Canada's Original Think Tank

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Wells)

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Wells)

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Wells)

Hon. Art Eggleton: 

I’m no fan of second-hand smoke. I don’t know why the Conservative caucus is suddenly bringing this up. Why didn’t you bring it up with tobacco? People will smoke a lot more cigarettes around a house. That can have an impact.

You talk about extreme cases and the effects. People occasionally using marijuana will not have that kind of impact in their own house.

The motion is tantamount to a ban on smoking marijuana if you happen to have children because most of the provinces who share the responsibility in terms of legislative amendments on this are saying they will prohibit cannabis in public places. So if they are going to prohibit it in public places, then your own home would be the only place you can do it. Yet, if you do and you have a child, you can go to prison for up to 18 months or face a $15,000 fine. That’s a very extreme penalty case in this regard.

I think the answer to this is to better educate people about the harms of smoke, whether it is from tobacco or second-hand smoke from cannabis. As the legalization of cannabis proceeds, I think we will see other products such as edibles and vaping, which would be less harmful. However, I think we want to have a significant program of cutting down on the smoking of cannabis just as we have for the smoking of tobacco. As a result of the endeavours of the federal government and all governments in this area of reducing smoking, we’ve seen quite a reduction over the last few decades. I would think we want to have the same thing in terms of cannabis smoking as well. However, I think telling a person that they can’t do this in their home goes too far.

You also put people who are smoking cannabis for medical reasons at a difficulty. What are people who need cannabis for health purposes supposed to do? If they have children, they would have that same dilemma. I think it goes too far to say somebody can’t smoke cannabis in their own home and could go to prison for doing it. I think what we need to do is make sure we get the information to those parents so that they act as responsible parents and help to ensure a safe environment for their children in their own home.

But for the government to go in and say it will prevent somebody from doing something, I don’t know how you would enforce that to start with. Maybe a neighbour would complain. Police are not going to walk into your house to see if you have lit up and you have a kid in the house. I think it goes too far and I would hope we reject that amendment. It’s tantamount to preventing people with children from smoking at all.

Senator Seidman: If I might, will the senator take a question?

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Eggleton, will you take a question?

Senator Eggleton: Sure.

Senator Seidman: You talked about the enforceability at the very end of your presentation and I guess my question to you would be: By the same token, how would we enforce many other aspects of this legislation, for example, four plants in the home? Who will be able to enforce that, and how is that any more enforceable than this proposal?

Senator Eggleton: You have to trust that citizens, by and large, are going to do the right thing. Yes, there will always be — oh, no, I know you don’t trust anybody. There are exceptions in every case. There’s no doubt about that and certainly the police know how to sniff out a grow op. They have a lot of experience doing that.

Those are the main things we want to do. We want to go after the big criminal elements that have been doing those kinds of things, and the police will be able to do that. They may not worry so much about four plants versus five plants unless it’s brought to their attention.

Senator Seidman: Senator, one of the main points that I tried to make in my presentation to support this amendment is also a point that we heard quite a bit about at committee, and that is the misperception that smoking cannabis is not as dangerous to your health as smoking tobacco.

And it’s seriously unfortunate, I think — and I’d like to hear your opinion on this — given all the money we have spent as a government over decades to encourage people to stop smoking for them to now perceive that smoking cannabis is far less risky to their health. That could send a signal, even to young people, that it’s pretty safe. It’s okay. It’s not like smoking tobacco.

Senator Eggleton: I don’t think anything you smoke is very good for your health and I think we do need vigorous programs to get people to cut down on smoking. I think that as alternate products with cannabis, like edibles, come on the market, they have their own issues, too, but we will look at the regulations and see how they go, as well. That’s one of our recommendations. That or vaping could provide for a substitute, as it is in the case for some people in terms of tobacco.

I think one statistic you leave out is the fact that, on average, people don’t smoke as much cannabis as they do cigarettes. Some people who are addicted to cigarettes are smoking constantly and frequently and doing so in their own home. The damage that can come from tobacco smoking could be even greater given that, on average, there isn’t as much smoking of cannabis in the home.

Hon. Tony Dean: Senator Eggleton, thank you. Given what you have been saying, you may know this, but tell me if you don’t, that one of the proposed health warning messages for packaging, released by Health Canada over the last couple of months, says this:

Warning: Cannabis smoke is harmful. Harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke are also found in cannabis smoke.

Were you aware of that, and would that be supportive to you?

Senator Eggleton: Little details, good point.