Bill C-45 is finally moving through the Senate thanks to Senator Tony Dean, who in my estimation has the patience of about 10 saints.
If you’ve followed the rhetoric of the Conservative Party, they are predictably using, to quote leader Andrew Scheer, ‘all the democratic tools in the toolbox to block this legislation’. This extends to the Conservative Senate caucus as well. Please feel free to crib from this open letter in submitting feedback to the Senators who will be voting on amendments at 3rd reading. Or, if you just want to know how to get in touch with the Independent and Liberal Senators, click here to skip to their contact information.
I’m writing to you today regarding Bill C-45, which is currently before you. Amendments will soon be proposed and voted on.
This bill will end the prohibition on cannabis which has existed since 1923, and as such it deserves careful study and scrutiny. My concerns, which I will outline below, are that blind partisanship is threatening to introduce misinformation and fear in an effort to advance one party’s agenda.
Your colleagues in the Conservative senate caucus have shown, through actions such as a surprise call for a standing vote at second reading, and a partisan trip to the United States, that they are not interested in scrutiny and study. They are interested in pursuing a political agenda regardless of what the facts may show about cannabis legalization. One cannot claim to have ‘sober second thought’ if the conclusion is reached before the study process.
One of the organizations the Conservatives are relying on is SAM, or Smart Approaches to Marijuana. This group seeks to preserve prohibition, and has opposed many state-level legalization initiatives. The studies cited by SAM and the Conservatives lack scientific rigour, and should be regarded critically. SAM is heavily invested in rehab clinics, which people convicted of cannabis possession in the US are often required to attend in exchange for more lenient sentencing. SAM should be regarded like any other lobbyist group with a financial incentive relating to policy.
I must also call into question the motivations of the Conservative senators in seeking out a report from a lobby group outside of our country, when the task force on legalization produced a high quality report on issues concerning Canadians, and also received feedback from Canadians. The senate should represent Canada, and not foreign interests.
Another target of the Conservative rhetoric has been personal cultivation of cannabis, sometimes referred to as ‘home grow’. On this issue, the commitment of the Conservatives to argue against rational policy is laid completely bare. Medical cannabis in Canada has had a long history of court cases, and the definitive case on the so-called dangers of personal cultivation is Allard et al v Canada. The reasoning of the Conservatives regarding prohibiting personal cultivation was put to the test, and ultimately rejected by the court.
The points advanced by the government were: Dangers of fire, mould, diversion, etc. Ultimately, the court found that there was insufficient evidence to support a ban on medical patients growing their own cannabis. The government’s rationale was so flawed, and completely unsupported by the evidence, that Justice Michael Phelan gave the testimony of the government’s expert witness, Corporal Shane Holmquist, little to no weight.
To quote Justice Phelan on Holmquist’s testimony (much of which is now being repeated by law enforcement and former law enforcement such as Senator Vernon White) : ‘He was shown, in cross-examination, to be so philosophically against marihuana in any form or use that his Report lacked balance and objectivity.’
In fact, on the balance of the statistics presented in court of other household activities and the related dangers, it was found that kitchen grease fires posed more of a danger than cultivating cannabis in the home. Clearly, the Conservatives are not calling for cooking in the home to be abolished. On the issue of safety their position is purely ideological. Canadians can brew their own beer, grow kilograms of tobacco for personal use, and similarly there are no calls from the Conservatives to restrict or eliminate these provisions.
Another tenet of the Conservative opposition to personal cultivation is the safety of youth. While protection of youth is obviously a core policy item of bill C-45, I would caution that such claims must be scrutinized: Appeal to emotion must not rule the day when it comes to sensible drug policy, an issue still rife with stigma.
The facts remain that medical patients, many with children in their homes, have grown their own cannabis for over a decade since the first iteration of our medical cannabis program, the MMAR. There has been no epidemic of children consuming cannabis and suffering ill effects, nor has there been any such epidemic in the United States where personal cultivation for either recreational or medical purposes has been legalized in some regions.
The Conservative position on the danger to youth indicates a deep misunderstanding of the properties of cannabis itself. Very little of the psychoactive compound THC is present in the cannabis leaves, and cannabis flowers require a careful cultivation and curing process to produce optimal levels of THC. Even the understanding of how cannabis is consumed, such as MP Marilyn Gladu’s assertion that children will put cannabis in a toaster oven (a method of consumption, I can assure you, that has no basis in reality), is fraught with misinformation. Similarly, Senator Batters claim that personal cultivation leads to massive organized crime infiltration is not supported by the evidence, either here in Canada or in the USA.
The same logic that would recommend against letting someone without knowledge of civil engineering write regulations on bridge safety would also indicate that drug policy should be informed by those with knowledge of the facts, and not those who demonstrate a clear lack of understanding.
On the subject of the danger to youth, I would lastly like to suggest that there are many things substantially more dangerous than cannabis present in homes with children. Cleaning fluids, prescription medication, alcohol, and various noxious chemicals. We do not mandate that ordinary citizens must be prevented from possessing these materials, nor do we even set a limit outside of prescribed amounts of medicine, yet Bill C-45 sets a very restrictive limit on personal cultivation in comparison with other jurisdictions.
The Conservative position on personal cultivation will also frustrate another core government policy item, reviewing the need for a separate medical program a few years from now. In the absence of recreational users being able grow their own cannabis, such a move would likely not be constitutionally compliant given the findings in Allard.
The justification for so overbroad a prohibition on personal cultivation simply does not exist, especially given the fact that cannabis has no lethal dose. The government’s legislation has addressed actual substantive issues with regards to youth, such as prohibiting attractive packaging, and we can expect the government to also prohibit edibles shaped or presented like common candy to avoid the issues that have arisen in the states with youth mistakenly consuming infused edibles.
This article was written by Grant ‘Faceman’ Foster and was posted on medium.com
Senator, I urge you to carefully consider each amendment that is proposed to Bill C-45, and vote down any that are not rooted in facts or sensible policy, such as a blanket prohibition on personal cultivation. Canadians expect, and deserve that our chamber of sober second thought lives up to that phrase, and will not entertain partisan politics that all too often makes casualties of good public policy. Thank you for your time.