Evidence of meeting #66 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was youth.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jonathan Page  Chief Executive Officer, Anandia Labs
John Conroy  Barrister, As an Individual
John Dickie  President, Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations
Scott Bernstein  Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
Ian Culbert  Executive Director, Canadian Public Health Association
Christina Grant  Member of the Adolescent Health Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society
Judith Renaud  Executive Director, Educators for Sensible Drug Policy
Paul Renaud  Communications Director, Educators for Sensible Drug Policy
Peter A. Howlett  President, Portage
Peter Vamos  Executive Director, Portage
Amy Porath  Director, Research and Policy, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
Marc Paris  Executive Director, Drug Free Kids Canada
William J. Barakett  Member, DFK Canada Advisory Council, Drug Free Kids Canada
François Gagnon  Scientific Advisor, Institut national de santé publique du Québec
Maude Chapados  Scientific Advisor, Institut national de santé publique du Québec
Gabor Maté  Retired Physician, As an Individual
Benedikt Fischer  Senior Scientist, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Bernard Le Foll  Medical Head, Addiction Medicine Service, Acute Care Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Eileen de Villa  Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health, City of Toronto
Sharon Levy  Director, Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, Boston Children's Hospital, As an Individual
Michelle Suarly  Chair, Cannabis Task Group, Ontario Public Health Association
Elena Hasheminejad  Member, Cannabis Task Group, Ontario Public Health Association

12:25 p.m.

President, Portage

Peter A. Howlett

No, it's for a wide range of substances.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

You are obviously concerned about Bill C-45 in your comments. One of your recommendations was that the federal government should ensure that all provinces receive payments or sufficient funding to deal with the health issues that will arise from the legalization of marijuana.

Do you see an increase in demand for your service after this legislation is in place?

September 13th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.

President, Portage

Peter A. Howlett

I think it's evident to everybody that the supply of marijuana is not going to decrease. Cannabis is not going to decrease. It's going to increase. The issue of approach that has been identified as an essential concern is what is preoccupying me as an individual and, I think, most of my colleagues as well.

There are ways to approach young people and ways clearly not to, and their inclination to listen and to be influenced by individuals is largely tied to their heroes and influencers of the moment. We have to be very thoughtful about how the messaging is communicated to them.

We're dealing with a situation. Supply is not in decline and won't be in decline. We also have a cultural environment to deal with where it has been cool, and marijuana has some outdated benchmarking against other drugs. It's as if it's less dangerous and less concerning, and therefore, if you indulge in the lesser evil you're within certain boundaries of safety. The fact that there are images of all the cool guys using it is the concern.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Ms. Sidhu.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you, Chair.

In 2015, the highest use of cannabis in Canada was among youth, at 21%. My question is to Mr. Culbert. You said the illicit cannabis market is like public health Russian roulette. Could you expand on the risks for public health and safety if we adopt a higher minimum age, as some people have suggested?

12:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Public Health Association

Ian Culbert

Certainly. As my colleagues have mentioned, 21% of 15- to 19-year-olds are using. If you set that age higher, at 21 or 25, you're forcing those young people to continue to go to the illegal market to obtain their product. It's not like they are going to stop. Complete prohibition hasn't stopped them. An age limitation is not going to stop them either.

Interestingly, partially we see such high rates of cannabis use in this country because our work around minimum drinking ages has been so successful. Also, there are limits on legal outlets for alcohol sales. In many parts of this country, especially in rural areas, it is much easier to get cannabis than it is to get alcohol. In fact, the cannabis comes right to your school.

Setting that age, despite the neurological evidence that may support it, is in effect going to continue the harms for those young people.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you.

You said in your statement that we don't have the luxury of time. Canadians are already using cannabis. When it comes to enacting the legislation, we have heard from some witnesses that more time is needed. What would be the risk of delaying?

12:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Public Health Association

Ian Culbert

The risk of delay is added confusion amongst the population. We've signalled that we are moving in this direction. There's always that perception of a need for more time. The foundational work in Bill C-45 is on the right track. The provinces and territories have known since October 2015 that this was coming, and they have been working towards this. Will it be perfect on July 1, 2018? No, but the provinces will be on the right track.

The harm associated with the potential delay is that you're keeping all Canadians under a criminalized model that has serious negative consequences for all.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

To the educators, do you think a shift of public education along with legalization would achieve the same results?

12:30 p.m.

Communications Director, Educators for Sensible Drug Policy

Paul Renaud

Yes, we do think that. Education around alcohol, for example, has been very effective, as has education on reducing the rates of tobacco use among youth. Those are the direct results of education campaigns aimed at youth groups, so I see no reason to think that the same paradigm would not work with cannabis consumption among youth.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Mr. Bernstein.

12:30 p.m.

Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Scott Bernstein

Yes, I agree with that. Youth use is not going to decrease based on criminalization. Education is important as part of this legislation. It should be thought of as a key approach to addressing youth consumption, as I mentioned earlier.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

The next question is to Ms. Grant. You said we need adequate investment in youth. You mentioned the cannabis YouTube channel and the need for a clear message. What kind of message, what kind of approach should we take for educational and health purposes? Health is a priority for our government, for all Canadians. Can you expand on that?

12:30 p.m.

Member of the Adolescent Health Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society

Dr. Christina Grant

Basically there needs to be a huge education campaign for young people and for families as part of it, similar to what Ian has already mentioned, to have conversations about the actual facts. What are the facts? What are the risks? It's communicating that clearly to Canadians, to families—to parents and young people—so that educators, physicians, etc., can be talking about it.

Harnessing the voices of youth and youth leaders would be really important to making those messages appealing, using the kind of language and words that will resonate with young people. They'll be able to see themselves, to understand. The peer-to-peer piece is important.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you. The time is up.

Mr. Davies.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

Mr. Culbert, given your clear description of the harms caused by criminalization and the urgency to pass this bill accordingly, would you urge the Minister of Justice to direct prosecutors to cease charging Canadians for simple possession right now, pending passage of this bill?

12:30 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Public Health Association

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

Ms. Renaud, Mr. Renaud, would you agree with that?

12:30 p.m.

Executive Director, Educators for Sensible Drug Policy

Judith Renaud

Yes, absolutely.

12:30 p.m.

Communications Director, Educators for Sensible Drug Policy

Paul Renaud

Yes, absolutely.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

It would seem to be logical that if much of the harm that you've described to us here today has to do with the criminalized context in cannabis—organized crime involvement, the lack of product safety, the stigma and lifelong problems of criminal records that can attach to people—this is something we could and should be doing right now as well.

Dr. Grant, we haven't talked about smoking. I take it that from a pediatric point of view, smoking any substance of any type, tobacco or otherwise, would have significant and serious health impacts.

Would you say that it would be better from a health perspective to try to encourage the legal ingestion of cannabis by non-smoking methods, at least in terms of the respiratory system?

12:30 p.m.

Member of the Adolescent Health Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society

Dr. Christina Grant

If you're speaking solely of respiratory issues, of course not smoking is better, but there are unique risks with the edibles. We're back to the edibles again. For example, youth who are experimenting with edibles may be expecting to feel the effects of the cannabis sooner because of either what they've heard or what they've experienced with smoking it. There are reports in the literature of concerns that youth, when they are consuming edibles, will consume more and more because their body hasn't metabolized it yet and they haven't had the high yet from it, resulting in significant overdose and ingestion.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Has anybody ever died from that?

12:30 p.m.

Member of the Adolescent Health Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society

Dr. Christina Grant

Not to my knowledge.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Has anybody died from smoking?

I'm sorry, you're nodding. I take it that's a yes, that people have died from smoking.