Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-45, the cannabis act, a bill that would have a profound impact on our Canadian society.
The Liberal government's plan to legalize recreational marijuana has created a lot of uncertainty and unanswered questions. It is pushing this legislation forward without giving it the due diligence it requires. That is why it comes as no surprise this legislation has been sent back to us with so many amendments.
The priority of the government should be the health and safety of Canadians, but through legislative process, it has been clear that the Liberals are rushing to fulfill a political promise. At the outset, the Liberals set an arbitrary deadline to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and the rush to legalize this harmful drug continues. This is despite concerns that have been raised from scientists, doctors, and law enforcement officials.
In this legislation, the Liberals have included a section outlining its purpose. The stated purpose of the cannabis act is to protect public health and safety, particularly that of young people, and that its purpose is to restrict access to cannabis for young people and to discourage its use. It also states that it sets out to reduce illicit activities and the burden on the criminal justice system. It states the goal of providing access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis. Lastly, it wants to enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis.
Unfortunately, the legislation before us does not and will not achieve these goals. It is important to consider why this legislation does not achieve its stated purpose. We often hear from those in favour of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana that it is just a harmless drug. That is a myth. There is scientific evidence that marijuana is not a harmless drug, especially for young people. To quote the Canadian Medical Association:
Children and youth are especially at risk for marijuana-related harms, given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development.
Our understanding of the health effects of marijuana continues to evolve. Marijuana use is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including addiction, cardiovascular and pulmonary effects..., mental illness, and other problems, including cognitive impairment and reduced educational attainment. There seems to be an increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders, including schizophrenia, in persons with a predisposition to such disorders. The use of high potency products, higher frequency of use and early initiation are predictors of worse health outcomes.
The health effects I just described are very serious. They come at a high cost to Canadian taxpayers, and an even higher individual cost to the person experiencing any of these health problems. Knowing this, the recreational use of marijuana should never be encouraged. This is particularly critical when it comes to young Canadians. A young person's brain continues to develop until the age of 25. Although provinces are able to set a higher age, the cannabis act recommends the age of 18 as a federal minimum. That means the Liberals are recommending legalizing marijuana for individuals seven years before their brain finishes developing.
Medical professionals have testified that increased use before the age of 25 increases the risk of developing mental disorders by up to 30% compared to those who have not used marijuana before the age of 25. I would argue that what one permits, one promotes, and knowing what one allows, one encourages. Knowing the medical facts we know, it is irresponsible to allow an 18-year-old to legally smoke recreational marijuana. The Liberals are normalizing drug use and knowingly putting Canada's young people at a disadvantage.
A concern was raised during the study of this bill at the House's health committee that by setting the age at 18 for legal recreational use, there was a greater chance it would land in the hands of even younger children.
The point was raised that children 16 or 17 years old are more likely to be around 18-year-olds than, say, a 21-year-old. This means that the legislation as it is could increase the likelihood of a minor using marijuana. Let us not forget that this legislation actually allows children aged 12 to 17 to possess up to five grams of marijuana. That is the equivalent to 10 to 15 joints. If the message the Liberals are trying to send to the youth is that they should not use marijuana, they have missed the mark. The legal quantity of marijuana possession for children aged 12 to 17 should be zero. Zero sends the right message.
A public education and awareness campaign would also help send the right message. A campaign of this regard should be implemented before the legalization of marijuana and not after. While Health Canada is putting together a program, there has been no indication that it will be rolled out before the legalization of marijuana, and there is no requirement of sorts. There are no provisions in the cannabis act for public education. If not rejected, this legislation should at least be put on pause until a public education plan is rolled out. It also should not be rushed ahead when provinces, municipalities, police forces, and employers are not ready to implement it.
The belief that legalizing recreational marijuana use will eliminate the black market is also flawed. That outcome is dependent on a wide variety of factors, many of which are being left up to the provinces. The fact that this act legalizes home grow plants is actually more likely to result in an increase in the size of the black market. This bill allows individuals to grow four plants per dwelling, with no height restrictions on the plants. Four plants could yield up to 600 grams of marijuana. That is a large quantity and it could easily be trafficked. A network of home grows could easily contribute to organized crime. There is also the question of how the four plant policy will be enforced.
In addition to the impact on the black market, the home grow provision in this legislation also raises other concerns. When marijuana plants are grown in homes, marijuana becomes even more accessible to young Canadians. There is also no ability to control the quality of the marijuana that is grown in someone's home. This directly counteracts a stated purpose of this legislation.
The impact of marijuana plants on a home could be very significant. It is a known fact that the moisture from marijuana plants can create mould and spores in the structure of a home. This can impact the structural security of a home. It can also result in air quality that is harmful to a person's health.
There is also the concern that there is a 24 times greater incident of fire in residences growing marijuana. This creates even more danger for individuals living in apartments and multi-unit dwellings. This legislation also creates a unique concern for landlords.
I have raised many concerns with the legislation before us. I did not even get to the very valid concerns of many Canadians who are concerned with the odour of recreational marijuana use, or the issues of second-hand smoke and drug-impaired driving. Employers are also concerned with marijuana use in the workplace and its impact on workplace safety.
The cannabis act is irresponsible legislation. It fails to meet its intended purpose. It does not keep marijuana out of the hands of children. It does not keep profits out of the hands of criminals. It does not address the many concerns that have been raised by scientists, doctors, and law enforcement.
The cannabis act is being rushed through to fulfill a political promise, and doing so sacrifices public health and safety.
Conservatives will not support the Prime Minister's ill-conceived plan to legalize this harmful drug. Canadians deserve better.