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

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

The time's up.

Thanks very much. That completes our seven-minute round, and we'll go to five-minute rounds, starting with Dr. Carrie.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank everybody for being here.

To the Vancouver police, I think you were corrected by my colleague from Winnipeg about how there were penalties and ticketing in this legislation. I had it checked. There are no required penalties for underage possession of up to five grams. It was Ontario that announced last week they would allow police to confiscate pot from those under 19, so in fact, you were correct. I want to correct the record in that regard.

My first question is for the CBSA. I'm from Oshawa, and you know what? We're a border city. We do a lot of trade. Some of our truck drivers go back and forth across the border many times per day. We're really concerned about the thickening of the border. As my colleague in the NDP said, there has been some questioning, and people are being turned back just for admitting that they've used recreational marijuana. With this legislation, do you see this becoming an even bigger issue?

4:50 p.m.

Director General, Enforcement and Intelligence Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Jennifer Lutfallah

I think that at this point I can't speculate as to what kind of impact it's going to have on the U.S.-Canada border with respect to entry into the United States.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Do you think it will get better with this legislation?

4:50 p.m.

Director General, Enforcement and Intelligence Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Jennifer Lutfallah

Do I think it will get better...?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Sure.

4:55 p.m.

Director General, Enforcement and Intelligence Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Jennifer Lutfallah

Do I think it would facilitate entry?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Yes. I answered it in one way, and I'll ask you the question the other way.

4:55 p.m.

Director General, Enforcement and Intelligence Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Jennifer Lutfallah

No, I don't think it will facilitate entry. I think the CBP officer is going to assess each case presented to him or her and is going to ask questions based on the merits of each individual trying to seek entry.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Yes. I don't think it's going to be helping our trade with Mr. Trump and the United States. Anyway, the next question is for the Canadian Medical Association.

First of all, I appreciate your stance. Canadians expect the government to look after the health and safety of Canadians and put that priority first. They don't expect compromise, and to see the government looking at this substance when the evidence is quite clear that up to age 25 there are significant consequences for our youth in utilizing it.... What do you think? Should the government be basing the legal age of marijuana consumption on science or on this compromise that they're going back and forth on?

Does it even make medical sense to you that they would compromise to such a significant amount? That's not only in terms of having it at age 18, but I think you're well aware that under this legislation kids aged 12 to 17 can have five grams. Five grams, to my understanding, can be 10 to 15 joints. What do you think of the lack of respect for science in this decision that the government has put forth for age18?

4:55 p.m.

President, Canadian Medical Association

Dr. Laurent Marcoux

I will tell you—and I'll ask Jeff to go on with it—that it's damaging if they can at the age of 12, before they are 25.... If it's done a little every day for a long time, it will be damaging for sure. I don't know how we can manage it in the proper way.

Mr. Blackmer, would you continue with the answer, please?

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Medical Professionalism, Canadian Medical Association

Dr. Jeff Blackmer

I'll reiterate what I said before, which is that for us one of the most challenging aspects of the discussion has been around the age. We've been a little surprised that people haven't been more respectful of the evidence and the real potential for damage.

These are not theoretical lab models. These are studies, and we know that the earlier people start, the greater the damage, the more permanent it is, and the greater the likelihood of becoming addicted to marijuana. We have all the statistics. We have all the evidence we need in terms of the effects on education, career attainment, IQ levels, and all of these types of things, yet we keep hearing that we need to keep it consistent with the age of alcohol.

Again, to us, this argument doesn't hold water. We have a few concerns with the bill. This is definitely one of them. We'd really like to see more emphasis placed on health and safety, exactly as you're saying. This is really one way the government could show that it's serious: by taking the medical evidence more seriously than we think it has been to date. Again, we understand that there are other issues at play. We're very respectful of those issues. We understand the other priorities that the government and others have, but we continue to believe that health and safety should be the primary consideration.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

It appears that it's going to be a huge experiment on the Canadian public. Unfortunately, they seem intent on moving that way.

Here's what I'd like to ask the Vancouver police. The federal government is moving forward with this and, as was brought up, with very limited funds available to the people on the ground. It seems that there is not a lot of money for enforcement tools, public education, training for on-the-ground police officers, or even the science when you guys are going to be tasked with deciding if a person is impaired while they drive. I've not seen a valid driving test. I've seen how you can tell whether somebody has consumed or not, but as for whether they are impaired, there is not even a scientifically valid test for that yet.

Do you think the government has focused on ensuring the necessary law enforcement and public safety dimensions are incorporated into the legislation, or do you think that's significantly lacking?

4:55 p.m.

Insp Martin Bruce

Our concern would basically be the application at the street level. As you mentioned, determining if someone is impaired by marijuana while driving, for example, requires a drug recognition expert. For just one of those individuals, there's an intensive training course, and they have to be recertified every year.

The last figure I heard—I'm not sure that it's completely accurate—is that there are approximately 400 drug recognition experts in all of Canada at this time. If we're going to see a spike in impaired driving through the use of marijuana, our issue there will be whether we have enough resources on the street to have these experts trained in time to deal with it. That's the basis of our concern.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

What about the blood test? Is that even constitutional?

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

I'm sorry, Dr. Carrie. Your time is up.

Ms. Sidhu.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thanks to all of you for being here.

My first question is for the Canada Border Services Agency. What plan does the agency presently have in place to ensure cannabis is not imported or exported for non-medical purposes, while also not slowing down border crossing?

5 p.m.

Director General, Enforcement and Intelligence Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Jennifer Lutfallah

We do have mechanisms to control the export of contraband goods. Is that what your question is focusing on?

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Yes.

5 p.m.

Director General, Enforcement and Intelligence Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Jennifer Lutfallah

As part of the CBSA's mandate to support public safety and facilitate the free flow of individuals, we do control the goods entering or exiting the country. We use a variety of threat and risk assessment methodologies, intelligence, and supporting technologies to potentially identify contraband—in this case, marijuana—that is entering or exiting the country.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you.

My next question is for the Vancouver Police Department. Any market for cannabis is, in effect, an illicit market; however, young Canadians presently have easier access to cannabis than they do to cigarettes, which are legal. How do you expect the legalization of and restrictions on cannabis to impact both the illicit market and youth access?

September 11th, 2017 / 5 p.m.

Staff Sergeant Bill Speam Organized Crime Section, Vancouver Police Department

I guess our concern is that in allowing the homegrown, youth would have more access to marijuana, rather than trying to keep them away from marijuana by, let's say, putting it in a storefront. Having every residence in the country permitted to grow four plants would in turn give youth easier access to it than putting it behind a store shelf.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Are there any ways to detect cannabis use that do not require invasive searches such as blood tests? What training do police officers presently receive in recognizing impairment caused by cannabis use? Has any level of THC in the blood been agreed upon as indicating that an individual's ability to drive is impaired?

5 p.m.

Insp Martin Bruce

We're aware of and in fact Vancouver police took part in a trial of screening devices at roadside. We're not sure exactly how that's going to work. In application, one of the devices requires the tongue to be scraped, so do we have a compliant individual at the roadside...?

Again, to make the determination as to whether someone is impaired, the drug recognition expert program, as was mentioned previously, is the principal way to do that. Most agencies, I would speculate, will not have enough members who are trained in that particular skill to cope with what we anticipate to be a rise in impaired driving due to marijuana. That's the dilemma.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you.

To the CBSA, what kind of public awareness and education campaign relating to cannabis use will be implemented, prior to the coming into force of Bill C-45, in regard to border-crossing? Many cross every day. To escape the hassle, what kind of education will need to be in place before the enforcement of Bill C-45?