Canada’s Cannabis Act and the corruption of our children

Protecting our children from harm is a reasonable expectation for parents and grandparents to have of our government. Canada’s Cannabis Act doesn’t do that.

DonParlForum

It was a privilege to be part of the team that fought to raise the age of consent for sexual activity with an adult from fourteen to sixteen years of age, becoming Canadian law in 2008. At that time, there was a challenge to lower the age of consent for anal intercourse from eighteen to sixteen. Our answer was raise them both to eighteen then, because the issue was and remains protecting children. It was disturbing to hear last November that the federal government is now planning to lower that age from eighteen to sixteen. The risks to our children are innumerable. Several of the medical dangers are unsuitable for print.

A celebratory fist pump met the occasion of the last Parliament setting an increased mandatory minimum sentence of five years for trafficking children in Canada, and similarly for extending our Criminal Code to Canadians caught engaging in sexual activities with minors in other countries.

So when the government called a press conference to announce measures it says are designed to protect our children, scheduling it for the Thursday before the Easter weekend and a two week break in Parliament, my interest was peaked. When the Health Minister, Minister of Justice, Minister of Public Safety and the former police chief from Canada’s largest city (now Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice) took the platform to announce legislation that will make Canada the first G7 nation in which cannabis (marijuana) sale and use will be legalized I took notice. I also wondered, why announce the fulfillment of this campaign promise on the day the lull begins?

So I read the legislation.

“Youth are at the centre of the government’s actions to regulate and restrict access to cannabis,” Health Minister Philpott said.

That makes sense, more so when you read that the minimum age for legal purchase will be eighteen, the legal age of adulthood. Although, it is the near unanimous opinion of Canadian medical organizations (The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society and others) that anything under twenty-five is too young and will lead to irreparable physical and psychological damage that will quickly cost our health care system tens, then hundreds of millions of dollars a year nationwide. The responsibility for footing health care costs rests with the provinces. So too will the requirement to regulate sales of cannabis and the option to set a higher age for legal purchase.

Private growth of up to four one-metre high plants per household will also be legal. (Anyone else remember when the joke about politicians was the promise of a car in every garage?)

However, very disturbing in the legislation that forbids the sale of cannabis to those under eighteen, forbids packaging that would appeal to them and the growth of cannabis plants by minors are two provisions found in Part I. Section 8(1)(c) authorizes the possession of up to five grams of cannabis by “a young person,” as defined in section 2 and the Youth Criminal Justice Act as being between the ages of twelve and eighteen years, without penalty. A quick online search suggests five grams is eight to twelve cone shaped joints the length of an unfiltered cigarette, with the open end about the same thickness as a cigarette. Section 9(1)(b) authorizes a young person to distribute up to five grams of cannabis without penalty of law. Combined, this means Canada’s government intends cannabis to be legal in public and in schools for children, who may share their stash with other children.

The government proclaims loudly that the law is designed to protect our children. Yet it explicitly authorizes twelve year olds to carry and distribute cannabis to others without penalty. Not permitted to purchase from provincially authorized distributors, legally obtain their weed from adults or grow their own, where will children acquire their penalty-free supplies of cannabis? Putting an end to the illegal growth, sale and distribution of cannabis seems somewhat questionable in light of Bill C-45’s provisions for open possession and distribution by minors. So too, does the three-Ministers-and-a-former-police-chief proclamation about the safeguarding of our children.

The suggestion that this legislation is designed to protect our children is, quite simply, blowing smoke. The choice of public authority figures selected to make the announcement – calculatedly keeping Prime Minister Trudeau, who has admitted his illegal use of marijuana while a Member of Parliament, away from the table and the media – is in the same category. The date for the announcement was intended to facilitate public attention moving on to something else even before the haze clears.

In the best interests of our children, we must not be distracted by the smoke and mirrors employed by the government on this bill, which introduces new measures for the corruption of our children, not their protection.