June 5, 2018

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, I wish to speak to Bill C-45.

One the key themes relating to the legalization of marijuana is the desire to eradicate the black market. As Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair put it during an interview with Global News on April 8, 2018:

Displacing the illicit cannabis market is paramount.

This is a clear and consistent message that has been shared since the beginning, and Canadians expect that whatever bill emerges from this place will do exactly that. We are expected to produce a bill that shifts users away from an illicit market.

Mr. Blair also told the Social Affairs Committee:

We’ve brought forward what we believe is a very appropriate, strict regulatory framework that will do a much better job protecting our kids and displacing that illicit market.

However, colleagues, when the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police appeared before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on March 29, 2018, CACP President, Chief Mario Harel, stated:

. . . Bill C-45 remains silent on the quantity of cannabis permissible indoors. At this time, in-home possession is virtually unlimited, thereby making it difficult to determine whether the cannabis is derived from a lawful or unlawful source or whether the amount of possession is, in fact, for the purposes of trafficking. Given these issues, we recommend that a limitation on in-home possession be imposed, were such cultivation to become lawful.

Think of it, honourable senators. As the bill is now worded, individuals can fill every room in their house with dried cannabis, which keeps very well. This is bizarre. We’re told that this bill will drive the bad guys out of business.

As I travelled through Nunavut, the issue of unlimited amounts allowed in the home was also raised as a concern in communities. Much like the arguments against allowing plants to be cultivated in the home, community members feared an increase in break-ins and warned the bill would only have the opposite effect and enable the illicit market to flourish.

My home region of Nunavut is currently proposing to allow only ordering online or via telephone. The absence of stores and a current lack of a limit of allowable dried cannabis or its equivalent in the home would only serve as a lure, a strong attraction for those waiting for their orders to come in. In reality, these homes with unlimited quantities of dried cannabis will likely also be the only potential source of marijuana for those without access to the Internet or a telephone and a credit card. The underground economy will be given a golden opportunity to thrive if we continue to allow unlimited quantities of marijuana in homes.

In Clyde River, Councillor Gordon Kautuk warned that many in a hamlet where 68 per cent of the population is on social assistance would still likely use dealers, first, in an effort to avoid paying the sales tax. He continued to warn that dealers will supply their own stronger marijuana, with THC levels far exceeding government-regulated plants. He also warned that even in Clyde River, suppliers from the South will undercut government sale prices by supplying in volume and even forgiving shipping costs for volume purchases.

Senators, with no limits to the amount allowed to be stored in the home, we are enabling dealers to continue to stockpile marijuana for those who cannot or, for whatever reason, will not access it through legal channels. I firmly believe that in order to achieve the stated purpose of this bill — to eliminate the illicit market — we need to follow the advice and expertise offered by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

Deputy Chief Constable Mike Serr, co-chair of the CAPC Drug Advisory Committee, clearly stated:

Certainly I think it’s more challenging for us if we don’t have set limits. If someone does have more than perhaps — let’s use the three ounces — 12 ounces at home, we would be forming the opinion that they have possession for the purposes of distributing that cannabis. But, again, without having those limitations in place, it really puts more work on the police officers to prove knowledge, to prove the intent, because they are allowed to have as much cannabis as they would like in a private dwelling. So putting some limitations or restrictions would make our job easier and would assist us.

Again, one of the stated goals of this bill is to disrupt organized crime. We know that there are over 300 organized crime groups involved in cannabis distribution and production. It’s a $7 billion a year industry. This is a huge issue. Organized crime will not just walk away from this issue, so any tools that we can be given, in law enforcement, to disrupt organized crime will be important to us. Like I said, when we’re seeing cannabis coming from an illegal place and large volumes stored in a residence for distribution into the black market, we need some additional tools to assist us in disrupting that.

Based on this testimony, colleagues, would we not want to ensure that law enforcement have all the tools they need within this bill to effectively stamp out the illicit market? Why would we not follow the advice and listen to the clear request from police chiefs throughout Canada to place a limit on the amount allowed in a dwelling place?

Deputy Chief Serr, referred to by the President of CACP as the expert, recommended a cap of 340 grams, since in his experience that is the larger average yield size of four plants.

Motion in Amendment Negatived

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That Bill C-45, as amended, be not now read a third time, but that it be further amended in clause 8, on page 7,

(a)by replacing line 3 with the following:

“possess cannabis of one or more”; and

(b)by replacing line 6 with the following:

“to more than 30 g of dried cannabis, in a public place, or to more than 340 g of dried cannabis, elsewhere;”.

Speech – 3R, C-45 (Cannabis) – Motion in Amendment Adopted – Debate Continued