June 1, 2017

LIB

John Oliver

Liberal

Mr. John Oliver (Oakville, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Saskatoon West for her remarks.

The objective of this act is to prevent young people from accessing and using cannabis. I think everyone in this House understands the consequences for young Canadians who would chronically use cannabis, and the long-term effects on the brain and development. I think we all agree with that.

As I mentioned earlier, when I am in high schools in Oakville talking to the students, I talk about the health effects of marijuana, but I also remind them it is illegal to possess it and that there are consequences to breaking the law.

The member has spoken very passionately about decriminalizing marijuana in the current environment. Decriminalizing marijuana, I believe, would lead to an explosion of use. It would do the exact opposite of what we are trying to do, which is not have young people using marijuana. The solution is to regulate and legalize marijuana so we get it out of the black market, we protect students from having access to it, we make it punitive for people who are trying to sell marijuana to young people, and we fix the problem. Decriminalizing it does the exact opposite.

Would the member explain how, in her view, decriminalizing marijuana would stop the usage of marijuana by young Canadians?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Sheri Benson

NDP

Ms. Sheri Benson

Mr. Speaker, I was not implying in my remarks that decriminalization was the answer or the be-all and end-all. What I was saying is that in the next 15 months, while the government proceeds with legalizing it, there will be young Canadians who will be caught by police with very small amounts of marijuana. They will be charged and they will get a criminal record. For many in my riding, that will be a criminal record for life, because they will never be able to afford the amount of money it costs to get a pardon.

What I am saying is that in the interim, does it make sense that the government continues to give young Canadians criminal records or even puts them behind bars, when in the next 15 months it will be legalizing something that even a day earlier might have been criminal? I do not think that is fair, and I think the government should address that. It could easily move forward and ensure that those criminal records do not happen for young people.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it appears, through the discussion tonight, that the NDP is going to be generally supporting the bill. However, I want to ask a question specifically on the issue of allowing the limit of four plants per home.

The police association is asking officials to hold off on homegrowns. It says that if Canadians have their own pot plants, it would run counter to the government's objective of what my colleague earlier referred to as a highly regulated and controlled system of legalization. The association argues that permitting homegrown cannabis would create too much work for law enforcement. The police chiefs said it would be a struggle to ensure Canadians do not grow too much or try to sell their crop on the black market. The chiefs also said it would be difficult to keep children and youth away from cannabis, and that home grow-ops in general come with the risk of causing electrical problems and fire hazards that put first responders at risk.

My question is, what is my colleague's position on the issue of allowing four plants per home in a time when we are saying we are going to have a highly regulated environment? It seems to run counter to that argument.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Sheri Benson

NDP

Ms. Sheri Benson

Mr. Speaker, I think that in my remarks I listed some of the top reasons that I felt there needed to be more work done on the bill. The NDP is supporting this bill. We hope that those things will be worked out in committee and that the committee will be allowed to do its work and make any recommendations based on testimony of witnesses. One thing that could be included is the comments my hon. colleague has shared about some law enforcement agencies and their concerns about the regulation within the act on the number of plants that individuals can have.

I do not have a professional opinion on the number, but I would like to see the committee thoroughly review that and perhaps call forward some of the folks who have commented to you in the examples you cited.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I remind the hon. member for Saskatoon West to direct her comments to the Chair.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Gérard Deltell

Conservative

Mr. Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say what a great honour it is to see you in the chair at 10:15 this Thursday evening. Yours is a very prestigious position, Mr. Speaker. Your predecessor is over here now, and in two and a half years, he will be on the other side. The future is yours, Mr. Speaker. We need a good dose of humour tonight because what is going on here is no laughing matter, and it is the government's fault.

The government is delivering on a regrettable, dangerous, and perhaps even deadly election promise. It is unacceptable for the Liberal government to make ours one of the few countries in the world to legalize marijuana consumption. Before I dig into the issues, I just want to go over the broad strokes.

Why is it dangerous to legalize cannabis? Because it is a gateway drug. Cannabis can directly kill brain cells. It cannot be compared to cigarettes. Earlier, we heard the argument that cigarettes should be banned because they cause cancer. However, cigarettes have been legal for centuries. That is the problem. If tobacco were invented today, it would be banned immediately. However, tobacco has existed for hundreds of years and our efforts to eradicate it are working.

People of my parents' generation were inveterate smokers, although my parents did not smoke. People of my generation did not smoke much. As for my children, they have never smoked. Thus, we have managed to get rid of the cigarette and now the government wants to legalize marijuana use.

Do I have to remind members that marijuana kills brain cells and they do not regenerate? Woe to those who make comparisons with alcohol. Alcohol does affect the brain, but it does not kill brain cells, although it can result in disasters and unfortunate incidents. Nevertheless, the Liberals want to legalize marijuana and that is unacceptable.

Also, the Liberals want to make it legal to use marijuana beginning at age 18. They keep saying that everything must be science-based. They are also saying that our government ignored science, which is completely false. Can the Liberals name a single specialist, doctor, or scientific authority who has said that using marijuana poses no problem for an 18-year-old? On the contrary, every scientific study in the world says that using the drug before the age of 25 is dangerous, because the brain is still developing at that time. This is also what the College of Family Physicians of Canada said. It has been proven that marijuana attacks brain cells directly, and yet the Liberals want to legalize it. It makes no sense. Setting the legal age at 18 is a huge mistake.

Another dumb thing about this bill is that it lets people grow marijuana at home. During the election campaign, the Liberals said they would control marijuana production, that it would happen in specific places, and that everything would be just fine. They said they would be able to rein in what was being done illegally. Are they going to check all 20 million houses in this country? Give me a break.

Then they say the plants cannot be taller than three feet. Am I supposed to believe that the RCMP is going to get out its tape measure and let people keep growing plants that are two feet, three and three-quarter inches tall? That is ridiculous.

The Liberal government is going to put our children in ridiculous, preposterous, unacceptable situations. That is the problem. The Liberals are constantly spouting their lofty ideals. They say this is a better way to restrict children's access to marijuana. Yeah, right. Kids are going to be able to go into all these houses where pot is growing. That is not protection; that is an open bar. My kids are grown up, but I remember back when they were 10 and they went to play with their friends. Now parents are going to have to find out if their kids' friends' parents are growing marijuana at home.

I can tell you that my son or daughter definitely would not be going there. Imagine the family arguments. Well done. Another stupid move from this government.

This is going to cause a thousand problems. For whom? Not for the federal government. It will be up to the provinces and municipalities to clean up this mess. What is legalizing marijuana really going to achieve? It is simply going to cause problems in the areas of public safety, health, and education, which are all provincial jurisdictions. What is going to happen with all of that? The government will say that it is doing this for the well-being of Canadians and our kids, and the provinces will have to figure out the costs. Well done. This is typical of the Liberal government.

This is not to mention how our cities and towns will be affected; it will be significant. Proper legislation is needed regarding growing this stuff at home. Will apartment owners be allowed to prohibit growing it? No, because the federal legislation allows it. Municipalities will be left to deal with this, so in one city it might be allowed, while in another city it might not. Well done.

The Liberals like to manufacture problems. They want to fix them, but they also like to create them. That is why this bill is unacceptable.

It does not stop there. What is one of the stupidest things about this bill? When will it be implemented? When will Canada become one of the only countries in the world to legalize marijuana? It will be on Canada's birthday, July 1, 2018. That is the legacy the Liberals are going to leave. This year, we are going to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday—hooray for Canada—and a year later it will be hooray for marijuana. That does not make any sense. That is how the Liberal government is managing our country.

The Liberals are saying that this is being done elsewhere and that it is working so they are going to continue to move forward with their plan, but that is not true. The experiences of Colorado and Washington state have shown that this is a bad idea, that it increases the use and production of cannabis, and that it leads to an increase in organized crime, motor vehicle accidents, and other problems. What is more, cannabis addiction has a negative impact on health. That is unacceptable.

Like any good MP, I like to consult my constituents. Over the past week, I sent a parliamentary mail-out to ask people in the riding of Louis—Saint-Laurent to tell me what they think of the situation. I received nearly 500 responses, and 93% of people said that the Liberal government should not pass this legislation and should not legalize marijuana.

I will read some of their comments. Ms. Tremblay said that legalizing marijuana would be one less obstacle on the path to harder drugs. Other people said that growing marijuana at home would make it easier for younger children to have access to it. One man mentioned that he had lost five friends to suicide because of this crap. Another said that it puts young people at a higher risk of developing mental illnesses, and another said he had four grandchildren and that he found this shameful. A father of a three-year-old girl with another child on the way said that he was worried and found the situation extremely troubling.

I received a lot of comments. Here are some more. People also said that they disagreed with this measure because it would encourage young people to start using cannabis, and that Colorado's experience has shown that this is not a good idea. One woman did not want this for her granddaughter, her children, or her five great-grandchildren. Someone wanted to know who would benefit from the illegal sales, while someone else said that the only reason this was happening was so that the Prime Minister could win the votes of young people. Another person said that the decision goes against the efforts that the provinces are making, while another said that cannabis is four times stronger now than it was in the 1970s and that it is destroying people's minds.

I want to end with this last comment. “It is inhumane to toy with the health of our children.” That one was signed by a woman who lives on Ormière Boulevard, Ms. Paule Deltell, my mother.

What I want to say is that it is a very bad bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Stéphane Lauzon

Liberal

Mr. Stéphane Lauzon (Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague opposite for waking us up at this hour of the night with his enthusiastic speech.

He gave many examples of certain cases and read emails that he received.

At this very moment, the law prohibits the consumption, purchase, and sale of marijuana.

My question for the member opposite is simple: is it safer to tell our youth to obtain marijuana from organized crime or to legalize it and make it safer?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Gérard Deltell

Conservative

Mr. Gérard Deltell

Mr. Speaker, you cannot imagine how pleased I am to answer this question.

First, the only thing we want to tell people is do not go near it, period. It is bad, bad, bad.

According to the member's logic, it would be terrible to do nothing because we would continue supporting organized crime, which makes no sense. Is the member going down the same road as his colleague from Beaches—East York who said in an interview on January 27 that marijuana was the first step and that the next step was cocaine? Apparently he subscribes to the principle that legalizing something makes everything just fine.

Is the member a party to these irresponsible ideas or, on the contrary, does he agree with his Prime Minister, who this afternoon told the House that that is not what he wants to do? That is unacceptable.

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 draw on my colleague's experience in the National Assembly and ask him if there were debates about marijuana while he was there.

What are his thoughts on the burden this will place on the provinces, including Quebec?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Gérard Deltell

Conservative

Mr. Gérard Deltell

Mr. Speaker, no, we did not debate it. Plus, anyone trying to debate it with me would have been in for a rough ride.

One of Quebec's ministers, Lucie Charlebois, recently issued a statement in which she said that the Government of Quebec would have to equip parents and children in schools, support employers and unions with major workplace prevention programs, pass legislation to do with housing, set up a specialized distribution system, and train police officers. She said this would put pressure on Quebec's judicial system and that the municipalities would have to be involved on the regulation end of things.

That is the Liberal government's marijuana legalization gift to the provinces. Fantastic.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Wayne Easter

Liberal

Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent is on the finance committee and expresses a lot of common sense there, but he has absolutely lost his common sense here tonight. He talked about a measuring stick to measure how high the plants are, but a measuring stick going to the ceiling would not measure all of his exaggerations here tonight.

I will ask the member the simple question that the parliamentary secretary asked earlier: what are you going to do instead? The Government of Canada is recognizing it, is legalizing it, is controlling it, is educating with respect to it, and is starting to deal with this problem. What would the member opposite do? What are you going to do instead to actually control the problem—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I do not know if the hon. member for Malpeque wants to know what I would do. I do not think that is what he means, so I would encourage him to address himself to the Chair and to speak in the third person when referring to other members in the House.

The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Gérard Deltell

Conservative

Mr. Gérard Deltell

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to answer the question of my hon. colleague from Malpeque. It is a great pleasure to work with him at the finance committee, even if we disagree on so many issues. I respect him a lot.

We have to have more severe controls against the people who benefit from illegal marijuana. If the government wants to convince people to be very careful with respect to marijuana, I would ask the MP to convince his counterparts in the cabinet to be sure to give the necessary money, because the government wants to spend $1.9 million a year for the 36 million people in Canada. The states of Colorado and Washington spend $13 million a year, while the Liberal government wants to spend less than $2 million a year. If it wants to protect people and inform them that it is wrong, it needs to spend the money necessary, not the pennies it will be giving toward enforcing it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Martin Shields

Conservative

Mr. Martin Shields (Bow River, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's oratory. He has obviously woken up the House. I am afraid I am going to put everyone back to sleep.

As I stand here with my colleagues, Canadians are paying close attention to the discussion we are having on the legalization of the distribution, sale, and possession of recreational marijuana in Canada. This subject no doubt evokes many emotions on all sides, and I know there can be some strongly held views on this issue.

I feel that the government has rushed into the bill without really stopping to consider all the consequences. The Liberals are doing it to meet a campaign commitment without considering all the repercussions and effects that this legislation scheme may have.

In April, shortly after the legislation was introduced by the Liberals, I had the opportunity to host a series of community round table meetings with municipal officials throughout my constituency. I met with mayors, reeves, councillors, MLAs, and media. One of the very major concerns that these officials had was with respect to the timeline of the bill. The Liberals have introduced this very broad legislation, setting the minimum age, the number of plants, and the potency of marijuana that can be sold. They then basically told the provinces and the territories to develop their own implementation plan for the rest. That means there could be 13 different regimes across Canada.

In the lead-up to what they knew was impending legislation from the feds, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association asked the Province of Alberta to act. As a result, in Alberta, the provincial NDP formed a secretariat to deal with this issue. That is great. The problem is that the secretariat in Alberta is excluding the municipalities from being part of it.

The Liberals keep talking about consultations with municipalities and municipal involvement, but how can this work? When the provinces are tasked with doing most of the heavy lifting for the feds, the municipalities are in fact left out of the decision-making process at the grassroots level.

As a former mayor for many years, I have a particular concern about the impact on communities and on municipalities. Municipalities are really concerned about this rush to legalize marijuana completely. They are concerned about the fact that they are going to have to pick up the tab for a variety of new responsibilities that are essentially being dumped on them overnight.

Municipalities will likely be responsible for enforcement and zoning, as well as for creating an entire new set of by-laws surrounding this new regime. With respect to zoning and by-laws, there will be a very long process. Staff will have to develop a plan. There will be public meetings and hearings. Advertising will have to be done. City staff will devote countless hours and resources over several months. There is a time factor here, and it cannot be rushed, which calls into question the government's timeline.

Licensing is not a cash cow, despite what some on the government side would have us believe. It will not be anywhere near what is required to cover the new costs this regime will impose on municipalities.

In a previous sitting of the House, I asked the Liberals what concrete actions they would be taking to support municipalities, seeing that they had dumped such a huge burden on them with very little time for them to adapt. The answer from the government side was quite generic, and it is not something I am particularly enthusiastic about. For example, the parliamentary secretary mentioned providing equipment and training, but did not mention who would pay for it. This does not help municipal planning.

Another area that will impact municipalities is they will have to rewrite their HR policies, because now they will have the threat of people coming to work under the influence of marijuana. The last thing any municipality wants is an employee operating heavy equipment while under the influence.

Enforcement as well means a whole new set of rules and regulations, planning, and money spent by municipalities.

The Liberals have essentially washed their hands of having to do any of the local work on this file. They have told municipalities, “Here is a big new change; you have about a year to implement it. Have a nice day.”

This is unfortunate, because I am sure that municipalities in my riding would have been willing to work collaboratively with the province, but they have been exempted from that. It is unfortunate that the province would not allow this to take place.

Another area of concern that I heard in the private sector while crisscrossing my riding hosting community roundtables was the concern surrounding workplace regulations regarding health and safety. Whether these organizations are small to medium-sized enterprises like ECS Safety Services in Brooks in my riding of Bow River or large outfits like oil and gas sector companies, there are some major concerns about work-related marijuana use.

As we know very well, my home province of Alberta has a large oil and gas sector, and it requires a significant amount of labour. These sectors now struggle at times to have enough clean employees. Coming under the influence of marijuana now is another significant challenge they are going to be facing.

I understand that the federal government must respect constitutional division of powers, and it says it is consulting with municipalities. It talks about some of the 22 major cities, like Toronto. In my riding, there are none of those 22 major cities. They are not talking about where the vast majority of our rural people live, so when they are talking about consulting, they are talking about some of the 22 major cities. That is not where I am from.

However, the Liberals can absolutely consult with the provinces to make sure they are going to support the municipalities. There is a process, if they wish to do it strongly enough. The federal government could, by funding, support these new powers for enforcement. It could come through the form of equal sharing of the tax revenue generated by legalized recreational marijuana. Let us consider the federal gas tax model, for example, where we cut out the middleman, which is the province, and the money goes directly to the municipalities, mostly. If it does not, it is property taxes that would end up covering the cost of this, because municipalities will be doing the heavy lifting at the grassroots level.

There are other ways the government may be able to support this as it rushes the terms of this brand new piece of legislation. However, if it does not take the time, if it pushes it too quickly, it will be the property tax payers as the major source of revenue for municipalities. As a result, taxes will go up in the local municipalities to pay for this scheme.

Lisa Holmes, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, has said that many Alberta municipalities could theoretically be ready by 2019, one year or so later than the government's deadline. If there is any way the government could work with the provinces to provide them with some flexibility in timelines and implementation, this might work. Ms. Holmes understands that, otherwise, the only way this new regime would be paid for is by property taxes in municipalities.

Another group of those concerned are many of the provincial premiers, including Liberal premiers. The NDP Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley, has expressed concerns about the short timeline.

There are many other issues that are arising from this legalization. For example, I found it somewhat distressing that we are going to be encouraging people, including young people, to smoke marijuana now, when for years we have been trying to get people to stop smoking. For years, I was involved in a regional health care board, and I was also an educator. We worked very hard with the resources we had to deliver public education on anti-smoking issues. We worked hard to educate youth as young as 10 years old on the hazards of tobacco smoke. The goal of these campaigns was to ensure that these youth never started smoking, period. In one case, we had more money to do this than the Liberals are spending across the country in five years. The $9 million spread out so meagrely over five years is tragic. It is simply not enough.

There is an opportunity here to mandate that federal taxes go to municipalities for health promotion and prevention. A specific percentage should be mandated by the federal government to ensure that prevention is being adequately funded, because $9 million is just blatantly wrong.

In tobacco prevention, one of the biggest at-risk groups, where prevention was least successful, was with pregnant teenagers. We already have a situation where these young pregnant girls, the mother and unborn child, are at risk. With Bill C-45, the Liberals are adding a new toxic substance that is going to put these girls and unborn children at even more risk. Here is a disturbing fact. One in seven teenagers will get addicted to smoking marijuana once they begin smoking it. In single, pregnant teens, that number is even going to be higher.

The government is facilitating this more by its outright legalization. It is facilitating it by making it easier for teenagers to get their hands on marijuana. This is the reason we need significant funding for prevention, and it is up to the federal government to take the lead. It is not enough to simply download it.

With all this in mind, I look forward to continuing debate on Bill C-45, with the hope that the government will reconsider the timeline. We really need that reconsidered.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Bill Blair

Liberal

Mr. Bill Blair (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the member for what was a thoughtful and quite relevant speech. I particularly commend him for his observations and comments on the challenges that a change in the way in which we strictly regulate and manage this problem could present to local municipalities. I am a municipal guy myself and have spent a great deal of time over the past several months travelling across the country meeting with mayors, police chiefs, fire chiefs, people involved in public health, and bylaw enforcement. I recognize and very much value and appreciate the comments made by the member opposite in that respect.

I want to provide a comment, if I may. I promise you, Mr. Speaker, that I will get to my question in a moment.

Our focus has been on reducing harm, but we recognize that there is a revenue implication, that money will be generated from this. We made a commitment that the money, from a federal standpoint, will be reinvested in prevention, research, treatment, and rehabilitation. The conversations we are having with our provincial partners are to recognize that there needs to be an investment in the administration, oversight, accountability, and enforcement of these regulations, and that means a partnership with our municipalities. I want to assure the member opposite that we recognize the importance of municipalities.

If we all unite in this together, does he believe that will do a better job of ensuring that our municipal partners have the resources they need to fulfill their role in keeping their communities safe?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I want to remind members that it is question or comments. They are allowed to make a comment or ask a question, but they do not have to do both.

The hon. member for Bow River.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Martin Shields

Conservative

Mr. Martin Shields

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind words.

Part of the challenge of going ahead with this is the short timeline we have. I understand how consultation works, and it takes a long time. I understand the relationship between the federal government and the provinces. The disconnect is with ensuring the funding gets to the municipalities. The government really has to get that done. Whether it can get that done and provide a clear commitment that the municipalities can understand in black and white, and it flows to them, is the challenge. If the government can do that, it will make a difference. They need to know it and plan for it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Sheila Malcolmson

NDP

Ms. Sheila Malcolmson (Nanaimo—Ladysmith, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, a major employer in the riding that I represent in Nanaimo is a company called Tilray. It is one of 27 licensed under the MMPR federal framework that the Conservatives put in place. It hires 120 professionals: horticulturalists, Ph.D.s, and people who left the silviculture industry and now cultivate marijuana. It is among the top five private-sector employers in my region. Its $26-million capital investment, in year one, turned into a $48-million economic output in Nanaimo. It has created 215 direct jobs. This was zoned by the municipality.

I am curious as to whether the member has had any experience with similar municipally zoned operations that seem to work within the legal framework and benefit the local economy.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Martin Shields

Conservative

Mr. Martin Shields

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague bringing up the zoning issue. Companies may have initially been looking to locate in larger municipalities, but we are now hearing that they may want to locate in more rural settings, which affects more of us outside the 22 major cities. That is a challenge that we need to be prepared for, but we need to know and understand what the implications are and how it would work. This is not a simple process of planning and zoning. It will take time. If companies locate outside major urban centres, it is going to take time, and we need more lead time than the timeline we have.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Marwan Tabbara

Liberal

Mr. Marwan Tabbara (Kitchener South—Hespeler, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour of speaking to Bill C-45, which our government introduced to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis consumption in Canada.

The cannabis bill represents a new approach to cannabis, one that puts public health and safety at the forefront, and will better protect young Canadians. The current approach to cannabis does not work. It has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit while also failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian youth. In many cases, it is easier for our kids to buy cannabis than cigarettes. Canadians continue to use cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world. It is the most commonly used illicit drug among young Canadians.

In 2015, 21% of youth aged 15 to 19 reported using cannabis in the past year. That is one in every five young people in this country. Too many of our youth see cannabis as a benign substance. They are often ill-informed on the harm that it can do, and are unaware that early use increases susceptibility to long-term effects on cannabis.

Youth are especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on brain development and function. This is because the THC in cannabis affects the same biological system in the brain that directs brain development. At the same time, too many people today are entering the criminal justice system for possessing small amounts of cannabis, potentially impacting their long-term opportunities. Clearly, there has to be a better way of educating and protecting our youth.

Given these facts, I would like to focus my comments today on the benefits of this legislation for youth. This is one of our government's primary objectives of Bill C-45, to protect youth by restricting their access to cannabis. I would begin by noting that this legislation is just one piece of the overall approach to addressing cannabis use by youth. Our government's commitment to keep cannabis out of the hands of children is made up of a number of complementary measures aimed at safeguarding their health, safety, and well-being.

Specifically, our government is trying to reduce cannabis use by youth, to restrict their ability to obtain the product, to provide them with better information on its health harms and risks, and to keep them out of the hands of the criminal justice system for possessing even small amounts of cannabis.

This approach requires legislative and regulatory measures and support for public education and awareness. To this end, our government has begun a public education campaign with a focus on youth and their parents, to better inform them about cannabis and its health harms and risks. I am confident that our government's overall approach will be effective in better protecting our youth from potential harm of this substance.

I would now like to explain the specific measures in the cannabis bill that would help safeguard our youth. As a society, we have learned from the health and safety controls that have been put in place for potentially harmful substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications. Bill C-45 uses these best practices as its starting point and contains a number of measures that are designed to protect youth.

At the outset, Bill C-45 prohibits the sale of cannabis to anyone under the age of 18 and prohibits adults from giving cannabis to anyone under 18. It also creates an offence and penalty for anyone caught using a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence. Any adult caught engaged in these activities would face a jail term of up to 14 years.

To avoid the kind of enticements to use cannabis that we have seen in the past with tobacco, Bill C-45 would prohibit any form of cannabis designed to appeal to youth. This means that things like cannabis-infused gummy bears or lollipops would be illegal.

To further protect youth from the encouragement to use cannabis, cannabis producers and retailers would be prohibited from using any kind of packaging or labelling that might be appealing to youth, or using any kind of endorsement, lifestyle promotion, or cartoon animals to promote their products. The promotion or advertising of cannabis products would not be permitted in any place or any media that could be accessed by youth, such as grocery stores, movie theatres, or on public transportation, just to name a few examples.

To further reduce the chance that youth might be able to access the product illegally, cannabis would not be sold in any kind of vending machine. Bill C-45 also includes authority to make regulations that could require cannabis to be sold in child-resistant packaging to protect our youngest ones from accidentally consuming the product.

Taken together, these measures constitute a comprehensive approach to protecting the health and safety of our youth.

In addition to protecting public health and safety, one of our government's goals is to avoid criminalizing Canadians for relatively minor offences. Having a criminal record for simple possession of small amounts of cannabis can have significant consequences. Opportunities for employment, housing, volunteerism, and travel can all be impacted by the existence of a record. Do we want to continue to saddle Canadians with these burdens for the possession of small amounts of cannabis? Our government's answer is no.

The proposed legislation sets out a 30-gram possession limit for dried cannabis in public for adults aged 18 and older, and as I stated earlier, it also establishes offences and strict penalties for adults who give or try to sell cannabis to youth or who use a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence.

Bill C-45 takes a different approach to cannabis possession by youth, one that recognizes that in some circumstances, entering the criminal justice system can do more harm than good. Under Bill C-45, youth would not face criminal prosecution for possessing or sharing very small amounts of cannabis. Any activities by youth involving more than a small amount of cannabis, defined as over 5 grams, would be addressed under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Our government will be working with the provinces and territories to support the development of legislation in each jurisdiction that would allow law enforcement to confiscate any amount of cannabis found in the possession of a young person. This would allow authorities to take away any amount of cannabis they may have in their possession.

Let me be clear. The proposed approach addressing youth possession of cannabis does not mean that such behaviour is encouraged or acceptable. It is not. Rather, it recognizes that a more balanced approach that uses a range of tools and does not rely only on the criminal justice system will provide a better way to reduce cannabis consumption among youth.

This approach is consistent with the findings of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, led by the Honourable Anne Mclellan. The task force's final report noted that cannabis use among youth could be better addressed through non-criminal approaches that discourage youth from possessing or consuming cannabis. I believe that this strikes the right balance between avoiding criminalizing youth for the possession of small amounts and ensuring that cannabis remains tightly regulated and controlled.

In conclusion, our government has put the health, safety, and well-being of youth at the core of this proposed legislation. I am confident that through this balanced approach, we will see less high-risk cannabis use by youth, and we will begin to bring down the rate at which our youth use cannabis.

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