That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, the House:
agrees with amendments 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 11(b) and (c), 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17(b), 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 34, 35, 36 and 37 made by the Senate;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 3 because the government has been clear that provinces and territories are able to make additional restrictions on personal cultivation but that it is critically important to permit personal cultivation in order to support the government’s objective of displacing the illegal market;
respectfully disagrees with amendments 4, 11(a) and 38 because they would be contrary to the stated purpose of the Cannabis Act to protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 7 because the criminal penalties and the immigration consequences aim to prevent young people from accessing cannabis and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for prohibited activities, including importing and exporting cannabis and using a young person to commit cannabis-related offences;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 8 because the Cannabis Act already includes comprehensive restrictions on promotion;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 9 because the government has already committed to establishing THC limits in regulations, which will provide flexibility to make future adjustments based on new evidence and product innovation;
respectfully disagrees with amendments 17(a) and 25 because other Senate amendments that the House is accepting would provide the Minister with expanded powers to require security clearances, and because amendments 17(a) and 25 would present significant operational challenges and privacy concerns;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 23 because law enforcement has an obligation to maintain evidence unless there is a risk to health and safety, and provisions currently exist in the Cannabis Act to provide compensation should evidence be disposed of and ordered to be returned;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 26 because mechanisms already exist to provide for public scrutiny of federal regulations;
proposes that amendment 31 be amended by replacing the text of section 151.1 with the following text:
“151.1 (1) Three years after this section comes into force, the Minister must cause a review of this Act and its administration and operation to be conducted, including a review of the impact of this Act on public health and, in particular, on the health and consumption habits of young persons in respect of cannabis use, the impact of cannabis on Indigenous persons and communities, and the impact of the cultivation of cannabis plants in a dwelling-house.
(2) No later than 18 months after the day on which the review begins, the Minister must cause a report on the review, including any findings or recommendations resulting from it, to be laid before each House of Parliament.”;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 32 because the Bill already provides for a comprehensive review of the core objectives of the Cannabis Act, including a requirement to table a report in Parliament and because the suggested amendment to amendment 31 provides for a review of the public health impacts of the Cannabis Act;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 33 because Parliament already has broad discretion to initiate studies of specific matters by parliamentary committees, and because the Bill already provides for a comprehensive review of the Cannabis Act, including a requirement to table a report in Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today and to rise to speak to Bill C-45, Cannabis Act. I would first congratulate the other chamber for its excellent work and careful study of this bill. Once again, I want to point out the great work done by all senators over the past seven months and by committees that did remarkable work over many meetings.
We are about to witness an historic moment in Canada. When this bill comes into effect, it will change the way our country controls access to cannabis.
It will be an important change for every one of us, including governments, indigenous peoples, law enforcement agencies, health professionals, and Canadians.
As I have said many times, our objective for legalization is to replace a system that is not working. We need to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and profits out of the hands of organized crime.
Bill C-45 gives us the tools we need to accomplish that.
As we know, the bill before us today is the result of more than two years of study and consultation.
It builds on the extensive work of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation. The task force consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, from the provinces and territories, to law enforcement, to health and safety experts. It also reached out to young Canadians, indigenous people, and many others. Their feedback and recommendations certainly helped shape this bill.
The proposed legislation is informed by lessons learned from jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere that have legalized and regulated cannabis. It included effective practices from other regulatory regimes such as tobacco, for which we have implemented a public health approach with demonstrated success.
As a result, the proposed legalization strikes the right balance between making cannabis legally available to adults and protecting all Canadians.
Over the past few months, this bill has been studied and debated by the other place. Five of its committees carried out comprehensive studies and heard from over 200 witnesses. This work led them to propose a number of amendments to the bill. Several of those amendments made Bill C-45 stronger.
For example, senators had proposed an amendment that would strengthen our ability to keep organized crime out of the legal industry by giving the minister the power to require specific persons associated with a licensed organization to hold a valid security clearance. There is no doubt that this change improves Bill C-45 and the government will fully support it.
We are, however, concerned that other proposed changes could undermine the bill. After careful thought and consideration, we have decided not to support some of the proposed amendments. My colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, will speak in more detail about this decision.
In the meantime, I would like to focus on two specific issues that have captured the interest of the other place. Let us talk about the indigenous perspective.
The first concerns the indigenous perspective on Bill C-45. In a recent letter, the Minister of Indigenous Services and I acknowledged the interests and concerns raised by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. We have committed to continue to take action in specific areas including supporting mental health and addiction services, public education and participation in cannabis production, and addressing jurisdictional and revenue-sharing issues.
We have committed to report to both chambers on progress in these areas within 12 months of receiving royal assent. I would like to assure members that our government has noted these areas of interest and concern. We will address each area through continued engagement with indigenous communities, indigenous organizations, and with the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.
Home growing was the other issue that received careful consideration from the other place. As we know, the bill allows adults to grow four plants per household. There are three reasons why limited home growing should be allowed.
First, allowing people to grow a small number of plants for personal use will prevent the needless criminalization of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Second, limited home growing will help displace the black market, an unsafe, unregulated market that supports criminals and organized crime.
The bill sets out strict rules for growing cannabis at home. Setting a very low limit on the number of plants is a reasonable way to allow adults to cultivate cannabis for their personal use while prohibiting larger-scale grow ops.
Under the proposed legislation, provinces and territories have the flexibility to impose additional restrictions on personal cultivation should they wish to do so. This flexibility will allow provinces and territories to tailor their legislation to local circumstances and priorities in keeping with the public health and safety objectives set out in the proposed cannabis act.
This new legislation is an essential component of our overall public health strategy for cannabis. The purpose of this approach is to minimize the harms associated with cannabis use and decrease the probability of substance abuse. Our public health approach includes significant investments in budget 2017 and budget 2018 for promoting awareness and providing information. It also provides for close monitoring of the impact.
In accordance with this strategy, we will provide the facts on cannabis to Canadians. The government will then be able to measure and understand the impact of these policy changes over time.
We know that there are health risks associated with cannabis use. These risks are higher in certain age groups and among people with specific health conditions. Our objective is both to give people the information they need to make informed decisions about cannabis and to minimize the risks.
Through all of this, our top priority is to protect our youth. Youth face the greatest health risks from using cannabis and are especially vulnerable to its effects. For this reason, the bill contains many measures that have been designed to restrict access to cannabis and to protect young people. This is essential, given that Canadian youth use cannabis at a rate that is among the highest in the world. This is why Bill C-45 proposes serious criminal penalties for those who provide cannabis to anyone under the age of 18.
The bill also includes prohibitions on promotion and advertising and on products, packaging, and labelling that would be appealing to youth.
The bill introduced today was carefully crafted to address the long-standing problem of immediate access to and prolonged use of cannabis in Canada. There is a pervasive illegal market that is deeply entrenched. This market does not comply with any rules or regulations to protect the public, and especially our youth.
We promised a solution to Canadians, and we have kept our promise. Over the past two years, our government carried out a huge amount of research, analysis, and planning for Bill C-45. We consulted various stakeholders and we spoke with our partners.
We made strategic investments to inform Canadians about the health impacts of cannabis and the risks associated with driving under the influence of drugs.
We also examined and accepted a number of sensible amendments, and we will do so again today.
I am convinced that Bill C-45 gives us the legal framework we need to protect Canadians, especially our young people.
Canada is well positioned to make this change. We already have a world-class system for the production and regulation of cannabis for medical use. The bill proposes to build on this strong regulatory regime.
We will continue working closely with our partners at the provincial and territorial level and indigenous communities to ensure a successful implementation of this legislation once it is passed.
The provinces and territories are ready. Canadians are ready as well.
As parliamentarians, we have done our job and produced an historic package of legislative measures in the interest of Canadians.
Madam Speaker, the minister is clearly not in possession of the facts. Although she claims that this new bill is going to work to eliminate marijuana from the hands of children, it is clear that is not going to happen and neither will it eliminate organized crime.
Washington State did not allow home grow and organized crime was eliminated. The minister has gone on record saying that what the government is implementing will accomplish that, when clearly in Colorado, that allowed home grow, that did not happen.
Knowing that four plants in a house can be 600 grams, and that was before the height restriction was removed, there will be a huge amount. Provinces like Manitoba and Quebec have recognized that that will not keep it out of the hands of children. The minister's own province of New Brunswick put in lock-up provisions recognizing it does not.
With that, why did the minister allow home grow to be included in this legislation?
Madam Speaker, once again we have to make it very clear that our objective in moving forward with Bill C-45 is simple. We are moving forward with legalization as we want to restrict access to cannabis by our youth. We want to protect our youth. We also want to regulate the product that is on the market.
With respect to the issue of home grow, we have to recognize that if we want to displace the illegal market, we have to use all the tools that we have at our disposal.
We recognize as well that when individuals have a prescription to grow cannabis for medical purposes, they have the opportunity to grow that product at home. When we talk about recreational cannabis, we feel that both systems should be consistent.
I also have to add that for all provinces and territories, should they choose to add additional limits with respect to home cultivation, they will be able to do so. If a province chooses to only allow one plant to be grown, it can absolutely do that.
As my friend and colleague indicated, the province of New Brunswick, my home province, has even put a specific requirement forward. It wants to ensure that if New Brunswickers choose home cultivation they will have to do so under lock and key.
Madam Speaker, I recognize that for both ministers this is a very difficult bill. Overall, I certainly support Bill C-45. In general, it strikes the right balance. However, I am disappointed that some of the Senate amendments have been rejected, and I wonder if the minister would reconsider.
I tried similar amendments when the bill was before committee. The ones I could generally lump together are clause 9, pages 10 and 11; and another one further in, clause 51, pages 29 to 31, dealing with what we might characterize as social sharing. I am very concerned that young people will not realize that if they are 18 years old and their best friend is 17 years, 11 months, and two weeks old, passing a joint to this friend in a social setting would constitute distribution and could even involve jail time.
I think we ought to look at these amendments that came from the Senate. Again, I think that the government has done a pretty fair job here. I have a lot of concern on regulations, which I will raise later. I am very concerned to make sure that legal growing outdoors of organic cannabis would be permitted. However, for now, looking at these amendments, I wonder if there might be some reconsideration around this particular area of concern.
Madam Speaker, as I have indicated earlier, very clearly, the Senate has certainly been studying this proposed legislation for the past seven months. We absolutely appreciate the work that it has done. We have given careful consideration to all of the amendments that the Senate has brought forward, and after discussions with my colleagues, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Public Safety, as well as many cabinet colleagues, and the parliamentary secretary, we have made the decision to accept some amendments and some we have decided to oppose.
When it comes to the specific amendment that my friend and colleague has mentioned, we really felt that it was counterintuitive with respect to the sharing aspect at such a close age. It is an area that we have given close consideration to, but at this point, our government is not prepared to accept that amendment.
Mr. Bernard Généreux (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, CPC)
Madam Speaker, just two days ago, the Government of Quebec adopted its own bill for the province, and it was extremely clear about the province's desire to be able to ban home cultivation.
The minister says that they talked about the bill throughout the entire two-year process and that the senators did good work. They did such good work that their 46 amendments speak to the mediocrity of this bill.
The reality is that the Government of Quebec does not want its citizens to be allowed to grow plants at home because it feels that it is not in the interest of young children.
Why will the minister not respect the will of the Province of Quebec?