Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the hon. member for Wild Rose. I heard some of his comments.
Mr. Speaker, from everyone in my riding, congratulations on your elevation. The irony of this debate on marijuana and your province is not lost on many of us who have worked in the House over the years.
This is a very serious issue that concerns all members of Parliament and certainly those who want to make sure that we have effective legislation that meets the test of ensuring that we do not unduly prosecute young people. At the same time, we must recognize very clearly the scope, breadth and strength of organized crime. It has used this product in so many communities across the country in order to achieve what is probably more difficult to achieve in other areas related to drug offences. I am of course referring to marijuana grow operations.
The legislation proposed by the minister, Bill C-17, is an improvement. It is an important step toward some of the amendments that many of us in this House have been fighting for for many years.
In particular, I point out the existence in the proposed legislation of a roadside protocol to ensure that those who are marijuana impaired are in fact able to be prosecuted. They are going to be subjected to an analysis that would determine the level of toxicity and, of course, their ability to operate a motor vehicle. I salute the people at MADD Canada for the work that they have done in this regard.
It was also a very good week in my view. In February 2003 I encouraged, goaded, cried, yelled and screamed at the then minister of justice to try to overturn a lower court decision on the subject of the forward looking infrared helicopters. These are the very tools, the devices the police forces were using to try to combat this scourge by taking heat signatures.
While I understand the decision was based very much on privacy, it obviously ignored the common public interest, the interest that the public has in ensuring that the proliferation of the grow op homes, estimated to be at some 50,000 in Canada, were at least put in check. It is clearly an example of where I am pleased to say the court unanimously agreed with my position and that of many of the people in law enforcement and restored this very valuable tool.
It is for that reason and in the spirit of what the hon. justice minister has suggested in bringing forth this legislation that any amendments to further enhance the legislation's effectiveness will be considered as the bill moves through the parliamentary process.
Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence and that of my colleagues in the House of Commons, I would like to propose just a few amendments. They are done as a constructive way of ensuring that this legislation meets the test of public security, meets the test of ensuring that we do not see a proliferation of organized crime as was identified in project Green Tide by Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, as well as what has been revealed time and time again by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.
The possession of 15 grams or less being given a fine does raise concerns about the potential for trafficking. One can see a situation where a number of young people would be given so many grams less than 15 and the potential for trafficking and getting around the system is certainly there. Maybe when we come back to this legislation in a few years our police forces will have told us it is a serious problem.
I am not sure that sending a message to young people that they should not be taking this product can be understood if the penalty for youth is less than the penality for everyone else. We should have a blended penalty, certainly as far as the ticketing scheme is concerned.
On that subject, many police forces have identified the concern about the courts being jammed with things like parking tickets. It would be very difficult from that perspective. It will certainly not win us any support among the provincial attorneys general, but we will see where that goes.
In the interests of time, there is possession of one gram or less of resin, of 15 grams or less of marijuana while also operating a motor vehicle, while committing a more serious offence such as break and enter, while in or near a school, which would trigger automatically a serious fine. We could broaden that not just to schools, but to places where young people might want to gather, such as community centres and sports complexes. These should be included.
In my view not only should that be the case as I am trying to describe point by point, but it seems to me to be rather inconsistent that we would not put in place a national drug strategy to inform young people that the bill is not about the legalization of the product, but in fact is trying to get around a very important system through decriminalization. I cannot overemphasize that point. It is extremely important that we have a fully funded national drug strategy in place before the bill is proclaimed and gazetted and is the official law of the land.
Much has been said here. I am one of many members of Parliament who have had the benefit of seeing a marijuana grow operation at various stages of operation. I can say that in seeing what was occurring, quite apart from the health of individuals, children around the area, there is also concern for our firefighters and police and those personnel who would be the first ones to be on site.
It says that the use of traps and explosives will involve some degree of offence and probably will be prosecutable, but there are no specific penalties for those who deliberately set traps or injure individuals as I have so described. It is important that we set in legislation some kind of provision to protect those personnel, especially when there is an issue of setting something up deliberately. While I am not big on specific penalties, I do believe in this case it certainly would be warranted.
I am also concerned about the sharing of information. Where there is a sharing of jurisdictions between governments and police agencies that may need it for other purposes, I am worried about the impact this could have. An individual, a government official for instance, sharing information with another government might find themselves in a situation where there could be criminal sanctions for doing that while the actual offence in play here for which the person has been identified may very well be an important and accessory concern for both governments. It is really important that we understand that and get our priorities right on all of this.
The proposed amount of 30 grams or less in my view is probably a little high. As has been suggested by several members, that could be anywhere between 35 to 60 products. I do not know of too many people who use more than one a day. I hope there are not many who would be in that situation. The effects would be enormous on the individual. We know of the health consequences, particularly from a cumulative effect, such as psychosis from long term use.
I will be meeting in a few minutes with officials from General Motors who are in fact in the lobby as we speak. I am sure they would not want to see a system that encourages workers, young people, to take up a product that could have long term effects.
I heard the hon. House leader for the New Democratic Party talk about this having been around for about 30 years, since the Le Dain commission. It is an interesting time to make an analysis of what this product is all about. Thirty years ago it did not have the potency that it has today. The THC level is much higher today.
The people who are advocating this, particularly the ones who for a $25,000 investment can buy a home in my riding or can rent a home and make $600,000 a year are not, I repeat not, marijuana enthusiasts. These people know there is money to be made. If one could put $25,000 down and make $600,000 a year, I know there would be a lineup, but the reality is that we have to understand the upstream where there is the potential threat of growth in our grow op operations as well as the downstream. If we give more point and purpose to people taking the product, it is obvious we are going to encourage those who take risks notwithstanding the penalties.
This brings me to the subject of the sentences for marijuana grow operations. Seven years on average means 30 days in jail or a conditional sentence, or incredibly as I have seen in some cases, house arrest, in the very house where the person is growing the product. Doubling that from 7 to 14 years will not be as effective as some believe it will be. It would go from 30 days to 60 days. One would probably answer the big question, big deal.
There is wisdom in ensuring that we get this legislation right. The minister has signaled that he has an interest in seeing that these amendments are taken forward. I have pointed out several.
I think we must be sure to reason with young people so that they choose not to consume these substances. We have an obligation to protect the integrity of the law and the integrity of the future of our country, at the same time.
Let us make sure this is good legislation. Let us look at some of these amendments because this bill is heading in the right direction, but it needs help.