An Act to respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Third Reading Speech: Senator Ataullahjan
I rise today to speak about Bill C-45, an Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.
Over the past two years, I have made a point of having conversations with a cross-section of Canadians to ask them their views about legalizing marijuana. I also made a specific effort to speak with the Canadian Pakistani community about this Bill, as I had not heard their voices in the discussion or in media reporting.
I set out to bring up this Bill with everyone from parents to teachers, to doctors to taxi drivers to service industry professionals, to young people and old. And here’s what I learned from those with whom I spoke.
For the most part, there was a significant lack of knowledge about the specifics Bill C-45. In fact, a lack of understanding and confusion about the provisions of this Bill was the most reoccurring theme in all of my discussions and is something that I found quite troubling.
While the government has advised of educational programs in schools and I have heard some public education announcements on the radio and television, my experience is that many Canadians have no idea of exactly how the enactment of this legislation will impact their lives, their children’s lives, their real estate investments, their health or their safety on the roads.
In this regard, the Government must do more to ensure that all Canadians better understand the legislation and the numerous ways in which it may affect their lives.
Many with whom I spoke, voiced concern about the effect that the legalization of marijuana would have on their children. I know that several Senators have spoken in this place about the potential negative impacts of this legislation on children and in this regard, I would say that I echo many of the concerns that have been raised.
Further, a significant number of people did not know that individuals would be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants in their homes. Upon learning of this provision, most questioned why it formed part of the legislation legalizing marijuana?
For parents, the thought of their children being exposed to cannabis plants when visiting the homes of friends and acquaintances when unaccompanied by a parent was worrisome, at best.
Honourable Senators, their fear is not unfounded. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that in light of the fact that “cannabis will now be readily accessible in homes, there are risks that this may lead to increased exposure and consumption amongst youth.” And, that “the personal cultivation provisions are counter to the Bill’s stated objective of protecting youth.”
There has also been concern expressed about tenants growing marijuana in rental units and the impact that could have on real estate investments. None of the people with whom I have spoken with had any idea as to what their rights and/or obligations will be either as landlords of income properties or when purchasing or selling real estate properties.
This particular issue was raised by a number of people at roundtable discussion I held about Bill C-45 with members of the Canadian Pakistani community in Toronto.
This is another valid concern. The Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations has asked that Bill C-45 should be amended “to prohibit marijuana growing or processing in multi-unit dwellings, and in rented dwellings of any size.”
Furthermore, they said that “growing marijuana in multi-unit or rented dwellings is more problematic than marijuana smoking.” Their concerns included “safety hazards, interference with other tenants, potential damage to the building, potential liability for the landlord and risk to the tenants and mortgage holder, potential cancellation of building insurance or the calling of a mortgage with financially disastrous results for an innocent building owner.”
Just this month, the Canadian Real Estate Association called on the Government to put the brakes on letting people grow pot at home until it can better regulate it to prevent property damage and higher risks of crime and fires. CEO Michael Bourque has said that there are too many risks from home grow-ops that haven’t been addressed yet.
The question I have been asked most often in relation to the number of home grown cannabis plants allowed, is how that provision will be enforced and by whom?
In this regard, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has said that “from an enforcement perspective, this provision is problematic as monitoring the precise amount of plants produced in personal dwellings is restricted and cannot be managed.”
Consequently, the Association has strongly recommended “against in-home production and that any provisions related to personal cultivation be removed. It is expected that personal cultivation will result in over production and the manipulation of growth patterns, thereby placing a greater demand on police resources, including increased calls for service and investigations.”
Last month, it was reported that Municipalities are scrambling to meet the challenges in preparation for legalization of marijuana. The ‘legalization of the production, sales and consumption of cannabis is expected to involve as many as 17 municipal departments… and many of the smaller communities may not have the resources” said Bev Gaston, of the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick, which represents 60 municipalities across that province.
The municipalities want to be certain that proper training for RCMP and municipal police, as well as adequate funding, is provided by the Federal government.
Moreover, he said that he expects the provision allowing individuals to grow up to four cannabis plants their homes will prove challenging for municipalities.
“How are we going to know how many plants people are growing?” And, “how is it going to be policed?” He asked.
In his view, this provision is one that will potentially generate the largest number of enforcement complaints. In my view, this provision will create an unnecessary burden on both the human and financial resources of municipalities across the country.
Honourable Senators, these are but some of the reasons why home cultivation of cannabis should be prohibited.
Further, let me remind you, that upon consideration of testimony before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the majority voted in favour of a recommendation that would prohibit home cultivation of marijuana and I am disappointed that the recommendation was rejected by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
Accordingly, I am in support of Senator White’s proposed amendment. Thank you.