June 2, 2015

CPC

Terence Young

Conservative

Mr. Terence Young (Oakville, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was paraphrasing something that apparently came out of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. I want to ensure that the House has no misapprehension that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police supports legalizing marijuana.

In fact, I will quote from a resolution it made at its August 2013 annual conference. It states:

We believe that decriminalization or legalization is not the direction we should be moving toward from a public safety perspective....

The illicit use of cannabis can have a negative impact on public safety and the health of young persons in particular.

Cannabis is a drug that impairs cognitive function, can cause delusional thoughts or hallucinations, and negatively impacts the ability to operate a motor vehicle or machinery.

There are other comments as well.

I wanted to ensure that the House does not think somehow the chiefs of police from across Canada want to make marijuana legal or decriminalize it.

Would the member care to comment?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
NDP

Murray Rankin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Murray Rankin

Mr. Speaker, if I gave that impression, it certainly was not my intent. My friend from Oakville is absolutely right. There was never anything specifically to that effect in the comments made by the association. However, in its resolution of 2013, to which he referred, it did emphasize the need “to expand the range of enforcement options [for] law enforcement”. That is what I was getting at.

It is just not right in a country like Canada where in Vancouver one would basically have to do something outrageous to be charged with possession of small quantities of marijuana whereas in other parts of the country one could go to jail. That is wrong. The fact that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police recognizes that we need to have a different array of enforcement options is very telling.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
LIB

Sean Casey

Liberal

Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agreed very much with what the member for Victoria had to say. He talked about one of the key planks in the position of the NDP with respect to establishing an independent commission to look at a legislative regime. To me, that sounds like the door is open to the New Democrats supporting legalization. I thought all along their position was one of decriminalization. Could the member clarify that?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
NDP

Murray Rankin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Murray Rankin

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Charlottetown for the opportunity to restate what is so clear on page 42 of the report before us today. The position of the NDP is that we need to establish an independent commission to consult on the non-medical use of marijuana and “to provide guidance to Parliament on the institution of an appropriate regulatory regime to govern such use”. In other words, we need to get it right, we need to study it, and we need all of those voices, as I mentioned, at the table. Then we need guidance on how we would implement an appropriate regulatory regime. That is where we stand. We think a made-in-Canada solution to this complex issue is necessary.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Kellie Leitch

Conservative

Hon. K. Kellie Leitch (Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak about the serious health risks of marijuana. I will be splitting my time with the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

The health committee's report largely confirmed what members of the House already know. The health risks of smoking marijuana are simply irrefutable. Whether that be schizophrenia, psychosis, challenges with respect to impact on blood pressure or, quite frankly, even blood sugar, members of this House should know that Canadians kids who smoke marijuana far too frequently experience these risks.

Compare this reality with what the Liberal leader plans to do in legalizing marijuana that would see marijuana sold in stores, just like cigarettes or alcohol or, quite frankly, even candy. This approach is simply irresponsible, and I can tell the House about the risks in which it puts children. Unlike members of the opposition, I stand in emergency departments and see these children as they come in first hand. I see the impacts on these children and how terribly disturbed they are when they hit the emergency department.

No matter what the opposition says, no parent in my riding or no parent, I would think, in this country, wants their child to experience the severe experiences of psychosis or schizophrenia, things we would never want to see our children experience.

The Liberal members, as I said earlier, actually think that aspirin is just like marijuana. If we asked anyone in the area of the world I come from, they really think an aspirin is helpful when they need it, but they would never use marijuana in the same way.

This Conservative government wants to stop kids from smoking marijuana, and I just want to highlight a few of the initiatives that our government is undertaking.

In 2007, our government announced the national anti-drug strategy. The strategy contributes to making communities safer and healthier by coordinating to prevent the use of illicit drugs and the abuse of prescription drugs. It is helping with efforts to treat dependency for those who have serious addiction problems, and by working toward reducing the production and distribution of illicit drugs, some of which have already been mentioned in the House already. We are doing that. We have taken action on it. We started in 2007.

Research shows that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug by young people. Almost one in five students in grades 7 to 12 have used marijuana in the past year. The average age at which teens first try marijuana is 14 years old.

These statistics are alarming and confirm that the Liberal plan to legalize marijuana and their leader's insistence on normalizing the practice is, quite frankly, irresponsible and will make it even easier for kids to buy and smoke marijuana.

If the Liberal leader had his way, he would make marijuana more accessible, and has even called this Conservative government's action to shut down home grow ops, “hyper-controlled”. I would rather have that “hyper-control” and make sure children in my riding are protected rather than what the opposition is suggesting. Home group ops are dangerous and are found throughout Canadian neighbourhoods already because the courts are standing in the way of our action to shut them down to make sure children cannot access marijuana. This Conservative government will not tolerate home grow ops and we will continue to fight the courts on this issue.

We do not support making access to illegal drugs easier for kids or any Canadian. Under the national anti-drug strategy, we are undertaking specific action to address marijuana use by our young people, and we are seeing results. According to the Canadian drug use monitoring survey, marijuana use by youth has dropped by almost 30% since 2008 and 45% since 2004. The Liberal plan to legalize marijuana can only have one effect: increasing access and use.

Health Canada monitors and assesses emerging scientific evidence of the harms of marijuana use, and conducts ongoing monitoring of changes in the prevalence of youth and adult use of marijuana.

Through significant funding, Health Canada helps raise awareness through various projects and research initiatives. These projects help raise awareness of the health risks of marijuana as well as support health professionals, like myself, in their efforts to prevent marijuana and drug abuse. The effects of marijuana use, as I said, are serious, lasting and cannot be ignored.

The opposition would try to lead people to believe that the literature does not exist, but it does. As this report and scientific literature detail, the short-term effects of marijuana use include anxiety, fear or psychosis, among other things. lt can also lead to problems with concentration and the ability to think and make decisions, which can impede a child's ability to learn and succeed long term.

Long-term use can lead to an increased risk of triggering or aggravating psychiatric or mood disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. I am not sure how many opposition members have met someone who is suffering from schizophrenia, has met someone suffering from bipolar disorder, but those people really suffer. They cannot function to the level of their true potential because of those impacts. These effects can cause lifelong problems for the individuals and their families. This Conservative government recognizes the need to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids. We do not support making access to illegal drugs possible, like the Liberals.

The hon. member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre has even stated, “...we have known all along that the long-term effects of cognitive problems coming from the smoking of marijuana over long periods amongst young people, under about 40, are high”

The Liberal leader has seen these facts and decided to completely ignore these harms and risks to Canadian youth. Preventing youth from smoking marijuana is particularly important for our most vulnerable communities. Research indicates that the typical age of onset of most substance abuse is between grade 7 and grade 9. Vulnerable communities can be at a higher risk of drug use for a variety of reasons. There may be reduced access to youth programming and limited access to safe drug-free environments.

The Liberal leader will not help deter youth from using marijuana, but instead, would rather normalize it and make it even more accessible. I guess we are supposed to then have even more programming to make sure that we can treat these children who have been impacted by becoming addicts to this terrible drug. This will not help vulnerable communities that struggle day in, day out with drug abuse.

While the Liberal Party focuses on the legalization of marijuana, our Conservative government is helping Canadian families with multiple projects to greater help youth at risk. Research shows that there is a wide range of reasons why youth begin using marijuana. Through using these data, more finely tuned prevention and educational materials have been developed, tested and distributed to children and their families.

The Liberal leader's plan to legalize marijuana and normalize smoking marijuana trivializes its risks and quite frankly sends the wrong message to our young people. Telling kids it is okay to smoke marijuana, telling kids it is okay to use marijuana every day is not a message Canadian parents want to convey to their kids.

Making marijuana available on store shelves like alcohol and cigarettes will reverse the progress that has already been made in educating young people and their parents of why this is a dangerous substance.

In addition to other projects through the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, our government is also providing $11.9 million over five years extending until 2018 for activities that help reduce drug abuse among youth. These activities include reviewing and synthesising research evidence on the effects of marijuana during adolescence and examining the effectiveness of brief interventions for reducing the use of marijuana.

These activities look at the effects of cannabis and strive to educate young people with up-to-date information about the serious and lasting harms of marijuana.

The former president of the CMA also stated very firmly the position against this, “...especially in youth, the evidence is irrefutable—marijuana is dangerous”. This is a statement that should be taken very seriously, a statement from a well educated physician. This Conservative government takes this issue very seriously and we will continue to fight to prevent kids from smoking marijuana.

In conclusion, I offer yet another quote from Dr. Meldon Kahan who is the medical director of the substance use service at the Women's College Hospital in Toronto. He said during the study by the committee, “...public health organizations need to conduct public health campaigns to counter the prevailing myth that cannabis is harmless and therapeutic”.

As the current president of the Canadian Medical Association has said, “Any effort to highlight the dangers, harm and potential side effects of consuming marijuana is welcome.”

I can say irrefutably having met children who have been under the influence in the emergency department with their parents in exceptional distress, whether it be because they are experiencing a psychosis, or because they have become bipolar, we need to do everything we can to make sure that this is not a legalized drug so that we protect Canadian children, unlike the approach of the Liberal leader who wants to normalize this for every Canadian kid.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté (Beauport—Limoilou, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her speech.

Since this debate began, we have unfortunately seen a very clear show of political power by the Conservatives, who want to strong-arm certain members of the House. It is disappointing to see the Conservatives' hard-line attitude. This attitude has also been evident at the Standing Committee on Finance regarding the budget implementation bill. There too, we know very well that the Conservatives will not accept any of the proposals brought forward by the opposition.

At the Standing Committee on Health, the other parties came up with some very reasonable, very sensible proposals, but unfortunately, the government refuses them and remains blinded by its singular truth, the only reality that it will accept.

I want to ask the minister why she has decided to latch on to a few of the witnesses' statements, the answers that she wanted to hear, instead of looking at the big picture and finding a solution, a more comprehensive proposal for all Canadians.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Kellie Leitch

Conservative

Hon. K. Kellie Leitch

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear. Marijuana is bad for kids, and that is why I am standing here making sure that children are protected.

We know what the medical effects are when, as I mentioned in my speech, children have short-term or long-term exposure to this drug. We know the health effects can be long lasting, impacting their concentration or developing terrible mental health diseases that impact the rest of their lives.

This is actually not about political posturing, like the opposition. This is about making sure Canadian children are protected.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I believe the minister is quite wrong in her assessment when she directs personal attacks toward the leader of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party has taken the responsible position of dealing with our young people in Canada. To try to portray that someone could go into a corner store and purchase marijuana like one can purchase candy is just utter nonsense and absolute garbage. However, the minister will stand in her place and that is what she will espouse.

My question for the minister is, why does she feel that she and her government have the right to waste Canadian tax dollars on bogus one-sided reports and spend millions of tax dollars on Conservative partisan ads promoting its political agenda?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Kellie Leitch

Conservative

Hon. K. Kellie Leitch

Mr. Speaker, I recognize the member in the opposition side wants to change the dialogue here, but let us be really clear. Marijuana is an illegal drug and it has long-lasting, severe health effects on children.

The Liberal leader would want to legalize marijuana, making it easier for kids to buy. That is the simple truth. That is what he said he wants to do. This side of the House believes it should be illegal, that children should not have access because of the huge impacts it has on their long-term potential. Our government is going to protect kids. They obviously want to put them at risk.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Terence Young

Conservative

Mr. Terence Young (Oakville, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, something has happened during this debate. I think what has happened is someone is calling down from the Liberal leader's office because we are starting to get this message. We have heard twice now from the other side that, given the chance and they legalize marijuana, one could not just go into a store and buy it. Therefore, my question would be, had I the opportunity, where would I buy it? Would someone have to show ID? That is a tough condition, having to show ID. We know that a huge number of our teens suffer from binge drinking and the regulatory regime for alcohol and cigarettes does not prevent teens from getting alcohol and cigarettes.

One of the members across was talking about how marijuana is used based on the patient's claim that it kills pain. No one can refute that per se, but there is no research that proves it does kill pain, certainly not better than the other 200 painkillers on the market. However, we do not give powerful narcotics to people who do not have serious pain. Why is that? It is because they are risky. They can damage organs. They can cause addiction, et cetera. Why would we want to put another powerful narcotic on the market and make it available young people to endanger their health?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Kellie Leitch

Conservative

Hon. K. Kellie Leitch

Mr. Speaker, similar to my colleague from Oakville, I completely agree. Why would we want to legalize another drug that could just put children at risk?

Our government has been very clear. We do not support making access to illegal drugs easier. This Conservative government will focus on making sure children do not have access to smoking marijuana, unlike the opposition members who seem to want to put children at risk through this process.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Wladyslaw Lizon

Conservative

Mr. Wladyslaw Lizon (Mississauga East—Cooksville, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the health committee's report, “Marijuana's Health Risks and Harms”, and how this Conservative government is addressing the problem of youth smoking marijuana.

I would first like to thank the committee for its excellent work on this issue, and especially for the detail that the report offers regarding the lasting and serious harms that come from smoking marijuana. This report makes it clear for all to see that the Liberal leader's plan to make marijuana more available to kids is irresponsible and disturbing.

The Liberal Party wants to legalize marijuana, making it even more accessible to young Canadians. This is irresponsible and completely ignores the scientific evidence regarding its health risks and harms. The serious and lasting health risks of smoking marijuana are irrefutable. The rate of marijuana use among youth in Canada is already twice the rate of use among adults. The committee also found that Canadian youth age 11 to 15 are among the highest users of marijuana compared to their peers in other countries. Evidence suggests that Canadians are also not as well informed about the risks of smoking marijuana as they are about other illicit drugs. These statistics are alarming, and this Conservative government is concerned about the harmful effects of marijuana on youth.

Unlike the Liberal leader, we do not support making access to illegal drugs easier. Marijuana is dangerous, and it is irresponsible for governments to communicate that it is somehow safe and normal for kids to smoke it. Research has already shown that marijuana is harmful to the lungs and brain. The Liberal leader wants to make smoking marijuana a normal, everyday activity for kids and have it sold in stores just like cigarettes and alcohol. The Liberal leader has chosen to ignore the serious and lasting health effects of smoking marijuana, which the health committee has painstakingly detailed in the report before the House today. Marijuana is illegal and is so for a reason. Its lasting and serious health effects cannot be understated.

That is why our government's anti-drug approach through the national anti-drug strategy is working to stop Canadians of all ages, especially kids, from smoking marijuana. Since the launch of the strategy, its drug treatment funding program has provided funding for 29 projects across Canada. Concerning problems related to smoking marijuana, we are also helping with efforts to treat dependency for those people who have serious addiction problems.

We are also providing $1.2 million to the Nova Scotia government for a project entitled “Nova Scotia's strengthening treatment systems project” to increase the uptake of treatment practices by addictions workers. A key target group for these projects are those suffering from concurrent mental health and substance use disorders. This client group suffers from two serious health problems: illicit drug use, like marijuana; and ongoing mental health concerns. The Liberal leader ignores these vulnerable individuals when he attempts to normalize the smoking of marijuana and its lasting and serious health risks.

Our government is also providing $1.2 million to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health to undertake its project implementing evidence-informed practice in Saskatchewan's addiction treatment program. This project is working toward improving its standardized treatment practices across addiction and mental health sectors. When addiction is coupled with problems such as anxiety and depression, the related challenges are compounded for clients as well as the professionals in charge of their care.

The good news for my colleagues is that the rate of kids smoking marijuana in Canada is actually trending down, thanks to this good work. According to a Canadian drug-use monitoring survey's most recent report, marijuana use by youth has dropped by almost 30% since 2008 and by 45% since 2004. The same report noted that, while 20% of youth smoked marijuana in 2012, 70% of youth drank alcohol.

The Liberal leader's plan to make marijuana available in stores, just like alcohol and cigarettes, would mean increasing the rate at which youth smoke marijuana to the same rate at which they consume alcohol, almost tripling its use.

The president of the Canadian Medical Association said:

Any effort to highlight the dangers, harm and potential side effects of consuming marijuana is welcome.

We know that work needs to be done to reduce the rate at which our kids smoke marijuana, but the Liberal leader is choosing to ignore the advice of experts, showing once again that he is just not ready for the job. The Liberal leader's own MPs are even on the record defending illegal marijuana storefronts in B.C. and elsewhere. His refusal to condemn these illegal operations, which are regularly caught peddling marijuana to kids, should not surprise anyone. These storefronts are the Liberal vision of Canada.

Make no mistake, storefronts selling marijuana are illegal under this Conservative government and will remain illegal, and we expect the police to enforce the law. A marijuana store on every street corner fits perfectly with the Liberal leader's on-the-record statements defending the dangerous home grow ops in Canadian neighbourhoods, which this Conservative government is fighting in court to shut down.

The irony of the Liberal plan to legalize marijuana is that it would in no way reduce the rates of youth smoking marijuana or, indeed, the illegal drug trade. Expert witnesses who contributed to this report by the health committee actually spoke to this point at length. I will quote Dr. Harold Kalant, who said:

...I would point out that the hope that legalizing would eliminate the black market would be true only if it were sold legally at a lower price than the black market. If you do that, the use is likely to increase greatly.

However, this expert's testimony conflicts with the Liberal vision of Canada, so its leader will pay it no mind. Dr. Kalant offered further thoughts on the subject, which I will highlight here before I conclude. He said:

...the use of cannabis for pleasure comes at a cost, and society must ponder whether the pleasure is worth the cost. ...society as a whole must give careful thought to changes in policy that could increase the number and severity of health problems caused by use by its more vulnerable members, which, as I have pointed out, means its younger users.

The Liberal leader asserts that our government's work, which actually shows results in stopping kids from smoking marijuana, is a “hyper-controlled” approach. He cannot even agree with the actions being taken against home growers. He wants to make smoking marijuana an everyday activity for Canadians and completely ignore its serious and lasting health risks. He ignores the risks that the home grow ops put on communities.

The Conservative government is making significant progress on the complex issue of drug addiction. We all have a role to play and a contribution to make. Our government believes in collaborating with our key partners in these efforts. We applaud the work being done and support these efforts by our partners in undertaking research and knowledge brokering, by making intelligent policies, crafting important legislation, and providing funding where appropriate.

The Conservatives' approach to stopping kids from smoking marijuana is working. It is the right public health message to send to Canadian families, and above all, it is responsible.

Again, I want to thank the Standing Committee on Health for undertaking this work and for this insightful report on marijuana's health risks and harms. My hope is that the Liberal leader takes this report seriously and takes the time to listen to the medical experts who agree with the former president of the Canadian Medical Association, who said, “especially in youth, the evidence is irrefutable—marijuana is dangerous”.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
NDP

Mathieu Ravignat

New Democratic Party

Mr. Mathieu Ravignat (Pontiac, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's speech.

There is something we have to take into account in this debate: marijuana has changed a lot over the years. It has been bred in order to increase its hallucinogenic effects and can indeed have a very harmful effect on a child's young brain. Obviously, I am completely against giving marijuana to children. However, it is a question of age, of course.

We need to do more to educate people about the harmful effects of this drug, which has been modified so much that it is a far cry from its natural state.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Wladyslaw Lizon

Conservative

Mr. Wladyslaw Lizon

Mr. Speaker, as the member probably knows, I do serve on the health committee, and I was at the meetings and listened to the witnesses.

What the member did not say was that the marijuana that is available today is from 10 to 30 times stronger than it was in the 1970s. It is stronger and, therefore, it is more dangerous.

When I was growing up, there was no culture of smoking marijuana. I never saw it. I was never offered it. I never tried it. However, I did witness the tragedies of people addicted to alcohol, and I do not think this is any different. This is an addictive substance. It does not do anybody any good.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
LIB

Hedy Fry

Liberal

Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member did remind everyone that he was on the committee and that he listened to the evidence.

If he listened to the evidence, he would have listened to at least five researchers from the University of Montreal, from British Columbia, and from the University of Toronto, all suggesting that in fact, when there is legalization and regulation, not only is the actual substance regulated but the potency of the substance is regulated.

He is right, of course, that the THC in marijuana today is not the same as it was even 10 or 12 years ago. The problem is that, if it can be regulated, one of the things in regulation would be that it would not be allowed to contain more than X grams of THC. The potency would be changed and that would be regulated as well.

Did the member not hear that from people who presented at the committee?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Wladyslaw Lizon

Conservative

Mr. Wladyslaw Lizon

Mr. Speaker, the member serves on the health committee. We work together.

I remember all the testimony. The member probably remembers the testimony of one scientist from Toronto. He concluded by saying that if the members of the committee ever decided to legalize this substance, he wished we would not make the same mistake that was made when alcohol was legalized. The member probably remembers that.

I do not understand the concept. How is it supposed to be good for our citizens, our youth? What purpose does it serve to bring another addictive substance to the market and make it widely available to everybody? What good is that?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
?

Elizabeth May

Green

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP)

Mr. Speaker, legalization of cannabis is actually a sensible, pragmatic policy that has been recommended to this chamber from the Senate, which studied the matter thoroughly. The World Health Organization studied it thoroughly.

No one who advocates for it—certainly no one I know of within the Green Party or the Liberal Party, which has joined us—makes the case that it is safe and that there are no issues. Just as cigarettes and alcohol are legal in this country, there is a need for them to be very carefully regulated because there are health risks.

If the Conservatives think that ending a failed prohibition policy on cannabis means that those of us who advocate for it want children to have access to this dangerous drug, how do they justify leaving alcohol and cigarettes legal? Are they hoping children will have access?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Wladyslaw Lizon

Conservative

Mr. Wladyslaw Lizon

Mr. Speaker, none of these substances are good, not cigarettes and not alcohol. As I said in my first response, I have personally witnessed the tragedies of people addicted to alcohol, tragedies for families and society. I do not think we are making any progress by introducing another addictive substance for wide consumer use.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

Before we resume debate with the hon. member for Charlottetown, I will let him know that there are about six minutes remaining in the time provided for this debate on the motion for concurrence.

The hon. member for Charlottetown.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink
LIB

Sean Casey

Liberal

Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to stand in the House to make a small contribution to this debate on concurrence on a committee report with respect to the harms and risks of marijuana use.

Let me start with a few facts that I believe we can all agree on. Among Canadian youth, there is the highest incidence of usage in the developed world. Therefore, the war on drugs has been an abject failure. If that were not the case, we would not have the usage rate among youth being among the highest in the developed world.

Extensive resources are being allocated to the war on drugs, whether it is police, prosecutors, resources within the legal system, or probation officers. All of these resources are being dedicated to this losing battle.

There are winners and losers in this battle. The winners are those involved in organized crime. Organized crime is profiting from the abysmal record this country has on the war on drugs. The losers are kids, who are using marijuana at a higher rate than anywhere else in the developed world, and taxpayers, who are paying for the resources within the legal and law enforcement systems, the prosecutors, and the judges. They are the losers.

It is time for an adult conversation in this country about marijuana usage. We know that the Conservatives have a bit of an aversion to adult conversations. We need not look any further than the recent debate in the House with respect to physician-assisted death. The Liberals dedicated their opposition day to setting forth a process to have Parliament respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Carter. That process was defeated, and we were assured by the government that it would institute its own process that would be extra-parliamentary and would hear from groups. We are still waiting, the clock is ticking, Parliament is about to rise, and the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court is about to be upon us.

To bring it back to topic, it is high time for an adult conversation on marijuana use, not megaphone participation, not screaming at one another, not scare tactics, but a reasoned conversation based on health, evidence, hearing from experts, and learning from experiences in other jurisdictions. We can learn from other jurisdictions that are ahead of us on this issue. Colorado and Washington are going through this right now, and there is no good reason why the experiences that have taken place in those jurisdictions cannot form part of the discussion and our examination here.

I believe it was Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Yet time and time again, we see that the response to any complex social problem is mandatory minimum sentences and budget cuts. That is it.

There are young people in this country who are being saddled with criminal records for possessing six marijuana plants. They are being saddled with criminal records that will affect their futures, employability, and ability to travel to the United States. If they want to get their records expunged, there is no such thing as a pardon. A record suspension is expensive and time consuming. How many young lives have been jeopardized and how many young people who have made an error in judgment and want to turn their lives around are saddled with this one-size-fits-all approach?

We have before us a report that is unbalanced and fundamentally flawed. The Liberal Party has submitted a dissenting report that sets forth a much more balanced and reasonable position on a problem that is not black and white. There are shades of grey. There always are with any complex social problem. They cannot be solved with mandatory minimums and budget cuts.

The Liberal Party has recommended that the government explore a regulatory framework of legalization, working with experts in the field, that aims to keep marijuana out of the hands of youth. We have recommended that the government work with relevant stakeholders and experts to develop a campaign to raise public awareness and knowledge of the risks and harms associated with marijuana use and that the Government of Canada fund research aimed at improving the understanding of the short- and long-term harms and benefits related to the use of marijuana among all cohorts of society.

The approach of the Liberal Party is one that respects evidence and respects Canadians. It is not one that is oversimplified, which is what we are hearing in the talking points from the other side. Canadians are ready for an adult conversation. It is high time that the Government of Canada participated in and facilitated that discussion and trusted Canadians.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Health
Permalink

June 2, 2015