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.