Evidence of meeting #67 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was legal.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Lynda Balneaves  Registered Nurse and Medical and Non-Medical Cannabis Researcher, Canadian Nurses Association
Karey Shuhendler  Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association
Serge Melanson  Doctor, New Brunswick Medical Society
Robert Strang  Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness
Michael DeVillaer  Assistant Professor, Policy Analyst, McMaster University, As an Individual
Mark Kleiman  Professor of Public Policy, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University, As an Individual
Trina Fraser  Partner, Brazeau Seller LLP
Brenda Baxter  Director General, Workplace Directorate, Labour Program, Department of Employment and Social Development
Norm Keith  Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
Clara Morin Dal Col  Minister of Health, Métis National Council
Isadore Day  Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario
Wenda Watteyne  Senior Policy Advisor, Métis National Council
David Hammond  Professor, University of Waterloo, School of Public Health and Health Systems, As an Individual
Mike Hammoud  President, Atlantic Convenience Stores Association
Melodie Tilson  Director of Policy, Non-Smokers' Rights Association
Pippa Beck  Senior Policy Analyst, Non-Smokers' Rights Association
Steven Hoffman  Professor, Faculty of Health, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, As an Individual
Beau Kilmer  Co-Director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center
Kirk Tousaw  Lawyer, Tousaw Law Corporation
Stephen Rolles  Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation

9:35 a.m.

Professor of Public Policy, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University, As an Individual

Mark Kleiman

If I may, on the age question, it's a very difficult question. It's certainly true that 16-year-olds get their supplies from 18-year-olds, so establishing an 18-year-old age limitation is going to increase use among younger people. It's also true that criminal records are catastrophic, but cannabis arrest is much more dangerous than most patterns of cannabis use.

Here is a possible compromise. In the U.S., states that vigorously enforce their law against direct sales from retailers to people under 21 experience reductions in alcohol use down the age range and in drunken driving down the age range, so that appears to be effective. That needn't be coupled with criminalization of possession or use by people under whatever the legal age is. If you enforce the law on the seller rather than criminalizing the buyer, I think you can get most of the benefit of the age restriction with relatively little of the cost.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Very good, thank you.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thanks very much.

Mr. Davies.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses.

Mr. Strang, I want to start with you. I want to quote from the final report of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation:

Canada's governments, and many other organizations, will need to work quickly to prepare for the implementation of the new system, increasing or developing capacity in many areas relating to production, distribution and retail, quality control and enforcement, and research and surveillance. This increase in capacity will require new resources (human and financial), enhancements to existing institutions and the creation of new ones. Having all elements in place will be necessary for the proper functioning of the regime.

Some provinces are saying they'll have difficulty being fully prepared for the legalization of cannabis on July 1. Given that many of the capacities that I just mentioned will fall to the provinces, does Nova Scotia have any concerns in this regard?

9:40 a.m.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness

Dr. Robert Strang

I need to emphasize I'm not here representing the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia. I'm here representing the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health. But I will say that, like many other provinces, we're working as hard and fast as we can through a complex situation.

My last point is that we really need to understand that the current situation, where cannabis is illegal but there's a huge amount of use, is going to continue. If we delay the shift to legalization, it's not going to decrease use. It will actually continue the kind of grey zone we have now where the rules are very unclear.

My own opinion is that it won't be perfect, but the sooner we move to a legal framework, under which we can then start to work on the other pieces, will create clarity for Canadians, clarity for the health system, and clarity for our criminal justice folks.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Dr. DeVillaer, you have recommended that the Canadian government immediately decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. Why?

9:40 a.m.

Assistant Professor, Policy Analyst, McMaster University, As an Individual

Michael DeVillaer

The first thing is certainly the number—the tens of thousands—of Canadians who are continuing to receive criminal records. As someone has already pointed out, in the great majority of cases, these criminal records will do far more harm than the use of cannabis. This type of decriminalization can be done fairly easily, and it's been done.

Canada is actually a bit of an outlier in this regard. There are 32 countries—the last time I looked—that have decriminalized cannabis; that is, they have stopped giving people criminal records for simple possession of small amounts of cannabis. Even in the U.S. we hear so much about.... I think there are seven or eight states now that have either legalized or are in the process of legalizing cannabis. There are actually twice that number that have consciously decided to choose decriminalization over legalization. That's important.

This is something that should have been done a long time ago. I wish it would have been done when this campaign began. I wish it would have begun when the idea was introduced to the House of Commons in June of last year by Murray Rankin. There is a simple solution to this called the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, and it could be invoked to asked enforcement agencies and crown attorneys to cease and desist charging people with cannabis.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

Ms. Shuhendler—

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Just a second, Professor Kleiman has a—

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I'll be coming to—

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

He wants to respond to that question.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Okay. Quickly, Mr. Kleiman.

9:45 a.m.

Professor of Public Policy, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University, As an Individual

Mark Kleiman

This is a question on which I've changed my mind over time. I used to think that punishing users was an important way of suppressing illicit markets, and if that were true, I think I'd still be for it. I think the evidence now is that no country has created enough of a threat on users to substantially decrease consumption. The main impact of punishing users is merely to punish users. This is not merely for cannabis, but also for drugs that we keep completely illegal. I think the practice of punishing drug users is probably a mistake and ought to be abandoned.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you. I will be coming back to you, sir, with another question.

Ms. Shuhendler, if I heard your evidence correctly, you said that the criminalization approach to cannabis has negative consequences. Is that correct? Did I hear your evidence correctly?

9:45 a.m.

Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association

Karey Shuhendler

We were speaking specifically to criminalization for youth, but yes.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Does the criminalized approach have negative consequences for youth?

9:45 a.m.

Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

You're probably aware that Bill C-45 retains a criminalized approach.

9:45 a.m.

Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

It will continue to criminalize things like possession of over 30 grams and cultivation of over four plants.

A 20-year-old selling to a 14-year-old would face potentially up to 14 years in prison. Will that approach continue negative consequences on youth, in your view?

9:45 a.m.

Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association

Karey Shuhendler

I think that's an excellent question.

I think, for the purpose of our brief, in the surveying of our nurses across the country, we wanted to focus on the disproportionate disadvantage for decriminalizing for youth. We did not dive further into the excellent points that you raised, that we heard addressed earlier, a few days ago, by this panel. I think a criminalized approach can be dangerous. The role of nurses in this is really to focus on providing an open space for education, so the move toward legalization is definitely a way to do that.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

Is it Dr. Kleiman or Mr. Kleiman? I'm not sure.

9:45 a.m.

Professor of Public Policy, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University, As an Individual

Mark Kleiman

Mister, please.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Okay. Mr. Kleiman, I don't know if I understood your evidence correctly, but I thought I heard you say when you were talking about the tax policy that you recommended the price of $50 per gram. Did I hear that correctly?

September 14th, 2017 / 9:45 a.m.

Professor of Public Policy, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University, As an Individual

Mark Kleiman

No, I'm sorry, I meant $50 per gram of THC. For ordinarily potent cannabis in the U.S., which is now about 20% THC by weight, it would be something like $10 per gram, which was the illicit price in the U.S.