Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee. As the chair has already introduced me and my colleagues, I'll dispense with introductions.
As public servants, we're responsible for providing advice and support to ministers in developing this proposed legislation. I should also note that Bill C-46 was introduced to strengthen the laws for drug-impaired driving. It's being studied by the justice committee.
Mr. Chair, your committee is embarking on the study of an important, complex, and transformative piece of legislation. On behalf of my colleagues, I'd like to provide the committee with a brief overview of the proposed legislation. I'll focus on three main aspects. The first is the context that has informed the development of the new control framework for cannabis in this bill and the government's objectives. Second, I will highlight some of the key provisions of the bill, in particular the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government. In doing so, I will also describe how we're working with our provincial and territorial colleagues collaboratively. Third, I will describe the equally important work that is under way to support this legislative change, including increased public education and awareness focused on the health and safety risks of cannabis use.
Let me begin by describing the current context. Canada has some of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. Of particular concern are current patterns of use that we're seeing among teens and young adults. More than one in five Canadians between the ages of 15 and 19 say they have used cannabis in the last year. The rate is higher still for young adults. Nearly one in three Canadians between the ages of 20 and 24 report using cannabis in the past 12 months. These rates of use are of concern given that the risks of cannabis use are higher for youth than for adults and that the risks increase the younger they start using it and the more often they use it.
Alongside these high rates of use among youth and young adults is an illegal market that's valued at $7 billion annually for organized crime and those who choose to break the law. This illegal market also places a considerable strain on the resources of Canada's criminal justice system. We see the results in the prosecution of simple possession offences. In 2016 Statistics Canada reported that over three-quarters of cannabis-related charges were for possession of cannabis.
Mr. Chair, against this backdrop it becomes clear that the status quo has not been effective at deterring use or preventing easy access to cannabis for young people. With Bill C-45 the government is setting out a new proposed control framework for cannabis. The government's objectives are clearly laid out at clause 7 of the proposed bill. These objectives are to protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis, and to protect them from inducements to use cannabis. It also seeks to deter illegal activities through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures. It provides for the legal production of cannabis to reduce these illegal activities. It seeks to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system. It would allow adults to possess and access regulated, quality-controlled cannabis. Very importantly, it would enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.
The proposed act is closely aligned with the findings of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation. The task force consulted widely and extensively. It sought expert opinion from public health, justice, and law enforcement, among others. It sought the view of provincial, territorial, and municipal governments; U.S. state government officials; and, of course, Canadians.
The proposed act would create strict national rules that will control the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis in Canada. It would allow adults to have legal, strictly regulated access to cannabis that they could obtain through either a government-licensed seller or growing it in limited amounts at home.
In particular, the bill proposes a number of measures designed specifically to better protect young people from cannabis. For example, it would be illegal for adults to sell or to distribute cannabis to anyone under the age of 18, and provinces and territories could increase this minimum age.
The act would create two new criminal offences with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail for distributing or selling cannabis to a young person or using a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence. The act would also prohibit promotion and advertising of cannabis that could be appealing to young people, similar to the restrictions we have in place right now for tobacco. It would also prohibit products, packaging, and labelling that are appealing to youth.
Adults would be permitted to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public or an equivalent amount in other forms. There would be penalties for those who break these new rules, and these penalties would be proportional to the seriousness of the offence. There would be ticketing options for minor offences. More serious violations, such as illegal commercial production or taking cannabis across Canada's borders, would be subject to fines or imprisonment.
I'd like to turn now to the roles and responsibilities of the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. In keeping with the advice of the task force, the proposed act sets out a shared framework for the control and regulation of cannabis, which would require ongoing federal, provincial, and territorial co-operation. Under the proposed act, the federal government would be responsible for licensing and regulating the production of cannabis, including setting and enforcing high standards for health and safety. Consistent with their jurisdictional authorities and experience, the provincial and territorial governments would be able to regulate the distribution and sale of cannabis in their respective jurisdictions.
Provinces and territories together with municipalities would also have broad flexibility to adapt certain rules into their own jurisdictions and to enforce them through a range of tools including tickets. These could include setting a higher minimum age or stricter limits on personal possession or personal cultivation. Local governments would also have responsibility for establishing rules around whether cannabis can be consumed in public, enacting zoning bylaws governing where stores may be located, policing, and enforcing bylaws.
Mr. Chair, coordination among various levels of government is and will continue to be absolutely essential. For that reason, in spring 2016 federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of health, public safety, and justice established a working group of officials to facilitate consultation, information sharing, and collaboration throughout the design and implementation of this proposed legislation. Since that time, senior officials have been meeting every three weeks to discuss key issues, consult each other, share information, and coordinate our respective efforts, and this collaboration will continue.
Provinces and territories are preparing. Many jurisdictions have announced plans or launched public consultations or their intention to do so. We are completely committed to working together collaboratively in the months ahead as our respective jurisdictions prepare for potential implementation of this legislation if it is approved by Parliament.
Mr. Chair, as I near the conclusion of my remarks today, I'd like to describe briefly a couple of other dimensions of work that will support this legislation. First is a system of comprehensive monitoring and surveillance. It will help us to evaluate the implementation of the legislation and to make appropriate adjustments as necessary just as other jurisdictions, such as Colorado and Washington, have done. Second, as I mentioned as the outset of my remarks, is a comprehensive public education and awareness campaign in concert with provinces and territories, municipal health authorities, and other key partners. This campaign will provide Canadians, especially young Canadians, with the information they need to be informed about the health and safety risks of cannabis use.
In closing, Mr. Chair, I wish to emphasize that Bill C-45 seeks to provide a new, more effective control framework for cannabis, one that can ensure greater protection for young people and that will, in time, displace the illegal market. With that, we would be most happy to answer the committee's questions.