Madam Speaker, I rise to continue third reading debate of Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.
The Standing Committee on Health has now completed its review of the bill and has heard from over 100 witnesses. I want to sincerely thank the committee members for their valuable insight and thoughtful contributions to the development of the legislation, and a special thanks for their hard work.
A number of amendments were adopted by the committee and will now be considered by Parliament. Our government supports these amendments. They include eliminating the proposed 100-centimetre height limit for the cannabis cultivated at home and committing to the regulations of edibles within 12 months of the bill's coming into force.
Given the transformative nature of the proposed legislation, we also support the amendments made by the committee that will require a review of the law three years after it is brought into force.
Bill C-45 is grounded in the interest of public health and safety. It is worthy of adoption by the House.
Bill C-45 would legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis for Canadians over the age of 18. By legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis, this law would take profits from the sales of cannabis out of the hands of criminals and organized crime and protect the public health through strict product requirements for safety and quality.
Bill C-45 is grounded in protecting public health and would replace the current system, which clearly is not working.
Our bill focuses on protecting those whose cannabis consumption poses a greater risk to society: our young people.
Our bill includes tough new criminal sanctions for those who provide cannabis to young people or recruit them to commit a cannabis-related offence.
Our government intends to educate the public about the risks of using cannabis, so we are planning a major information and awareness campaign that will target teenagers and young adults first and foremost. That campaign will address a number of issues, including the risks of driving while under the influence of cannabis.
Bill C-45 is informed by the recommendations of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, which was led by the Hon. Anne McLellan. As well, on October 20, I met in Edmonton with health ministers from provinces and territories and we discussed the state of cannabis readiness.
I want to assure all of my colleagues that provincial and territorial governments will continue to play a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of Canadians, especially young Canadians, when it comes to cannabis.
I would like to outline the bill's many strengths in greater detail.
Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal substance in Canada. Some 21% of our youth and 30% of young adults have reported using cannabis within the last year. Scientific evidence shows that the risks from cannabis use are higher for youth than adults. It also shows that the younger people are when they start using cannabis and the more often they use it, the greater the risk to their health.
The facts are clear: a lot of young people have access to cannabis, even more than in other developed countries. That is why our government is proposing to view the issue through the lens of public health. This bears repeating. Our government is not coming out in favour of cannabis and neither is it trying to make it more accessible to youth. It is completely the opposite. Above all, our government is seeking to protect our youth through strict cannabis regulation. As I mentioned before, too many young people can already get cannabis more easily than cigarettes.
Speaking of cigarettes, let us look at the anti-smoking measures that have been taken over the last 30 years. The government has different means of controlling access to tobacco and discouraging its use, such as a regulatory framework, controlled advertising and promotion, taxation, as well as warning labels on the risks of smoking.
Over time, this approach helped curb tobacco use significantly. The percentage of young smokers dropped from 27% in 1985 to 10% in 2015.
That is one of the reasons we are looking closely at lessons learned from the fight against smoking as we prepare our approach to cannabis.
First of all, our bill prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from possessing cannabis. This was one of the task force's recommendations. This age limit will protect our teenagers, and we believe that setting it any higher would contribute to sustaining the black market. The bill does stipulate, however, that the provinces and territories are free to raise that age limit.
Secondly, the bill protects our young people by placing tough restrictions on advertising related to cannabis use. It prohibits any advertising that could make cannabis appealing to a young person. It also prohibits the use of any packaging or labelling that could be appealing to our youth.
Cannabis promotion will be limited to communicating information to consumers. Once again, this information must not be presented in any way that could draw the attention of young people. Obviously, these measures will help limit access to cannabis for young people and reduce the product's appeal for young people.
Nevertheless, we know that it is less likely that young people today believe that cannabis is a significant health risk. That is why we will also be providing Canadians with information about cannabis, so they can talk to their children about the associated risks.
We must also educate and support adults in making informed and responsible choices that minimize the risks of using cannabis, including the dangers related to drug-impaired driving. That is why our government announced that we would invest $46 million in public education and awareness, and surveillance, and that work has already begun.
Our government will continue to provide leadership, invest resources, and work collaboratively on public education with other levels of government and key partners across the country.
Bill C-45 would also establish a legal and quality-controlled supply of cannabis for sale to adults.
The legalization establishes a number of clear rules to protect consumers and set national standards and controls for cannabis products. Under the proposed legislation and its regulations, the federal government will establish industry-wide rules on the types of products that will be allowed for sale in Canada, including rules governing how they are to be produced, tested, labelled, packaged, and shipped.
We will build on Canada's existing regulations and system of licensed production of cannabis for medical purposes, which has been recognized as one of the best systems in the world.
Let me reassure my colleagues that we are also looking to others who have already done this, and we are working closely with them. We are having ongoing conversations with other jurisdictions, such as Colorado and Washington states, to learn from their experiences and build upon the lessons they have learned. We want to get this right.
Putting in place a sound, effective system of regulated access to cannabis will require co-operation and collaboration from jurisdictions.
Under the bill, the federal government would be responsible for establishing and maintaining a comprehensive and consistent national framework to regulate the production of cannabis. For their part, the provinces and territories could license and oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis. Together with municipalities, they could also tailor certain rules in their own jurisdictions and enforce them through a range of tools, such as tickets for example.
We have worked closely with our provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure their input has been heard and taken into account. Earlier this week, we published a detailed consultation paper on our proposed approach to regulating cannabis. Over 60 days, we will undertake in-depth discussions with the provinces and territories, indigenous representatives and stakeholders. We are also inviting Canadians to submit their feedback online until January 20, 2018, on everything from licensing of producers, to product standards, to packaging and labelling.
In conclusion, the bill before the House today is designed to address the issues we are already dealing with. Our youth have access to cannabis. Our youth consume cannabis. Organized crime continues to profit from its unregulated sale.
Although we are proposing to legalize cannabis, we understand that its consumption, like that of alcohol or tobacco, should not be encouraged. That is why we are doing everything we can to protect our young people as we move forward with the legalization of cannabis.
Today, I am asking my colleagues to support Bill C-45 at third reading stage.