House of Commons Hansard #185 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was project.

Topics

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I would like to remind her that, during the last campaign, the NDP promised to balance the budget. If the NDP were in office, it could not make any of the investments that my colleague is talking about. It is easy to tell the government to make investments. However, since the NDP said that it was going to balance the budget, it would not have been able to make those investments.

Since I know that my colleague is from Quebec, I would like to remind her of what the Institut national de santé publique du Québec said:

By giving the provinces a leading role in the distribution of the substance, the bill on the legalization of non-medical cannabis introduced today gives Quebec all the latitude it needs to implement a system that would allow people to access safe, high quality cannabis without boosting demand...

Does my colleague think that the Institut national de santé publique du Québec is wrong?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that the members opposite are in complete denial about what I said in my speech.

What I said was that we agreed with the principles of the bill but that there was a lack of measures to protect young people and to make them aware of the consequences of cannabis use.

I will once again quote Lucie Charlebois, the Quebec minister for rehabilitation, youth protection, public health, and healthy living. She said:

We need more money to do prevention, to make sure parents have the information they need. How are we supposed to educate people? How are we supposed to prepare parents for this and do awareness programs in schools?

I am not the one saying this; it is the Quebec minister. There is a huge lack of vision and not nearly enough investment here. Many organizations have said that we need to invest in prevention, treatment, and major awareness campaigns. Colorado alone invested $45 million in prevention, while Canada is investing a measly $2 million a year. This will not work.

In fact, that $2 million will not be dedicated just to marijuana legalization, but to all issues related to all drugs, including the opioid crisis. That is whole other matter. The Liberals are way off the mark. They need to make massive investments now. They cannot wait until next year, because it will be too late. There will be many problems and young people struggling with addiction, when young people are the ones this bill was supposed to protect.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to contribute to this debate on Bill C-45, legislation that proposes to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis. Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a priority for our government, and the focus of the bill.

Despite decades of criminal prohibition, Canadians, including 21% of our youth, and 30% of young adults, continue to use cannabis. In fact, Canadians use cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world.

As is well known, large quantities of cannabis are grown and sold illegally, profiting criminals and organized crime. This is done with no regard for public health or safety.

Too many young Canadians can access cannabis too easily. Young people often find it easier to buy cannabis than cigarettes. This situation cannot go on. Young people run the risk of being exposed to criminals whose only motivation is to maximize their profits.

Simply put, the current approach to cannabis is not working. That is why our government is proposing a public health approach for cannabis legalization and regulation. Our aim is to minimize the harms associated with cannabis use.

Scientific evidence shows that the risks of cannabis are higher for youth than adults, and these risks increase the younger people are when they start using it and the more often they use it. Our objective is to keep cannabis out of the hands of kids, both through the legislation and through early and sustained public education and awareness.

Bill C-45 currently before the House is the cornerstone of the government's approach.

The bill is about protecting our youth and reducing their access to cannabis. It would impose serious criminal penalties for those who provide cannabis to young people or enlist them in committing a cannabis-related offence.

Beyond that, the bill is about creating a legal and regulated market for cannabis, taking profits out of the hands of criminals, and protecting public health through strict product requirements for safety and quality.

Bill C-45 is informed by the recommendations of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, which was led last year by the Honourable Anne McLellan. The task force heard from experts in many fields, including health, public safety, justice, and law enforcement, and received more than 30,000 responses from Canadians.

Today, I would like to focus on four key components of our government's approach: protecting youth; education and awareness; product safety and quality controls; and the roles and responsibilities, and implementation.

Let us begin with protecting youth. To reiterate what is already well known, too many young Canadians have easy access to cannabis. During its extensive consultations across the country, the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation heard the same thing: how easy it is for young people to obtain cannabis. Therefore, Bill C-45 is not just about taking action on illegal cannabis markets, which my colleagues will expand on in further detail. It is also about protecting the health of Canadians, and most importantly, the health of young people and children.

Young people are at the heart of the government's strategy to regulate cannabis and restrict access to it for three reasons.

First, there are risks associated with the use of cannabis. Even though some people use it for medical purposes, it can still be harmful to a person's health. Second, young people are particularly vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on the development of the brain and brain function because their brains are still developing. Third, the younger one is at onset of use, and the more one uses, the greater the health threat.

The combination of these factors is why we seek to restrict youth access to cannabis, to penalize those who sell or give to youth, and to restrict its advertising and promotion.

Specifically, as drafted, the cannabis act would prohibit anyone from selling or providing cannabis to any person under the age of 18, but provinces and territories would have the flexibility to set a higher minimum age should they wish to do so. In addition, the act would create two new criminal offences, with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail for giving or selling cannabis to youth or for using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence.

The act would also prohibit certain marketing practices. Cannabis businesses would not be allowed to produce or sell products that appeal to youth, such as gummy bears. In addition, they would not be allowed to use any packaging or labelling that is attractive to youth, including depictions of persons, celebrities, characters, or animals. Also, cannabis could not be sold through self-service displays or vending machines.

The bill proposes a number of restrictions on promotion to protect youth from being persuaded to consume cannabis through marketing or advertising. Promotion would be permitted only when it provides factual information and is communicated in a way that cannot be seen by youth. In addition, false, misleading, or deceptive advertising would be prohibited, as would sponsorship, testimonials, or endorsements, or other forms of promotion or branding that could entice young people to use cannabis.

We are confident that these measures will prevent children and youth from obtaining cannabis. At the same time, adults must have access to clear and objective information in order to make informed decisions about their consumption.

Therefore, the legislation would permit information-type promotion. This means it would allow factual, accurate information about cannabis products, such as the ingredients and the THC levels. Information that allows consumers to tell the difference between brands would also be permitted. Again, in all cases, these types of promotions would be allowed only where they could not be seen by youth. Penalties for violating these prohibitions would include a fine of up to $5 million, three years in jail, or both.

When it comes to enforcement, the bill seeks to avoid criminalizing youth and subjecting them to the lifelong consequences of a criminal record. To this end, I should note three points. First, individuals under the age of 18 would not face criminal prosecution for possessing or sharing very small amounts of cannabis, up to five grams. Second, violations of the proposed legislation by youth would be subject to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and addressed in the youth justice system, and third, provinces and territories would have the flexibility to prohibit the possession of any amount of cannabis by youth, thereby permitting police to seize any cannabis a youth has in their possession.

I will move on to education and public awareness. We know that Canadians need information about cannabis. We have to talk about it with our children, make informed and responsible decisions, and ensure that our roads are safe. That was the very clear message that our government heard thanks to the working group's consultations. We have a plan to address the situation.

We are also hearing from the experience of jurisdictions in the United States, whose officials told us that it is important to communicate early and to communicate often about the risks of cannabis consumption. One of the challenges we face when it comes to protecting youth is that they are less likely than adults to see cannabis use as a significant risk to health.

To that end, our government is investing in robust measures to make sure all Canadians, especially young people, are aware of the risks associated with cannabis use.

In budget 2017, our government committed $9.6 million to a public education and awareness campaign to inform Canadians, particularly young people, of the risks of cannabis use, as well as to fund surveillance activities. This campaign has begun and will continue over the next years. In collaboration with the provinces and territories, the campaign will raise public awareness about the risks associated with cannabis use and monitor the impacts of providing strictly controlled access.

It will also monitor patterns and perceptions of cannabis use among Canadians, especially, youth. To do this, we have launched the Canadian cannabis survey to gather information on the rates and patterns of cannabis use, as well as perceptions about cannabis. This annual survey includes detailed questions on how often and how much Canadians use cannabis, how they acquire it, and whether they consume it with other substances or before driving.

In addition to monitoring and measuring the impact of legislative measures, the survey will enable us to orient and better target our public education activities and to reduce the risks associated with cannabis use.

I will now talk about product safety and quality requirements.

Bill C-45 would permit adults 18 years or older to legally possess up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis in public, or its equivalent in other forms.

Adults would also be able to legally access cannabis through various mechanisms. Primarily, they could purchase it from a provincially licensed retailer or could grow it themselves at home. Sharing of cannabis would be limited to no more than 30 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent, and personal cultivation would be limited to no more than four plants per residence, each with a maximum height of 100 cm.

To deter criminal activity and protect the health and safety of Canadians, our government is committed to ensuring that there is a safe and legal controlled supply of cannabis available for sale when the act comes into force. Under the proposed legislation and regulations, our government would establish industry-wide rules on the types of products that would be allowed for sale, standardized serving sizes, and potency. We would also have rules on the use of certain ingredients and good production practices, as well as the tracking of cannabis from seed to sale to prevent diversion to the illicit market.

Canada already has experience with product safety and quality requirements for cannabis. Our current system, which provides access to cannabis for medical purposes, is recognized as one of the best in the world. It includes a number of safety and security features, such as frequent inspections of production facilities and clear regulations around pesticide use.

We will be using the authorized production system in place as the plan of action to control cannabis production under the proposed cannabis legislation.

While on this topic, I would like to say a few words about the Canadian medical marijuana system. This system will continue to exist when bill C-45 goes into effect, subject to parliamentary approval.

This was recommended by the task force to ensure access to cannabis for individuals who have the authorization of their health care practitioners. The task force also recommended that the government monitor and evaluate patients' reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes during the implementation of the new law and that it evaluate that framework within five years. We intend to do that.

Health Canada has introduced changes to its program overseeing the medical cannabis industry to accelerate the licensing of producers to enable the industry to meet the increased demand for cannabis.

The existing rules surrounding product safety, good product practices, and restrictions on which pesticides can be used will remain in place. Health Canada will continue to inspect producers and enforce the regime. This will ensure that production is safe and quality controlled.

Finally, I would like to talk a little about the roles and responsibilities with respect to Bill C-45 and its implementation.

As I already mentioned, the proposed cannabis law would establish a rigorous national framework to limit the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis in Canada.

All levels of government in Canada would be able to establish requirements with respect to cannabis, consistent with their jurisdictional authorities and experience. Again, this follows the advice of the task force.

Under the proposed cannabis act, the federal government would be responsible for establishing and maintaining a comprehensive and consistent national framework to regulate production, set standards for heath and safety, and establish criminal prohibitions.

The provinces and territories would license and oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis. Together with municipalities, they could tailor certain rules in their own jurisdictions and enforce them through a range of tools. These rules could include setting additional regulatory requirements to address issues of local concern, such as prohibiting the consumption of cannabis in public or setting zoning requirements for where cannabis businesses could be located.

Active involvement of provincial and territorial governments by, for example, setting strong retail rules to prevent cannabis from being sold to young people, will be critical to ensure that young people do not have access to cannabis.

Earlier, I mentioned that our government's budget 2017 included a $9.6 million investment over five years for a comprehensive public awareness and information campaign as well as monitoring activities.

As health is a responsibility shared by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, the provinces and territories can complement federal public health programs.

This could include managing health and public safety issues, as well as providing public awareness activities and counselling in schools.

Our government is committed to continuing to work with the provinces and territories to address this complex issue.

When it comes to the implementation of Bill C-45, I should note that cannabis for non-medical purposes will remain illegal as the bill moves through the legislative process. Currently, it is illegal to buy, sell, produce, import, or export cannabis unless it is authorized under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and its regulations, such as the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

Subject to approval by Parliament, the government intends to bring the proposed cannabis act into force no later than July 2018. Under the proposed act, possession, production, distribution, and sale outside the legal system would remain illegal and be subject to criminal penalties proportionate to the seriousness of the offence. These could range from ticketing up to a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment.

In the weeks and months to come, our government will be working with those who share with us the responsibility for the legalization and regulation of cannabis. In particular, we will be working with provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, and our partners in indigenous communities.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate that Bill C-45 uses a public health approach to strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis. Our focus will remain on protecting youth, on educating the public and raising awareness, on ensuring product safety and quality requirements, and on establishing clear roles and responsibilities.

Our government is confident that the proposed cannabis act will protect the health and safety of all Canadians.

Based on these points, I call on my colleagues to support Bill C-45 at second reading so that it can be considered by the Standing Committee on Health.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, since this legislation was first introduced, I have had some unease about a number of areas.

About three days ago, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an article entitled “Cannabis legislation fails to protect Canada's youth”. This is a professional organization to which the minister would probably belong. I am sure she must be aware of what it is saying.

The article states, “The purported purpose of the act is to protect health and safety, yet some of the act's provisions appear starkly at odds with this objective, particularly for Canada's youth.” That is a pretty strong statement from the experts.

They go on to talk about the areas of concern, first and foremost being age. The brain is still developing at the age of 18, so age is a significant concern. Being able to grow it in one's home, with the issue of quantity and quality and toxicity, is a concern. The organization has a number of areas of concern.

I would like the minister to perhaps respond to her association and tell it why it is wrong in terms of its concerns about her proposed legislation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the report that came out from the Canadian Medical Association, and I have had the opportunity to discuss that with the leadership of the organization.

As the member said, there are concerns about the potential harms associated with cannabis, particularly for young people, and I alluded to those issues in my speech.

I know that the member is aware, and also the Canadian Medical Association is aware, that Canadian young people have among the highest rates of cannabis use in the world, particularly the age group between age 20 and 24. Thirty per cent of young people in that age group use cannabis. This is a rather high rate.

The reality is that when a product becomes legal, that is not to say that it is without risks. We recognize that there are risks associated with cannabis use. There are many products that are legal that are not without risks, and the best examples are, of course, tobacco and alcohol. I wonder if the member is proposing that perhaps we should make tobacco consumption illegal. Of course, I would think that is not her perspective, because we know that criminal prohibitions are not the way to address public health issues.

We know that criminalization of a product is not how to do it. It needs to be done with a public health approach to minimize the harms associated with it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, on one hand, the Liberals have acknowledged many times the harms that come from the continued criminalization of cannabis, particularly as it affects small possession charges. These affect our youth and racialized Canadians, and the Liberals have admitted that it clogs up our justice system. On the other hand, the Liberals say that we just need to wait another year, because it is still illegal and that will continue to happen. However, I want to leave that aside for a moment.

What I want to ask the Minister of Health is specifically on the issue of pardons. Pardons cost $631. That is a lot of money for people on the margins of society to clear their names and move their lives forward, which is something I think everyone in the House wants to encourage. I want to know from the Minister of Health if her government is going to consider amnesty for people who were previously convicted for possession of small amounts of marijuana, yes or no. I think the House, and Canadians, deserve an answer on that.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his concern with respect to the criminalization of young people. As I mentioned in my speech, and as we have heard in the House before, that is one of our concerns as well. However, it is important that we take a proper approach, a thorough and thoughtful approach. Decriminalization would not in fact address our policy objectives here, which are to keep cannabis out of the hands of kids and to keep the profits out of the hands of criminals. We are proceeding in a thoughtful manner in doing this, along the advice of the task force, and are making sure there would be a regime that would strictly regulate access.

In terms of his question about pardons, it would be premature to discuss that. I encourage him to continue to support the bill, to make sure we proceed in an orderly manner, and to know that the law is the law, unless the law changes.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member referenced the age limit being 18 and talked about the need for education. I can appreciate that there certainly is that need. However, I disagree with the legal age being 18. I think the scientific and medical evidence shows otherwise. Nevertheless, there is a need for education.

The government has provided $9.6 million. However, it is worth noting that this is over five years, which is very little per year. It is also worth noting that this money is not made available to implement education before this legislation comes into effect on July 1, 2018.

Given that fact, it would seem that marijuana is being put into the hands of our young people before there has ever been any sort of public education initiative with regard to the health impacts of marijuana. Why is that? Why are we not putting the well-being of our young people first and foremost and making sure there is education readily available to them before making marijuana readily available?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question and for her support of public education as part of a public health approach to substance use. In fact, we have lots of good evidence from other substances of how important public health education is. We look at something like tobacco use. There used to be extremely high rates of tobacco use, and they are now much lower because of public education.

As she acknowledged, we have put $9.6 million in the budget to advance public education. We have already begun our campaigns of public education, and those will continue to advance. We will continue to resource this over time and continue to make sure we do so. I have to acknowledge as well that the federal government is not the only partner in the business of public education. Of course, we are working with our provincial and territorial colleagues. We are working with ministers of education at other levels of government as well and with municipalities. This will require all levels of government, and in fact all levels of society, to work together.

I can assure the member that we will work in concert with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other federal partners to enhance education.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by not only thanking the minister for her speech but for her extraordinary leadership on this file, and so many other matters of government. She brings a wealth of experience but also values that have enhanced the government's approach.

I reflected, as I listened to the questions and earlier comments by the members opposite, about this concern and suggestion that we should prohibit anyone under the age of 25 from having legal access to this regulated substance. I reflected on my life before I was 25. Before I was 25, I was married. I was the father of two kids by then. I owned a house. I had a mortgage. I was a cop. I carried a gun. I was entrusted with all the powers of a police officer, including the authority to restrict a person's liberty and to use force, perhaps even deadly force. I could buy a drink, and I could smoke a cigarette. That was how I was trusted, yet the members opposite suggest that Canadians between the ages of 18 and 25, who are adults, could not be trusted to make an informed choice about their own health.

Therefore, I would like to ask the minister if she could reflect on the public health lens she has advocated for and brought forward to this important bill.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must return gratitude to the member for his tremendous work on this file. He has been going across this country to talk to people about this issue, and we are indebted to him for his work.

This a conversation that I have had with him in the past about the approach, particularly for young adults. They are such an important group when we are thinking about the work of this bill. I would remind him again about something like tobacco. There is no young person in this country who should consume tobacco. Yesterday was World No Tobacco Day. We know that it will kill one in two regular users of tobacco, but there is no one proposing that we criminalize the use of tobacco by young adults.

We know that a public health approach means to maximize education and minimize harm. As the member indicated, adults are mature people who are able to take risks into consideration. We know that as they become educated on who may or may not be more at risk for use of cannabis, in fact they will make informed decisions, and they will be able to make those decisions in a way that will reduce and minimize the harms associated with these substances.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-45, the government's legislation to legalize marijuana. Without more, Bill C-45 raises more questions than answers. The government has yet to explain how legalization is going to make it safe for our kids, safe for motorists, and frankly safe for all Canadians.

One of the arguments that the government has put forward is that somehow the legalization of marijuana is going to keep it out of the hands of our kids. Let us think about that for a minute. The government wants to keep marijuana out of the hands of our kids. So far so good. I think any decent reasonable Canadian would want to keep marijuana out of the hands of our kids. Therefore, what is it proposing to do? It is proposing to legalize marijuana, normalize marijuana, to see the proliferation of marijuana everywhere. That is somehow going to keep it out of the hands of our kids. It seems to be a whole lot of hazy logic to come up with the assessment that somehow legalizing marijuana is going to keep it out of the hands of our kids. One need only look at the state of Colorado to see that legalizing marijuana does not keep it out of the hands of our kids. On the contrary, it has the exact opposite effect.

Let us look at some of the numbers from the state of Colorado. Before legalization, Colorado youth ranked 14th in the U.S. for marijuana use. After legalization, Colorado youth ranked number one in the U.S. for the use of marijuana. Before legalization, the usage of marijuana among Colorado youth was 39% above the U.S. national average. After legalization, that number skyrocketed to 74% above the U.S. national average. In the two years following the legalization of marijuana in the state of Colorado, overall usage among youth increased by 20%. By contrast, over the same two-year period, usage among youth in the U.S. declined by 4%. Those are some of the statistics. They are clear, unambiguous, out in the open, and available to the government. For a government that talks so much about evidence and evidence-based decision-making, let me say that on the question of the legalization of marijuana, the evidence on keeping it out of the hands of our kids is clear: it does not keep it out of the hands of our kids. It provides it, and increases the likelihood of our youth accessing and using marijuana. Those are the facts.

When one looks at some of the measures in Bill C-45 that the government is proposing to supposedly keep marijuana out of the hands of our kids, one of the things in the bill is a provision that provides that youth—in other words, Canadians between the ages of 12 and 18—are prohibited from possessing more than five grams of marijuana. What happens if someone 12 to 18 possesses four grams of marijuana, three grams of marijuana, two grams of marijuana, or one gram of marijuana? The fact is that right now, if a police officer found a grade six kid, an elementary student who is 12 years old, with five grams of marijuana, which is the equivalent of 10 joints, by the way, the police officer could confiscate the marijuana. However, Bill C-45 would change that. A police officer might not be able to do anything about it, because that grade six student, that 12-year-old with five grams of marijuana, would be within the full confines of the law.

In fairness, the government would say that the provinces will step in and legislate on this. That is true. It is potentially true. We do not know yet whether the provinces will or will not do that. Nonetheless, it can hardly be said that this is a step in the direction of keeping marijuana out of the hands of our youth.

Then, there is the issue of homegrown marijuana. Under this legislation, it provides that any residence in Canada of someone who is 18 years of age or older can have up to four marijuana plants in the residence. Now, I do not know if it occurred to anyone in the government, but just about every youth in Canada, everyone under the age of 18, lives in a residence with someone over the age of 18. Who would have thought of that?

It maybe did not occur to the government that someone who is under the age of 18, with marijuana growing in their house, might actually try to gain access to that marijuana. Who would think that? I cannot think of an easier way for youth to access marijuana than homegrown marijuana—marijuana growing in their own home.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

I guess we are getting very excited, very defensive over there, but we know that this legislation is not keeping marijuana out of the hands of our youth. Those two measures, on their face, do exactly the opposite. Speaking of homegrown marijuana, it certainly is inconsistent with the alleged objective of the bill to keep marijuana out of the hands of our youth. It is also inconsistent with other aspects of Bill C-45.

One of the other objectives of Bill C-45 is to control and regulate the production, sale, and distribution of marijuana. What would homegrown marijuana mean in the context of controlling and regulating the production, sale, and distribution of marijuana? What it would mean is that it would increase the risk of diversion to the black market. It would make it all but impossible to enforce quality and potency controls. It would make it very difficult for law enforcement to enforce against diversion and overproduction. It would result in hazards, like fire hazards. It is perhaps obvious to everyone except the members of the government that it would make it a whole lot easier for kids to access marijuana.

It is no wonder that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have come out strongly against homegrown marijuana. It is no wonder that this past week an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal slammed the government for Bill C-45 for, among other reasons, homegrown marijuana. Homegrown marijuana makes Canadians less safe. It puts vulnerable Canadians and youth at risk. It creates an enforcement nightmare for the police.

One of the things we hear a lot about from the government in terms of Bill C-45 is the assertion that it is taking a public health approach to marijuana. The marijuana task force recommended what it characterized as a public health approach to the legalization of marijuana.

One of the reasons the marijuana task force recommended taking a public health approach is that it recognized there are serious risks involved with the use of marijuana, particularly among youth and vulnerable Canadians. In addition, the marijuana task force also noted that there was a lot of misinformation out there about the use of marijuana, particularly among young people. On that basis, one of the recommendations of the marijuana task force was for the government to move forward with an immediate and sustained education campaign. The marijuana task force recommendations were issued at the end of last year. It is now June 1, six months later, and I ask the government, where is the campaign? Where is the public education campaign? It is nowhere to be seen. If there is a campaign, it is a pretty bad one.

The Minister of Health stood up in her place just minutes ago and bragged about $9.6 million toward an awareness campaign that is invisible. It is $9.6 million over five years. That is less than $2 million each year. When one contrasts that with Colorado, the State of Colorado spent tens of millions of dollars on public education and awareness. It goes to show that when it comes to a so-called public health approach from the current government, it is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Is there a fire alarm going off?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

I know there is a lot of smoke.

Mr. Speaker, another major issue arising from the legalization of marijuana—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

These guys think it is so funny, all of these issues. I will tell them something that is not funny. It is called “drug-impaired driving”. That is going to be one of the biggest consequences of the legalization of marijuana.

We know that with legalization, more and more Canadians will use marijuana. If in doubt, one can look to the state of Colorado where, in the two years following the legalization of marijuana, usage of marijuana among adults increased by some 20%. We know that marijuana is going to be used more widely, and that is going to mean more people are going to get behind the wheel drug impaired. In the state of Colorado, the percentage of motor vehicle deaths involving drug impairment increased by a staggering 62% in the year following legalization. Therefore, legalization would mean more injuries, more deaths, and more carnage on our roads.

In the face of that, law enforcement faces a number of challenges. Among the challenges that law enforcement agencies face is detecting individuals on the road who are drug impaired. Bill C-46 would try to deal with that by providing that police officers who have a reasonable suspicion that someone is drug impaired could require a motorist to take a roadside screening test. It would be an oral saliva test that would test for THC.

There are significant questions about whether the test would be reliable and scientific. There are a whole lot of questions about whether police officers would be able to effectively stop someone and test for drug impairment, even though the government is moving full steam ahead with this legislation, for which we are going to see many more people on our roads who are drug impaired. In addition to that, obviously police departments across Canada have to get police officers trained to detect drug impairment. That is complicated. It is a lot more complicated than detecting alcohol.

The number of drug recognition experts in Canada is around 600, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction. The capacity required in the face of the government's legislation, which again the Liberals are moving full steam ahead with in a year, is around 2,000. There is a lot of work for law enforcement to do. On those two issues, police departments across Canada have to acquire new roadside screening devices, and they have to train police officers to detect drug impairment. Training, by the way, costs on average about $20,000. We are talking about significant costs.

What is the government doing to help police departments across Canada get the equipment and get police officers trained? The answer to that is zero, zip, nada, nothing. I see that as an abdication of leadership, and it is the absence of a plan from the government. Indeed, about the only plan that the government seems to have is that July 1, 2018 date. It is an arbitrary timeline, a rushed timeline. It is a problematic timeline given the amount of work, the amount of planning that is involved in terms of implementation and enforcement of this legislation.

The costs to the provinces and municipalities are going to be significant, and we see no commitment at this time from the government to work with the provinces to help them move forward with the costs of implementation and enforcement. Instead, the government members would just like to take political credit, to say they actually kept an election promise. Imagine that. Now that they can pat themselves on the back and take credit for keeping at least one election promise, provinces and municipalities will bear all the costs, do all the hard work, and the Liberals will wash their hands of it. That is just unacceptable. It is why we heard so many concerns raised by the provinces and municipalities.

We say in closing that what we have from the government is a lack of a plan. At the end of the day, if this legislation is passed, it is going to mean that our kids are going to be less safe, motorists are going to be less safe. Frankly, all Canadians are going to be less safe, and it why this legislation needs to be defeated out of hand.

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7:30 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for his hard work on the justice committee. He always brings a very important perspective and energy to that work, for which we are grateful. As he was talking, particularly about some of the impaired statistics that he referenced from Colorado, I was reminded of the tendency of some people to use statistics much as a drunk uses a lamppost, far more for support than illumination.

As an example, the member suggested that in the year following the legalization, without regulation of cannabis in Colorado by the way, there was a significant increase, 62%, in the detection of impaired drivers. I would simply remind him that the year before that he is comparing that to, there was no technology or training available to the police in that jurisdiction to detect that substance. We saw that when they were given the ability to detect—as we dealt with in part yesterday as we discussed and passed Bill C-46 for second reading—and when we give law enforcement the tools, the technology, and the training they need to detect this, they will be far more effective in its reduction.

I would also point out that in that same period of time since the legalization of cannabis in Colorado, and this is a correlation and not necessarily a causative relationship, we have seen overall impaired driving drop by more than 50%. We have seen a 10% reduction in crime overall, and a 5% reduction in violent crime in that jurisdiction.

I wonder, in reflection of the fact that when we give the police the tools they will actually be able to detect this offence—and that is the work we have been doing—if the member might agree that we are at least on the right path in that aspect of maintaining public safety.

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7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice for his hard work on a very complex file. He has shown leadership in a lot of respects on this matter. However, I have to say that I was struck by his comments about giving law enforcement the tools and technology. That is part of the problem. We do not know if the right tools are in place, or if they are reliable and have been scientifically tested and approved to be used today. Even if there are such tools, what is lacking is a commitment from the government to help law enforcement get those tools in time for July 1, 2018.

With respect to some of the statistics that he referred to in the state of Colorado, the fact is that there has been carnage on Colorado's roads. There has certainly been a significant increase in marijuana use among youth. For a government that talks so much about taking a public health approach, that should be very concerning, and for a government that talks about taking an evidence-based approach, that should also be very concerning. When one looks at what the Canadian Medical Association or the Canadian Paediatric Society have found, their opinion is that marijuana use among those under the age of 25 impairs brain development. If the government is serious about public health and says its approach is based on public health, then it should take heed of the very troubling statistics in the state of Colorado, which has seen a proliferation in the use of marijuana among youth.

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7:35 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly enjoy serving on the justice committee with my Conservative colleague.

In his speech, the member touched on the fact that a person 18 years of age or older who distributes to a younger person could be liable, on an indictable offence, to a term of imprisonment for 14 years or, on summary conviction, a $5,000 fine or six months in prison. There are 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds in the same household, and if marijuana is in the household, we do not want those people to be inadvertently caught in these harsh punishments. That is something the government has to take note of.

In his speech, the member also touched on the ability of youth to have up to five grams of marijuana. In the government's briefing document, it states that this would prevent youth from entering the criminal justice system for possessing or distributing small amounts. It still allows for a ticketable offence and for police to seize it. I have talked to Conservative colleagues, and a lot of them seem to be in favour of ticketable offences. I am wondering if the member would agree that it would be in society's interest to prevent youth between the ages of 12 and 17 from having to go through the criminal justice system, while still allowing police to have the power to seize the marijuana and also issue a ticket if necessary. Would he not agree that is a somewhat better approach than using the criminal justice system, which can have far-reaching consequences for youth far into the future?

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7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford raised the point about 18-year-olds getting caught up with very serious charges, and the possibility of serious penalties, including extended periods of imprisonment. He touches on a reasonable point, which speaks to a broader point. When we look at Bill C-45, there is a whole lot of arbitrary cut-offs in the legislation when it comes to those who are 18 versus 17, or 12 versus 11. He is absolutely right in raising that as a point of concern.

With respect to the issue of making it a ticketable offence, I am in agreement with the hon. member that this is something that needs to be carefully looked at. In fact, it is the position of the Conservative Party that we should not move toward legalization but decriminalization, with a ticketing regime for small amounts of marijuana. I cannot speak for everyone, but I think the vast majority of members in the House and the vast majority of Canadians would agree that 17-year-olds or 16-year-olds or 20-year-olds should not be going to jail, and should not have criminal records potentially for the rest of their lives, or an extended period of time, because they were caught with a small amount of marijuana.

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7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague across the way. I know he is an articulate guy, but I have not heard him say a single positive thing even though we have plenty of positive solutions.

Earlier, you said—

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7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Let me finish. People were talking earlier about communication. We have a program in the works. I have a suggestion for you as a former professor. We need to reach out to our Quebec professors too.