Evidence of meeting #71 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was criminal.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

John Clare  Director, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health
Philippe Méla  Legislative Clerk
Paul Saint-Denis  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Diane Labelle  General Counsel, Health Canada Legal Services, Department of Justice
Eric Costen  Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. David Gagnon

5:20 p.m.

Diane Labelle General Counsel, Health Canada Legal Services, Department of Justice

I just want to add to that response.

Under the drug conventions, Canada is required to report the amounts of cannabis that are used and sold for medical purposes. That is an aspect we don't expect to change. Whether it actually creates a ceiling as to how much can be exported is up for question.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Mr. Van Kesteren.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

I just want to say at the outset that, Mr. Davies, I commend you for your advocacy and for attacking the premise that if this is a legitimate drug, if this is legislation that is purposeful and is good for society—and you firmly believe that, and I respect that—then the heavy-handedness that we're seeing from the government is really hard to understand.

We've had some discussion with some of the officials about how we deal with other countries. I would argue that the most important part of that motion is that this is big; this is going to change us fundamentally as a society. There are groups out there—I'm talking about moms and dads with kids in school, about surgeons and physicians—who have some serious, serious concerns, but there also are groups outside of our jurisdiction. We mention Uruguay as a nation that's often held as an example of a jurisdiction that has adopted these.... From the research that I've done, it's very slim, at best, to suggest that this is at all like what we're proposing in this country. The Netherlands, where my parents come from and which had a very relaxed set of laws, is going back to another position.

I want to ask the officials. Do you feel that we've done enough? Again, in light of the fact that this legislation will be passed and will be enacted in July 2018, have we done enough? Have we searched and have we communicated to other jurisdictions? Have we looked at other jurisdictions? Really, this is cutting edge, but in light of the importance of this legislation, have we really done enough to make an educated decision on this legislation?

I invite anybody to respond.

Mr. Costen.

October 2nd, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.

Eric Costen Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health

Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to do my best to answer the member's question.

As officials, we have benefited greatly from conversations with our counterparts in other jurisdictions, not only in the U.S. states, but in the Uruguayan government. Having been in the role that I'm in for a number of years now, I can say that we've developed what would be described as some fairly strong relationships into all of those jurisdictions, so that we can understand the issues that they're working through and benefit as much as possible from the lessons that they're willing to share with us. It may be of interest to the member that I recently returned from Portland, Oregon, where, last week, there was a meeting of all of the heads of the regulatory programs in the U.S. states for the very purpose that you're describing, where we can discuss the issues and share lessons learned. I believe that Canada is listening very closely to those issues.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

I have a quick follow-up.

Mr. Costen, have you had discussions with physicians in those jurisdictions? Have you had discussions with soccer moms? Have you had discussions with the police?

5:25 p.m.

Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health

Eric Costen

We've had discussions primarily with government representatives, but that would also include law enforcement.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Have you had discussions with physicians?

5:25 p.m.

Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health

Eric Costen

Yes, and also members from the health care community in those jurisdictions.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Have you reported on that as well?

5:25 p.m.

Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health

Eric Costen

Pardon me?

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Have you reported on that as well?

5:25 p.m.

Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health

Eric Costen

Have I reported...?

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Do we have the information that we can glean from their testimony and their response on this?

5:25 p.m.

Director General, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health

Eric Costen

I can only speak to the meetings that I've been at and the presentations and discussions that I've heard and been a part of. Perhaps the task force in their report also reflected on this. I understand they also visited those jurisdictions and had conversations with a wide range of individuals.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thanks very much.

I think we have Mr. Davies next.

Could we confine it to the amendment, as we're kind of getting off base here.

I want to point out something. The fact that we didn't have anybody from Uruguay has come up a couple of times. We had over 100 witnesses and all of the names were submitted by all of the parties and no party submitted a name from Uruguay. I just want to make that clear.

Go ahead, Mr. Davies.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you.

I'm going to continue speaking about the importing and exporting, because that's clause 11, and we're talking about the punishments for violating that. There are a few things that I think are important to put before colleagues at this table.

I talked to a very large licensed producer who is producing for the medicinal market now who told me that their company is contacted every week by a foreign business or foreign jurisdiction that wants to learn from them or go into business or partner with them. I'm reminded of Kirk Tousaw's testimony, where he looked pointedly at the committee and said, “You politicians are talking like you're creating a market. You're not creating a market. The market exists.” There is a $7-billion to $10-billion market in Canada right now, regardless of what we do. What we're really doing with this legislation is trying to modernize the regulatory framework. I congratulate the government on taking steps towards this, because we're trying to take that illicit market into the light and recognizing that not only can we shed the harms of criminalization, but we actually can regulate this properly and make it a legitimate business.

We export sprits and wines in this country. We're all proud of Canadian wines that have a global reputation as we're sending it around the world. In fact, I think the Conservatives have taken the lead on showing the problems we have with overly restrictive transportation of beer across borders. We can't even buy beer in one province and take it across the border to another province.

In my view, and maybe the Conservatives don't necessarily share this perspective, the trend on cannabis is that we're moving towards ever more legalization. Canada's being a leader in that regard, getting ahead of the curve, would position us well. We have to remember that in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado they legalized cannabis by citizens' initiatives. This is what the people wanted. I think in many cases the populations are ahead of the politicians on this, and I think the world is moving in this direction.

What I'm hearing from the market and the business people involved is that if we regulate this properly and move forward, Canada not only can legalize and legitimize the illegal market here in Canada, and create tax revenues and get healthier and save our justice system a lot of grief, but we can actually position Canada to be a leader in a very lucrative and growing product on the world stage.

I want to conclude, Mr. Van Kesteren, by saying that I don't say it's good necessarily. I say cannabis is what cannabis is. It is an adult-use substance that alters consciousness. It also has significant medicinal advantages that are beyond doubt. It's a product that adults use, whether we want them to or not, and the criminalized approach is simply not an appropriate way to regulate that substance any longer. That's why I'd like to see this legislation changed.

I'm going to move that subclause 11(1) be amended to allow the minister to make regulations that would permit the exportation of cannabis covered by this act. I don't know if you want language on that right now, or if the concept is good enough.

Perhaps I'll draft it for tomorrow morning.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

That would be really good. Let's finish up with amendment PV-9. I was just thinking that Elizabeth May would be proud of us, because we've spent a lot of time on her two-line amendment.

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Actually, I'm talking about subclause 11(1), Mr. Chair. It's not her amendment.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

We're on amendment PV-9 at the moment. That's what this debate is about.

I want to bring PV-9 to a vote. We're at 5:30 now, so could we get a decision on PV-9?

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

We are going to suspend there until tomorrow at nine o'clock.

Where are we tomorrow?

5:30 p.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. David Gagnon

Centre Block.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

We're at Centre Block tomorrow.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Are we breaking for question period tomorrow, or are we going straight through?

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

What is the will of the committee?

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

We said we would break for QP.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

It depends on if you have any questions.