Yes, the hon. member opposite can talk about prison and all that. We will get back to these topics later. At the moment, we are discussing this bill and its impact on our young people, among other things.
I was talking about punishment that is more serious than the crime. Is it right to tarnish the reputation of a young person, as the current law does, for a minor offence? In my opinion, no. Is it right to tarnish the reputation of that person for the duration of the sentence, if that person is found guilty?
The member opposite was saying that, in some cases, the legislation will probably not be enforced anyway. This way, a person would not be found guilty, and this person's reputation would not be tarnished. I am sorry, but I totally fail to see the logic in that. That is not how legislation is drafted. It is drafted on the assumption that it will be enforced. If it is not, something is wrong, generally speaking, of course.
In some cases, the law tarnishes the reputation of our young people; in others, under identical circumstances, it exonerates them entirely. We agree that there is no difference between these two cases, that they are identical. It is immediately clear that something is wrong.
The other principle I just mentioned is that of the punishment sometimes being disproportionate to the offence. I think that this might be a case in point. I say this although I am extremely intolerant of the use of such substances; it does not mean that I condone it.
On this topic, I totally disagree with the hon. member for Vancouver East, who said that this was a good first step and that, later, we should legalize all sorts of drugs, or something to that effect. I disagree. It is not the same thing at all. I would certainly not want people to think that I support this bill because I think like she does. I do not. It is not the same thing.
I have no notes, so I am just speaking of how I see these things applying. I believe it was a Greek philosopher who said that extreme law is extreme injury, and the rigour of law applied without temperance is not justice but the denial of it, or some such thing. If that is the case, as I believe it is, then the law does not protect anybody in that regard.
At the same time, I for one am very intolerant toward any measure that will make it such that our young people will be victims of those who perpetrate the crimes of selling drugs at the present time. There the penalities have to be increased, perhaps.
We need to hit those people hard. We must ensure that they do not commit these crimes. That is the real crime and the one we should be focusing on, not throwing a 19 year old in jail or by punishing the person in some other way for having smoked one joint. What on earth does that accomplish? How are we making society better by tying up the time of the courts for the more important offences and so on? That is where I disagree with what I heard from the hon. member from the Conservative Party a little earlier today.
To pretend that at the same time that means that I or anyone else automatically thinks there should be legalization of these drugs is not true. That is not the same thing at all. I do not see why it should mean the same thing, except perhaps that one member of the House in a speech today seemed to suggest herself that the decriminalization of one was a logical first step to the legalization of the other. Maybe one member thinks that way but that does not mean that I do.
The hon. member for Wild Rose asked if we had ever heard of the slippery slope. I think the existing condition is that slippery slope, not the new one that would be created by the bill. We have people now who are found guilty of an offence and the penalty does more damage than the offence itself, while there are people who disobey the law in some parts of our country with impugnity. What makes it worse is that the identical offence elsewhere is punished differently. That is worse than the slippery slope. That encourages total disrespect for the law and it makes for uneven application of that law in addition to that. Both of these concepts are wrong.
A member talked to us about the quantity an individual could possess before being found guilty. Is 30 grams, 25 grams or 24 grams the right amount? This is something that should be settled by parliamentary committee, not at second reading in the House.
As we know, at second reading, we are talking about the principle of the bill. Are we in favour of what the bill basically sets out to accomplish? I am willing to accept that the quantity should be 32, 26, 24 or 16, or whatever quantity established by people who know more about this and will advise us in committee.
In my view, we have parliamentary committees that work very well. We always listen to witnesses, who share their knowledge and inform us on a given subject. In committee, we will be able to adjust the quantity, if necessary. I am not saying that the quantity even needs to be adjusted. However, if the member for Central Nova is worried about it—which he seemed to be earlier—this could be resolved in committee. However, this will in no way compromise the bill. In other words, it is not an excuse to vote against it. That is the argument I wish to make to this House.
That said, I must say I am old-fashioned about this and very intolerant—