Mr. Chair, clause 8 of the bill sets out a limit of Canadians possessing no more than 30 grams of dried cannabis in public. The purpose of my amendment would be to delete that, so that there is not a limit of possession of 30 grams distinguishing a Canadian who is not a criminal from one who is a criminal.
The rationale for this again comes largely from the evidence, and I think from logic as well. It's completely arbitrary to restrict possession to 30 grams. This legislation would say that someone in public who has 29 grams of cannabis is a law-abiding citizen, and someone who has 31 grams of cannabis is a criminal who is subject to a jail sentence of up to five years.
There is no clear policy goal satisfied by that distinction. I don't think anybody in this room—frankly, anybody in the country—could make a compelling argument that someone with 31 grams of cannabis in public is doing anything inherently more criminal than someone with 29 grams.
Even worse, this measure will continue to impose all of the harms of criminalization that the purpose of the bill that the Liberal government has just passed claims to ameliorate or to enforce. We know that taking up police resources, clogging up our courts, and criminalizing Canadians for simply possessing cannabis in amounts that are clearly for personal use or for use among friends serves no valid purpose and in fact does a great deal of harm. It costs our society billions of dollars. It makes our court time valuable so that more serious crimes get shifted into the future. In some cases, people facing serious crimes don't even have a trial at all because of the Jordan principle and because our courts are clogged up with minor and petty cannabis offences.
We don't treat alcohol or tobacco this way. We don't criminalize adult possession of amounts of alcohol because that is inconsistent with the concept of a legalized market. Anyone in this room could back a van up to a liquor store and fill up the van with cases and cases of scotch. In fact, you could fill up a semi-trailer with cases of scotch and drive away. That's not an offence in this country. We heard evidence—it's clear—that alcohol and tobacco are clearly more dangerous to health than cannabis is. Nobody who looks at the evidence even disputes that anymore, yet this legislation says that if you have 31 grams in public, you're a criminal. It makes no sense.
I want to talk briefly about a theme, because it is important for Canadians. This may be a distinction without a difference, but Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals campaigned in the last election on legalizing cannabis. This bill has more sections on criminalization of cannabis than exist in the current Criminal Code. It does not legalize cannabis; it makes it less illegal. It is still a criminal offence punishable by jail to have 31 grams or more in your possession. That's not legalization. We could argue that it's better than the status quo, and I would probably agree with that, but it's not legalization.
There is no argument that we heard in five days of hearings with some 90 witnesses that cogently explained why 30 grams exists, why that number was chosen, and why anybody with more than that or less than that is a criminal or not. Neil Boyd testified:
The idea that we would pass legislation that would retain a criminal offence of possession of cannabis seems to me to be inconsistent with at least part of the logic of this. I know that the Prime Minister has repeatedly said it's about eliminating the black market and reducing access, but part of it is also about recognizing that people who have used cannabis, or who use cannabis, do not deserve the label of “criminal”.
Kirk Tousaw said:
Bill C-45...contemplates criminal penalties being applied to adult Canadians who possess more than 30 grams of cannabis or grow more than four 100-centimetre plants per household. These are [completely] arbitrary numbers. These criminal restrictions are decidedly unlike the way our country regulates alcohol, a vastly and inarguably more dangerous substance than cannabis. At this moment in Canada, a 19-year-old can walk into a liquor store and purchase enough alcohol to kill that person and all that person's friends and acquaintances. Indeed, there is enough alcohol in one bottle of vodka to kill the consumer.
We don't tell that person they can't have 40 bottles of it.
Paul Renaud, the communications director of Educators for Sensible Drug Policy, said, “Youth cannot be criminalized for alcohol possession. What sense does it make to criminalize them for cannabis?”
Mr. Chair, I'll conclude just by saying that if we truly believe the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health that prohibition doesn't work, then why are we persisting with provisions in the bill that continue to prohibit based on an arbitrary number that serves absolutely no logical purpose whatsoever other than just to say that Canadians can have 30 grams or under, but not more, for no logical, compelling, science-based reason?
I'm going to conclude by saying that I've heard this government talk repeatedly, and I congratulate them for claiming to take, and in some cases taking, an evidence-based approach to legislation. This is not an evidence-based approach to legislation. This is an arbitrary approach to legislation, with no basis in science or fact.
I'm going to ask my colleagues to support the removal of the limit of 30 grams of dried cannabis, and start treating adults in this country like adults. Certainly adults can determine how much cannabis they want to have in their possession. There are other sections in this act that control trafficking, sale, production, and distribution, which will completely take care of any issue around those concepts. Let's let Canadians start being able to make the mature decision of how much cannabis they want to have.
My final point is this. In terms of medicinal cannabis or people who are using cannabis for other reasons, someone may decide to go on a two-month trip or a one-month trip across Canada. When we get to the cultivation parts, we'll see that Canadians can grow their own. Ironically, you can have four plants, so you might be in possession of 160 grams of cannabis in your house, and that's okay, but you can't have more than 30 grams in public. What if someone wants to take 50 grams of cannabis with them for a month-long trip across Canada? Are they criminals? What if someone is moving apartments and harvests their plants and has 100 grams? What do they do? Do they make three trips? This is an absurd limit. It's arbitrary and absurd.
The harm and the amount of police time that'll be taken up in having to continue to police what is essentially a criminalized approach to possession of cannabis in this country is as wrong after this bill as it is before the bill.
If my colleagues on the Liberal side really believe in the purposes of this bill—that we want to deter illicit activities in relation to cannabis, reduce the burden on the criminal justice system, and protect the health of young persons—then why don't we come up with evidence-based provisions in this act and make it consistent with those purposes? This 30 gram limit does not meet that test now.