would be happy to answer any questions.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you very much. We'll go to the Canadian Pharmacists Association, Dr. Shelita Dattani.

September 11th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.

Shelita Dattani Director, Practice Development and Knowledge Translation, Canadian Pharmacists Association

Good morning, everyone. I thank you for the opportunity to be here today.

My name is Shelita Dattani. I'm a practising pharmacist and I'm the director of practice development and knowledge translation at the Canadian Pharmacists Association. I'm here today on behalf of Canada's 42,000 pharmacists, who are medication experts and whose job it is to ensure that drug therapy is safe and appropriate for our patients.

Every day, pharmacists act as medication stewards on behalf of Canadians. We make sure that each patient's medication and dosage are right for them. We check for and resolve potential drug-related problems, and we work with patients to ensure that they understand their drug therapy. We also address side effects and interactions, and we monitor our patients' progress throughout their therapy.

We've seen more and more patients using medical cannabis over the last decade or so, and pharmacists have become increasingly concerned about the health and safety of these patients, especially those who are using cannabis in combination with or instead of other traditional medications, often without the oversight of a pharmacist. Our concern for patients in the medical cannabis stream further increases as we move towards legalization of recreational cannabis.

We recognize that Bill C-45 focuses mostly on legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes, but it's important that the government understand how the proposed legislation could impact patients relying on medical cannabis as part of their treatment plan for pain, epilepsy, MS, and other conditions.

We want to focus our concern around three areas: the separation of medical and recreational cannabis, the role of pharmacists in medical cannabis, and the use of medical terms such as “dispensary” in recreational sales.

As of March 2017, Health Canada reported over 201,000 patients registered to obtain medical cannabis through licensed producers or personal production. These patients have unique needs that differ from those of recreational cannabis users. Medical users might need strains and forms to alleviate symptoms and minimize intoxication, such as those available through cannabidiol or CBD, whereas recreational users might be seeking euphoric effects and strains with higher THC levels. Medical cannabis users also require the clinical oversight that comes with any medication therapy.

Other jurisdictions, such as Colorado and Washington State, have moved to legalization of cannabis. They have maintained different streams by restricting product strains and forms, establishing distinct access channels for medical cannabis and treating the medical stream as unique.

We are pleased that the Canadian government has signalled its intent to follow these best practices by maintaining two distinct streams once recreational cannabis is legalized in 2018, but we are concerned that current shortcomings in the medical regime could be exacerbated with the move to legalized cannabis if there aren't policies and practices in place to clearly differentiate between medical and recreational streams.

One clear example of this is around costs. If the cost of recreational cannabis is more attractive than that of medical cannabis, or if access is less restricted, patients may choose to go that route and they will be left without medical oversight, which could increase health complications for high-risk patients. The safety of our patients is paramount, and we need to ensure that medical cannabis users are supported and protected through a medical stream once recreational cannabis is legal.

Another consideration is the securing of medical cannabis strains from the recreational market to ensure enough supply of unique medical strains to meet patient needs. Medical cannabis users are often vulnerable patients who may have tried multiple other therapies before turning to cannabis or found only one unique strain of cannabis that provides them with relief. The medical cannabis strains must be protected from the recreational market in order to safeguard against shortages of these particular strains for those patients who use medical cannabis, as other colleagues have said, out of necessity versus choice.

Finally, there are more systemic benefits to maintaining a separate medical stream. Separating the medical cannabis stream would facilitate more clinical research and understanding of this complex drug, and doing so would create a more robust evidence base around the therapeutic benefits and risks for health care providers to inform them in the management of patient care and in the further development of guidelines.

In order to reduce harm, particularly for those who use cannabis for medical purposes, government must take steps to clearly differentiate the two markets before July 2018. A logical first step would be to ensure pharmacists' clinical oversight in dispensing of medical cannabis in Canada.

Across Canada, pharmacists just like me are regularly asked by our patients about the use of cannabis for a variety of different conditions, but as the medication experts on a patient's health care team, we don't currently have a role in dispensing medical cannabis. Health Canada attests to the complexity of cannabis and its potential interactions with other more traditional medications. Given these risks, we believe it's essential that patients have as much support as possible from qualified health care providers to strengthen patient safety and health-system accountability.

As the system works now, patients consult with their physician who may issue a document for medical cannabis. Supply is then managed through mail-order distributors or patient-grown cannabis. None of these options include consultations with medication experts at the point of dispensing to ensure that patients understand why they have been prescribed the medication, the best route and dose of administration for the patient, and potential side effects.

Also, as I've said before, for many patients medical cannabis is a third-line or fourth-line treatment, and these patients are often on a number of other medications. For example, veterans using cannabis to control post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or patients with mental health conditions are also likely to be on a number of other medications, including psychoactive, anti-anxiety, and hypnotic medications. The potential for drug interactions in these patients is considerable, and the need for pharmacists' oversight becomes even more important.

With over 10,000 community pharmacies in rural, urban, and remote locations across this country, pharmacists are patient-centred practitioners who are well positioned to dispense medical cannabis and provide the required clinical oversight. Canadians think of us and their relationship with their local pharmacist when they consider where they will get their medication and who will counsel them and guide them on their medication therapy.

Pharmacists work with controlled substances every day. They have the framework and ability to ensure the safety, security, and tracking of the products that we dispense every day. We regularly use our clinical expertise to detect possible drug-therapy problems, and we're able to mitigate the potential risks associated with medical cannabis, including contraindications in patients with a psychotic illness, for example, or in pregnant patients. Further, we're often able to identify potential addictive behaviour which could lead to misuse or abuse. We should learn from our experience with opioids and the significant potential for addiction to psychoactive medications. We shouldn't make the same mistake by underestimating the need for clinical oversight with medical cannabis and all of its unique complexities.

While CPhA doesn't endorse any specific production or supply system for recreational cannabis other than a regulated process with health promotion as a priority, we believe that for medical cannabis it's essential that patients have as much support as possible from qualified health care providers. Patient safety should be the primary consideration. For this reason, we urge policy-makers to include and support pharmacists in dispensing medical cannabis and ensuring safe and effective use by patients in the medical cannabis strain.

Finally, in line with our call for separate streams for medical and recreational cannabis and the need for pharmacist oversight in the medical stream, our position is that recreational suppliers and retailers of cannabis be prohibited from using pharmacy-related terms such as “dispensary” or symbols such as the green cross.

Since the government announced its intention to legalize cannabis, we have seen a proliferation of so-called dispensaries across the country that claim to sell medical cannabis. As medical cannabis is legal in Canada under certain conditions, many Canadians are unaware that these are in fact illegal operations. The use of the term “dispensary” along with pharmacy symbols further compounds this misconception. We would urge the government to restrict the use of the word “dispensary”, and pharmacy terms and symbols for non-medical cannabis retail sites. These promote the notion that recreational cannabis has health benefits or is a medication, that the retail site is a pharmacy, or that the site has professional oversight from pharmacists. This regulation is particularly important to ensuring public safety and to further distinguishing between the recreational and medical cannabis streams.

Thank you again for the opportunity to represent Canadian pharmacists today. Pharmacists are committed to ensuring that our patients have access to appropriate medication therapy and that their therapy is both safe and effective.

As we move forward with the legalization of recreational cannabis, we're asking the committee to endorse the clear differentiation between the recreational and the medical cannabis streams, to recommend restrictions on the use of pharmacy-related symbols in the recreational stream, and to help strengthen clinical oversight of the medical stream by supporting pharmacists in dispensing and managing medical cannabis in the care of their patients.

Thank you. I'd be pleased to take your questions.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you very much.

Now we'll start our seven-minute round of questions.

I'm going to do the same thing as last time. If the witnesses are answering the questions and we go beyond time, I'm going to allow them to complete the answer. However, I'd ask that members don't interject and add extra questions after the time period is over.

We're going to start questioning with Ms. Sidhu.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to all the panellists.

For clarification, Mr. Spratt, you said that people who are unable to pay tickets are criminalized. In fact, clause 55 states that the ability to pay is a clear consideration in ticketable offences. If you cannot pay, you won't be further punished. I just wanted clarification on this.

11:35 a.m.

Criminal Lawyer, Abergel Goldstein and Partners, As an Individual

Michael Spratt

It's not that you'll be jailed. The act is clear that the judicial record won't have the same privacy protection as it does for someone who can pay. The punishment I speak of isn't incarceration. Rather, it's the devastating impacts, which are well documented, of the disclosure of judicial records. That's how they're punished.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you.

We know that the aim of the legislation is in large part to keep cannabis out of the hands of young Canadians. The federal law has some mandatory measures in place but it doesn't go into the provincial jurisdiction. How is this legislation similar to existing law on alcohol and tobacco use?

This question is to Ms. McLellan.

11:35 a.m.

Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP, As an Individual

Anne McLellan

The legislation has similarities with tobacco regulation. Keep in mind that my colleague Mark Ware and I are here to talk about the task force report and explain why we made the recommendations we did. Government chose in C-45 and C-46 to accept some but not all of our recommendations.

In respect of tobacco regulation, we looked at tobacco regulatory provisions, especially around marketing, advertising, branding, and sponsorship. We felt that the approach taken was a reasonably good one for the promotion of public health, especially as it relates to young people, but not exclusively to young people. Therefore, what you see reflected in the legislation is a desire not to be in the business of permitting promotion or lifestyle advertising in relation to cannabis when it's legalized. In that respect, it's quite similar to the tobacco regulatory regime that you see presently at the federal level.

In relation to alcohol, I think it's fair to say that a lot of the regulatory regime you see around alcohol, whether it is in relation to public education or prevention, outside the driving milieu, is largely within provincial jurisdiction.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Why did the task force feel that a seed-to-sale tracking system was required?

11:35 a.m.

Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP, As an Individual

Anne McLellan

You want to prevent diversion out of your legal, regulated regime into the illicit market. There are many aspects of preventing diversion from the regulated market to the illicit one. However, one of the best ways to do it is through seed-to-sale tracking. This is something that Canadians are familiar with. They're familiar with the language of “gate to plate”, for example, in relation to much of the food that we consume. Seed to sale is something that we saw in place in states like Washington and Colorado to prevent diversion into the illicit market. We saw it at work in the licensed producers we visited as a task force.

You can trace that seed through its growth to whatever form it ultimately appears in within the retail market. It is not only a health promotion and safety mechanism for understanding where the product came from and the quality controls used by the producer or manufacturer. It also helps law enforcement. For example, if that bar code is not there it should tell you, in a regulated system, that you're dealing with illicit product. Likewise, if you find product with a bar code being trafficked, it will tell you it has been diverted.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

The task force has also recommended that the staff be well trained and knowledgeable. What kind of training should be given in relation to the sale of cannabis? What elements do you think are important in that type of training?

11:40 a.m.

Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP, As an Individual

Anne McLellan

I think there might be others here who might offer views, because it depends on how you approach the training. For example, we've heard from our friend from the Canadian Pharmacists Association that, in fact, they would argue very strenuously for training in terms of the medicinal stream. Obviously, they are trained as professional pharmacists who can offer advice, adverse effects counselling, and all those kinds of things one would expect.

In terms of retail, what we recommend is that there be training for those people behind the counter, as there is supposed to be in the sale of alcohol across our country. I think the exact nature of that training is something the provinces will decide. From conversations with the provinces, it's fair to say that some of them, and maybe all of them, are struggling with the exact nature of what that training should look like. That was not something we at the task force level got into at that degree of granularity. What we saw looking at other places that have legalized and in discussions with many, and with our overarching objectives around public health and public safety, is that you need people behind your counter in retail who are trained.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Dr. Carrie.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My first question is for Ms. McLellan. The task force recommended that the production of cannabis and its derivatives, including edibles, be regulated at the federal level. As a former minister, you are aware that regs don't require parliamentary oversight, other than for the Tobacco Act.

Do you believe that regulations should have parliamentary oversight in regard to the production of cannabis and its derivatives?

11:40 a.m.

Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP, As an Individual

Anne McLellan

Parliamentary oversight.... It would seem to me that probably, at the end of the day, you as parliamentarians in this committee can choose to bring before you anyone and any minister, based on my experience, and demand answers and call for oversight.

If your question is more in line with whether edibles should be addressed in federal legislation, absolutely. Should edibles be provided to the market? Absolutely. The task force was very clear in relation to that.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

No, that wasn't my question. I want your opinion. You have been a minister, and you know that regs don't need parliamentary oversight except for tobacco, and now we have this product, cannabis. You have been on the task force.

Should it have parliamentary oversight, its derivatives and cannabis itself?

11:40 a.m.

Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP, As an Individual

Anne McLellan

I have not thought, which is quite obvious, a lot about that, but as I say, I am generally one of those who believe that you're elected to do a certain job and oversight by elected officials is important.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Okay. I guess that's yes.

11:45 a.m.

Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP, As an Individual

Anne McLellan

You heard what I said.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

I sure did.

My next question is for Mr. Spratt. I have understood some of the things you have parlayed about the task force. Ms. McLellan said that what she wanted to do was provide independent advice. Do you think the task force advice was independent?

11:45 a.m.

Criminal Lawyer, Abergel Goldstein and Partners, As an Individual

Michael Spratt

I'm not in a position to comment on whether it was independent. It seems that the mandate was that the task force recommendations not be reproduced line by line as legislation. The difference between the recommendations, edibles being one, and this legislation might speak to how independent or not the task force was.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Did you have any challenges with Ms. McLellan's association with Bennett Jones at all?

11:45 a.m.

Criminal Lawyer, Abergel Goldstein and Partners, As an Individual

Michael Spratt

I think that is something that needs to be considered when looking at this issue. What we have come off of is a century of criminalization, prohibition, and incarceration of individuals who were involved with marijuana. What we're seeing now is large corporations and other entities trying to get some skin in that game legally. The composition of people who are involved with those large organizations may lead to some concern about the fairness of that.