House of Commons Hansard #188 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cannabis.

Topics

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I will just have to say that I absolutely disagree. We need to move forward to something that is going to actually see positive steps. That rigid war on drugs has absolutely not worked and we need to see a new strategy. I look forward to working toward that.

Bill C-24—Notice of time allocation motionSalaries ActGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Madam Speaker, an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-45. I am honoured to contribute to the very thoughtful discussions that we have been having in this place and indeed beyond the House about the legalization and regulation of cannabis. I want to thank all of my colleagues for sharing their perspectives on how we can best regulate cannabis to foster healthy and safe communities across this country.

Underneath this debate there are many unifying themes. We are united by a common desire to protect Canadian youth, to uphold public health, and to ensure that cannabis profits are not fuelling organized crime or other threats to public safety. A similar desire is visible outside of the House. Canadians are ready to move toward an approach to cannabis that prioritizes public health and safety, especially for our children.

The current model has not achieved that goal. As we know, an illegal cannabis market is all too much a reality in Canada. We agree with Canadians that the status quo is not working for our families and for our communities. Now it is time to look to the future and ask seriously how we are going to make the positive changes that these families and communities deserve.

Bill C-45 does just that. Through Bill C-45 we are entering a new era where our approach to cannabis enshrines public health and safety. The proposed legislation is underpinned by cautious, evidence-based decision-making to ensure that we take the necessary steps to protect our families and communities.

This government has demonstrated its commitment to evidence-based decision-making across diverse policies and cannabis is no exception. Throughout the process of creating the legislation we have listened to evidence from across the country and in June 2016, our government launched the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation. Above all else, I want to sincerely thank the task force members for their incredible and diligent work on this topic.

The tireless members of the task force and their chair, the hon. Anne McLellan, crossed the country to consult Canadians. They spoke with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments. They spoke with indigenous governments and representative organizations. They spoke with diverse people across Canadian civil society including experts, patients, advocates, youth, employers, and industry experts. That is only the in-person discussions.

The task force also reviewed an amazing 30,000 submissions. Throughout these discussions, the task force developed a rich perspective on how we can best design a new legislative and regulatory framework for legal access to cannabis. The result was an extensive report with far-reaching and detailed recommendations, which was released in December 2016. I am proud that our proposed legislative and regulatory system was informed by and closely aligned with these in-depth recommendations, recommendations that are the product of broad public conversations.

Bill C-45 seeks to ensure that Canadians have the information they need to make evidence-based decisions in their own lives. Through public awareness and education, we can cultivate a culture that is more conscious of cannabis's effects.

I want to reinforce the importance of public awareness and education with a question. What happens when we Google cannabis? The same thing that happens when we Google many other things. A deluge of information appears. Some of it is true. Some of it is not, and it can be incredibly dangerous when that false information informs Canadians' decisions around cannabis use.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse released a study in January 2017 called “Canadian Youth Perceptions on Cannabis”. This study questioned how youth form their understandings of cannabis. In their research, the CCSA found that youth receive most of their information about cannabis from, not surprisingly, friends, peers, the media, and to some extent from their families. The CCSA also found that participants appeared to struggle with critically evaluating the mass of information online and in the media. Amidst the glut of information on cannabis, this study found it is challenging to pick out which conclusions are valid and which are highly biased.

Why is this alarming? These perceptions of cannabis are shaping Canadians' choices around cannabis across the country. Misinformation can lead to dangerous choices. We need to question how we can encourage our youth to make safe decisions around cannabis. I am excited that the proposed legislation works towards this goal through two complementary foci, public education and protecting our youth.

Public education on the harms and risks associated with cannabis will be guided by our evidence-based approach. We will monitor patterns and perceptions around cannabis use, particularly those held by Canadian youth, through an annual Canadian cannabis survey. This information will be crucial to informing our public education and awareness activities, allowing us to more effectively reach out to Canadians. What is more, the survey findings will enable us to mitigate the risks and harms of use associated with cannabis. That is the power of evidence-based decision-making.

Budget 2017 reflects our commitment to public education and awareness around cannabis. In the budget, our government committed $9.6 million over five years to a comprehensive public education awareness campaign as well as to surveillance activities. This campaign will ensure that all Canadians, including youth, understand the risks and harms of cannabis use. This is a crucial step toward safe and healthy communities.

When it comes to protecting youth, the framework we have right now is not working. We have all heard the numbers, but they need to be repeated. Statistics show that youth and young adults are the highest users of cannabis in Canada. Twenty-one per cent of our youth and 30% of young adults in our country used cannabis in 2015 alone. To put these numbers in a global perspective, Canada has the highest rate of youth cannabis use in the world. These numbers are a reminder to everyone why this legislation needs to move forward.

Bill C-45 would take strong action to protect Canadian youth. Under the proposed legislation, selling or providing cannabis to youth would be met with serious criminal penalties. What is more, new offences and strict penalties will be established for those who use youth to commit a cannabis-related offence.

The proposed act would also take steps to ensure that law enforcement will be able to focus on working to ensure that cannabis stays out of the hands of Canada's youth.

In addition to these crucial measures to protect youth, the proposed cannabis act would also work to change how cannabis is perceived and assessed. We spoke about the impact of perceptions of cannabis among Canadian youth. The proposed act would address these questions by prohibiting any products, promotion, packaging, or labelling that could be appealing to youth. Similar to the Tobacco Act, this is an important means of ensuring that marketing campaigns are not targeting youth.

Canada's youth are our future. As we stand at Canada's 150th year since Confederation, we need to look at the future and ask, “How can we best support young Canadians?” We need measures like Bill C-45 to create a safe environment for Canada's youth so that this next generation of leaders can flourish.

To protect Canadians, a pillar of Bill C-45 is public health. This legislation will take two fundamental steps to create a regulatory regime that will enshrine public health and safety.

First, we will set rules for adults to access quality-controlled cannabis. I mentioned the importance of increasing awareness and information about cannabis. However, it is key that this information be rolled out in parallel to a comprehensive regulatory regime. These strict quality controls would ensure that Canadians know what they are buying. We need to monitor product quality to minimize risks to Canadians' health and safety.

Second, we will establish a new, tightly regulated supply chain. Through this regulated supply chain, we can take profits out of illegal markets and away from organized crime. Bill C-45 would bring in serious criminal penalties for those who operate outside the legal market. Together, these measures will foster public safety for Canadian families and communities.

I am privileged to have a strong working relationship with the law enforcement community in my own riding, including with the Halifax Regional Police. In fact, on a Saturday night just last month, I had the opportunity to do a ride-along with the commander of the night watch. I saw first-hand that team's commitment to protecting our communities and ensuring our neighbourhoods are safe for everyone. That night I learned that the illegal guns and gun violence on the streets of my city are there because of drug deals, and it is the same across this country. Taking profits from illegal cannabis sales out of criminal organizations is the best way to further the goal of getting guns off the streets and to complement the ongoing efforts of our tireless law enforcement officers.

It is also important to note that under the new act, the program for access to cannabis for medical purposes will continue. Researchers are continuing to explore the medical effects of cannabis use. Dr. Jason McDougall at Dalhousie University in Halifax received a grant from The Arthritis Society to study how cannabis compounds can be used to manage arthritis pain. Bill C-45 would maintain the program that allows access to cannabis for medical purposes, which reflects the task force's recommendation to maintain a separate medical access framework to support patients.

Finally, after listening to Canadians and experts across the country, this government has taken an evidence-based approach to move toward a new regulatory regime. I deeply admire the extensive work that has been done to ensure that we introduce comprehensive legislation that puts Canadians' health and safety first.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Halifax for his attempt at defending the legislation the government is bringing forward. I have to say that some of the ways the government is trying to make this workable, or what it thinks is going to be workable, are absolutely laughable.

The member for Vancouver Quadra also brought up the issue of plain labelling so that no labelling would attract youth. I would like to have the member explain a bit more how that is going to work when right now the plainest label we can get for marijuana is a baggie. There is nothing on it. How is the government's labelling going to be any plainer than that and turn away kids?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question and his keen interest in this file as we move to improve the situation for all Canadian families and communities.

The illegal drug trade flourishes through the use of the plastic bags that the member refers to, and that is precisely what we are aiming to change through this regulation, so that the sale and provision of cannabis is done in a very safe, regulated way, where the crime is transferred from the person holding the legal amount of cannabis to the person selling the cannabis illegally.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. colleague from Halifax is certainly aware that we will be supporting this bill.

Our biggest concern, again, is around the 15,000 young adults and Canadians who have been charged with cannabis offences for carrying small amounts of cannabis. There is so much confusion going on. I do not know about the member's community, but in my community there are five dispensaries. Young people are confused.

They know the Prime Minister got elected on a promise to legalize marijuana. There are a lot of young people who actually do not watch what is going on in the House of Commons, if members can believe it. They do not know what is going on. They are confused about what is happening. There is one detachment in my riding that is enforcing it and one that is not. They are both RCMP.

I just Googled cannabis, as you did, and I found that I can buy a lot of cannabis online. Madam Speaker, maybe the member could speak about whether he thinks it is just and fair that young adults are getting charged right now, when the government is going to legalize marijuana.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I just want to advise the member that I did not Google cannabis.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, there is very excellent Wi-Fi in the House here, and you could give it a try.

What the task force heard across the country was very clear. The concerns were around the health and safety implications to our children of ingesting adulterated cannabis, and then the very harsh and draconian, very old-fashioned and outdated punishments and criminal records that accompany possession at this point. Those, combined with getting the guns off the streets and the profits out of criminals' hands, are the biggest issues we are facing right now.

We have heard the hon. minister and the parliamentary secretary speak, saying that the law is the law until we change the law, and we must proceed in an orderly and predictable way with our provincial partners through this process, and we will get there eventually, but for now the law is the law until we change it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I believe the member for Halifax left out one very important point about what legalization would do, and that is that individuals would know the strength of the product and that there would not be impurities in that product.

People do not know what they are buying off the streets from the criminal element, and that is a health factor in itself. I wonder if the member for Halifax could comment on that.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, members from across the country will have heard stories in their own ridings about young people who thought they were buying an innocent amount of marijuana of a quality that could be trusted, and instead found themselves in an emergency room because they did not know or understand what was in that product.

I thank the member for Malpeque for highlighting that. This is all about knowing what it is that is being purchased.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to shout out to one of my fans watching from our riding, a young girl named Madison. I just want to say hi and thanks for watching tonight.

I want to talk about a couple of issues I have with cannabis. We have heard from the government side that legalization is supposed to reduce all harm to kids and make all the problems go away. There is a reason cannabis is illegal. It is because it is not good for people. I have a couple of articles on my iPad right now about the negative health effects on our lungs.

I want to dispute two supposed facts that are being put on the table tonight by the government. First, the government says it wants to protect our youth. Second, it says it wants to promote public health with the legalization of cannabis.

I am going to talk about youth. Part of problem with the bill is that the government members say they want to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids. I would dispute that, based on what the bill proposes. It does say that they want to prohibit it for anyone under the age of 18, but we know that kids are going to get hold of it. Kids are defined as anyone under 18. Guess what the penalty is if kids deal five grams or less to other kids? It is zero.

I will read from the distribution clause for everyone out there watching tonight, and for Madison, who is listening too. It states:

Unless authorized under this Act, it is prohibited...for a young person (i) to distribute cannabis of one or more classes of cannabis the total amount of which is equivalent, as determined in accordance with Schedule 3, to more than 5 g of dried cannabis.

What that says, in a kind of sneaky way, is that it is prohibited above five grams, but it is completely okay to distribute five grams or less. We have heard other members of my party tonight say that five grams can be as many as 15 joints of marijuana. I have a vision of kids selling marijuana to other kids.

The government members are saying that they are trying to protect our kids, when the bill says the opposite. They say that they are absolutely not going to do anything about kids selling marijuana to other kids. To me, the health of our kids is not being considered in what they are saying here. If they really cared about our kids, they would toughen up the regulations and laws they are putting forward on kids' possession and distribution of marijuana. This is not just about having one joint, even though that is still going to be harmful, potentially. We are talking about 15 joints they are going to be allowed to distribute among themselves, legally, with no threat of any kind of prosecution, ticket, offence, or anything.

I have four kids of my own. One concern I have is that as soon as this is legalized, it will make it sound as if the government is giving its blessing that it is okay to do.

I want to talk a little more about the second fallacy, the government saying it wants to protect the health of Canadians. I have an article by a pretty reputable association, the American Lung Association. This was one of the many reasons, when we were in government, we did not want to legalize cannabis. This is what it says about marijuana:

The American Lung Association is concerned about the health impacts of marijuana use, especially on lung health. We caution the public against smoking marijuana because of the risks it poses to lung health. Scientists are researching marijuana, and the American Lung Association encourages continued research into the health effects of marijuana use, especially on lung health.

Smoke is harmful to lung health. Whether from burning wood, tobacco or marijuana, toxins and carcinogens are released from the combustion of materials. Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.

On the one hand, we have great programs in this country where we have seen tobacco use reduced. We have these great efforts by Health Canada to make sure we do our best to not market cigarettes to kids, or for that matter to adults. We have packages that are negatively marketed to adults, with pictures of bad teeth and bad lungs. However, on the other hand, today, in 2017, we are saying it is really bad to smoke cigarettes, but it is okay to smoke marijuana because someone is an adult. To me, that is absolutely ridiculous.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:20 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Who said that? Who said that? Nobody is saying that.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, when I hear members of the government side across the way heckling, maybe it is because they have not considered the health effects of marijuana on our lungs, youth and adults included. They need to look at reputable associations, like the American Lung Association, which state that very fact. Therefore, for them to stand in this place, and say they are concerned about our health is hogwash. They need to actually do some studying and research on the negative health effects that marijuana has on our bodies.

We hear the Liberals across the way say they care about our youth. We hear them stand up with some feigned indignation that they care about our kids. I trust they do care about our kids, but in this instance they really need to take a second look at what they are saying and promoting in this legislation.

I am sure that some of the members across the way are supporting it because they think the biggest problems with marijuana are the charges that come from using it illegally. The reason why there are charges there in the first place is because it is bad for people on many levels, such as lung and mental health. There are a bunch of different health issues we have concerns about that are proven to be negative health effects from marijuana use. Therefore, I would challenge the government side. If the Liberals are serious about health and keeping these drugs out of the hands of kids, they should change this legislation, so that it makes it more difficult for our kids to distribute marijuana.

I heard the member across the way. I respect him because we are on committee together. However, perhaps he needs to hear again about what his government is putting in the legislation with respect to the lack of penalties and recourse for kids. Youth under the age of 18 may be distributing 15 joints of marijuana to each other. If that member and the government across the way are really concerned about our kids, they would have a provision in here where there would be some recourse. There is not. If the member and the government across the way really care about young people using marijuana, because I would say it is a danger to their health, whether to their lungs or mental health, I would challenge them to make it much more difficult for youth to distribute to each other and to actually use it.

It is one thing to talk about health, and it sounds great for the cameras and for TV land out there, but when we get into the details of what this legislation is actually saying, Canadians across this country really have a lot to be concerned about.

I would ask the members across this one simple question. Do they think using cannabis is healthy? It is a simple question for me. I would like them to answer that. Maybe when some of them get up to ask me questions, they can provide me with that answer, because if they cannot answer in the affirmative that it is healthy, why are they saying tonight they are concerned about the health of Canadians when they want to legalize it?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:20 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I would like to provide some reassurance to my friend, and ask him a question.

First, let me be very clear. Cannabis is a dangerous drug for kids. That is exactly why we want to strictly regulate it, to reduce their access to the drug, and to protect their health. Right now, we are leaving our kids in the hands of organized crime, which is selling them a dangerous product.

I want to advise the member that one of the risks to our kids is this. We talk about the great risk to their health, but there is also a social risk, because we are putting them in the hands of criminals. We are leaving the social future of our kids up to those who do not care about them, such as whether they can complete school, who they are hanging around with, and the dangerous criminal environment with which they are engaging.

One of the other risks that I would ask the member to consider is that young people also face criminal prosecution. In this legislation, we allow the provinces to quite appropriately use their provincial governance and jurisdiction, and you will want to listen to this because it answers your question, in every—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I remind the parliamentary secretary that he has to address the questions to the chair, and he would need to wrap up, because other people want to ask questions as well.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, the member would benefit from the fact there is an understanding that in every province and territory in this country there are provincial regulations that prohibit the purchase, consumption, and possession of alcohol. We have worked with the provinces and territories to ensure the provinces and territories enact similar legislation to maintain a complete prohibition without resulting in a criminal record for our kids.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a kind of strange exchange here, because I want to ask another question. I asked the question about whether the government side actually thinks the use of marijuana for kids is healthy, and the member said he does not think it is.

I would ask the government again, even though I am supposed to be answering his question. Let me say it this way. I would challenge the government side. Government members care about kids, I understand that. I would challenge you to change the legislation to deal with section 9 in the act when it talks about distribution. There is nothing in your bill--

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I remind the member that every question has to be addressed to the chair.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, I would challenge the government side to change the legislation, so there is a recourse, so kids cannot sell to other kids up to 15 joints, that kids cannot sell to kids without recourse, or without a change of behaviour, because this will just open the floodgates to make this okay. Under no threat of prosecution, no ticketable offence or anything, kids being allowed to sell marijuana to each other is ridiculous.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

We have different opinions on this issue. Legalizing marijuana is something that we think is feasible. Some countries in Europe and some American states have already done it. Unfortunately, the Liberal government is doing a lot of improvising.

The current government seems to believe that, once this soft drug is legalized, the black market and organized crime will magically disappear. The Liberals often hold alcohol up as an example of this, but that situation took decades to resolve. A counter example is cigarettes, since there is still a black market for them.

I would like my colleague to talk about the strength of the drugs that would be legally sold to the public compared to that of the drugs sold on the black market. Price will also play a huge role in what will be accessible to our young people.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, I will try my best to answer the question.

What is of concern to all of us is the government's assumption that as soon as this is legalized, the crime will go away, and the problems with marijuana will just float away. The mental health issues, the lung issues, the issues of dealing with organized crime, all those issues will just magically float away, and that is just simply not the case. It is wishful thinking to presume that.

I would like to get back to the original reason why cannabis is illegal in Canada in the first place, and that is because it is not good for us. As a government we have responsibilities in this place to take care of our citizens, and this is one of those things, especially where there are kids. We should make it as difficult as we possibly can for them to get marijuana, and also to deal marijuana to each other, and to sell it to each other. The bill falls far short of that, and we need some significant changes for it to help our youth.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here at this time of day to discuss a topic that is really important. This has probably been one of the most half-hearted debates I have heard in a long time.

I have been in the House since 2011 and have seen members on the other side of the House bang their desktops, yell, and be warned. I have seen members on this side of the House pulling their hair out and lighting themselves on fire. However, I have not really seen that in this debate. The objections from this side of the House seem a bit diluted. Members are not as excitable. In fact, members seem more upset about the time allocation motion than they do about the bill.

On the other side of the House, there is a lot of caution. The government is talking about how this legislation will protect kids and is building armour around itself. This might mean that maybe we have it right. The government knows it has to proceed, but it has to sell it in a particular way that will not alienate important constituencies. On this side of the House, there have to be enough objections to cover the bases, to be polite, and then the bill will proceed to the other place and we will see what happens. Perhaps the government will hit the right tone. I commend it on that and I will support the bill.

I support the bill because I have been campaigning on this issue since 2004. That is when I first ran for office. I did not win, but during the campaign, I had the privilege of running with the great Jack Layton. I was fairly new to politics. Jack came to Vancouver, where I got to hear him speak and campaign with him. He was very big on the decriminalization of marijuana, and in 2004 that was a huge risk. We were branded as extremists by both the Liberals and Conservatives, who said only 5% of the public would support decriminalizing marijuana and we were hippie radicals.

In fact, during that election, Marc Emery, a great marijuana advocate, endorsed me in the election and campaigned in my riding for me.

To show how the debate has changed, I noticed that Marc Emery was at the Conservative Party convention, took out a membership, and voted. Marc Emery was standing beside me and Jack Layton in 2004, pushing for the decriminalization of marijuana. In 2017, Marc Emery was at the Conservative convention, pushing for the same thing. It shows how much this issue has moved and that this is the right time. It is past due. It is the time to pass this bill, and that is why I will support it.

Perhaps the debate is a bit subdued as well because probably 90% of people in the House of Commons have smoked marijuana. I will not speak for everybody, but that is what I think. I think they have, and I think they have through long stages of their lives. There may be those who have never tried marijuana, but they have certainly been in places where marijuana has been smoked. They have seen the effects of marijuana and decided not to rat out their friends because they do not want their friends to go to jail or have criminal records. As mature adults, we know the time has come for this bill.

There will be objections, though, in this debate, the objections seem kind of minor. They seem to be numerically based in terms of grams and all the numbers in the bill. To me, that kind of technical stuff should be debated in committee, such as whether we get the law correct in this case. However, the overall sentiment that is reflected in the bill is a good thing. People are upset enough on both sides that it has probably hit a proper compromise.

I am not going to be investing in the marijuana industry as it is not something that I would do at this stage of my life. I did play rock and roll music for about 10 years, starting at the age of 15 through to 25.

During that period in life people experiment with things and marijuana is one of those things. There are no real ill effects if marijuana is used in moderation and with caution. There is a lot of hoopla around the negative effects of marijuana and we do have to worry about the health effects. We have to make sure that we have the proper scientific facts and so on. We hear so much hyperbole about the negative effects, such as how this is going to damage our society irreparably. That is a fallacious argument.

We have had the same kinds of arguments around alcohol. We could even say that sugar and other things should be regulated. These are scare tactics that are used to frighten the public, when we all know that this is such a large part of our society already.

If I can quote the Fraser Institute, which I often do, marijuana is a $7 billion a year industry in British Columbia. It's bigger than any other agricultural product that's produced.

Where does that $7 billion go? That is my question. That money goes to organized crime and we see the effects of it. When I tried to rent my first office in North Burnaby, I could not find a place because most of the buildings were owned by the Hells Angels. A lot of organized crime grows marijuana and sells it illegally. The proceeds are put into real estate or casinos or other types of gambling. The money is laundered and comes back into society and organized crime benefits from that. I have to commend the government again because the legislation, when enforced, will take a lot of money away from organized crime.

Just like we saw with alcohol, the prohibition of something that is widely used in society only benefits organized crime. We also saw that with gambling. Police forces used to break up gambling rings. As soon as the government legalized gambling to some extent, like lotteries and bingo and those types of things, there was less need to waste policing resources on gambling rings. Those saved resources go back to the government and it can then fund things like rehab for gambling addiction and so on.

The time is definitely right.

My critic area is science. When the Conservatives shut down funding to science in the last Parliament, believe it or not, many scientists who left the National Research Council moved out to British Columbia to apply their scientific know-how to cannabis. They look at the strains, the effects, how to keep it safe, and they can do that because this is just another agricultural product.

This is a great opportunity for Canada and I think the government has built the bill well. However, I am quite upset that the government is not considering pardoning people with past offences. This should be done right away. It is not fair that in 18 months some people will not have criminal convictions but people with past criminal convictions will have to live with them for the rest of their lives.

I will be supporting the legislation. It cannot come fast enough. I really hope the government has a strategy for getting it through the Senate.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2017 / 11:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I totally agree with the member. I cannot fault any of his points, so I am just going to make a couple of points of my own and not ask a question, but leave it for him to go on to say more of what he probably wanted to say.

It would appear on the surface that, if we make something illegal, fewer people will get it, but of course prohibition proved that wrong; it did not work. What is far more effective is education, and that has to be a big part of this effort. I was very disappointed when this House, years ago, twice refused to have labelling of the dangers of alcohol for pregnant mothers.

Also, one of the effects, of course, is the quality if we leave it free. When it is regulated, we stop the dangerous quality by which so many people have been killed or injured.

Another point, of course, is the health fact. There are lots of unhealthy things in society that we give people the freedom to choose. There are far more accidents and crime, etc., with alcohol, but I do not think anyone would attempt to make that illegal.

The conditions of advertising are another great initiative that would reduce it.

Finally, on the suggestion of penalties, of course we do not want penalties for kids. I know that was a suggestion, but there would have to be some other type of thing. We do not want to criminalize kids, because that affects the rest of their life.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, those comments are all relevant to the debate here.

We have the best police in the world, in Canada. We all, as MPs, interact regularly with our police forces, and in some ways the police have had their hands tied for many years to deal with this issue. With the proper regulation and the legal constraints that would come in with this bill, police will breathe a sigh of relief that finally they have the tools to deal with this, they do not have to bust people for small amounts, and they do not have to ruin people's lives with criminal records so they cannot travel abroad anymore and have their livelihoods affected as to employment. However, I do not think it is so liberal that we have to worry about it running amok.