Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill C-45, the pot legalization bill, or as I call it Phoenix 2.0. Why do I call it that? It is because it is an example of government rushing through a bill to meet some nonsensical, arbitrary deadline, despite warnings from everyone involved that we are not ready. In this case, instead of hurting those solely in the public sector, we are going to be hurting Canadians across all demographics, and especially the young.
With Phoenix, we had the opposition, the public sector unions, and department chief financial officers saying not to rush forward. With pot legalization, we have police chiefs from across the country, the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP, and members of the U.S. enforcement agencies saying not to rush forward. Sadly, as with Phoenix, the government seems intent on barrelling ahead, regardless of the warnings.
The Liberals are desperate to show they can keep a promise after all. “Look at me” the PM will say on July 1, hiking up his pants to show off his socks with marijuana leaves. He is going to spark up the first ceremonial doob on Parliament Hill, and run around taking selfies with those lighting up. No doubt, the clever Liberal marketing machine will say the PM just happened to be running by, shirtless no doubt, and a crowd toking up. Of course, his official photographer will just happen to be there taking some pictures. No doubt they will come up with some clever tag about the PM and hashtag it that he was “photobonging” some group.
However, there are real consequences to rushing forward when law enforcement is not ready. Let us look at the Liberal policy on pot from its web page, broken down by statement. The first statement is that current laws do not “prevent young people from using marijuana.” The Liberal solution to legalize the substance that is being consumed defies logic, to argue normalizing pot use and making it available everywhere will somehow prevent young people from using it.
Consider some real-world examples. Colorado went from 13th place to first place overall for pot consumption among its youth, after legalization. Washington State's pot use among students, post-legalization, is 42% higher than the rest of the country. Studies from the U.S. show that the young people have a perception, post-legalization, that pot is harmless and does not cause mental issues.
Allowing every citizen to legally grow pot, up to four plants worth at that, means by definition there will be more pot. The government has so far neglected to adequately explain how it plans to keep the extra pot off the streets and out of our schools.
Next it states, “Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses.” Let us be frank, things have changed since many of us in the House were younger. Police are no longer focusing on arresting kids for having a joint or two, because they are far too busy working on other important issues.
The police chief of Edmonton stated it clearly. He said that police may use the presence of pot as a cause to search a car or search someone, where they may find guns, opioids, or stolen goods. However, to argue for legalization because too many Canadians are trapped in the criminal system simply does not jive with what the experts are saying.
Next, the Liberals say, “...the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs”. Here is a clue for the government. The Hells Angels are already involved in the legal part of marijuana. I quote from the RCMP report to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. “There is no shortage of organized criminal groups who have applied to produce medical marijuana under Health Canada's new MMPR, including...Hells Angels”. Legalization is not keeping out organized crime. Organized crime is already taking advantage of the legal regime.
The Liberal plan goes on to state, “To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.”
In summary, they will keep pot out of the hands of children by legalizing the substance we want to get rid of, legalizing possession for children as young as 12, and making production legal, thus ensuring the supply will skyrocket. At the same time, they say we will keep the profits out of the hands of criminals, even though they have not said how, and they are ignoring the fact that the criminals are already involved in the legal system. The government seems to expect the Hells Angels will just turn over and say, “Well, we had a great run, guys. I guess I'll use my Harley to be an UberEATS driver now”. Maybe the government could offer the Hells Angels some of those reintegration services they are offering returning ISIS fighters.
Honestly, if people have been buying pot from someone for the past five years, getting a great price, and having it delivered to their door, are they now going to trudge down to the local government-run store, 9 to 5 only, Monday to Friday, of course, and on camera, to buy weed at a higher price? I do not think so. Mind you, Kathleen Wynne would offer them Air Miles points, so there is something.
Continuing on with the Liberal plan, it states we will, “create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who...operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the...framework.”
Here is a great one. We have no standards on measuring impairment. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police recently met and narrowed down the roadside testing devices to two. We have not yet decided on the best one, much less have them in the hands of the police. More importantly, the failure rate on the device is as high as 13%. Let us think about that. Every single person charged will have a lawyer begging to take on his or her trial. What judge is going to say, “Hey, a 13% failure rate, that's pretty good. You're guilty”? None.
If the courts are jammed now, what happens once every one of these offences is taken to court? The government is letting accused rapists and murderers walk free under Jordan's principle because of its absolute ineptness and inability to appoint judges, and we are about to add thousands of new cases.
We could do blood testing, but that would require the officer to take someone to an emergency room. Our emergency room wait times are legendary as it is. Do we think any nurse or doctor is going to keep someone with a broken arm or a child with a runaway fever waiting just to draw blood for a cop for a weed DUI?
The costs of these roadside devices are $45 to $90 per use. The training for every one of these operators is about $20,000. How many locations are there to train these officers? There are two in all of North America, in the United States. Edmonton currently has only 24 officers trained out of a force of 1,800. Calgary has fewer, about 10. Maybe the Liberals are hoping that, contrary to decades of experience with drinking and driving, people just will not drive when high.
Let us again look at the statistics in the U.S. In Washington state, after legalization, DUIs with pot increased from 18% to 39%. In Spokane, youth pot DUIs grew 1700% versus pre-legalization.
The Liberal plan goes on. Next is those who sell cannabis outside of the regulatory framework. Our police forces are already stretched to the limits. We are not enforcing casual possession right now to focus on hard criminals, yet somehow, by waving a magic wand, we will have people available to go after those who are selling illegal drugs.
We have told the public that they can set up a legal grow op in every house and apartment in town. In Alberta, people are allowed to buy 30 grams of pot per store visit, not per day. That is 75 joints just from one store. How are we going to monitor every single person who can legally buy 75 joints at a time to make sure that they are only those of age, those who are not driving, and those who are not part of a criminal gang?
Finally, the Liberals have said that they will create a task force with input from experts. The experts in public health say that smoking pot before the age of 25 is damaging to brain development. Law enforcement is similarly clear. The chiefs of police are near unanimous. They have said they are not ready, that we should decriminalize not legalize, and that we should slow down.
The government simply dumped sales and distribution onto cash-strapped provinces and municipalities, so we will have a patchwork framework across the country. The Liberals have not listened to the task force.
I realize we are on the road to legalization. However, I implore the government to slow down until our police and communities are ready. It should not put public safety at risk just to meet an arbitrary political deadline.
I met with Edmonton's chief of police last Friday, and he had a poignant warning. He said that in 20 years we would look back at this as the worst piece of legislation ever tabled in Canada.
Let us slow it down and do what is right for our youth and our country, not what is right for the Liberal mandate tracker.