Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of constituents in the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke to highlight four problems with the PM's pot law.
This is a major piece of legislation the government has decided to push through Parliament. The government says the rush is so that weed will be legal for Canada Day in 2018. I am sure the Liberals want to have a great party next year, but I suspect there are other motivations behind this rush. Whether we are opposed to legal weed or support legalization, I think all Canadians agree, once they have learned the details, the PM's pot law is a bad trip.
As it currently stands, there are four fatal flaws in the Prime Minister's pot law. First, age restrictions are shameful. Second, the silence on edibles is deafening. Third, the costs are being downloaded onto municipalities, and fourth, who would benefit from the PM's pot law is a problem.
Those four problems must be corrected at committee, and none more so than the bill's treatment of young Canadians. Despite all the available medical evidence, the PM's pot law would legalize marijuana for Canadians over 18. Until the age of 25, the human brain is still growing and developing, and science shows that marijuana has a detrimental impact on that development. All the medical experts, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Psychiatric Association agree that anyone aged 25 to 21 should not be using marijuana due to the side effects on the brain's development. Let me quote from the CMA's journal:
The government appears to be hastening to deliver on a campaign promise without being careful enough about the health impacts of policy.... If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.
This is what Dr. Prasad, president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association had to say:
There is a strong evidence-base showing that early and regular cannabis use can affect cognition, such as memory, attention, intelligence and the ability to process thoughts and experiences....
The experts agree that this law would fail to protect young Canadians by making it legal for young Canadians, 18 years and over, to buy up to 30 grams of pot. Of course, that does not even address the bigger problem with the PM's pot law, which is how it deals with Canadians under 18. The pot bill would make it legal for Canadians between the age of 12 and 18 to carry up to five grams of marijuana in public. That is 15 joints. All the doctors recommend an age of at least 21, if not 25, but the government decided that 12 years old should be the real cut-off.
The PM's pot law needs to be changed to protect the minds of young Canadians and prohibit pot possession for youth under the age of 21.
My constituents were angry to learn the bill would legalize five grams for kids 12 and up, but when they found out how the bill would fail to protect children 12 and under, they were rightfully outraged. They learned the PM's pot law is silent on edibles.
The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state has revealed a disturbing trend. Once legalized, the fastest growing market for marijuana was consumable food products, such as cookies, brownies, lollipops, chewing gum, and gummy candies, the exact types of products that appeal to children. The PM's pot bill has no controls or regulations on these products.
Our previous Conservative government banned flavoured tobacco products for the reason that they are aimed primarily at children and teenagers. Similar restrictions and regulations must be brought into place on marijuana food products to protect children under 12. Left unregulated, edibles will fall into the hands of small children.
The costs of caring for children who ingest edibles will not be paid by these Liberals, but downloaded onto our provinces and local municipalities, which brings us to the third problem with the Prime Minister's pot law. The pot law would place new burdens on local services, starting with policing costs. Municipalities in Ontario, already struggling with an infrastructure deficit as a result of Toronto Liberal policy that treats rural communities unfairly, have seen their policing costs skyrocket.
Ontario municipalities pay the highest policing costs in Canada. Liberal policy has shifted the burden onto smaller municipalities from towns and cities. In my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, the Municipality of Greater Madawaska saw its policing bill from the province jump 192%. The Township of McNab/Braeside has seen its policing costs rise about $650,000 in the last two years alone. Barry's Bay is looking at an increase of $200,000 a year in policing costs. In the words of former Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon:
Not only are policing costs unnecessarily borne upon the residential tax-base, we are paying to enforce statutes which our municipalities did not enact. We are having real struggles accepting costs where we are footing the bill of federally and provincially-initiated legislation.
The costs of enforcement to municipalities will be astronomical. In this example, currently, there is no real roadside test for drug-stoned drivers. The current test can only confirm the presence of drugs, not the level of intoxication. Therefore, just the additional cost of testing required to determine the level of impairment alone will add hundreds of thousands of dollars to policing costs. In fact, the bill increases the role of police in pot enforcement, as officers will now be required to, among other things, measure the height of marijuana plants at private residences to ensure they are within the regulations. Residents will end up paying for the Liberal pot laws in one way or another. Demands on health care services, addiction treatment, and mental health services will also increase. All these increased burdens on our municipal services come with no new funding, meaning that our rural townships and small municipalities will be forced to choose between fixing roads and measuring pot.
Failing to protect children and downloading costs to provinces and municipalities are fatal flaws in this legislation. Those problems can be fixed by changing the legislation, but no amount of amendments can change the Prime Minister's real motivation for legalization. With the current government, all it takes is being one of the Prime Minister's billionaire buds to have preferential access to government funding and contracts.
The PM's pot law will have the effect of transferring the profits of the marijuana industry from organized crime to organized Liberals. Just like what happened with the Green Energy Act in Ontario, well-connected Liberals stand to make millions of dollars from the legalization of marijuana as owners of medical marijuana companies, law firms, and distribution shops. Just look at some of the Liberals who are already profiting from the PM's pot law. George Smitherman, a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, is now a shareholder in a medical marijuana grow-op. Chuck Rifici, a former Liberal Party financial officer, co-owns a medical marijuana grow-op. Mark Zekulin, a former senior advisor to Liberal ministers, is now the CEO for a medical marijuana grow-op. Even the government's own pot czar attended a fundraiser hosted by medical marijuana grow-ops. We have all heard the term “cash for access”, but this is cash for hash.
I wish I could tell Canadians that all of this is so outrageous as to be unbelievable, but this really is just business as usual with the Liberals. The only thing that is surprising is how the Liberals are not actually liberalizing anything. The regulatory hurdles facing prospective growers are designed to only be navigated by well-connected corporations. Farmers who have some experience with growing plants will need to buy a lot more tickets to Liberal fundraisers if they are going to have any hope of getting a permit.
The Liberal Party is falling behind on fundraising. That is why it is rushing through this legislation. It is obvious this is not about protecting teenagers and young adults, otherwise it would raise the age limits. This is not about protecting children, otherwise it would have legislated rules for edibles. This is not about saving taxpayers' money, the costs are just being downloaded to the municipalities. This is about Liberals helping their friends and lining their party's pockets.