Evidence of meeting #72 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cannabis.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paul Saint-Denis  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Olivier Champagne  Legislative Clerk, House of Commons
Diane Labelle  General Counsel, Health Canada Legal Services, Department of Justice
John Clare  Director, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch, Department of Health
Carole Morency  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

October 3rd, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I listened to the comments made by Mr. Ayoub, and honestly, the 88% of Canadians who don't use cannabis have to be taken into consideration as well. Even saying that, the people who voted for the NDP and Liberal Party really wanted adults to be able to smoke marijuana without a criminal charge. That is not what they received in this bill. This bill is full of criminality. It's full of things that will not keep drugs out of the hands of children. It will not prevent organized crime. That part is laughable.

I'm astounded when I hear Mr. Oliver say, “We heard consistently that we need to go slow, we need to go slow.” Then the Liberals are rushing it. Rushing the legislation, sticking with an arbitrary date, when the police, the municipalities, and the provinces have clearly said they're not going to be ready. Those things are just unbelievable.

With respect to Mr. Davies' motion, that we're supposed to be discussing, I think he made an argument that actually makes my point. He said organized crime was already involved in exporting. Yes they are. I don't think we want to make that bigger.

We're naive if we think Kathleen Wynne's LCBO model, where she's going to have the stores open like they are now, is going to deliver the same kind of service that our chair has testified his son can get delivered right to his door at any hour of the day or night.

I don't think we want to open up the market anymore for organized crime to get a bigger foothold not only here in Canada but in other countries. For that reason, I do oppose the amendment.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Mr. Eyolfson.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

This is a little off topic, but I'd like to respond to a couple of the comments.

Ms. Gladu said 88% of Canadian don't use cannabis. That's 88% in the last year. At some time during their lives, 45.5% of Canadians have used it at some time in their lifetime. To say this only affects 12% of Canadians is incorrect.

In regard to Mr. Van Kesteren's comments, I will very quickly say two things.

First of all, there was an oblique reference to marijuana, I believe. This word was not used, but indicating it would be a gateway drug to harder things. This is from my previous career. The definitive textbooks in toxicology, the ones used for fellowship training in toxicology, are Ellenhorn's Medical Toxicology and Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. Both are clear from an extensive review of the literature, the gateway effect of marijuana does not exist. It has never been scientifically validated. It's an assumption that no evidence has ever actually validated.

If we're going to talk history, we don't have to go as far back as China with opium, we have to go back a mere century to the United States in the law and order catastrophe that was alcohol Prohibition.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thanks very much.

Mr. Davies, could you tighten it up a little?

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Sure, Mr. Chair, I have a couple of points.

Mr. Van Kesteren had difficulty referring to alcohol as a drug. If you talk to most Canadians and most health experts, I think they'll tell you that alcohol is most certainly a drug. It's a question of nomenclature. Alcohol fulfills all those criteria.

In speaking to this motion, one is whether we should allow importing and exporting of recreational cannabis among jurisdictions that want to receive it—and Ms. Gladu picked up my point but I'm not sure I agree with her conclusion—I don't think most Canadians would agree that we should leave that in the hands of organized crime. I think that most Canadians would say that we should bring that within the realm of legitimate, regulated business, where we regulate and tax.

If we're going to be importing and exporting cannabis, doesn't it make a lot more sense to have that done in a quality-controlled, tightly regulated manner so the products are safe and properly labelled, and they're done by responsible businesses, and governments get revenue?

We know that it's $7 billion to $10 billion in Canada. The international amount of money involved in cannabis is many factors of that, so—

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

On your amendment.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Yes. I would urge my colleagues to amend this and allow recreational producers in Canada, the licit, responsible business people, to tap into external markets as those develop.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Ms. Gladu is to speak to the amendment.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Yes, on the amendment, the other thing preventing us from doing what Mr. Davies said are the three treaties we are signatory to with the UN, which restrict the shipping of any marijuana that is not medical.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you very much.

Seeing no further speakers on the list, I want to bring the amendment to a vote.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Could I have a recorded vote, Mr. Chair?

(Amendment negatived: nays 8; yeas 1 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Now we go to Liberal 11, Dr. Eyolfson.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

This is a change in the wording, and only in the English version because the French version is correct. It is an amendment to subclause 62(7). In the original it reads, regarding a licence or a permit, “The Minister may refuse to issue, renew or amend a licence or permit if (a) doing so is likely to create a risk...”, etc. It reads, in its original form, that the refusal would indicate a risk to the public.

What we want to say is if “the issuance...is likely to create a risk to public health”. It's just a technical change in the wording.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Okay. I see no speakers.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

Now we have NDP-30. Let's see if we can focus on NDP-30.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This is a substantive amendment to this section. Essentially, as we move to a legalized market, this is the section that will guide the minister in determining whether to issue or renew or amend a licence or permit to someone who wants to enter the cannabis industry.

What it does, as it currently reads, is that it allows the minister to refuse it on a number of different grounds, and I want to focus my colleagues' attention on paragraphs (c) and (d). This says, “The Minister may refuse to issue, renew or amend a licence or permit if”

(c) the applicant has contravened in the past 10 years a provision of this Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the Food and Drugs Act or of any regulation made under this Act or any of those Acts; (d) there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant has contravened in the past 10 years (i) an order made under this Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the Food and Drugs Act, or (ii) a condition of another licence or permit issued to the applicant under this Act or any of those Acts;

Now, philosophically I think what we are doing with this legislation—and it's been expressed very well by some of the witnesses—is that we're trying to move the illegal market into the light. We're trying to take encourage current illicit production to move into the licit market.

We heard from Colorado and Washington very clearly that they're measuring their success by what percentage of the former black market they are able to move into the regulated controlled market. That is I think what all Canadians who support this legislation want to see happen.

If we're serious about eliminating the black market, then involvement in the current illicit trade should not be sufficient to provide a bar to entering the legal cannabis market. In our view, the minister should be required to consider aggravating factors, such as committing an offence in relation to youth or being involved in violence or dishonesty as factors, in addition to simply participating or having been convicted under the former regime, in order to bar them from becoming involved in this industry.

I'm conscious of the fact that the opening words of this section say that the minister “may” refuse, so it is discretionary. I note that. In order for greater certainty, we want to make sure, on the New Democrat side, that people who have been involved in the illicit industry are not precluded from participating in the newly regulated legal market simply because they may have been convicted under the old regime.

Some of the testimony points this out. Here's what Rick Garza said. He's the director from Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

I wanted to add that we do have a point system in Washington with respect to someone's criminal background. We're looking for an egregious pattern of illegal activity or criminal activity. ... I don't want to suggest in my remarks that we don't allow any criminal activity or any record. We have a point system.

Abigail Sampson of NORML Canada stated this:

...in an attempt to provide reparations to Oakland residents who were jailed for offences related to cannabis possession in the last 10 years, city council has approved a program to help convicted drug felons get into the legal cannabis industry. Called the equity permit program, this “first in the nation” idea will allow recently incarcerated individuals the opportunity to receive medical cannabis industry permits. ... ...it recognizes the harms done by the war on drugs by allowing those who have been affected by it through incarceration an opportunity to participate.

Trina Fraser, from Brazeau Seller said this to the committee:

It is estimated that over 13,000 individuals in British Columbia alone participate and work in the illicit cannabis industry. This represents an estimated wage amount of over $600 million.

Kirk Tousaw said this:

When we speak of the black market as it relates to domestic cannabis production and consumption, we are not speaking of what most Canadians understand to be organized crime. We are not speaking of gangs. Instead, the domestic black market is comprised almost exclusively of ordinary Canadians, otherwise law-abiding, who make their living, pay their bills, and support their families by working in the cannabis industry. ... Almost none are violent or otherwise harmful to society in any way.

Finally, if that's not enough, a 2011 Department of Justice study found that 95% of cannabis-trafficking offenders have no link to organized crime or street gangs.

Essentially, Mr. Chair, what this amendment does is say that the only people who can be prevented from participating in the legal industry are people who have contravened the act or acts by a minimum term of imprisonment of at least two years.

That will separate those who may be carrying cannabis convictions for minor offences and remove that as a bar to their being able to participate in a legal market. What we really want to do with this legislation is to entice those who've been working in the illicit market. By the way, everybody who's been involved in the cannabis industry up to now has been involved in the illicit market.

As we move toward this profound move from an illegal activity to a legal, regulated one, I think we want to cast the net as wide as possible to encourage those people to come into the regular market to achieve the purpose of the bill, which is to provide for the licit production of cannabis and to reduce illicit activities in relation to cannabis. That is an overt purpose of this bill. If we don't do that, we will continue to leave people operating in the illicit market, and that's not what anybody wants, I think, on either side of the table.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you very much.

Mr. Ayoub.

Noon

Liberal

Ramez Ayoub Liberal Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I understand my colleague's motives. To my mind, however, the legislation must provide a framework for the legal decisions that will be made by a minister or a judge. The legislation is not unduly restrictive, nor should it be overly permissive.

It is important to give the minister discretionary power. That affords him the flexibility to make sure that the right decisions are made within a certain framework and that we do not depart from it too much. The discretionary power is the cornerstone of this provision. That is exactly our intent in providing discretionary power or some latitude to allow a minister to determine, for instance, who may grow cannabis and who may not. For example, a grower may have had problems with the law in the past, but only minor ones.

Not everything can be judged before the fact. That is why the discretionary power is important.

For this reason, I oppose this amendment.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thanks very much.

Hearing no speakers, I call for a vote on NDP-30.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

A recorded vote, Mr. Chair.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

A recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 1 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

We move on to PV-18. The only thing between us and soup is PV-18.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I move that we go to the vote immediately.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

All those in favour of PV-18?

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 62 as amended agreed to)

I declare us suspended.

Thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

We'll reconvene our Standing Committee on Health, meeting number 72.

Mr. Van Kesteren mentioned a little while ago that we should learn from history. Also, he mentioned prime ministers. I wanted to point out that my predecessor is right up here. Sir Charles Tupper is my predecessor. He was the MP from Cumberland County and was elected in 1867 and he got to be Prime Minister in 1896 for a little while. He was the Minister of Mines and Canals and a whole bunch of things. His house was three houses from where I was born and raised my entire life. The good news is his house is for sale. If anybody wants to buy an historic site of a former prime minister, it's for sale. It's not mine either. Anyway, it's an interesting house and it's an interesting piece of history. I love that painting. It's been here ever since I've been here. I wasn't elected or exactly right after Sir Charles Tupper. There was a little break.

12:35 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Anyway, that's our piece of history. Thank you, Mr. Van Kesteren, for that segue.

We're on clause 63. There are no amendments for clauses 63 to 68.

(Clauses 63 to 68 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 69)

Now we go to amendment NDP-31.

Mr. Davies.