June 1, 2017

LIB

Yves Robillard

Liberal

Mr. Yves Robillard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on her decision to support Bill C-45. I would like to know what you plan to do as a member of Parliament. I know what I am going to do in my region. I would like to know how you will—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

Order. I would remind the hon. member that he must direct his comments to the Chair.

Since he is out of time, I now recognize the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Christine Moore

NDP

Ms. Christine Moore

Mr. Speaker, I think we all make an effort to share information when people ask us questions. I recently took part in a documentary on this issue at the Abitibi-Témiscamingue CEGEP. I explained all the arguments, both for and against legalization. I think what matters most is getting information out there.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Jacques Gourde

Conservative

Mr. Jacques Gourde (Lévis—Lotbinière, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, we have more proof that the Liberal government is headed in the wrong direction with the marijuana legalization bill, which has Canadians, public safety organizations, and associations like the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police very worried.

This leads me to ask myself a basic question: do we have a sober statesman with clear and responsible ideas in charge of the country?

Setting up a task force on marijuana is smoke and mirrors. We are all familiar with the ravages of drugs. How can we accept the possibility of making pot legal and profitable to the detriment of our social and economic prosperity? It really took a Liberal cabinet to make that happen.

I am the member for the riding of Lévis—Lotbinière in Quebec, which is a great place to live, where our neighbourhoods are safe and sound, and where we can sleep peacefully at night. Today, I am also speaking as a responsible parent and father who, in all humility, wants to protect all children.

Drugs are a scourge. They may be illegal across the country, but they are still in our schools, our parks, and our streets, and they are still a threat to the future of our children.

Making the leap from medical use in the privacy of a person's own home to recreational use trivializes the real dangers that so many experts have identified and runs counter to creating a responsible society in which people focus on earning a living and making wise choices for the future. With typical reckless abandon, the Liberals spent thousands of dollars last fall on a report that told us what we already knew.

It confirmed that Colorado and Washington state, which legalized marijuana, are spending over $13 million on prevention and education about the dangers of marijuana for a combined population of 12.7 million. The Liberal government must be under the influence of its own bill if it thinks that budgeting $1.9 million for a population of 36.5 million will prevent cannabis legalization from having any impact on Canadians.

Fatal accidents caused by drivers who had consumed marijuana doubled in the state of Washington and tripled in Colorado. As for organized crime activity, there was no decrease after the drug was legalized.

The Health Canada document on the health impacts associated with cannabis is very clear. Youth aged 25 and under are most at risk in the short and long term. The short-term effects of cannabis on the brain include confusion, fatigue, impaired ability to remember, concentrate, and pay attention, and reduced ability to react quickly. How will our young people perform at school or at work?

Cannabis use can also result in psychotic episodes characterized by paranoia, delusions, mood disturbances, psychotic symptoms, and mental health disorders. The THC in cannabis can impair one's ability to drive safely and operate equipment at work. It can also increase the risk of falls and other accidents because THC can affect coordination, reaction time, ability to pay attention, decision-making abilities, and ability to judge distances.

I take no pleasure in telling you the true story of a young girl who could be my or anyone's daughter. She is now living every day with the long-terms effects of a few years of cannabis use at the critical age of adolescence, as is her family.

We must also never forget that marijuana is the perfect gateway to other harder, stronger, more chemical-based, and more addictive drugs. That is a fact that should not be overlooked.

Fanny agreed to share her story so that we can help prevent other children from using marijuana. As a result of marijuana, Fanny faces major challenges every day, but, as they say, there is no use in regret. The damage has already been done.

Fanny was a very cheerful and bright little girl. In junior high, her first boyfriend introduced her to pot with a group of friends at the park in front of the school. Over the weeks that followed, there were more and more opportunities to use it and Fanny's marks plummeted. Her parents were devastated because they no longer recognized her. She started to sneak out at night, and she dropped out of school before finishing grade 8.

The decade that followed led exactly where one would expect marijuana use to lead. Fanny worked various jobs but could never hold one down because of her drug use. Over the years, she had a baby that she did not raise. She even ended up homeless and in a psychiatric ward because she was a danger to herself.

Fanny has still not kicked her addiction, even after an intensive seven-month stay at a treatment centre for women and dozens of Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

At 24, Fanny is sad about her condition and is trying to make a life for herself, even to survive, because she is really struggling. She has now been diagnosed with mental health issues and admits that she will have a lifelong addiction.

Like thousands of young adults who seek out help, trying to get off drugs and learning to lead a stable life are now two of Fanny's biggest challenges. As a child, she had bigger dreams, like becoming a veterinary assistant and having a family. Today, she regrets believing what others told her, that it was just pot.

With the Liberals providing unrestricted access to pot, it will be easier than ever for our youth to start using it. Marijuana has many long-term effects on the brain: it affects memory, concentration, intelligence, also known as IQ, and the ability to think and make decisions.

These effects may be irreversible even after people stop using cannabis. The long-term effects on mental health combined with frequent cannabis consumption increase the risk of suicide, depression, and anxiety disorder. Since pot reduces anxiety, fear, and panic in the short term, it is a never-ending spiral.

There will be no end to heartbreaking stories like Fanny's once marijuana is legalized. Our health care system is already maxed out. Social services centres are struggling to help neglected children whose parents are grappling with serious issues related to marijuana, among other things. Does anyone really see this getting better once people can smoke pot in public? It most certainly will not.

Who is going to pay for these wasted lives? The Liberal Party fund? That would sure be nice. How much personal responsibility is the person whose idea this was in the first place going to take for the social disaster that is about to befall us all? I am talking about the Prime Minister himself. Are we going to accept this vision of society for the people we love and cherish? I myself most certainly will not, and I hope the Senate will do likewise.

The infamous framework for the legalization of cannabis in Canada was only drafted, in my humble opinion, to ease the conscience of the Liberal Party, which must feel as though it is about to make an irrevocable mistake. What that report does not say is how many people could even die, in the short and long term.

You cannot put a price on human life. I truly hope that some kind of miracle will happen and that this Liberal bill, like all the other Liberal Party promises, will somehow be forgotten and that the Conservative government will, as usual, return to power to undo all the damage done by the Liberals.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
Permalink
LIB

John Oliver

Liberal

Mr. John Oliver (Oakville, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, when I am in Oakville I get into the high schools as much as I can. I talk to kids there about the dangers of marijuana.

The member told a very powerful story about a young woman who in high school began to use marijuana, and that took her down a very difficult and disastrous path in her life. That is exactly what this bill is trying to prevent. It is trying to stop marijuana from getting into the hands of young people in high schools and stop the black market that is feeding them.

If we do not pass this legislation, what else would the member suggest we do to stop that path for that young woman?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Jacques Gourde

Conservative

Mr. Jacques Gourde

Mr. Speaker, we are going to legalize marijuana and allow people to grow plants in their homes. What are teenagers going to do?

They will grow it, they will smoke it, and they will dry it. When it is illegal, they do not know how to do all that. Now, however, our entire society is going to learn to grow and smoke cannabis.

What will happen in 10, 15, 20, or 30 years? Half of all Canadians will be in some sort of limbo.

Who is going to pay for all this? This will be the decline of Canadian society. The Liberals will remember this for a very long time.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Christine Moore

NDP

Ms. Christine Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

Had we opted for decriminalization, cannabis would not be legal, police officers could seize it, and people would be fined rather than prosecuted. Would my colleague be in favour of such a system?

Under that kind of system, marijuana would be decriminalized, but police officers could still intervene by seizing the marijuana and handing out fines.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Jacques Gourde

Conservative

Mr. Jacques Gourde

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question, and I congratulate her on her second child.

Our young adolescents are victims. The real culprits are those who supply drugs to our children through very sophisticated networks. Cannabis may be a soft drug and not as harmful as other drugs, but people start with that and then want stronger and stronger drugs, chemical drugs that create a dependancy.

One child with an addiction is one too many. It affects the entire family: brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, and friends. It can result in suicide. There have been suicides in my riding; that is not something people tend to forget.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
Permalink
LIB

Yves Robillard

Liberal

Mr. Yves Robillard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised at my colleague's attitude. His party just had its leadership race and the member for Beauce was in favour of legalizing cannabis.

I imagine that his chief organizer did a survey to find out what members of the Conservative Party between the ages of 18 and 25 think about this.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Jacques Gourde

Conservative

Mr. Jacques Gourde

Mr. Speaker, I think that, as a former high school teacher, my colleague opposite must have seen thousands of students. I am sure that he saw hundreds and hundreds of students who were caught in the same pattern.

I would like to tell a quick story about my friend Gilles, whom I knew when I was 13 years old and in grade 8. Gilles never finished grade 9. In grade 10 he was part of a biker gang, and by grade 11 he was no longer coming to school. We did not know what happened to him, but he had a lot of money. I saw him again 18 years later and he told me that he had to commit suicide for some obscure reason.

Three weeks later, he was dead. He intentionally crashed his motorcycle. He had told me he was going to do it.

It is the same pattern. Pot, hard drugs, street gangs, and money problems. He committed suicide.

That pattern is going to repeat itself hundreds of thousands of times because of the Liberals' big plan for Canadian society. The answer is no. That will never happen.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Robert Gordon Kitchen

Conservative

Mr. Robert Kitchen (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to be here today to take part in the discussion surrounding Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code, and other acts. It is also known informally as the cannabis act.

On this side of the House it has always been a top priority to stand up for the health and safety of Canadians, and I would like to thank all of my Conservative colleagues for their hard work in that regard. We are committed to making sure that the voices of everyday Canadians are heard, no matter what the issue might be.

To that end, I feel I am privileged to stand here today and speak to the effects this legislation may have on the Canadian public, and to ensure that the Liberals understand the implications of this policy.

I must mention that I find it rather rich that the Liberals are willing to take years to consult Canadians about basic economic projects, but they have no issue ramming through legislation like Bill C-45 in a matter of months.

The bill represents a seismic shift in our society. With prohibition repealed in the 1920s, alcohol and tobacco have been legal, on and off, for nearly 150 years, and yet we are still working out the kinks of the policy framework for these substances. To think it is a good idea to rush legislation that would have such a wide-ranging and drastic effect across the entire country is short-sighted and ill-advised.

Bill C-45 is a very complex piece of legislation that touches on many aspects of people's lives. One of the things I am most concerned about with respect to the legal age of cannabis is the potential effects it could have on the health of Canadians. This means that we do not have very much science and evidence-based research on the effects of this drug. This was acknowledged in the final report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, which states:

We are aware of the shortcomings in our current knowledge base around cannabis and the effects of cannabis on human health and development.

That is concerning. I do not think it is unreasonable to want to have a full understanding of the health effects of cannabis use before it is legalized. That way, we can ensure that the proper framework, policies, and guidelines are put in place before making the substance readily available across the country. Instead, the Liberals are rushing this legislation through the House in hopes of keeping their promised timeline of having the bill reach royal assent before July 2018. Keeping campaign promises is all well and good, but doing it without the full knowledge of the implications of the bill is really irresponsible.

As mentioned, the main areas of concern I have with the bill are the impacts it would have on the Canadian health care system. Before I became an MP, I was a chiropractor and a primary care provider. I have seen first-hand how the abuse of intoxicating substances affects the health of individuals like us.

When it comes to cannabis, studies show that the earlier cannabis use begins and the more frequently and longer it is used, the greater the risk of potential developmental harm, some of which may be long-lasting or permanent. This becomes problematic given that Bill C-45 would make cannabis more accessible to everyone, including youth.

This goes back to my point that we do not fully understand the health effects of cannabis use. What we do know is that the brain continues to develop up to the age of 25, meaning that people who use it before that age are putting themselves at risk. There are associations between frequent cannabis use and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and psychoses.

At this point, current science is not definitive on a safe age for cannabis use. Why is it that the Liberals, who love to study and consult everything under the sun, have no issue with rapidly ramming through legislation that does not have a solid basis in science, has the potential to burden our health care system, and may cause irreversible harm to our youth? These same Liberals continually tell us that they are the true scientists, that they understand science, and that they listen to scientists—well, perhaps junk science, but I digress.

The burden to the health care system seems to be one of the aspects of the bill that has not been thought out. Cannabis is typically smoked, and similar to tobacco, it has negative effects on the health of the lungs.

Each day in Canada, 100 Canadians die of a smoking-related illness. Each year, there are more than 230,000 deaths for that same reason. With the legalization and wide availability of cannabis, it is assumed that this number would only increase.

Smoke is smoke. We do not send firefighters into a smoke-filled room without respirators, so why would we encourage another means to harm our lungs? As a health care provider, I cannot support an increased burden to our country's health care system, and I certainly cannot get behind this idea when the demographic it will affect most negatively is our youth. The federal government needs to protect the young people of Canada. I do not feel that the bill goes far enough to ensure that is the case.

Another major issue that I see with this piece of legislation is that of occupational health and safety. In my riding, there are a lot of industries that rely heavily on manual labour from their employees, an example of which is the construction industry. The Construction Labour Relations Association of Saskatchewan wrote a letter to my office, outlining some of its concerns with Bill C-45. I have an excerpt from that letter. It says that the construction and maintenance industry is widely recognized as being a safety-sensitive industry, where substance use and abuse pose significant risks to workers' health and safety, and that their contractors are deeply concerned about the forthcoming legalization of marijuana.

Another industry that this has the potential to affect is the transportation industry. My riding serves as one of the major trucking corridors through the United States and up into Canada. Hundreds of transport trucks traverse my riding daily, going through small communities and often on single-lane highways. These single-lane highways are dangerous, to the degree that a “time to twin” committee has been established with the specific goal of working to get infrastructure funding to have Highways 39 and 6 twinned.

There are already a number of accidents involving 18-wheelers every year in southeast Saskatchewan, which sadly results in an average of three deaths annually. I can only assume that there will be more, unless there are specific provisions in place regarding the use of cannabis while at work.

There needs to be a framework for employers to lawfully continue to manage the workplace risks associated with cannabis use. They need to be able to have an option to test their employees whenever they feel the need, especially if the employer feels as though safety standards have been violated. Who will protect these employers from legal challenges, and who will protect fellow workers from the safety risks caused by intoxicated individuals?

I hope that the Liberals can understand why this is so important in labour-centric industries like construction, agriculture, oil and gas, and more. Both employees and employers deserve to have a clear and standardized set of rules regarding the acceptable use of intoxicants, including cannabis, to ensure that occupational health and safety is the major priority, no matter what.

This also applies to the matter of public safety in general. This is a story I do not tell a lot, but when I was 16 years old, while riding a bicycle, I was the victim of a hit and run collision where a driver who was impaired due to drug and alcohol use hit me and left me for dead on the side of the road. I had brain matter draining out of my ear and was in a coma for two weeks. I nearly died as a result of that. It affected my life dramatically, and still does to this day.

That personal experience is part of the reason why I feel so strongly about the need for policies to be in place regarding drug testing with respect to impaired driving before cannabis is legalized. It is a matter of ensuring public safety, and on this side of the House, we think that public safety should be put above keeping campaign promises. These tests need to be concise, accurate, and defensible. They need to be usable and in place prior to any legislation. Otherwise, we are closing the barn door after the horses have left.

In closing, I believe that Bill C-45 is flawed in many regards and that there needs to be a better understanding of the overarching effects of cannabis before it is made available to the Canadian public. I call on the Liberals to do the right thing, and to stand up for the health and safety of Canadians when it comes to the legalization of cannabis.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Liberal

Mr. Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Winnipeg Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I was reading a book by a gentleman named Dr. Gabor Maté, from east-side Vancouver, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. It is about addiction. He was talking about how addiction affects many people, from high-functioning workaholics, all the way down to people who use drugs in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

If the member takes the chance to read the book and understand what he is saying, it effectively says there is addiction everywhere in society, probably even in the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC
LIB

Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Liberal

Mr. Robert-Falcon Ouellette

There probably is. Many of us are workaholics and we are away from our families. It is not a normal lifestyle.

How do we then combat, for instance, alcoholism or drug addiction? What do we actually do then to make a difference, to ensure that people have positive addictions that people see as contributing to society and not those that are taking from or destroying society?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Robert Gordon Kitchen

Conservative

Mr. Robert Kitchen

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about addictions. He is right that there are a lot of people in the world dealing with these issues and lot of times the question is why. What was it that started them on that path? There are many theories as to what that may be, but there is no 100% answer. To say that legalizing the product to allow somebody to use it is the answer to addressing it, I do not see that as appropriate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Alistair MacGregor

NDP

Mr. Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I was listening with interest when my Conservative colleague was echoing his concerns about the age limit that has been set of age 18. I know the legislation allows for provinces to harmonize that with their alcohol laws. Some provinces, like my home province of British Columbia, set it at 19, while the neighbouring province of Alberta set it as 18. Age 18 is the age that we trust people to join the Canadian Armed Forces and go into combat. It is the age when we trust people to have the maturity to cast ballots to elect every member of Parliament in the House.

I realize that the member has very legitimate concerns about the habitual and chronic use of marijuana on the developing brain, especially under the age of 25, but we also have to give the benefit of the doubt to the people who use marijuana. If we can trust them with the responsibility of joining the Canadian Armed Forces and casting votes, should we not try to use a public education campaign to show them the dangers, instead of setting the bar too high when they have all of these other responsibilities that they seem to carry out in a fine and upstanding manner.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Robert Gordon Kitchen

Conservative

Mr. Robert Kitchen

Mr. Speaker, we often look at age limits and often in my life I have wondered why it is that certain states in the U.S. send their soldiers to war at 18 years of age when the drinking age is 25. These are issues that need to be looked at and we need to make sure, when we deal with the provinces, they are able to balance whatever the legislation is.

Do we say 18 or do we say 19? Do we say 12? The legislation would allow for somebody who is 12 years old to have four grams of marijuana. Why does a 12-year-old need to possess four grams of marijuana? I cannot fathom that. If it is 12, why should it not be 11? Who makes that decision? If we are the ones making that decision, we need to make certain we have the facts right and all of the policies and procedures in place before we take any of those steps.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Jim Eglinski

Conservative

Mr. Jim Eglinski (Yellowhead, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government talked about spending $5.9 million over five years across Canada to educate people. I broke that down earlier and it is less than $200,000 per province. How far does the member think that is going to go to educate people?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Robert Gordon Kitchen

Conservative

Mr. Robert Kitchen

Mr. Speaker, that is true. When we ask how far it is going to go, the reality is that it is not going to go far at all. The bottom line is that it is not even in place yet. If the legislation goes through a year from now and the government has not yet taken the steps to start educating young people, we will be behind the eight ball and way behind the curve. These people will be left out to dry.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Sheri Benson

NDP

Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-45, which would bring in a wide-ranging set of changes to our lives.

First let me say that the NDP has a proud 45-year history of championing marijuana decriminalization. We have been asking the Liberals to immediately decriminalize simple possession of marijuana as an interim measure, as many young and racialized Canadians continue to receive charges and criminal records that will affect them for the rest of their lives, not to mention the thousands of Canadians who have criminal records for simple possession of a substance that will soon cease to be illegal.

The changes to the law that Bill C-45 would bring are long overdue, but while we wait for the bill to become law, why will the government not bring in an interim measure of decriminalization, or at the very least, why will it not invoke prosecutorial and police discretion to cease enforcing an unjust law?

In their election platform, the Liberals claimed that arresting for and prosecuting these offences is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offences. Given the current situation of an overloaded justice system where cases are being thrown out and charges stayed because of long delays in courts, it just does not make any sense to keep charging Canadians for simple possession of marijuana.

I am particularly concerned about the continued criminalization of cannabis because Saskatchewan is the place people are most likely to get busted for simple possession of marijuana and Saskatoon tops the list of major Canadian cities.

According to 2014 data from Statistics Canada, 77% of the time Saskatoon police stop someone suspected of having pot, they lay a charge. That compares with 48% in Regina, and the Canadian average is 39%. Meanwhile, if we look at the per capita rates of charges, Saskatoon ranks fourth behind Kelowna, Gatineau, and Sherbrooke. Overall, in 2014, police reported more than 104,000 drug offences, of which two-thirds, 66%, were related to cannabis and mainly possession of cannabis.

The Liberals have yet to explain their reasoning for refusing to decriminalize marijuana and their intransigence is adding to the confusion. Indeed, even law enforcement agencies and experts agree that inconsistencies abound:

Neil Boyd, the director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University, has concerns about who is facing criminal consequences for pot possession.

“I don't think that we can really be confident that the law is being applied equally,” Boyd said. “We know that young people with fewer resources and less access to private space are going to be much more likely to be processed for this offense than people who are older and have access to private space.”

Boyd said some people may see outdoor use of marijuana as a nuisance.

“It could be a civil fine for public use of cannabis, that would be entirely legitimate. But to treat a person who's using cannabis as a criminal. It's like using a sledgehammer for a flea.”

Two years ago, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police called for the option to write a ticket for simple possession, noting that right now their only choice is to lay charges or turn a blind eye.

In fact, even the Prime Minister has admitted that the rich and well connected have an easier time avoiding a criminal record while citing the example of his late brother, Michel. Their father, Pierre Trudeau, reached out to his friends in the legal community, got the best possible lawyer, and was very confident that he was going to be able to make those charges go away. People from minority communities, marginalized communities, without economic resources, are not going to have that kind of option to go through to clear their name in the justice system.

Not all of us have the connections of course that the Trudeaus have, and tens of thousands of Canadians will end up having criminal records for life because, despite the Prime Minister's remarks to the contrary during the election campaign, the Minister of Public Safety has stated that the government has no interest in granting a blanket pardon for people with criminal records for possessing small amounts of cannabis.

There is also no indication that the Liberals are interested in making pardons easier to obtain, or if they will address the high $631 fee for an application. Not being able to access a pardon remains a serious obstacle for people who are trying to escape their criminal past and move on with their lives. Why will the Liberals not commit to pardoning those who have previous convictions for simple possession of marijuana?

Aside from the confusion surrounding the pardons and the continued criminalization of simple possession, many questions remain unanswered. There are questions regarding the proposed cannabis tracking system. What does it mean for the privacy of Canadians? How will the data be managed? How much will it cost to implement? For the moment, Health Canada cannot say anything other than that it intends to offset such costs through licensing and other fees. Clearly, we need more details and a fulsome discussion around these important questions.

We also need answers on crossing the border for those who admit to smoking marijuana. For instance, the Prime Minister himself could be sanctioned at the border and banned for life if he did not have a diplomatic passport. We already have a host of problems at the border with Canadians being stopped, interrogated, and turned away without good cause. How is the government proposing to deal with any or all of these irritants for Canadians at the border?

One of the negative health consequences of the criminalization of cannabis has been a widely acknowledged lack of scientific research into the health impacts of cannabis use, especially chronic long-term use, particularly among young people. One especially grave concern is the fact that there is at present very little research available on the impact of cannabis on the development of the young brain. We in the NDP will continue to press the government to begin establishing research plans and funding into these important areas.

I have also heard from many seniors in my constituency who would like to be better informed and supported as they try to navigate the confusing medical marijuana maze. In fact, an estimated 90% of prescription holders are accessing cannabis illegally rather than through licensed producers. Many Canadians with ailments and chronic pain issues may prefer medical marijuana over opiates as a treatment option.

However, the task force highlighted the need for access to accurate information on the risks and negative effects of cannabis. With a lack of enough peer-reviewed, credible research on the impact of cannabis use, there is a tendency for cannabis activists to overstate the capacity of cannabis to heal or cure certain chronic conditions. All Canadians will benefit from robust, well-researched, and prominent public information and education programs, but the government has not been clear about how it will be funding public education and research and how that will be rolled out. Will the Liberals commit to using revenues from cannabis legalization for public awareness, prevention, and treatment?

Bill C-45 also leaves many key issues to the provinces that will need time to set up their own regulatory systems. This is yet another reason that this process should have been started earlier.

The task force report calls upon all levels of government to quickly build capacities to create compliable cannabis policies and regulations. It will be a complicated policy task. Western Canadian economic opportunities to seize the economic potential of a new thriving cannabis sector are unprecedented. The determining factor between profit and loss, both for businesses and governments, is how effectively the regulatory framework is created, implemented, and monitored.

What remains unclear is what the tax structure and revenue structure will look like for cannabis and how this will be shared between the federal government and the provinces. The provinces and Canadians will have to wait to hear from the Minister of Finance on that matter.

Because the existing cannabis market is so substantial, it is critical to shift the dialogue toward tangible collaborative discussions on co-creating a taxable provincial cannabis distribution model. First nations, municipalities, provinces, and the federal government all have the opportunity to realize sustainable taxation revenues, provided inclusive and enforceable regulations are co-created with the cannabis industry as part of a collaborative public policy.

It is my hope that the government does not sweep these questions under the carpet and instead tackles them, because Canadians deserve to have clear and honest answers from their government.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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June 1, 2017