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Senator Plett Proposes an Amendment to Bill C-45

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Cannabis Bill (Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Debate Continued)

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I also rise today to speak to third reading of Bill C-45.

The responsibility lies upon all of us in this chamber to ensure that when cannabis is legalized, it is backed by a legislative framework that will keep our citizens, most importantly our children, safe. This is a goal that the Liberal government has repeatedly stated is paramount, yet they have fallen short in a number of areas.

However, I know that the protection of youth is a goal shared by all members of this chamber. Colleagues, last week during clause-by-clause consideration of this bill, Senator Bernard proposed a two-part amendment that sought to ensure that our Canadian youth were not unduly criminalized. Senator Bernard’s amendment dealt with two issues regarding the use and consumption of cannabis by minors.

Bill C-45 reads:

. . . it is prohibited for an individual who is 18 years of age or older . . . to distribute cannabis to an individual who is under 18 years of age . . . .

The first section of Senator Bernard’s amendment sought to void this provision of the bill in the event that the individual over the age of 18 was less than two years older than the individual to whom they distribute cannabis.

In committee, Senator Bernard carefully presented the intent of her amendment, citing the prevalence of the social sharing of cannabis among youth who are close in age. As Senator Bernard stated, it is quite common for young adults to have friends and peers that are slightly younger. Thus, we do not want to unduly criminalize individuals of these ages for sharing their cannabis with their peers in a social situation.

In effect, this amendment would allow an 18-year-old to share their legally purchased cannabis with an individual as young as 16 years of age without any repercussion.

This amendment does not lessen the punishment, colleagues, it eliminates it. It makes it lawful, permissible for an 18- or 19-year-old to share cannabis with their younger friends who are not of legal age.

As Senator Bernard stated in committee, the penalty associated with providing cannabis to a minor carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years. Of course, the maximum sentence would be for the most egregious of cases, not the minor incidents that Senator Bernard is referring to in her description of social sharing.

As I stated, this amendment makes the practice of an 18-year-old sharing marijuana with a 16-year-old absolutely lawful. Further to that, colleagues, most alarmingly, there is no cap on the amount of cannabis one can provide in this context.

While the sentiment is entitled “social sharing,” which was to capture the practice of an 18- or 19-year-old sharing a bit of marijuana in a social setting, with Senator Bernard’s amendment, an adult of this age can provide literally any amount of cannabis to their younger peers. This will be known, and make no mistake, colleagues, it will be abused.

Keep in mind, there is no such exemption in any province if an of-age adult buys alcohol for a younger peer. It is well known among Canadian youth that this is against the law, as it should be. There is no reason why sharing marijuana should be subject to a different standard.

While they may be peers, at the end of the day this law applies to adults and their provision of cannabis to minors. There must be consequences, colleagues. And no, those consequences, in the very limited circumstances outlined by Senator Bernard, should not consist of a serious indictable criminal offence.

With respect to the second part of Senator Bernard’s amendment, I do not personally support parents being permitted to provide their teenaged children with marijuana, as I believe the medical community has been clear on the impact of this drug on developing brains.

However, we do not have such exceptions for alcohol in every province in which a parent or guardian in their dwelling house can provide alcohol to their child 16 years of age or older. For the sake of consistency and reasonableness in law, I leave this provision alone.

However, there is no precedent for the proposal respecting social sharing among peers. This amendment simply cannot stand as is. There needs to be responsibility and accountability surrounding cannabis, end of story.

I am proposing that we do not make social sharing from an adult to a minor peer strictly permissible and lawful, but that we reinstate a penalty that is drastically reduced from the bill’s original proposal.

We worked with the Law Clerk’s office to come up with what we believe to be an appropriate solution. In honouring the spirit of the social sharing proposal, we have kept the two-year proximity limit for sharing among peers, and we make it clear that this individual is not to be prosecuted by indictment. Instead, we concluded that ticketing would be an appropriate option for police and have left the summary process as already outlined in the legislation intact. But there will not be an indictable offence associated with social sharing.

In this amendment, we have also provided a limit to social sharing. For consistency, we used the 5 grams of marijuana, which is provided for elsewhere in the bill, when it comes to youth possession. Five grams, colleagues, is a lot of marijuana. As we have repeatedly heard, that is 10 joints. That, colleagues, is a very generous cap on social sharing.

Beyond that, any adult who provides a minor with cannabis in excess of 5 grams, regardless of proximity in age, will not be covered under this social sharing provision and will be guilty of an indictable or summary offence, as already outlined in the legislation.

Motion in Amendment (Adopted)

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: 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

(a)in clause 9,

(i)on page 10, by replacing subsection (2.1) (added by decision of the Senate on May 30, 2018) with the following:

“(2.1) Subparagraph (1)(a)(ii) does not apply if the cannabis is distributed to an individual who is 16 years of age or older by their parent or guardian in their dwelling-house.”, and

(ii)on page 11, by adding the following after line 6:

“(5.1) Despite paragraph (5)(a), a charge arising out of a contravention of subparagraph (1)(a)(ii), in respect of cannabis of one or more classes of cannabis the total amount of which, as determined in accordance with Schedule 3, is equivalent to 5 g or less of dried cannabis, is not to be prosecuted by indictment if the accused is less than two years older than the individual referred to in that subparagraph.”;

(b)in clause 51, on page 29, by adding the following after line 20:

“(a.1) proceedings in respect of an offence arising out of a contravention of subparagraph 9(1)(a)(ii), in respect of cannabis of one or more classes of cannabis the total amount of which, as determined in accordance with Schedule 3, is equivalent to 5 g or less of dried cannabis, if the accused is less than two years older than the individual referred to in that subparagraph;”; and

(c)on page 127, by replacing the references after the heading “SCHEDULE 3” with the following:

“(Subsection 2(4), paragraphs 8(1)(a) and (c), subparagraphs 9(1)(a)(i) and (b)(i), paragraphs 51(2)(a), (a.1) and (c) to (f) and subsection 151(2))”.

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