June 1, 2017

CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things I would like my colleague and neighbour to clarify. First, the Liberals continue to claim that all of their recommendations are based on solid science and scientific evidence. The CMA clearly has recommended 21 as the minimum age, and the government is going ahead with 18.

They also talk about a highly regulated and controlled system, yet they are allowing four plants to be grown per household. How we highly regulate and control something where there are four plants available to teenagers and children is beyond me.

Finally, the Liberals are pretty convinced that this will drive all the traffic out of criminal hands. I am just wondering if my colleague really believes that illegal drug dealers will line up for the privilege of buying licences and paying HST. Does he really think it will drive these illegal drug dealers out of business?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Marwan Tabbara

Liberal

Mr. Marwan Tabbara

Mr. Speaker, we proposed an age of 18, but it is up to the provinces to decide if they want to increase that age. We are presenting the framework. We mentioned that one in five youth is using cannabis.

In terms of taking it out of the hands of criminals, the illegal use of marijuana is fuelling a lot of criminal activity. If we legalize, restrict, and regulate it, we are making it safer for youth, and we are taking away this criminal activity of trafficking cannabis.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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Alistair MacGregor

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, my Liberal colleague stated quite clearly in his speech that the Liberal government is very much against the continuing criminalization of marijuana, and that is the reason it is bringing the bill in. The only problem is that Canadians have to wait at least another year for the bill to come into force. The government has now been in power for about 20 months, and Canadians have to wait another year. During that time, thousands of Canadians have been subjected to criminal sanctions through the criminal justice system, all in the context of the Jordan decision. I am just trying to match these two opposing positions.

Which is it? Is the Liberal government in favour of reducing criminal sanctions, or is it not? Why do the Liberals' actions in the interim not back up their words?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Marwan Tabbara

Liberal

Mr. Marwan Tabbara

Mr. Speaker, we have struck the right balance. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice has gone around the country and has talked to individuals and to police forces. He came to Waterloo region and spoke to our region about the legalization and regulation of marijuana. He said that if we were just going to legalize marijuana, we would not have the right balance. Regulating and restricting is the right balance.

The NDP just wants us to get this legalized, but we are taking the right approach. We are consulting with everyone around Canada. This is the right balance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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Sheri Benson

NDP

Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the comments made by my colleague and correct a comment that was just made. We are not just talking about legalizing marijuana. My colleague brought up the point that while we are waiting for the framework and the regulations, people are getting criminal records, many of them young people. Saskatoon has one of the highest rates in Canada of arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and more often than not, it is young people.

I just want to make sure that my hon. colleague realizes that we are not just legalizing cannabis. We are asking the government to decriminalize it so that young people do not have a lifetime with a criminal record.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Marwan Tabbara

Liberal

Mr. Marwan Tabbara

Mr. Speaker, the law remains the law as of right now. Until cannabis is legalized, by the summer of next year, the law remains the law.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Rachael Harder

Conservative

Ms. Rachael Harder (Lethbridge, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, marijuana legalization would certainly have a big impact on society as we know it, and of course, I am speaking with regard to Canadian society. In particular, I am talking about Canada's overall health and the well-being of Canadians in this country. What the Liberals are attempting to do in this one piece of legislation, which they are rushing through this House, actually required decades of work when it came to doing something similar with alcohol and tobacco. With a significant change to our legal code, and the responsibilities that would be imposed on provinces and municipalities, I believe that we need to ensure that the Liberal policy is backed by scientific evidence, which, to be fair, I have reason to be skeptical of, based on committee work and other pieces of legislation the Liberals have actually put through this House. It certainly has lacked these components in the past.

We also need to make sure that the provinces and the municipalities have time to properly develop rules and regulations in their areas of jurisdiction. This is to say nothing about consideration for employers, who would then have to implement policies within their workplaces as well.

I have concerns about Bill C-45. I believe that it has flaws, both with its rushed time frame and its lack of scientific backing. I wish to explore those to a further extent today.

The legalization of marijuana is a policy area that must be informed by science. When I say this, I am particularly concerned about the health and well-being of our country's young people. We know from the Canadian Medical Association, as well as the Canadian Paediatric Society and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, that marijuana has negative health impacts on a person's brain before the age of 25, in terms of development. I have talked to young people from coast to coast, and I am impressed by the fact that many of them actually are also concerned about this. This is one of the things they raise when I hold round table discussions or a town hall and I talk to them about this piece of legislation and the decisions going forward. They tell me that 18 is simply too young. They recognize that using cannabis actually slows and harms brain development in those under the age of 25, and many of them are fearful that the use of marijuana will in fact cause schizophrenia, which of course has also been scientifically and medically proven. Furthermore, I know from peer-reviewed research, as well as from speaking to youth directly, that the legalization of marijuana would also reduce the perception of risk among young people. In other words, it would normalize the use of marijuana.

The last thing I would like to mention with regard to young people is that for youth under the age of 18, under this piece of legislation, if they were found in possession of less than five grams of marijuana, they would not be prosecuted. I have to ask, then, how this would in fact reduce access by youth. This is one of the primary arguments the Liberals use to defend this piece of legislation, and unfortunately it just does not hold up.

If the government insists on moving forward with this poorly drafted legislation, then at the very least I believe we need to ensure that there is strong and comprehensive education put in place with regard to our young people. That needs to be put in place before marijuana is legalized in our country. While cannabis education is accounted for in the 2017 budget, the plan is to put forward only $9.6 million, not over one year but actually over five years, which means less than $2 million per year for education. That is how important the Liberal government thinks our young people are. They are worth not quite $2 million of public education per year, not to mention that there is no way the education program is going to be sufficiently in place before the deadline of July 1, 2018.

While Bill C-45 clarifies the need for health and safety warnings on product packaging, by the time a young person has the product in his or her hands to read that label, it is too late for that individual to really learn about the risks. We cannot afford to overlook the necessity of education for the sake of simply rushing this legislation through. I believe that it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to defend and champion the future of Canada's young people. For that to be the case in the matter before this House today, both medical and scientific evidence must be given supreme weight when we put in place this legislation.

I also have serious concerns with regard to the ability to test for impairment, particularly, while driving. Scientific research shows the struggle to detect marijuana when it comes to impaired driving. Unlike alcohol, the amount in the bloodstream does not indicate the level of a person's impairment. THC is not easily detected by a breathalyzer because of the drug's nature as a fat-soluble substance.

Cannabis also affects chronic users to a lesser extent than first-time users, so this would have to be accounted for as well, because the same amount in a person's system is not going to have the same impact.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has found that marijuana significantly impairs a person's ability to focus when there is more than one source of incoming information. This describes driving very well. When a person is driving and they are using marijuana, it actually causes them to swerve on the roadway, it causes them to maintain dangerous following distances behind other vehicles, it sometimes causes them not to miss a pedestrian as they are crossing the street, and it causes the inability to monitor one's speed. Of course, all of these factors lead to a high probability of crashing. Worse than that, they lead to the loss of life all too often.

With cannabis being the second most common substance detected in drivers after an accident, second only to alcohol, the danger of impaired drivers on our roadways must be considered and the risk must be mitigated.

Furthermore, many concerns have been shared with me by provincial and municipal officials in my riding. They have said that while the federal government is responsible for overseeing the production of marijuana and the Criminal Code exemptions for recreational cannabis, it really is up to them. They are required to design the rest of the regulations related to public health and zoning, along with managing the system for the sale and the distribution of marijuana. They feel that this is quite a burden to be placed on them. Of course, it is being placed on them and it has to be in place by an arbitrary deadline of July 1, 2018.

Why July 1, 2018? This is much too soon for provinces and municipalities to be able to adequately put the needed regulations and bylaws in place. By the time the bill passes, they will have only six months to do that, because it is likely that the legislation is going to be in the House until about Christmas.

If that were not enough, the provinces and municipalities also have to create non-criminal offences for youth under the age of 18 if they wish to further deter the use of marijuana among young people. This is needed because the legislation before us allows youth between the ages of 12 and 17 to legally possess five grams of marijuana.

In conclusion, I do have significant concerns with regard to Bill C-45, the cannabis act. However, before I wrap up, I believe it is time for a fun fact.

The legislation allows for four plants per dwelling. I am from an agricultural background, so naturally I was curious as to just how much this would yield. A quick Google search and some of the most reliable do-it-yourself bloggers tell me that one plant will yield 1,200 grams. They also tell me I have to be careful. I have to use the right bulbs in order to produce that much. I did some further research and I found out this equates to 800 joints. Then I multiplied that by four, in order to figure out that actually we can produce 3,168 joints within that household. Then I found out that, on average, a user smokes about three joints a day. That means four plants will provide each household with just under three years' worth of joints.

I do not know about members, but this seems a little excessive to what a person might need for their individual use. I wonder if perhaps at some time the Liberals could clarify their thinking there.

We should be looking at the information presented in order to find facts on how the drugs affect the development of youth, and not accepting a politically motivated age in order to hurry up the process. We must look at potential education plans to inform our citizens about the risks. Furthermore, we must work with law enforcement to come up with better ways to test for THC levels, along with better ways to test an individual's level of impairment.

In addition, we should be talking to provincial and municipal governments to understand the timelines needed for creating distribution systems and new regulations.

Here is the thing. We need to admit that this legislation is only half-baked, and the last thing the Liberals should be doing right now is pursuing a political buzz by letting Canada go to pot.

Let us end on a high note. Let us roll up this legislation and let us get out of this joint today.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Francis Drouin

Liberal

Mr. Francis Drouin (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I do not agree with the member's premise that if we legalize and regulate cannabis, somehow everybody will have four plants per household. I will point her to the fact that green peppers, onions, carrots, and cucumbers are legal in Canada, but does every household in Canada have a garden? The answer is no, not every household has a garden.

My question for the member is this. Does she want Al Capone or the Hells Angels to control the market? Does she agree with that approach? Does she want Al Capone and the Hells Angels to continue to control the market?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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Some hon members

Oh, oh!

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

Order. Order. I am sure hon. members on this side have confidence in the hon. member for Lethbridge and know that she will be able to answer without their help. Let us listen to each other and show respect.

The hon. member for Lethbridge.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Rachael Harder

Conservative

Ms. Rachael Harder

Mr. Speaker, I think what the hon. member across the way is asking me is if I can take the skin of an onion and roll it up and smoke it. The answer is no, I cannot do that, which is maybe the reason not everyone in the Canadian population is growing onions, peppers, or lettuce just because they are legal and they can have a garden.

Here is the deal. If we want to talk about getting marijuana off the black market, which in essence is the member's question, we need look no further than the great case study of Uruguay, which was the first country to actually go legal. What it found was that the black market increased drastically after marijuana was legalized. I encourage the hon. member to look that study up.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Julie Dabrusin

Liberal

Ms. Julie Dabrusin (Toronto—Danforth, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I really appreciate the horticultural knowledge that is being shared at this moment in the House.

There have been a lot of folks talking about youth. I think one thing we can all agree on is that all members here have the best interests of youth in mind and we all want to make sure we are making the right decisions for youth in our country. However, having listened to the debate today, my question for the member opposite is this. Does she truly feel that the status quo is working?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Rachael Harder

Conservative

Ms. Rachael Harder

Mr. Speaker, the question from the hon. member is if I really think that the status quo is working. Essentially, Liberal logic would say that a lot of young people use marijuana, which right now is illegal. Therefore, if it makes it legal, they will stop using marijuana.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Tom Kmiec

Conservative

Mr. Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the member brought up one international example. As we know, Canada is party to three international treaties governing how narcotics are dealt with, including the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961, the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in 1988. I have not heard the government mention this, but has it given any indication of pulling out of these treaties?

I would like to hear the member's thoughts on the impact it would have on Canada's reputation if and when the government proceeds with removing itself from these three treaties under which Canada has obligations to our partners.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Rachael Harder

Conservative

Ms. Rachael Harder

Mr. Speaker, I will not speculate totally with respect to what the reaction would be when Canada decides to pull out of these agreements, because it will in fact need to pull out of these agreements.

A treaty is a treaty. We have signed a deal and we must uphold our end of the bargain. If we are no longer going to do so, then we have to withdraw, which could wreak international havoc. Exactly what would that look like with respect to our relationship with these countries going forward I would not entirely be able to say. However, I can imagine that it would not be exactly positive for us.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
Permalink
CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, one would think that at this late date in the session and at this late hour in the evening, the Liberals would be focusing on the real issues that are facing Canadians like slow economic growth, joblessness, and a growing inability of young Canadians to purchase a new home. No, instead the Liberals are spending their time working hard to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Considering the long list of campaign promises they have broken so far, it is surprising that this is the one they decided to push through at all costs.

In regard to this legislation, our top priority on this side of the House is to stand up for the health and safety of Canadians. The Liberals have repeatedly claimed that the purpose of this legislation is the protection of our young people and to increase public safety, but the more research is done into legalization and the more information we gather about the negative effects in jurisdictions that have gone down this road, the more the claim they are making goes up in smoke.

How did we get here? On April 13, 2017, the Liberal government introduced legislation that would allow for the recreational use of marijuana for Canadians over the age of 18 and eliminate penalties for possession of up to five grams of marijuana for those between the ages of 12 and 18. This bill is now referred to as Bill C-45. As I said earlier, the Prime Minister and his Liberal government have repeated time and again that the aim of this legislation is to protect our young children and increase public safety. However, neither of these goals is accomplished with this legislation.

This is not just my view. The Angus Reid Institute conducted a poll and found that approximately two in three Canadians believe that this legislation fails to prevent young people from using marijuana more than they already do. While the government claims that it makes decisions based on facts and science, this legislation proves otherwise.

Groups such as the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Psychiatric Association, and Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police all oppose certain aspects of the bill. Both the CMA and CPA have stated that Canadians who consume marijuana recreationally under the age of 25 have a higher risk of developing mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association has stated:

Regular cannabis use in youth and young adults can affect aspects of cognition, including attention, memory, processing speed, visuospatial functioning and overall intelligence. Worse performance is related to earlier adolescent onset of use.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association went on to say that:

Early age of use of cannabis increases the potential for adult dependence to cannabis.

Cannabis may be associated with increased progression to other illicit drug use in the context of particular factors (e.g., high frequency and early age of use).

Later in the same report, the Canadian Psychiatric Association states:

The CPA acknowledges and agrees with the CMA recommendations to the Task Force. With respect to protection of mental wellness for youth and young adults the CPA highlights the following:

Since regular cannabis use is associated with increased risk of schizophrenia, and may also negatively interact with depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders due to its biological effects on brain maturation, and since mental disorders frequently start before the age of 25, age of access to cannabis should not be prior to age 21, with restrictions on quantity and THC potency for those between 21 and 25 years of age.

None of these are found in Bill C-45.

A recent Canadian Medical Association Journal edition of May 29 states:

The purported purpose of the act is to protect public health and safety, yet some of the act’s provisions appear starkly at odds with this objective, particularly for Canada’s youth.

Simply put, cannabis should not be used by young people. It is toxic to their cortical neuronal networks, with both functional and structural changes seen in the brains of youth who use cannabis regularly.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has stated unequivocally that “cannabis is not a benign substance and its health harms increase with intensity of use”. Although adults are also susceptible to the harmful effects of cannabis, the developing brain is especially sensitive.

The Canadian Paediatric Society cautions that marijuana use in youth is strongly linked to “cannabis dependence and other substance use disorders; the initiation and maintenance of tobacco smoking; an increased presence of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis; impaired neurological development and cognitive decline; and diminished school performance and lifetime achievement.” The lifetime risk of dependence on marijuana is about 9%; however, this increases to almost 17% in those who start using as teenagers.

The CMA article continues:

Most of us know a young person whose life was derailed because of marijuana use. Bill C-45 is unlikely to prevent such tragedies from occurring—and, conversely, may make them more frequent. Although an accompanying bill lays out stronger penalties for impaired driving and proposed limits for blood levels of tetrahydrocannabinol in drivers, there is grave concern that legalization of marijuana will result in a substantial increase in impaired driving, particularly among young people and in conjunction with alcohol use.

Negative health effects related to the recreational use of marijuana is not exclusive to children. As the Canadian Medical Association notes, “Marijuana use is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including addiction, cardiovascular and pulmonary effects (e.g., chronic bronchitis), mental illness, and other problems, including cognitive impairment and reduced educational attainment.”

Specifically regarding addiction, the Society for the Study of Addiction has found that regular use of marijuana for one in 10 users results in a dependence problem. If usage started in adolescence, that number rises to one in six. It is clear the negative health effects of marijuana are not being taken seriously by the government and the steps it is taking now will have a long-lasting negative impact on Canadians.

As for public safety, Washington state says legalizing the recreational use of marijuana has seen drastic increases in vehicular deaths related to driving under the influence of marijuana. The Washington Times, reporting on findings from the American Automobile Association, stated:

Authorities in Washington recorded 436 fatal crashes in 2013, and determined that drivers involved in 40 crashes tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana, according to the study. In 2014 [one year later] they found that of 462 fatal crashes, 85 drivers tested positive for THC.

The number of fatal crashes linked to the presence of THC doubled in one year.

MADD Canada stated:

Population surveys show the number of Canadians driving after using drugs is on the rise. In fact, driving after smoking cannabis is now more prevalent among some younger drivers than driving after drinking. Survey data from a 2013 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health report showed that, among young Ontario drivers in grades 10--12, 4% drove after drinking while 9.7% drove after smoking cannabis.

Equally concerning as the numbers is the misperception that many young people, and some parents, have that driving under the influence of cannabis is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. A national study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada revealed:

Nearly one third (32%) of teens did not consider driving under the influence of cannabis to be as bad as alcohol.

Nearly 25% of parents of teenagers did not consider driving while high on cannabis to be as bad as drinking and driving.

Many young people think driving under the influence of cannabis is risk-free. Yet studies have shown that smoking cannabis can produce unwelcome effects behind the wheel, including a shorter attention span, an altered perception of time and distances, and slower reaction times that impair the driver’s ability to respond to sudden events in traffic. A 2012 study by researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax found that smoking cannabis three hours before driving nearly doubled a driver’s risk of having a motor vehicle crash.

Combining cannabis with even small amounts of alcohol greatly increases the negative impact on driving skills.

Many young people also think that they will never be caught or charged for driving high. While detecting cannabis is more challenging than detecting alcohol because we do not yet have a simple roadside drug test similar to the alcohol breathalyzer, police do have tools to determine whether a driver is impaired by drugs.

However, as noted by the American Automobile Association, there are no proven blood or urine tests that can determine how high a person is from marijuana. Tests can only determine if marijuana is in their system. I have heard from police officers in the Waterloo region on this issue. Our police forces are not properly funded or equipped to handle these new dangers. We need to heed their warnings and take their concerns into consideration.

It is clear that while the government is going to rush ahead with legalizing recreational marijuana, it is not with the health and safety of Canadians in mind. It is simply to fulfill a campaign promise, with no thought or concern for our youth and their future.

Let me finish with one short quote from an editorial written by Dr. Diane Kelsall in the Canadian Medical Association Journal just three days ago. She said, “If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.”

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
Permalink
LIB

Marwan Tabbara

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, the member mentioned that we should be talking about other issues, such as economic growth.

When we first took power from the previous government in 2015, in the fourth quarter we were left with .05% growth. Now, in the first quarter, we have presented news of 3.7% growth in the economy. I would just like to mention that.

I want to get to the real question. The member mentioned that the usage of cannabis will rise among youth. I want to read a quote from an article in The Washington Post. According to the Colorado health department, “The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana..”.

The status quo is not working right now. We have a balanced approach of legalizing, regulating, and restricting. Does the hon. member believe that the status quo is working?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht

Mr. Speaker, no one is suggesting that the status quo is good enough. There is always room for improvement. However, in fact, the use of marijuana has decreased since 2008, from 33% to 24%. That is from a study by addiction and mental health research people.

As it relates to age, and we keep coming back to this, CMA was clear in its recommendations that brain maturation occurs around age 28. It recommended an age of 21 as the minimum, and yet the government has chosen to go ahead with a recommendation that is careless and reckless, allowing children as young as 12 to have access, and legalizing it for purchase at 18.

This is irresponsible. I do not think there are many parents in the member's riding who are calling and asking him to make that kind of an adjustment.

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 know what my colleague thinks of how hard it is to predict the effects of cannabis on the human body. Apparently, the same dose of marijuana can affect different people very differently. In the case of someone who uses medical marijuana, it might have very little or no effect, while a young person who takes the same dose might get incredibly high.

This makes it very difficult to set blood concentration levels to establish limits for various situations because it can be very difficult to predict how different doses will affect the human body. Indeed, young people seem to be more affected than people in their 40s or 50s.

Would the member like to comment on how hard it is to predict how it affects people?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht

Mr. Speaker, I think that was the crux of what I have been arguing all night. Because young people are more susceptible, as my colleague pointed out, to the negative impacts of THC on brain development, for example, it is very important, if we are going to legalize this drug—which I am disagreeing with at any age—that we should at least not be legalizing it for this young age and making it permissible for children as young as 12 to have it in their possession.

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