Reality  Volume XXXVI  Issue No. 10 October 2017

The Liberal government, thanks to Justin Trudeau’s mindless statements during the federal election of 2015, became committed to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. The purpose of this initiative was to encourage millennials to vote for the Liberal Party.

Like many of its other policies, the Liberal government was clueless about the unintended consequences of this promise. For example, it has yet to solve the problem that has arisen because Canada ratified UN drug treaties that prohibit the use of marijuana.  Further, S. 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) specifically states that it is the responsibility of governments to protect children from the use and trafficking of drugs:

  1. Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in their illicit production and trafficking of such substances.

The CRC defines “child” as anyone under 18 years of age. However, once marijuana is legalized, it becomes normalized and becomes acceptable.  As a result, adolescents under the age of 18 years will have access to it, as they have easy access, today, to cigarettes.

The Liberals are merrily proceeding with their legalization of marijuana, ignoring their treaty obligations as well as many other serious problems inherent with the legalization.

Unfortunately, the government thinks it cannot back down from its proposal on marijuana as its credibility is already seriously on the line with its accumulating failures on other policies. These include the defeat of electoral reform; the enormous, accumulating national debt, far in excess of what had been promised; the incompetence of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry; failure to provide transparency and honesty, insisting on continuing with its pay-for-access scheme for corporate high rollers; the flaunting of regulations by Trudeau to vacation with billionaire, the Imam Aga Khan, in the latter’s private island, and the $10.5 million award to terrorist Omar Khadr, who killed an American soldier and blinded another in Afghanistan.  Under all these circumstances, it is not unreasonable to describe the Trudeau government as dumb and dumber, as the Liberal blunders are piling up.

Despite this, on April 13, 2017, the Liberal government tabled legislation on marijuana. It provides only a vague and little considered framework for the sale, distribution and possession of it.  This framework is based on the federal government’s use of its criminal law provisions to supposedly provide “protection of public health”.  This is why Trudeau has been going across the country loudly proclaiming that the objective of his marijuana legislation is “to reduce harm to Canadians” and to “decrease the black market of marijuana”.  These comments are nothing more than mindless prattle.

The government is ignoring the reality of recreational marijuana use which occurred in Colorado when it legalized recreational marijuana in 2013. Since that time, Colorado has experienced:

  • Marijuana use by Colorado youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years old increased by 20%; this was 74% higher than the national average of that age group;
  • Marijuana use of university age youths increased by 17%;
  • Marijuana use by adults age 26+ years old increased 63% in comparison to an increase nationally of 21%;
  • In 2014 when retail marijuana businesses began operating in Colorado, there was a 32% increase in marijuana related traffic deaths. During the same period of time, all traffic deaths increased by only 8%. Marijuana related traffic deaths were approximately 20% of all traffic deaths;
  • There was a 29% increase in the number of marijuana related emergency room visits in 2014 and a 38% increase in the number of marijuana related hospitalizations;
  • During the years 2013-2014, the average number of children exposed to marijuana was 31 per year. This was an increase of 138%;
  • According to the Colorado Attorney General, legalization of marijuana did not reduce black market marijuana activity “the criminals are still selling on the black market…. We have plenty of cartel activity and plenty of illegal activity that has not decreased at all”; and
  • Homelessness in Colorado surged by 50% with 20 to 30% of newcomers living in shelters, having moved to Colorado to have easy access to marijuana.

Trudeau and his government apparently haven’t even read their own Health Canada Website, which lists the risks of marijuana to include:

  • Risks to health, some of which may not be known or fully understood. Studies supporting the safety and efficacy of cannabis for therapeutic purposes are limited and do not meet the standard required by the Food and Drug Regulations for marketed drugs in Canada.
  • Smoking cannabis is not recommended. Do not smoke or vapourize cannabis in the presence of children.
  • Using cannabis or any cannabis product can impair concentration, ability to think and make decisions, reaction time and coordination. This can affect your motor skills, including ability to drive. It can also increase anxiety and cause panic attacks, and in some cases cause paranoia and hallucinations.
  • Cognitive impairment may be greatly increased when cannabis is consumed along with alcohol or other drugs which affect the activity of the nervous system (e.g. opioids, sleeping pills, other psychoactive drugs)

The warning goes on to list specifically when cannabis should never be used by anyone:

  • under the age of 25
  • who has serious liver, kidney, heart or lung disease
  • who has a personal or family history of serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, or bipolar disorder
  • who is pregnant, is planning to get pregnant, or is breast-feeding
  • who is a man who wishes to start a family
  • who has a history of alcohol or drug abuse or substance dependence

In June 2016, ignoring this crucial information, Trudeau established a Task Force to make recommendations on marijuana use. The Committee was headed by former Liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan.  The bad news was that the nine-member Committee included the controversial Dr. Perry Kendall, who, both as Ontario Medical Officer of Health and BC Provincial Health Officer, has advocated for legalization of drugs.  In June, 2010, Dr. Kendall claimed that the use of the drug ecstasy can be “safe” when consumed “responsibly”.  In 2016, Dr. Kendall called for the decriminalization of personal drug use and possession.

The Committee’s Report, released in December, 2016, could have been written by the marijuana industry. It is void of concerns for public safety and, if implemented, will cause damage to generations of Canadians to the benefit of the marijuana industry.

The Committee recommended that the age of majority, that is 18, be set for the use of marijuana (nineteen years for those in provinces where that is the age of majority).

On May 29th, 2017 an alarmed Canadian Medical Association (CMA), in an editorial in its Journal, stated that current research shows the brain doesn’t reach maturity until around age 25.  The CMA editorial referred to the fact that the 9% risk of developing dependence over a lifetime rises to 17% if marijuana use is started in the teen years.

The CMA recommends that the government raise the legal age for buying marijuana to 21, and that it restrict the quantity and potency of the marijuana available to those under 25 years of age.

The Canadian Paediatric Society position paper on the effects of cannabis on children and youth cites serious potential effects, such as: increased presence of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis; diminished school performance and lifetime achievement; increased risk of tobacco smoking; impaired neurological development and cognitive decline; and a risk of addiction.

In 2010, Canadian youth were ranked No. 1 for cannabis use among 43 countries in Europe and North America. Are we trying to maintain this record?

The federal Task Force also recommended that individuals be allowed to possess 30 grams of marijuana and be permitted to cultivate marijuana for non-medical purposes providing it is limited to four plants per residence, and has the maximum height limit of 100 centimetres. No doubt the police will be knocking on doors with their measuring sticks to ensure that the width and height of the marijuana plants conform to the law.

Just like the Big Tobacco Industry before it, the Big Marijuana Industry is pumping up its corporate growers, in anticipation of grabbing billions of dollars in the growing, distribution and selling of pot across the country. Tobacco smoking is the second biggest risk factor for early death and disability after high blood pressure.  Fortunately, because of intense advertising against tobacco smoking, its prevalence has dropped from 35% to 25% among men and from 8% to 5% among women.  What on earth then, are we doing by reversing ourselves and adding dangerous marijuana smoke to the deadly mix?

Provinces Concerned About the Marijuana Proposal

Each of the provinces will be required to implement its own rules and restrictions in respect of the distribution and sale of marijuana. This means the provinces will have the last say on the method of sale and point-of-sale restrictions, having regard to the key objective of the federal legislation – supposedly, to prevent or reduce harm to Canadians. In deciding their own rules, Houdini wouldn’t be able to accomplish this.  Neither are the provinces likely to reap the supposed vast profits from the sale of marijuana.  The provinces are rightly skeptical about any such windfall since taxes on pot are expected to stay low to ensure the regulated market elbows out illegal dealers.

It is significant that on November 1, 2016, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), Jean-Denis Frechette, released a 77 page study entitled, “Legalized Cannabis: Fiscal Considerations”, which states that the federal government may have little fiscal space to heavily tax cannabis the way it does tobacco, without pushing the legal price well beyond that of currently illicit pot. Price legal pot too high and the black market will continue to flourish; too low and governments could be seen to be encouraging its use.

The PBO projects that sales tax revenue in 2018 could be as low as $356 million and as high as $959 million, with a likely take of about $618 million based on legalized retail cannabis selling for $9 per gram – in line with current street prices.

In addition, health care costs are expected to soar with the legalized use of recreational marijuana. As an example, a new study presented to the Pediatric Academic Societies in 2016, found that one in six toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with coughing, wheezing and other symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive for marijuana exposure.

The Liberal government hopes to have this marijuana muddle all sorted out by July 1, 2018, disregarding the harm to society caused by this legislation. What seems to matter to this government, only, is that millennials vote for the party in the 2019 federal election – even if they are all spaced-out from the use of marijuana!

The Liberal government is reckless and utterly irresponsible in bringing this marijuana legislation forward.