Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to talk again about Bill C-45, a bill that will legalize cannabis, which has been illegal for nearly 100 years in Canada. This bill will come into effect in the next eight months.
The hasty passage of this bill raises several concerns, as was pointed out by a very large number of provincial organizations, experts, police forces and health-sector groups. Such a huge and complex bill requires time for reflection and a comprehensive study. It is difficult to understand the Liberals' sense of urgency on this bill, unless they are thinking of the next election, which is slowly but surely approaching. I will add “fortunately” to that.
I oppose this bill because it simply does not meet the objectives that it claims to achieve. To prove it, I propose that the various objectives announced by the Liberal government be reviewed to see whether they pass a reality check, what we call in Quebec l'épreuve des faits, the smell test.
First, the government claims to be protecting the health of young persons by restricting access to cannabis while protecting them from inducements to use it. This objective will simply not be met. To begin with, if we allow Canadians to grow up to four cannabis plants at home, it will be impossible to control children's access to the drug. Therefore, it will be impossible to regulate consumption by the young people who live in these homes. I am not claiming to be an expert in this area. I only observe and listen to what the experts tell us.
Even Health Canada is warning us that marijuana is a dangerous drug for young people. This is what is posted on the department's website: “Youth are especially vulnerable to the health effects of cannabis, because adolescence is a critical time for brain development”.
We know that the brain continues to develop until age 25. During those years, the brain is especially vulnerable to the health effects of marijuana, and use is associated with a disturbing increase in the risk of developing mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. It is estimated that young people who use marijuana are 30% more likely to develop these disorders. When we talk about those under 25, that includes 12-year-olds, who, under the bill, will be able to possess up to 5 grams of marijuana. Yes, members heard me right, children in grades seven to twelve, and even those in grade 6, will be able to have an equivalent of 10 to 15 joints on their person. In short, there is nothing to protect the health of young people. It is more likely that they will be encouraged to use.
Second, the government believes that it will deter the illicit activities associated with cannabis. For now, that is by no means a given. If no improvements are made to the price, packaging, and distribution of cannabis, it is rather unlikely that we will be able to take this market away from organized crime. This is what we have seen in the states of Washington and Colorado, and in several countries such as Uruguay, where home growing did not reduce the involvement of organized crime. In fact, nothing prevents homegrown from being sold for illegal purposes.
That is what Cynthia Coffman, Attorney General of Colorado, said. She is not a Conservative here in the house. She said that criminals were still selling marijuana on the black market, that a host of cartels were operating in Colorado, and that crime has not gone down since marijuana was legalized.
Third, the government claims to be making our roads safer. However, in every state and every country where cannabis was legalized, the drug-impaired driving rate increased. That is what Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to Barack Obama, said about drug policies. He said that there has been an uptick in marijuana-related car accidents in Colorado.
I would like to remind members that drivers who have used marijuana are six times more likely to have a car accident than sober drivers. Also, we recently found out that the government still does not have reliable scientific data on the quantity of marijuana that an individual can use before it hinders his or her ability to drive a vehicle or on how long a person should wait after smoking marijuana before driving. The paper that was presented shows that everything is still vague, even though we are eight months away from legalization. There are no facts and no evidence, but the government is rushing the bill through anyway.
Fourth, the government thinks it will be providing access to quality-controlled cannabis. That is an odd goal considering that this government cannot in any way regulate the home grow that it is allowing.
It is impossible to measure the toxicity, the use of fertilizer, the amount produced, or the presence of mould. Furthermore, in Ontario and Quebec, building owners will not be able to prevent renters from growing marijuana, with all the risks that entails, such as a 24 times greater likelihood of fire, according to experts.
The government thinks it can raise awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use. If it really wants to achieve that objective, it must address the growing concerns expressed by police officers, provincial governments, municipal governments, and indigenous leaders, all of whom have said they will not be prepared to implement the proposed measures eight months from now.
The government should start by listening to these groups of elected representatives and citizens who have sounded the alarm about the Liberal government's pie in the sky objectives. Raising public awareness means launching massive campaigns and providing law enforcement training for police officers and addiction treatment training for mental health workers. These measures will cost Canadian taxpayers dearly, but responsibility for them will most certainly be downloaded onto the provinces, which will have to pick up the tab for the Liberals' promise. Just as they are getting no help now, they will not get any then either.
To sum up, we have reason to seriously question why the Liberal government is in such a hurry to pass this bill.
Perhaps it is so everyone will quickly forget its promise to reform the electoral system or the many other promises I could mention that have really disappointed Canadians, and especially young Canadians, in this case. This kind of commitment requires a great deal of preparation, but instead we are seeing nothing but improvisation in this case.
I therefore urge the members to look at this bill with a critical eye, be prudent, and vote against it. As the many experts I consulted and discussed this with said, this bill does not in any way meet the government's objectives, which are to keep drugs away from kids, make our streets safer, and eliminate organized crime.