Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP for moving this motion today.
Certainly, the motion deserves to be clearly debated because this is an important issue. Canadians have questions, especially since the Liberal Party wants to legalize marijuana. Decriminalizing marijuana is extremely important because it would help clarify certain things for a portion of the population that does not necessarily make the distinction between the two. However, the distinction is very important in this case. I want to acknowledge the NDP's contribution to this file.
That is not where I have a problem with this. I take issue with the Liberal Party's position, how it is trivializing drug use, especially by the more vulnerable and young people, by wanting to legalize drugs. This is a real problem because we often hear the Liberal Party tell us that it consults people and respects other jurisdictions. It is nice of the government to try to please a segment of the population by saying that it wants to legalize drugs, but again it has to consult the provinces, the municipalities, and the police forces. What we have seen since the beginning of the discussion on this issue is that very few people have been consulted. On the contrary, they are finding out and are not all very pleased with what they are reading.
At the same time, the provincial governments are putting a lot of emphasis on promoting healthy living. They want to limit the places where people can smoke cigarettes, for example. We all know that there are regulations in place for that. While the provinces were busy working on promoting healthy living to protect the health of Canadians, the Liberal government was announcing in its throne speech that it wanted to legalize a drug, marijuana.
I find it very hard to get on board with a movement that goes against my personal values, like this one. I understand that some people have smoked a joint, that they have used marijuana. I do not think that we need to send those people to prison. I am not interested in judging people who have used this drug, but I think that going from there to promoting its use takes things to a new level and that is worrisome.
With regard to the Liberals, I get the impression that this debate is completely improvised. As I said earlier, they are talking about a plan, but we are all eager to see what that plan is. One thing is for certain: for a party that made the legalization of marijuana a pillar of its election campaign, the Liberals' plan for that legislation is not inspiring a lot of confidence in Canadians.
Ever since they announced that their bill to legalize marijuana would be tabled in the House in the spring, red flags have been going up everywhere. Police officers do not know how to deal with possession of marijuana charges. The municipalities do not know how to regulate the opening of stores that want to sell marijuana, and parents across the country are worried because they do not know how to protect their children.
Those who want to make money selling marijuana are prepared to do anything to sell their product. After Toronto police arrested 43 illegal distributors and closed their dispensaries in May, a good number of them reopened their doors nearby. Toronto's CityNews quoted one manager of a few stores, Erin Goodwin, as saying, “We’re determined to stand up [to the police] and not bend down to these intimidation tactics”.
These sellers are literally defying our police forces, which are turning to Ottawa for information about the plan. There is currently no plan. The sellers boast about selling their products in different forms such as candies, jujubes, and cookies even though these are all products that children can consume. In Vancouver, there are more storefronts that sell marijuana illegally than there are Starbucks where you can buy a coffee. That is indicative of how serious this problem is.
In terms of health, to the best of my knowledge, no doctor is prepared to state that the Liberals' plan to legalize marijuana is a good plan. Once again, the Liberals need to table something so that they can address this.
As part of the debate on legalizing cannabis in Canada, the Research Center of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital, a hospital that treats childhood diseases and is affiliated with the Université de Montréal, recently organized a day of scientific presentations on the theme, “Cannabis and youth health: What have we learned from science?”.
Since we are accused of being against scientists, we will share a few statistics and quotes.
Findings on the health of young people and their vulnerability are rather negative. If the government legalizes marijuana, medical prescriptions will become useless, since people can procure it themselves. They could even grow it at home, in their own gardens, next to their cucumbers, carrots, and lettuce. There will no longer be a way to control access to this drug.
As the Canadian Paediatric Society pointed out, the evidence shows that young people who smoke marijuana are more likely to have mental health problems, including diseases such as psychosis and schizophrenia.
Now, I want to share some quotes from a few experts, since I am not making this up. I am far from being a doctor or an expert in the field, but I know that there are ways to take care of your health other than using marijuana.
Here is a quote from the Canadian Press, from our very own government officials in a Government of Canada document:
...marijuana goodies such as candies and cookies pose “significant risks” to children who might accidentally swallow them...
Here is what Paul Frewen, a professor and psychologist at the University of Western Ontario, had to say:
These drugs, both marijuana and other forms of recreational drugs, are being used...for their effects on the nervous system....They have various dissociative qualities...such as the suppression of memory and distress in the immediate short term.
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, the evidence clearly shows that young people who smoke marijuana are more likely to have mental health problems, particularly illnesses such as psychosis and schizophrenia.
Here is a quotation from the CBC, our public broadcaster:
...the health-community consensus is that regular recreational usage carries risks, including long-term cognitive ones for those under 25.
This next quote is from the report by Cochrane, a network of tens of thousands of researchers known for its rigorous methods that receives no sponsorship from pharmaceutical companies.
Youth are especially vulnerable to the health effects of marijuana use because adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Having THC in the brain at such a critical time can therefore interfere with brain development and harm brain function. It can also increase the risk of triggering a psychotic episode or a mental illness such as schizophrenia.
With respect to safety, while the Liberals talk about legalizing marijuana, police forces raise a number of issues around impaired driving.
The Liberals say that legalizing marijuana will keep it out of the hands of children, but recent events in Toronto prove that to be utterly false. How will the government control the production of marijuana in people's homes when a Federal Court ruling authorizes individuals to grow it for their own consumption for medical purposes? If is it legal for people to grow their own for medical use, then anyone will be able to grow it once it is legalized. It will be easily available, and police forces will no longer be able to protect our children.
Whereas the Liberals would have us believe that legalizing marijuana will contain the growth of organized crime, examples prove instead that its legalization has no effect on organized crime. How will the Liberals manage the flow of drugs at the border when they are legal in Canada, but illegal in the United States?
Here is another quote:
Canadian police forces are worried about drug-impaired driving...Police are concerned about trivializing consumption [and] an increase in drivers under the influence of drugs.
A survey showed that almost half of Canadians who drive under the influence of cannabis believe that they do not pose a threat on the road.
Finally, for those who look to other countries and the only country to have legalized marijuana, Uruguay, I would like to cite Washington's chief of police. He believes that since Washington State legalized marijuana, more than one third of impaired drivers are under the influence of drugs, and they test more than 13,000 cases every year.
I will now quote Stéphane Quéré, a criminologist and expert in criminal networks:
The decriminalization of cannabis use has not eliminated organized crime [in Uruguay, despite what some may say]. It has merely adapted and managed to gain a foothold in coffee shops, while retaining control over cannabis production.
I think that this is a serious problem. There is no plan and no direction. We do not have any information on how we could assure safety. Before we talk about decriminalization, we need to know much more about the Liberal bill before us.