House of Commons Hansard #269 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organizations.


HealthAdjournment Proceedings

March 1st, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, last November I asked the government what it would do to support the small-scale outdoor farmers who are producing cannabis for recreational use.

Increasingly we see large corporations quickly taking the lead in getting licences to produce marijuana, companies like Tweed Main Street, founded by Liberal Party CFO Chuck Rifici; National Green BioMed, whose chairman is former Liberal cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal; and Hydropothecary Corporation, whose VP used to be the Liberal health minister in B.C. They are all quickly expanding to meet the government's timetable. At the same time, new producers and small producers, like people in my riding, are being locked out.

Last week I met with Lesli-Ann Lancaster, the owner of Kootenay Marijuana Company, a new company in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, who wants to produce marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. Lesli-Ann wants to run a legal, above-board company and is trying to raise the capital required for the licensing process.

The licensing process is lengthy and expensive and requires that the facility be developed as the licensing progresses. This means that companies need to have their capital in place before they can become fully licensed. Lesli-Ann went to the Bank of Montreal to open an account so she could start raising the capital needed for the licensing and development process. Guess what? The bank informed her, and I quote, “We need an approval from Health Canada before we can set up an account. I'm aware that you can't get the approval yet due to Health Canada's capital constraints, and this really puts you between a rock and a hard place.”

Let us go over that again. Lesli-Ann cannot get a licence because she does not have enough capital, and she cannot raise capital until she has a licence. That is pretty much the classic definition of a catch-22. I should mention that Lesli-Ann is a business consultant and bookkeeper and counts a number of potential marijuana farmers among her clients. She told me that many of them are enduring similar frustrations.

At the same time Lesli-Ann is struggling to overcome seemingly impossible federal government restrictions, a number of small marijuana growers in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia have banded together to form a co-op. They wrote me this week asking that I share their concerns with the Prime Minister. Their concern is that new licences will not be available until Canada's legalization becomes law. However, outdoor producers will miss the May 1 planting deadline and will not have any product for sale until November 2019, a full 16 months after legalization.

It is uncertain if the government will even license the outdoor production of cannabis. This government talks about the importance of legal production, but it is doing everything possible to prevent small rural producers from working within the law. These are businesses that want to operate within the law. They want full accountability, appropriate licensing, and to be part of Canada's new legal marijuana regime. However, they are being prevented at every turn while big pot corners the market. This is truly an example of the inequality that is pervasive in Canada. The wealthy get richer; working class people and small businesses get left behind.

When will the government take action to help small marijuana farms and outdoor growers instead of continuing to push them back into the shadows? They are not going away, and neither am I.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, let me first express my personal gratitude that the member is going to stick around.

I would like to thank the member for Kootenay—Columbia for giving me the opportunity to speak to our government's approach to legalizing and regulating cannabis.

The regulatory approach that our government proposes prioritizes the health and safety of all Canadians while enabling a regulated industry to produce quality-controlled cannabis for controlled distribution and sale by provincial and territorial governments.

Federal oversight is absolutely key to ensuring all Canadians have the assurance that licensed producers would be subject to the same quality standards and requirements from coast to coast to coast.

Under the proposed approach, all licensed producers, no matter where they are located, must meet rigorous national standards for quality and safety, physical security, personnel vetting, record keeping, and inventory control. They would be subject to clear and consistent regulatory requirements for good production practices and product testing. They would also be subject to rigorous federal inspections to verify and enforce compliance with these requirements.

Our government's proposed approach has always prioritized the health and safety of Canadians by enabling a nationally regulated industry that produces legal and quality-controlled cannabis. Let me explain briefly why that is important.

It is absolutely important to the health and safety of Canadians that what is available for legal purchase by adult Canadian consumers must first of all be of known potency. There is a great deal of confusion in the criminal supply of cannabis currently available to consumers in that quite often, consumers do not know the potency of what they are taking. Therefore, in order to enable and assist them in making healthier, safer, and more socially responsible choices, they have to know the potency of what they are consuming. It is also critical that they can be assured of its purity, that it does not contain dangerous chemicals, such as fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and other substances unfit for human consumption.

Finally, our regulated approach allows the consumer to know the provenance of the cannabis that is available for sale. Protecting public health is an overarching policy objective, but I want to assure the member opposite it is not the only one. The government is also committed to using licensing and production controls to encourage a diverse, competitive market to create an environment where different types of producers, large and small, can participate and succeed.

On November 21, shortly after the day the member asked his question, our government published a detailed consultation paper that outlined a proposed approach for regulating production and sought input on a diverse range of issues, including the licensing, cultivation, and processing of cannabis.

The proposed approach is a clear expression of the government's objective to enable a diverse, competitive legal industry comprised of both large and small players in regions right across this country. The proposed approach would establish different classes of licences, including the creation of new micro-cultivation and microprocessing licences, craft licences, if you will, that would allow smaller producers to enter the legal cannabis market.

During the consultations, our government heard the views of all interested stakeholders, including prospective entrants into this new market, on the regulatory framework that will define what this new licensing approach would mean in practice and how it would operate to allow for a vibrant and diversified marketplace.

Health Canada is currently considering the input it has received. We made a commitment to publish a summary of the comments received and that report will be available in the next few weeks. In the meantime, our government will continue to work with potential applicants, large and small, to ensure they have the information and support they need to apply for a production licence.

Just by way of update, I also want to inform the member that we currently have over 200 licence applications in the final stage of review right across the country. We are very confident of the work of Health Canada in approving those licences. The approval of those licences is not a political process. It is done entirely independent of political interference or involvement.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the parliamentary secretary says there is no political interference, sometimes by setting guidelines that will not work for small growers or outdoor growers, we are in essence providing political interference through a set of standards.

In terms of measuring what is in the crop, that is easily handled afterward before it goes to market. The potency can be checked absolutely after a crop is grown and before it is sold on a commercial basis.

I still am concerned. Of the 200 licences, I am wondering if the member knows how many are actually from small, rural farmers or growers and what the government intends to do to make sure there is still a future for these small, rural outdoor farmers who want to be a legal part of the future recreational use of marijuana.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will abandon my prepared remarks, and speak very specifically to the member's question. I want to assure him there are approximately 90 licences that have been approved. The overwhelming majority of licences that have been approved by Health Canada, for the licensed production of cannabis, are for small businesses that employ fewer than 100 employees, and are therefore defined as small businesses.

They are located in rural communities, and in communities where that is making a real difference for producing jobs and economic opportunity in different parts of the country. Therefore, there are no barriers to those small participants in entering into the system.

With the new regulations, and we will be coming forward with an update on the feedback we received in our consultations, we also propose to introduce a licence for smaller craft producers, what we refer to as a micro-producer or micro-processor. That would enable the even smaller participant to enter into this business and create that opportunity.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:08 p.m.)