Good morning. As a lawyer, it's always hard to confine oneself to 10 minutes; I'll do it.
To use the metaphor yesterday of travelling on the plane, I've been on this plane for almost 45 years. There have been a number of times when I thought we were going to run out of gas, with various other proposals that have come up in that 45 years, but I think we are coming in for a good landing. It's certainly not a perfect landing, from my point of view, but I think it's going to be a safe landing. We will have some bumps, obviously, along the road.
My experience with this started not long after I was called to the bar in 1972, when the interim Le Dain commission report was tabled. It recommended that the government hybridize, create summary conviction and indictable offences for trafficking back then. It's only just being proposed now, some 45 years later. It recommended the maximum penalty be five years imprisonment, not 14, as you are proposing now, some 45 years later.
In terms of the public education issue, there are studies that go back to 1894, the Indian hemp drugs commission, and you can take seven or eight royal commissions that led up to Le Dain before that. There is more information out there about cannabis than any other drug, if you want to use it for public education, which I understand is one of the concerns.
I was born in Montreal, but after a couple of years, my father, who got a degree in agriculture from McGill, went out to the colonies, so I grew up in central Africa. It wasn't long before I realized that some of the Africans smoked something called dagga, which was cannabis. Years later, my father told me that if he saw a marijuana plant up in around the tobacco plants, he would pull it up and throw it on the ground, as he was a consultant on the growing of tobacco.
I grew up in a situation where there wasn't this concern about cannabis as a problem. When I came back to Canada and started practising law in the early seventies, it wasn't long before I was in front of judges who would drink booze after court and pop Valium, but they would actually sentence people to prison for simple possession of cannabis and lecture them about it. The hypocrisy of what was going on, at that period of time, was something that certainly motivated me, in terms of the cases I was doing.
In those early days, we didn't have people growing marijuana. The market was coming in from Los Angeles, as Arlo Guthrie said, or we used to get it from Thailand, Colombia, and so on. They were all big import cases. It was only over time, with the ingenuity of Canadians, people figured out how to grow it indoors and create something called B.C. Bud, which became popular. We became an export economy after we had been an import economy for years.
I can remember one of my first growing cases was a young man who decided to grow a few plants out in his yard in Clearbrook, B.C. The police didn't know how to operate their own camera, so he helped take the pictures for them. When we went to court, they were actually dragging the plants along the floor and people were scooping up the material behind them. That was in the mid-seventies. That was the nature of what was going on, in terms of the production of cannabis in those early days, which has of course changed substantially ever since.
In those early days, I used to have drug squad, other police officers, and fellow lawyers come up to me and tell me I was trying to ruin a good thing by speaking out and that saying it was crazy for us to use prohibition on this subject. Now, at least I have the police coming up to me often, saying that they hope we win. Things have changed considerably since those old days.
I was counsel in R. v. Malmo-Levine and R. v. Caine, which was the challenge to prohibition, which went to the Supreme of Canada in about 2003. I incorporated the BC Compassion Club Society about 20 years ago and it's had senators, members of parliament, and many others go through it and compliment it on the way it operates, including the recent task force. I was also counsel in Allard.
You should have a five-page summary that I put together, as well an appendix, which are the excerpts from the court on the issue that you've asked me to address, which is the household cultivation.
I should step back and give you history, which some of you are probably aware of. When the BC Compassion Club Society first started, the patients had an authorization under section 53 of the narcotic control act, which at that time authorized practitioners to give, sell, administer, or prescribe any narcotic to a patient for a medical condition that they were treating them for. That was the basis for the Compassion Club, which was checked out by the police and everything in those days, and allowed to continue.
Subsequently, there was the Parker case here in Ontario, which determined that a medically approved patient had to be given reasonable access. When the government of the day ultimately determined that the marihuana medical access regulations, MMAR, was the way to do that, and that compelled people to.... The only source was for them to grow for themselves or have someone grow for them.
While we attempted to convince the government in those days that they should allow somebody to grow more so we would have fewer grows, they said you can grow for two, instead of one. We went back to court to say we should be able to have more in one place than just one or two grows, and they said you could have four. We did make efforts to try to have people grow for more people so we'd have fewer home-grows, but the number of home-grows went to some 38,000 by March of 2014.
That was the situation we were faced with when a new government decided it would introduce the marihuana for medical purposes regulations and take away that right to grow or the designated grower, which had existed for some 10 years. We went to court and got an injunction from Justice Manson in March of 2014. That basically allowed those who had a grow licence under the MMAR to continue to do so, as long as it was valid on September 30, 2013, and their authorization to possess had to be valid on the date of the injunction, which was March of 2014.
We then continued with the case, and ultimately Justice Phelan, in the Federal Court, ruled that indeed the new regulations were unconstitutional because they failed to provide reasonable access. The evidence from the patients was that they would go to a licensed producer, maybe get what they wanted the first time, and then get on a waiting list and be waiting to receive, in the mail, their medicine, which they needed. It wasn't working.
The evidence established that the patients voted with their feet and went to the dispensaries. There were only a few of those in the early days, the Compassion Club being one of them. However, suddenly there was a huge increase in the number of dispensaries, because those people in the business of trying to sell cannabis and make money out of it figured out that this was where to go. The same then happened here in Ontario, particularly in Toronto. The surge in dispensaries occurred, and it established—I think as Jonathan Page said earlier—that most people don't want to grow for themselves or have somebody grow for them, they want to be able to go to a store to purchase and get information and not just wait to get it in the mail. That's the current situation.
I have a minute, so I'll just jump to the topic.
In the context of that case, which deals with the entitlement of medically approved patients to have reasonable access and includes their ability to grow, we were faced with the police, Corporal Holmquist, and Chief Len Garis from Surrey, vocal opponents of home-grows, going on about fire, mould, public safety, and so on. We established, as we do in trials after examination and cross-examination of the witnesses, that they lacked credibility totally. Justice Phelan found that Holmquist was totally biased and not to be credited, as was Chief Garis. We clearly established that all of these things in a legal market can be reasonably and safely done. All of the evidence they relied upon was from the illicit market, where people were cutting corners, staying underground, and not complying with anything.
Today, the inspectors I deal with in local government tell me that the last thing they want is to go back to those old days.
The big issue nowadays is not a great problem in terms of fire, electrical safety, mould, and so on. They're very easy to deal with. The most common complaint is smell, so stinking out the neighbourhood or not impacting your neighbours is the critical thing that needs to be addressed.
I want to very quickly, then, close by saying that Mr. Dickie and I managed to chat a bit before coming in. He represents the apartment owners and I support what he says in the sense that, again, you don't want to allow people to do things where they may put their neighbours at risk or impact negatively on their neighbours. But you can't just sit back and say, well, then, we're going to prohibit it, because that will not work. It hasn't worked for as long as I've been practising.
I think you're going to have to look at Washington state community gardens, or something. Most people don't have a dwelling-house, as the act defines it, with some land surrounding it, and so on. You're going to have to figure out something so that they'll be encouraged to do it in a safe place. We do have bloom boxes, which are engineered solutions, but most people can't afford them and they'll take up most of the apartment.
I think reasonable regulation is what we want, but we're heading in the right direction.