Speech – 2017.11.09 – Bill C-45 – Marijuana Legalization


Bill C-45 – Marijuana Legalization

November 9, 2017

Len Webber (Calgary Confederation): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to contribute to the debate on Bill C-45, which proposes to legalize recreational marijuana use here in Canada. The medicinal use of marijuana in Canada is, of course, already permitted when prescribed by a doctor, and I support that measure. However, what we are considering here today is the recreational use of marijuana, using drugs for fun.

The health committee, on which I serve, heard in September from more than 100 witnesses from across Canada and from all parts of the world. They presented their thoughts and their concerns on a number of issues related to the legalization of marijuana. We heard from many who literally called marijuana a miracle drug, a miracle antidote for relieving and in some cases eliminating conditions such as epileptic seizures, migraine headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, arthritis, and I can go on. The testimony from these individuals was heartening.


    Even hearing about the option for physicians to be able to prescribe marijuana instead of opioids such as OxyContin and fentanyl for treating chronic pain is enough to convince many that medicinal marijuana has a place in our society. However, Canada is now on the verge of normalizing recreational marijuana use, and we have heard a number of serious concerns from a variety of stakeholders.


    A couple of weeks ago I spoke at length on Bill C-46 and the issue of drug-impaired driving, so I will not reiterate what I said back then, but I will say that drug-impaired driving is of deep concern to many, and we heard that day in and day out at committee. I will focus on a couple of other serious concerns.


    As we have heard many times, there are many studies that show marijuana does have a negative impact on the developing brain. The Canadian Medical Association, which represents 83,000 physicians in Canada, said:
     Existing evidence on marijuana points to the importance of protecting the brain during its development. Since that development is only finalized by about 25 years of age, this would be an ideal minimum age based on currently accepted scientific evidence…

Last month at the World Psychiatric Association’s world congress in Berlin, the community was presented with further evidence that marijuana use by youth can facilitate the onset of schizophrenia and other psychosis conditions in certain people. Complications may include cognitive impairment, social isolation, and even suicide.


    These are the doctors who are talking. These are the physicians, the scientists, and the health care providers who are saying this. The reality is that not all our youth are aware of this body of scientific research and so they are not making informed decisions when it comes to marijuana drug use, and that has to change. It is imperative that we inform our young people that using this drug, marijuana, will likely have serious, permanent, and negative effects on their brain and their mental health.


    Without question, the largest single concern that we heard at the health committee is the Liberal government’s complete failure to properly execute a public education campaign.


     In just eight months, we will most likely have marijuana for sale as a fun recreational drug. Is that not great? Witnesses testified that, if we are going to achieve the primary results we want—and that is to reduce marijuana use and lower youth consumption—then we need to educate Canadians well in advance of the proposed July 1, 2018, legalization timeline set by the Liberal government. Unfortunately, there has been no real education campaign started by the government, and time is running out.

Even the former Liberal cabinet minister and head of the task force on cannabis, the Honourable Anne McLellan, said at committee:

     I think the most important part of prevention, which we have learned from tobacco, alcohol, and probably some other things—I might include gambling—is public education. That’s the lesson you hear over and over again in states like Colorado and Washington. You have to have robust public education, and you need it out of the box early.


    Not a single witness in committee advocated against an early and intense public education campaign, so why is the Liberal government not starting now with an education campaign?


    Another serious concern that was brought forward in committee is the impact the proposed legislation would have on Canada in the eyes of the world. We heard in committee that there are three United Nations international treaties that we are bound to violate if this legislation is passed.


    We heard great testimony from Dr. Steven Hoffman, who is a professor law at the prestigious Osgoode Hall Law School. He is also an expert in international law. He is very concerned, as are we Conservatives, that Bill C-45 would in fact violate international laws. The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 is one of the three major UN drug control treaties currently in force that we as a nation have signed onto and committed to. The treaty provides additional legal mechanisms for enforcing the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which is to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use, and possession of drugs.


    The passing of Bill C-45 would put us in contravention of these three UN international agreements. The Liberal government has failed to tell Canadians how it will handle the situation. It should tell us, but it has refused to. As Dr. Hoffman said:


     I really would love to emphasize that the consequences actually are quite severe in the sense that it’s not just our reputation. It’s not just Canada’s standing on the global international scene. If we violate international law we are actually undermining the best mechanism we have to get countries to work together and solve some of the biggest challenges we face in the world. One only needs to think about examples like serious use of chemical weapons, or North Korea testing nuclear weapons, or even closer to home, the United States imposing illegal trade barriers against softwood lumber. Canada wants to be in a position that we are able to rely on our fellow countries, our partners around the world, to follow these rules that make Canadians safer, that make Canadian businesses prosper, yet it’s very difficult for Canada to be taking moral stances on international laws if Canada is also violating them.


    We are not ready as a nation to rush into marijuana legalization, and the consequences will be severe.