Mr. Speaker, one would think that at this late date in the session and at this late hour in the evening, the Liberals would be focusing on the real issues that are facing Canadians like slow economic growth, joblessness, and a growing inability of young Canadians to purchase a new home. No, instead the Liberals are spending their time working hard to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Considering the long list of campaign promises they have broken so far, it is surprising that this is the one they decided to push through at all costs.
In regard to this legislation, our top priority on this side of the House is to stand up for the health and safety of Canadians. The Liberals have repeatedly claimed that the purpose of this legislation is the protection of our young people and to increase public safety, but the more research is done into legalization and the more information we gather about the negative effects in jurisdictions that have gone down this road, the more the claim they are making goes up in smoke.
How did we get here? On April 13, 2017, the Liberal government introduced legislation that would allow for the recreational use of marijuana for Canadians over the age of 18 and eliminate penalties for possession of up to five grams of marijuana for those between the ages of 12 and 18. This bill is now referred to as Bill C-45. As I said earlier, the Prime Minister and his Liberal government have repeated time and again that the aim of this legislation is to protect our young children and increase public safety. However, neither of these goals is accomplished with this legislation.
This is not just my view. The Angus Reid Institute conducted a poll and found that approximately two in three Canadians believe that this legislation fails to prevent young people from using marijuana more than they already do. While the government claims that it makes decisions based on facts and science, this legislation proves otherwise.
Groups such as the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Psychiatric Association, and Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police all oppose certain aspects of the bill. Both the CMA and CPA have stated that Canadians who consume marijuana recreationally under the age of 25 have a higher risk of developing mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
The Canadian Psychiatric Association has stated:
Regular cannabis use in youth and young adults can affect aspects of cognition, including attention, memory, processing speed, visuospatial functioning and overall intelligence. Worse performance is related to earlier adolescent onset of use.
The Canadian Psychiatric Association went on to say that:
Early age of use of cannabis increases the potential for adult dependence to cannabis.
Cannabis may be associated with increased progression to other illicit drug use in the context of particular factors (e.g., high frequency and early age of use).
Later in the same report, the Canadian Psychiatric Association states:
The CPA acknowledges and agrees with the CMA recommendations to the Task Force. With respect to protection of mental wellness for youth and young adults the CPA highlights the following:
Since regular cannabis use is associated with increased risk of schizophrenia, and may also negatively interact with depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders due to its biological effects on brain maturation, and since mental disorders frequently start before the age of 25, age of access to cannabis should not be prior to age 21, with restrictions on quantity and THC potency for those between 21 and 25 years of age.
None of these are found in Bill C-45.
A recent Canadian Medical Association Journal edition of May 29 states:
The purported purpose of the act is to protect public health and safety, yet some of the act’s provisions appear starkly at odds with this objective, particularly for Canada’s youth.
Simply put, cannabis should not be used by young people. It is toxic to their cortical neuronal networks, with both functional and structural changes seen in the brains of youth who use cannabis regularly.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has stated unequivocally that “cannabis is not a benign substance and its health harms increase with intensity of use”. Although adults are also susceptible to the harmful effects of cannabis, the developing brain is especially sensitive.
The Canadian Paediatric Society cautions that marijuana use in youth is strongly linked to “cannabis dependence and other substance use disorders; the initiation and maintenance of tobacco smoking; an increased presence of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis; impaired neurological development and cognitive decline; and diminished school performance and lifetime achievement.” The lifetime risk of dependence on marijuana is about 9%; however, this increases to almost 17% in those who start using as teenagers.
The CMA article continues:
Most of us know a young person whose life was derailed because of marijuana use. Bill C-45 is unlikely to prevent such tragedies from occurring—and, conversely, may make them more frequent. Although an accompanying bill lays out stronger penalties for impaired driving and proposed limits for blood levels of tetrahydrocannabinol in drivers, there is grave concern that legalization of marijuana will result in a substantial increase in impaired driving, particularly among young people and in conjunction with alcohol use.
Negative health effects related to the recreational use of marijuana is not exclusive to children. As the Canadian Medical Association notes, “Marijuana use is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including addiction, cardiovascular and pulmonary effects (e.g., chronic bronchitis), mental illness, and other problems, including cognitive impairment and reduced educational attainment.”
Specifically regarding addiction, the Society for the Study of Addiction has found that regular use of marijuana for one in 10 users results in a dependence problem. If usage started in adolescence, that number rises to one in six. It is clear the negative health effects of marijuana are not being taken seriously by the government and the steps it is taking now will have a long-lasting negative impact on Canadians.
As for public safety, Washington state says legalizing the recreational use of marijuana has seen drastic increases in vehicular deaths related to driving under the influence of marijuana. The Washington Times, reporting on findings from the American Automobile Association, stated:
Authorities in Washington recorded 436 fatal crashes in 2013, and determined that drivers involved in 40 crashes tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana, according to the study. In 2014 [one year later] they found that of 462 fatal crashes, 85 drivers tested positive for THC.
The number of fatal crashes linked to the presence of THC doubled in one year.
MADD Canada stated:
Population surveys show the number of Canadians driving after using drugs is on the rise. In fact, driving after smoking cannabis is now more prevalent among some younger drivers than driving after drinking. Survey data from a 2013 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health report showed that, among young Ontario drivers in grades 10--12, 4% drove after drinking while 9.7% drove after smoking cannabis.
Equally concerning as the numbers is the misperception that many young people, and some parents, have that driving under the influence of cannabis is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. A national study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada revealed:
Nearly one third (32%) of teens did not consider driving under the influence of cannabis to be as bad as alcohol.
Nearly 25% of parents of teenagers did not consider driving while high on cannabis to be as bad as drinking and driving.
Many young people think driving under the influence of cannabis is risk-free. Yet studies have shown that smoking cannabis can produce unwelcome effects behind the wheel, including a shorter attention span, an altered perception of time and distances, and slower reaction times that impair the driver’s ability to respond to sudden events in traffic. A 2012 study by researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax found that smoking cannabis three hours before driving nearly doubled a driver’s risk of having a motor vehicle crash.
Combining cannabis with even small amounts of alcohol greatly increases the negative impact on driving skills.
Many young people also think that they will never be caught or charged for driving high. While detecting cannabis is more challenging than detecting alcohol because we do not yet have a simple roadside drug test similar to the alcohol breathalyzer, police do have tools to determine whether a driver is impaired by drugs.
However, as noted by the American Automobile Association, there are no proven blood or urine tests that can determine how high a person is from marijuana. Tests can only determine if marijuana is in their system. I have heard from police officers in the Waterloo region on this issue. Our police forces are not properly funded or equipped to handle these new dangers. We need to heed their warnings and take their concerns into consideration.
It is clear that while the government is going to rush ahead with legalizing recreational marijuana, it is not with the health and safety of Canadians in mind. It is simply to fulfill a campaign promise, with no thought or concern for our youth and their future.
Let me finish with one short quote from an editorial written by Dr. Diane Kelsall in the Canadian Medical Association Journal just three days ago. She said, “If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.”