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

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Well, if I may just speak to the amendment, then, but for the waiting 12 months, I think it's an excellent amendment for a number of reasons.

We are the health committee, and the thing about edibles, concentrates, and non-smokable forms of cannabis is that they are a healthier way to ingest cannabis than smoking. It's ironic that we're going to be legalizing the one form of cannabis that is most heavily ingested by smoking and not legalizing the other forms of cannabis that present a less harmful health impact, at least on the respiratory system.

The thing about regulating edibles, of course, is that it allows us to regulate them properly, supervise businesses to control the dosages, and to control the titration to make sure that there's uniformity of THC, CBD, and the other chemicals in the product. It allows us to apply the labelling requirements. We all agree and understand that we want to make sure that the labelling of all products, particularly edibles, is not marketed towards children, and that products are contained in single-serving packages, that they're in childproof containers, and that they're properly labelled and marked. Most importantly, of course, is to make sure that we take these products out of the hands of the black market.

While we wait the 12 months, Canadians are still going to be getting edibles, but they're going to be getting them from sources that are completely unregulated.

I wanted to refer to an article that was in the National Post, that ran on September 26. It said a report has come out, released by Dalhousie University last Tuesday, that said that 68% of people agreed or strongly agreed with legalizing recreational cannabis; another 45.8% agreed that they would buy marijuana-infused food products if they hit the Canadian market; 46.1% would opt for bakery products such as brownies or muffins; and 65.6% of respondents said they don't know enough about marijuana to cook with it on their own.

One of the dangers of this legislation and waiting a year, of course, is that it leaves Canadians to cook their own edibles on their own without any controls over titration or dosage and, of course, leaves them to obtain their products through the black market.

I congratulate the Liberal side for moving on edibles, and I'm going to support that amendment accordingly. I want to go on record as saying there is no reason whatsoever to go slowly on this because there's nothing that we're going to be learning in the next year about these products that we don't know now.

We know other jurisdictions, including Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and others, have years of experience in regulating edibles. The errors that they made have been repaired, and we already have best practices, gold standards of regulatory directions as to how to regulate these products well.

My last point, of course, will be as I've said before. Given that there's no real reason to wait on regulating edibles, given that we won't be learning anything new, given that we know what the aspects of regulation around edibles—sound regulation—consists of, all we're doing by waiting that year is giving organized crime another year to make these products and to subject Canadians to another year of obtaining products that have no regulation whatsoever. As a member of the health committee, I can't support that as being a wise approach to health.

I will support this amendment because, as my father said, wisdom comes so seldom, it shouldn't be rejected because it comes late. I would re-emphasize that I see no reason that we shouldn't be amending this bill now to put edibles into the schedule now.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thanks very much. I just want to say that you just asked for this a minute ago in question period and here it is. You can't ask for better than that.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I'm going to ask more often in question period.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

While I hear Mr. Davies' urgency to move forward with this, we did hear from witnesses from the ministry that there are complex regulations that need to be written and brought to force on this. They said they would not have those ready within the time frame of the bill coming into force.

I do think it's important. I mentioned at the outset that the importance of edibles was around public health and moving people away from smoking, around consumer choice, but I forgot to mention—and Mr. Davies appropriately raised it—that this is part of the black market's business. It's important that edibles come to market quickly so that we continue to deter and restrict the opportunities for organized crime to be working in this space.

I do think that with a year to go, it gives the industry and Canadians lots of time to know it's coming, and I think it's an appropriate amendment given where we are.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Seeing no more comments, I call for a vote on amendment LIB-19.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Can we have a recorded vote?

(Amendment agreed to: yeas 6; nays 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, could I just ask a procedural question?

I have an amendment coming up to put edibles on the schedule now, from our legislative counsel. Does the amendment that we just passed make that moot, or does it retain its viability because it would be different, in the sense that it would put edibles on the schedule upon the passage of this bill?

You can think about that, and we can wait until we get to that part of the legislation.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

What amendment is it that you're talking about?

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I have a motion later on, when we get to schedule 4, to add edibles to the legislation now. We've just passed an amendment that, when fully perfected, would add edibles to the legislation one year after it comes into force. My own view is that those are two separate things. We can still have a vote on adding edibles now, because I don't think they're mutually exclusive.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

When you get ready to make your motion, we'll make a motion to deal with it.

(Clauses 194 and 195 agreed to)

Now we go to amendment LIB-20.

Mr. McKinnon.

October 3rd, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

This is a coordinating amendment, following along from the addition of clause 8.1 earlier in this process. It brings the language that was introduced into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with the passage of Bill C-224, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, concerning the use of the word “overdose” to instead use the phrase “medical emergency”. This will bring the CDSA into conformity with the newer language incorporated into this act by means of clause 8.1.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clauses 196 to 199 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 200)

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

That brings us to amendment NDP-33.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This represents the last part of the legislation that has criminal offences punishable by conviction and jail terms. In keeping with the NDP's position that we should be bringing—

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Did we skip 266, and amendment LIB-21?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

We just did amendment LIB-20 now.

We're at clause 200.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Sorry, my apologies.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Again, in keeping with the New Democrats' general approach that cannabis should be legalized and regularized, and that we should be decriminalizing this and moving away from prohibition as a criminal model, this would once again amend the penalty provisions of this legislation. It would take away the imprisonment provisions of this section, and instead substitute a fine of not more than $3,000, or a fine for a subsequent offence of not more than $50,000. It would also limit the proceedings under clause 200 to summary conviction only, and remove the ability to proceed by indictment.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Is there any further debate on amendment NDP-33?

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, let's have a recorded vote.

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

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Now we go to amendment NDP-34.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Similarly, this would be the next level of reducing the impact of the incarceration provisions under the section. Clause 200 presently allows the crown to proceed by indictment and subjects a person convicted to a fine of not more than $5 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.

This amendment would limit that term to a term not exceeding two years less a day instead, so that we again, in our opinion, reduce the penalties down to a reasonable level and keep people out of federal penitentiaries for cannabis violations.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Dr. Eyolfson.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

If I understand Mr. Davies' point, we are of the view that if we're reducing the penalties for non-compliance, we could encourage more non-compliance. We're thus going to oppose this recommendation.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Mr. Davies.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I want to respond.

If you could punish and criminally enforce your way out of cannabis offences, we wouldn't be in the position we're in today, because the offences that we have in the Criminal Code today are far worse than these, and they haven't stopped the burgeoning cannabis market.

With great respect, then, I completely reject that assertion. I don't think you can penalize your way out of cannabis. All that's going to happen is that we're going to subject Canadians to the harms of criminalization and are not going to have any meaningful impact on cannabis use at all.