Canada's Condominium Magazine

The Condo Update for Marijuana Laws: Bill Status and Updates, Part 2 of “The Cannabis Act and your condo: how to manage the changes and protect your community.”

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on the impact of the Cannabis Act for condominium owners, tenants and managers.

In part 1 we covered “Everything you need to know about the Cannabis Act and What it means for you and your condo.” [View here>>] In part 3, we will cover “Implications for condo owners and tenants” and how to safeguard your community with rules and education.

 

In Canada, Marijuana will soon be legal even for recreational use, although it will be regulated in use, distribution and growth.

 

 

There is a lot of mis-information on this topic. Some of the issues are similar to those facing owners/managers when dealing with ordinary “smokers.” Other issues, such as “growing” in a condo — and the risk to community assets, are unique to the Cannibis Act. With this in mind, the editors decided to put together a comprehensive guide on the rules, their application, and how you can protect your community:

Bill C-45: “An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts”

Though proponents initially hoped to legalize marijuana by 2017, it now has “a target date of no later than July 2018,” assuming it passes. The Cannabis Act was introduced to the House of Commons earlier this year.

First Reading in the House of Commons

The introduction and first reading occurred on April 13th. Alistair MacGregor argued that “young and racialized Canadians continue to receive charges and criminal records by the thousands for simple possession of marijuana.”

“Criminal records,” he continued, “have serious consequences. It makes it harder to get a job, and it makes it almost impossible to travel.” He then asked what is to be done to support Canadians convicted of a crime to which the Prime Minister himself has admitted.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna responded, stating, “Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to introducing a strict framework that would regulate and restrict access to cannabis in order to keep cannabis out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals. Decriminalization will not achieve these objectives. Creating a comprehensive and responsible system will take time, but that is necessary to get this right. We look forward to bringing forward comprehensive legislation later today.”

MacGregar accused McKenna of evasiveness, stating that Canadians expect immediate updates on marijuana laws. He further declared that “approximately 60,000 could have criminal records during this government’s mandate.” He then asked McKenna if she would acknowledge the harm done in these instances and commit to pardoning Canadians convicted of marijuana possession.

McKenna repeated her claim that legislation would be introduced later that day. “Our government,” she said, “has committed to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis in a careful way in order to keep it out of the hands of children and youth and to stop criminals from profiting.”

 

A summary of the current standing from law firm Brazeau Seller Law.

 

Anne Minh-Thu Quach argued that “the NDP would like decriminalization and prevention to be part of their transition plan.” She stated that nearly 50,000 arrests for possession were made in 2015. “This disproportionately affects young people, cultural communities, and people in Canada’s north. Many organizations such as the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse are in favour of decriminalization or an amnesty,” she said.

McKenna responded by saying, “our government is committed to legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis and limiting access to it in a prudent fashion in order to keep it out of the hands of young people and to keep any associated profits out of the hands of criminals. Currently in Canada, cannabis is controlled through our criminal justice system, and the health and safety of Canadians, young people in particular, are not being adequately protected. We really look forward to introducing this bill later today.”

Quach stated that spending $2 million a year “on prevention for the biggest legislative change in the past 20 years” is ridiculous. “The prevention budget for youth in Colorado, which has a population of five million, was $45 million for 2015 alone.” She then asked if the Prime Minister and Minister of Youth would present a transition plan that includes the funding needed for prevention.

McKenna reiterated her previous comments once more. After continuing with other routine proceedings, the topic was turned once again to the Cannabis Act, which was ready for introduction.

Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould moved to introduce bills C-45 and C-46. The motions carried, and both bills were read and printed.

Second Reading in the House of Commons

On May 30th, Attorney General Wilson-Raybould began by giving her speech in support of the Cannabis Act, which she had originally introduced in April. In her speech, she referenced a task force “comprised of over 80 recommendations for the development of the cannabis framework in Canada.”

Wilson-Raybould also cited a 2015 Speech from the Throne, wherein the government committed to legalizing and regulating cannabis, a commitment “motivated by a recognition that Canada’s existing approach to cannabis, one of criminal prohibition, is not working.”

Following her speech, she urged “all members of the House to support Bill C-45 at a second reading and refer it to committee.”  Questions were asked, and the debate was put on hold as time ran short.

The debate continued on June 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 8th.  The house divided with a vote of 200 to 76, and the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Health. The bill was adopted by the Committee on October 3rd and presented to the House on October 5th.

 

Third Reading in the House of Commons

The Attorney General began by moving that Bill C-45 be read the third time and passed. During her speech, she stated that “Canada’s current approach to cannabis continues to contribute to the profits of organized crime, risks to public health and safety, and exposes thousands of Canadians to criminal records for minor cannabis offences each year.” She concluded her speech, urging the members of the House to support the bill. The House divided with a vote of 200 to 82, and the bill was passed and submitted to the Senate.

 

First Reading in the Senate

The First Reading was conducted by the Senate at a meeting held on the 28th of November. The motion carried to place the bill on the Orders of the Day for a second reading to be commenced two days hence.

Second Reading in the Senate

The Second Reading was conducted by the Senate as scheduled on the 30th of November. Senator Tony Dean moved the second reading and offered his support of the bill, hailing it as “significant and historic.”

Senator Dean spoke on the timing of the Cannabis Act, acknowledging that critics of the bill often suggest that provinces, territories, and law enforcement are not ready and that more time is needed. In addressing these concerns, the senator quoted the Canadian Public Health Association, stating,

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of time, as Canadians are already consuming cannabis at record levels. The individual and societal harms associated with cannabis use are already being felt every day. The proposed legislation and eventual regulation is our best attempt to minimize those harms and protect the well-being of all Canadians.”

He also cited a 2015 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, which stated that the prevalence of cannabis use was 21 per cent among youth aged 15 to 19. Opponents of the bill suggested that the study was a greater argument against the bill, as legalization would make cannabis more accessible. Senator Claude Carignan, for instance, stated that the bill prohibits “a young person to possess cannabis of one or more classes of cannabis the total amount of which, as determined in accordance with Schedule 3, is equivalent to more than 5 grams of dried cannabis.” He further stated that the bill allows “young people under 18 to have cannabis in their possession at school.”

Senator Dean, however, stated “that young people in Canada between 12 and 18 are consuming cannabis today in significant quantities, and they are being harmed as a result of that. One of the harms, aside from the medical harms, relates to criminalization and criminal records. One of the stated goals of Bill C-45 is to reduce the impact of criminalization and to recognize that young people are already consuming in significant quantities. The five-gram allowance was designed to provide for an allowance for those young people who today, and who may continue after today, to be in possession of small amounts of cannabis, to be subject to enforcement, advice, public education, much more so than they are getting today about the harms associated with that, but not to criminalize them.”

He continued, “The penalty structure of Bill C-45 is a sliding scale, from a warning or taking away small amounts of cannabis from young people all the way through ticketing and including the implementation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, but there will be discretion at the provincial level, in keeping with the severity of the offence.”

Senator Paul E. McIntyre questioned Senator Dean on the implications of the bill on Canada’s international treaty obligations and whether the country will “seek or make reservations to remove the marijuana provisions of those treaties, propose amendments to the terms of the conventions, or simply withdraw from the conventions if its requests are refused… in other words, avoid legalizing marijuana in a way that violates Canada’s international obligations. My understanding is that, so far, Canada has done none of those, and this is rather unfortunate.”

Senator Dean responded, stating that Senator McIntyre proposed a very good question and listed a number of ways in which those in government responsible for management of the international treaty obligations to address those concerns. He stated, “I’ve looked at those treaty obligations, and I am convinced that the current approach to cannabis criminalization in Canada is clearly in violation of its treaty obligations to reduce the use of cannabis and to tackle illicit drug markets. We can’t do any worse, senators, than we’re doing with cannabis today in being responsive to our international treaty obligations. We can only do better. This is an approach that I think would do better.”

 

Public Response

Bill C-45 has come a long way since it was first introduced, and the debate has at times been rather heated. Many individuals on both sides of the debate made their opinions of the Cannabis Act known across social media platforms. Proponents of the bill voiced their concern that youth are being criminalized for minor violations. They also argued against delays in legalization, citing a need for immediate legislation to reduce the damage inflicted by criminal organizations, which currently profit off the distribution of illegal substances.

Others, however, were adamant that legalizing marijuana would be a mistake. Opponents remain convinced that legalizing cannabis only makes it more accessible to youth and that it would result in a growing number of accidents due to people driving under the influence. Some oppose the bill due to tax increases and various other reasons.

Outlook

The Cannabis Act appears to be well on its way to being implemented, so long as it fares well during the third and final reading of the Senate.

 

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