Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue No. 43 - Evidence - May 7, 2018
OTTAWA, Monday, May 7, 2018
The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts, was referred, met this day at 2:30 p.m. to continue its study of the bill.
Senator Art Eggleton (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
I am Art Eggleton, a senator from Toronto and chair of the committee. I’m going to ask my fellow committee members to introduce themselves.
Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman, Montreal, Quebec.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen, New Brunswick.
Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier, New Brunswick.
Senator Manning: Fabian Manning, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Bernard: Wanda Thomas Bernard, Nova Scotia.
Senator Pratte: André Pratte from Quebec.
Senator Mégie: Marie-Françoise Mégie from Quebec.
Senator Petitclerc: Chantal Petitclerc from Quebec.
The Chair: Today we continue with our series of hearings on Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.
Up until 6 o’clock, we will have two panels with a half-hour break in between. This particular panel brings, for a second time, witnesses relevant to other jurisdictions’ experience in terms of legalization or decriminalization of the use of cannabis. I will introduce the panellists in just a moment. We’ll break between 4:30 and 5:00, and the second panel will be the third of the other committees of the Senate that have been examining specific aspects of the bill. Today it will be the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, and they’ll appear between 5 and 6 o’clock. We’ll adjourn at 6 o’clock, just in time to go up to the Senate’s evening session.
With that, let me welcome the folks at the end of the table. I’m sorry you’re so far away. We normally meet in a more compact committee room, but we’re here today and we welcome you. I will introduce you as I have you on the program, and that’s order you’ll speak in.
First, we have Andrew Freedman, former director of the Colorado Marijuana Coordination Committee; Beau Kilmer, co-director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center; as an individual, Dr. Bertha Madras, Professor of Psychobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; and finally, from the Oregon Cannabis Association, we welcome Amy Margolis, Executive Director.
Welcome to all of you. I would ask each one of you give us up to seven minutes of opening comments, and then we’ll engage with the committee members’ questions and answers at that point.
Andrew Freedman, Former Director, Colorado Marijuana Coordination, as an individual: Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be in this spacious committee room. I’m Andrew Freedman, and I was the governor’s director of marijuana coordination, so I was essentially the point person in charge of implementing legalized adult and medical use of marijuana for the state of Colorado. It was a unique position in that I was never asked to weigh in on whether legalization was a good or bad idea, but simply how to legalize after it was a fact.
This conversation is so often conflated between data about whether it’s a good idea and how best to tax and regulate marijuana or cannabis that it becomes hard to do that second part without being caught up in the debate about whether you should legalize. Please take my comments today to be mostly about how to look at data in a world of legalization rather than whether legalization is a good idea.
I recently started a firm called Freedman and Koski where we consult with other governments on the best ways to implement legalization. We do not take marijuana money. I have continued to gather that information from state to state. Just from the Colorado point of view, I’ll give you some very high-level data points to look at where we’ve seen some concerns and lessons learned.
The first is always a discussion about youth use, and I think this is one of those places where data gets conflated a lot. Of the surveys available to us, there has not been a youth use survey that has shown a statistically significant increase in youth use. There has been one survey data point that showed a statistically significant decrease in youth use, but that is just one data point and it’s far too early on in this experiment to be drawing conclusions either way about that data. I would say overall there is some good news. From our pre and post data, it appears that money we put into prevention services does work there and so we are happy about those resources going into youth prevention.
Second, in the other cohorts we have taken public surveys of — 18 to 25 and 26 and older — there has been a continual trend of increased marijuana use and past 30-day marijuana use. It has not been statistically significant year-over-year, but the trend over the last decade has shown that more people, particularly in Colorado, like to use marijuana and, specifically for 18 and older, that trend continues to go up. The biggest problem with that data is that it’s 30-day use data, and that doesn’t tell us very much from a public health standpoint in Colorado. We do not have good data sets for problematic use or heavy substance abuse. That is probably the most important data set to have, and yet we’re without it in Colorado.
Another good set of data that doesn’t have a lot of the biases most do is poison control centre calls. That’s good because people actually have to opt into that system rather than it being a call and response. That did show a problem with over-consumption and accidental ingestion over time, most of that being with naive users who either didn’t know the product contained marijuana or didn’t know how a new type of product, such as edibles or hash oil, would impact their system, and they ended up having a psychotic break. The good news is it goes away quickly, but the bad news is you can be a danger to yourself and those around you. Not to overstate how big a problem this was, in the single highest year of poison control centre calls, there were 230 calls for marijuana versus 6,700 for alcohol.
Driving while high is another point on which we have seen some concerning data. In particular, if I were you, I would only be looking at the fatal accident reporting system and not data about actually driving while high. That is showing an increasing number of people are testing positive for THC when involved in a fatal accident. That is coupled with a perception problem showing up in surveys where people don’t think they are a problem when driving while high. That points to a need for a public education campaign that accurately conveys that information to people. To put it into some perspective, Colorado is at historical lows for traffic accidents and we are still within the relative number of accidents of our neighbours, some who have legalized marijuana and some who have not. This is not causing a top line change in our statistics, but nonetheless it is a concerning trend to be looking after.
To speak quickly of the black market, at least as we saw it in Colorado, internal sales of marijuana inside of Colorado switched over quickly to the regulated system. There is a lot of debate about barriers of entry and taxation allowing the black market to stick around. Purely from an economic point of view, obviously there can be too high of a tax number, but overall the dynamics of economies of scale take over quickly here and the price of marijuana drops precipitously. For internal sales, meaning inside of Canada, I think you can expect black market sales of marijuana to move quickly to the regulated system.
The problem we saw in Colorado was more to do with our home grow market, which I know is a source of debate here. I warn you that before you draw too many conclusions from Colorado, we allowed for 99 plants to be grown at home from our medical side. We also allowed the medical and recreational sides to be drawn together, so you can easily grow 300 to 400 plants at home in Colorado, which ended up being a major source of cartel action and criminal diversion. I don’t think too much of that would be applicable to your current law, but these large home grows are a point of violent crime in Colorado.
Finally, I think the major thing we should be paying attention to is a much longer-term dynamic, which is the 80-20 problem. That is where 20 per cent of the users use roughly 80 per cent of the product for cannabis. That has proven to be true in Colorado and other markets over time. I think at first what you will be seeing is a convergent market where the regulated market is trying to take over from the black market, which is estimated in Canada to be about $5.7 billion. But as they capture that, where does it go from there, how do you grow that market and how do you put the safeguards down now?
I would say the lessons learned in Colorado — and I would by no means say that we’re there — is that there is a need for good data to make sure we’re not growing that 20 per cent and not growing how much that 20 per cent is using. There is need for strong regulatory powers and for safeguards against regulatory capture. I don’t expect and I don’t think there is a system that will achieve all of that the first time. This is an iterative process. We’re seeing in Colorado and across the United States that you have to turn on the system and be able to evaluate it perpetually over time.
With that, I thank you for your time and look forward to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much Mr. Freedman.
Beau Kilmer, Co-Director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center: Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify before you today.
I am a Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation, where I also co-direct our Drug Policy Research Center. RAND is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that does not have a formal position on cannabis policy, and we do not advocate for or against legislative bills or ballot initiatives.
I have researched cannabis policy and the economics of cannabis for more than 15 years, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with jurisdictions that are considering or that have recently implemented cannabis legalization. For example, soon after Washington State legalized, I led the effort to help them understand the size of the market so they could make decisions about the number of stores to allow and to make more accurate tax projections. When the State of Vermont wanted an analysis of the pros and cons of various decisions surrounding legalization, I led that team as well. I spent time in Uruguay before they legalized and was there after it passed to help them think through the issues surrounding how one evaluates this large policy change.
I look forward to answering questions you may have about these jurisdictions, especially when it comes to regulating cannabis potency. In the U.S., states have put limits on the THC levels in edibles, but I’m not aware of any states that have put THC caps on flower or concentrates. In contrast, Uruguay does not allow edibles or concentrates to be sold in pharmacies and has limited sales to about four different varieties of flower with a maximum THC level of 9 per cent.
Since I know this is a topic of discussion here in Canada, I would like to offer four observations. First, we knew very little about the health consequences, both the benefits and the risks, of many of the cannabis products now sold in medical and non-medical markets. Most of the health studies that get quoted in legalization debates are based on individuals who were smoking lower-potency cannabis in the 1980s and 1990s. Things have changed. In the work I’ve been doing for Washington State where we’ve been analyzing 10s of millions of transactions, we know that for all the flower sales, the average THC content is now reported to be over 20 per cent.
There is small but growing literature on the health consequences of consuming higher-potency cannabis flower. A review of The Lancet Psychiatry identified a handful of studies that found higher-potency cannabis to be associated with negative mental health outcomes. However, the authors noted that most of these studies did not actually measure THC and CBD directly; instead, they had to use indirect measures that were far from ideal. The authors also found evidence that CBD may attenuate some of the effects of THC but argued that more evidence is needed before we can form strong conclusions about what the appropriate THC-to-CBD ratio would be.
Even less is known about the health consequences of dabbing, which involves flash vaporization of concentrated cannabis that can exceed 75 per cent THC. A scoping review published in February 2018 concluded that there is still a paucity of rigorous and high-quality data on health outcomes from various cannabis routes of administration, but they did note there have been some case studies suggesting that dabbing can lead to acute harm such as psychotic episodes and severe impairment that may increase injury risks.
Vaporizing flower product and cannabis concentrate in e-cigarette-type devices has a distinct advantage over burning flower in that smoke contains higher levels of carbon monoxide and other harmful substances. That does not mean that the act of vaporization is without risks. Much depends upon the chemical used to facilitate the vaporization or to create the concentrate. It will also depend upon the pesticides used to grow the plant.
The second point I’d like to make is that we know very little about the extent to which users are titrating their THC consumption. While potency is increasing, that does not necessarily mean that all users are getting more intoxicated. For example, if a user typically used to smoke a whole joint that was 5 per cent THC, and if the THC content is now 15 per cent, are they only consuming a third of that? In other words, are they titrating their THC consumption? Unfortunately, the scientific literature on THC titration is very small; in fact, I’m not aware of any studies that have looked at this either in Canada or the United States.
The third point I want to make is that one option jurisdictions have, especially for cautious policy-makers, is to temporarily ban certain cannabis products or impose a potency cap on some products until more is known about the health effects. Of course, if certain products are unavailable in the legal market, some users may look for them in the illicit market or try to produce them, while others might not. Much will depend on the size of the illicit market after legalization, which will not only be shaped by competition with the medical and non-medical markets but also by the amount of enforcement pressure applied to those participating in the illicit market. In jurisdictions that are aggressive about minimizing the size of the illicit market, the law enforcement costs associated with cannabis could actually increase in the short run after legalization.
I want to make it clear that with legalization, the illicit market will not disappear overnight. The question confronting policy-makers is how quickly they want to reduce it. If the only goal is to get rid of illicit sales as quickly as possible, then policy-makers would just flood the market with minimally regulated products until it gets to the point where it would no longer make sense to sell them in the illicit market. But those who care more for public health will likely want a well-regulated market that prioritizes accurate testing and labelling, even if this keeps prices higher and slows the decline in the size of the illicit market. Understanding where people fall on the spectrum can make for much more productive conversations about cannabis policy.
My final point is that jurisdictions can nudge users to lower-potency cannabis products by charging more per a unit of THC for the higher-potency products. In jurisdictions where the government controls the wholesale or retail market, regulators can simply set a higher price per unit of THC for certain products. When price-setting is not an option, governments can levy a tax based on THC concentration that increases along with the amount of THC in the product. Remember, the final report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommended that Canada:
Develop strategies to encourage consumption of less potent cannabis, including a price and tax scheme based on potency to discourage purchase of high-potency products
In summary, it is common to warn those who are new to using cannabis edibles to “start low and go slow” to prevent them from over-consuming THC. The question now confronting Canada is whether you should adopt a similar “start low and go slow” approach when it comes to regulating cannabis potency, if Bill C-45 were to pass. Cautious policy-makers focused on public health have many options when it comes to potency, ranging from temporary bans on certain products to potency caps to price-setting to imposing taxes based on THC content. These options all come with advantages and disadvantages that deserve more attention in discussions about cannabis legalization in Canada.
With that, I’ll close. I look forward to your comments and questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Dr. Bertha Madras, Professor of Psychobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, as an individual: Thank you very much for inviting me and providing this opportunity to testify. My testimony is based on six converging roles and responsibilities I have had over the years: a basic scientist, a sole expert witness to the U.S. Department of Justice in descheduling marijuana, government service as a deputy director for demand reduction in the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy and finally as recently serving on the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
Let me state with conviction and knowledge that from my perspective, the legalization of marijuana in Canada is poor public policy, poor public health policy and poor public safety policy. The statistics and data we have heard thus far have alternative ways of looking at the data as well alternative sources of the information.
What are the current goals, and what are the consequences? The commercialization of marijuana in states has led to a number of consequences, of which we are only beginning to develop some very meaningful data because many of them had not accumulated adequate data over the past two to five years.
Past-month marijuana use continues to rise above the national average for youth aged 12 to 17 in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. Alaska youth drug use is up 20 per cent since before legalization, and for Colorado, the most reliable number we have is the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which showed that youth drug use increased between 2006 and 2017. In Oregon, monthly use by youth is up since last year. In Washington, it is up as well.
Some industry backers claim that loosening marijuana laws will decrease alcohol consumption among consumers, but that is not the case.
What is the reality? The reality is that some have claimed that consequences among users will be less. The reality is that consequences are higher than in other states. There is increased toxicology reports from Colorado showing increased adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana. School suspensions in Anchorage, Alaska have increased because of marijuana possession. They’ve increased 141 per cent. In Colorado, about 50 per cent of youth in outpatient substance-use treatment are reportedly using diverted marijuana.
Selling to minors is forbidden. What is the reality? In Washington State, out of 424 violations amongst licensed marijuana businesses, 288 pertained to selling marijuana to minors. In Oregon, a random sampling of 66 licensed marijuana retailers found 16 of these businesses were selling marijuana to minors, and marijuana dispensary density is associated with increased use by minors.
Social justice ills will be served by legalizing marijuana. The reality is the opposite. Minorities are being arrested more frequently because of the unfettered access to marijuana.
Alcohol consumption will decrease. The reality is that, amongst marijuana users, it is increasing.
Hospital and ER visits and Colorado calls to poison control centres have risen 210 per cent between the four-year averages before and after recreational marijuana. Washington State has seen a 70 per cent increase in calls between the three-year averages before and after legalization. Central Oregon hospitals saw a nearly 2,000 per cent increase in emergency room visits.
The black market in Colorado, the confiscation of illegally produced marijuana, is inordinately high. In the U.S., the black market has shown an increase of 844 per cent in marijuana seizures in the U.S. mail system since the legalization movement.
The crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than the rest of the nation since legalization. A study funded by the NIH, the National Institutes of Health, shows that the density of marijuana dispensaries is linked to increased property crimes in the area. I can go on and on.
In the workplace, we’re seeing much higher testing for marijuana among people in the workplace. The insurance claims have become a growing concern among companies. For that reason, the growing demand has made it very difficult to find employees that can pass a pre-employment drug test, and, for jobs with safety issues, such as mining and construction and others, this has become a very significant problem. We can go on and on.
With impaired driving, the number of drivers in Colorado intoxicated and involved in fatal crashes increased 88 per cent between 2013 and 2015. Driving under the influence has also risen. Washington State experienced a doubling in drug-driving fatalities in the years following legalization, and, in Oregon, 50 per cent of all drivers assessed by drug recognition experts tested positive.
I won’t get into any of other details because of shortage of time, but we have to take into account the entire impact. These are only impacts with regard to what has been looked at. There are many other consequences that have been alluded to by the other honourable speakers to the left of me that include long-term psychosis that is dose-dependent to some extent, the psychosis coming after the use of marijuana. There are many other factors that I think have tremendous impact on the future of youth in Canada. I was born in Canada, educated at McGill and currently have a research project on marijuana with a Canadian scientist at the University of Toronto, I have a tremendous concern about my fellow Canadian citizens and my colleagues because Canada still remains very near and dear to me. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
Amy Margolis, Executive Director, Oregon Cannabis Association: Thank you very much for having me here today. My name is Amy Margolis, and I’m the Executive Director of the Oregon Cannabis Association. The Oregon Cannabis Association is Oregon’s largest professional cannabis trade organization, and we represent the cannabis business community at the local, state and federal levels. I am also an attorney and have been helping cannabis clients on criminal, corporate securities and other transactional work, both across the United States and globally, including a number of Canadian businesses, since 2002.
I was asked to come today to speak about what we experienced in Oregon, although I think I was placed at the very end perhaps to provide some sort of data rebuttal. In Oregon, we’ve had a medical program since 1998. In 2005, our medical program was greatly expanded to look very much like it looks today. In 2013, the Oregon legislature passed a bill legalizing medical commercial dispensaries, and, in 2014, Oregonians voted in favour of Ballot Measure 91, legalizing adult-use cannabis in Oregon.
Having participated in nearly every step of legalization, I’ve had a unique opportunity to witness our state’s successes in regulating cannabis, and we have had mostly successes. Legalizing cannabis in Oregon has raised tax revenue, funded schools and mental health services and created thousands of living-wage jobs. In contrast and contrary to the prior testifier, we have not seen an increase in youth consumption, and we anticipate seeing some of the other positive impacts that other states have seen, including reduced crime rates and turning the tide of the opioid epidemic.
Oregon also took the unique step of allowing cannabis crimes to be eligible for expungement, reduced most cannabis crimes to violations and reassessed the criminal sanctions for serious public safety threats surrounding the processing of cannabis. The state of Oregon also allows home cultivation of up to four plants per household and has historically allowed for much larger-scale home cultivation. Oregon has, since 1998, when our program first started, seen no documented impact on public health and safety as a result of home cultivation, including no perceptible increase in calls to poison control for consuming raw plant material.
Bill C-45 focuses predominantly on reducing the risk of youth use in cannabis. We agree with the government’s approach of keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors and are encouraged by these efforts. We have taken similar steps in states where adult-use Canada is permitted. Recently, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that, in Colorado, teen use of cannabis dropped to its lowest rate since 2008 following the legalization of cannabis. We have seen that same data in every state in which we have seen recreational cannabis, and when I present this with a PowerPoint, I have a graph of each and every state, where the states have stayed either stagnant or have seen a reduced amount of consumption on behalf of youth. Colorado has had the most significant drop, but this study showed that, nationally, adolescent use of cannabis dropped and that no states have seen increased use.
With the emphasis on public health in Bill C-45, it’s important to point out that, following cannabis legalization in several U.S. states, alcohol sales in those states dropped by 15 per cent. It’s relevant to point out the stark difference in substance dependence between cannabis and alcohol. More research must be done on this topic, but, of those who consume cannabis, approximately 9 per cent will become dependent, whereas the number for alcohol is approximately 16 per cent.
However, one of the greatest impacts of cannabis legalization is the opioid epidemic. The American Public Health Association conducted a study that was peer reviewed and published in the American Journal of Public Health, entitled “Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Opioid-Related Deaths in Colorado, 2000-2015.” The objective of this non-partisan study was to examine the association between Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis and opioid-related deaths. They used an interrupted time series design method to compare changes in both level and scope of deaths. They found that Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7-deaths-per-month reduction and a 6.5 decrease overall.
In the United States, however, some of the most significant issues facing the legal cannabis industry could be solved by de-scheduling the drug and allowing for interstate commerce and federal trade. Although there have been very strong studies and research done that show the positive effects on public health and protecting youth, until the drug, at least in the United States, is de-scheduled, our industry is faced with many of the issues that Canada can avoid by passing Bill C-45.
As stated in the beginning, cannabis legalization has been mostly a success story for the states that have participated. While our organization recognizes the challenges and continues to work with our public health regulators and researchers to ensure safe consumption, youth use prevention and preventing cannabis abuse, we believe that these concerns can be mitigated through education, packaging and labelling, regulation and enforcement.
Thank you. I look forward to answering your questions.
The Chair: Thank you to all four of you for getting us off to a start as we battle the statistics and the different interpretations of them.
Committee members, we’ll do what we usually do, and that is five minutes each, which covers both questions and answers, so the shorter the preambles, the more questions you can ask. Also, please direct your question to one of the four. If, during the course of the answer, another panellist wants to say something, please put up your hand. We will try to work you into that five-minute frame that each senator has to ask questions. To the panel, some of the questions will likely be in French, so please use your earphones. We will start with the deputy chairs of the committee.
Senator Petitclerc: My question is for Mr. Kilmer. You already touched on this in your presentation. I would like you to expand on your thoughts and experience with different jurisdictions on what a good balance is when it comes to pricing. You mentioned that a low price may be competitive in terms of fighting the illicit market, but at the same time a higher price may help discourage people from using cannabis. Can you expand a bit on that?
Mr. Kilmer: It would be my pleasure. Price is important because if you look at a lot of the different outcomes that get debated when we talk about cannabis legalization, whether it be about the size of the illicit market, what happens to youth consumption or what happened to tax revenues, they are all influenced by the retail price.
Now, there are a number of reasons why we would expect that after legalization, your production and distribution costs are going to go down dramatically. Most important, you’re getting rid of the risks, but also, as Andrew talked about, with economies of scale and changes in technology, we would expect the production and distribution cost to go down.
The question is whether those discounts get passed on to the users. That’s really up to the government, because you have choices. Even if the distribution costs go down, there are a number of options you have for raising the price. For example, you could impose taxes, you could impose more regulations, you could minimize competition and you can even have minimum prices.
Taxation gets a lot of attention. I want to be honest; no one knows the best way to tax cannabis. There are pros and cons with all of the different options. The most popular in the United States is the ad valorem tax as a function of price. For example, in Washington State, it’s 37 per cent at the retail level. The obvious advantage of that is it’s easy to apply it right there at the retail sale. There are a couple of potential drawbacks. One is that since the tax is a function of the price, as those prices decline, so will your tax revenue. With that type of tax, you also have to be smart about bundling, that is, “I’ll sell you this pipe for $50 and give you the cannabis for free.” You have to be smart about that. You can also tax as a function of weight.
Another option is taxing as a function of THC. For those who focus on public health, this is what was recommended in the task force report. It makes sense in terms of intoxication, especially if you are not going to ban products and if you want to push people towards the lower potency products, but the potential drawback is it would take a lot of work in order to set that system up, and no one has done it. If you’re thinking seriously about a THC tax, you have to pay close attention to how rigorous your testing and labelling regime is. If, at the end of the day, you feel good that testing is done correctly, that you’re testing the testers, and what’s on that package, the amount of THC and CBD, if you feel good that that is accurate, then imposing the THC tax is not going to be difficult. But if there are issues surrounding how you’re doing the testing, or if it can be gamed, as has happened in some places in the United States. We do have this federal-state conflict, which means a lot of labs that would do the testing and have DEA certifications don’t want to get involved. As Canada is going down this path, if you feel good about your testing and labelling regime, a THC tax is easy.
As I said, no one knows the best way to do this. I think whatever you do, with respect to either the taxes or if you’re controlling prices, you want to build in flexibility because what might seem optimal now might not be five years in the future. Thank you.
Ms. Margolis: I’ll try and be brief. I would like to briefly address the THC tax. That has been suggested in a number of other jurisdictions and has not been implemented because it’s an oversimplification of the science of cannabis. Most jurisdictions have moved away from that because cannabis is much more complex than just THC and CBD, and the more research and investigation we do, we find that that’s not qualitative. Instead, we look towards things like weight or percentage of sales because we are seeing many changes in the science and in understanding what the value of cannabis is and how it relates to the different cannabinoids.
Senator Seidman: Thank you all very much for your presentations.
I’d like to address my question to Dr. Madras to begin with. Several witnesses who have appeared before this committee told us that there is limited evidence about marijuana because it is illegal and that the only way to increase our knowledge base on cannabis and accelerate research is to legalize it. As a researcher, I’m interested in hearing your perspective on this question. If we legalize cannabis in Canada, can we expect a rush of new clinical trials, for example? What has been the experience in the United States in this regard?
Dr. Madras: Thank you for those questions. I’d like to debunk that instantaneously. Currently, there are 25,000 manuscripts on cannabis in the literature. Anyone can do a PubMed search and find them. There is plenty of research on isolated cannabinoids as well as whole plant cannabis. I have never found the legal status of marijuana to interfere with research.
I have conducted research on primates. I currently have a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health looking at THC and CBD cannabidiol in the ratios in terms of how they change the brain.
I can tell you, just to insert that piece of evidence into the record, what we’re finding in preliminary data that has been presented in abstracts and meetings so far is that cannabidiol does have a profound mitigating effect on the effects of THC. THC is psychotomimetic. It produces psychosis, it can produce anxiety, and it can produce intoxication. Cannabidiol has pretty much the opposite effect. It’s not psychotomimetic, and it is not addictive like THC is. It does not induce psychosis. In fact, there is some evidence that it is antipsychotic. I can go on and on. It has anxiolytic effects as opposed to anxiogenic. It is effective to some extent in damping seizures, especially in subtypes of epilepsy in children, whereas THC can promote or decrease seizures, depending on the individual.
The ratio of THC to CBD has gone up to 90 to 1, as opposed to what it was originally in the wild plant form, which was 10 to 1, never 90 to 1. What we’re seeing in basic science is that that shift in ratio could have very detrimental effects on the developing adolescent brain.
So in terms of getting back to your most important question, we haven’t legalized heroin and yet no one has had any trouble doing research on it. We haven’t legalized marijuana. In fact, it still remains in schedule 1. I had a role to play in that residing in that schedule in a landmark California case.
People continue to do the research, changing THC ratios and what have you. People don’t like the extra paperwork. There is one added step in paperwork compared to all scheduled drugs. There has been a movement to eliminate the paperwork. From my perspective, that is simply a red herring that you have to legalize a potentially harmful drug in order to study it. That just isn’t the case from my perspective and from scientists whom I’m familiar with who have been conducting research on it for decades. Liam Howlett and Steven Childers, Alex Makryannis — I could name many scientists in the field who have not complained to me that this is a problem.
I just want to refute one thing. We talk about the ratio of 9 per cent addiction potential for marijuana versus 16 per cent for alcohol use. That is very old data from 1994, by Jim Anthony. The current data put out by Wilson Compton at the National Institute on Drug Abuse is more than 12 per cent plus, and Deborah Hasin, who is one of the best epidemiologists at Columbia University, has the data that states that approximately 30 per cent of current users have a cannabis use disorder in the United States, based on a large national survey.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Five minutes is up.
Senator Pratte: I have two questions, one for Dr. Madras and the other one for Mr. Kilmer.
My first question is just clarification. I looked at the data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Having looked at the data for 12 to 17-year-olds and the data from 2008 to 2015-16, my impression was that for Colorado, the rate of marijuana use in the past month had been pretty stable. It had gone down a little bit but it was not significant. That was my impression, but maybe I read the data incorrectly. So that would be my clarification.
Mr. Kilmer, I had read an opinion piece or a commentary that you wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle a few years ago, and you seemed to question the validity of self-report surveys. I think that’s very important, because most of the data that we have is from those self-report surveys. You seem to indicate that, for instance, after legalization, people might feel more comfortable in reporting that they have used marijuana, and that may explain some of the increase we have seen in that data. I would like you to comment on this.
Dr. Madras: According to the survey, the average rate of teen marijuana use in the legalized states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington is 30 per cent higher than the U.S. rate as a whole between 2006 and 2017. Now, yearly fluctuations are not as valid as what the trends would be over a decade of time. Past month use continues to rise above the national average among youth. In other words, does it increase in certain states if you have medical marijuana, which has been a very significant source of marijuana for young people before legalization, diversion of medical marijuana from adults? It continues to rise compared to other states that have not legalized on average and have not medicalized on average. So I think we have to take that into account.
The other thing that has happened is that daily use has increased dramatically over the past 10 years, and also perception of harm amongst youth has declined dramatically over the past period of time. I can show you the graphs. I have them in front of me right now.
Mr. Kilmer: Before I say anything about the self-report surveys, you’re hearing different interpretations of the data here. One thing you have to keep in mind is when we’re talking about legalization, even though Colorado and Washington passed the initiative in 2012, the stores didn’t open up until 2014. Some of the most recent data we have on past month use that is specific to Colorado or Washington only covers the 2015-16 period. It is very short. Essentially what you’re hearing a lot of people doing is talking about the trends. Well, before legalization, crime was here, and after legalization crime was here, and people will attribute that increase or decrease all to legalization. That’s not how we do research. It’s important that you ask when people make these claims if there is a counter factual? What is the control group? What are you comparing this to?
Dr. Madras mentioned that at the end of her last response when she said we now have that with respect to some of the changes in medical laws. We have had enough time from the beginning to learn more about the differences in the laws implemented in the states, but with respect to recreational legalization, a lot of what you hear people talking about is just the trends. I urge you, when you hear people make those claims on both sides, ask them, what is your control group? If they don’t have a control group, make sure you take it with several grains of salt.
Now, I appreciate that you read that old piece, but it still applies. In the United States, we probably spend $50 million a year on our national survey on drug use and health, where we ask people did you use all these different substances in the past month or past year. However, the last time we tried to validate that — had people take the survey and had them submit to a drug test so we could see if they were honest — was in 2000-01. This is important because, as you were suggesting, if over time the stigma associated with cannabis use decreases and you see an increase before and after, even after controlling for other explanations, it makes it hard to determine how much of that increase that we detected was actually because consumption increased or was it because people were more honest about their consumption?
I know that in Canada, your household survey isn’t every year. It’s every three years, correct? It might be useful, as soon as possible, the next time you do that, to select out a sample and then actually ask those individuals to submit to a drug test. I mean, there will be no legal implications. There is a body of literature that looks at this because this is going to be quite useful as you go down this path and you’re trying to learn about what’s happening with consumption. Are we seeing different changes in different provinces? You’re going to want to have a good idea about at least what share of people are honest about their consumption right now. This isn’t something you have to do every year, but at least in the context of the United States, if you’re going to spend $50 million a year on a survey, why don’t you spend a couple million dollars every once in a while and try to validate it?
The Chair: Thank you very much. I guess this all goes to prove that with what we hear from the United States, we’ll have to sort out the alternate facts.
Senator Poirier: Thank you all for the presentations. I have two questions. Hopefully time will allow me to put them through. Both are for Mr. Freedman.
In an interview with the Westword in September 2017, you said:
Once an industry gets moving in a certain direction, it’s hard to go back and revisit it because a lot of people have a lot of capital invested in whatever direction it’s going. So there is a momentum on its own. Some of the changes that might have been easy at first become harder to get as you go along.
From your experience in Colorado, which changes would have been easier to do at the beginning, which is where are here in Canada, compared to being harder to do later on?
Mr. Freedman: You guys are by far the hardest people to testify in front of because you actually do your research ahead of time.
The first three that come to mind, and I think the one that I was referring to in that piece, was edibles. That is, putting forward intuitive edible rules so that a naive consumer knows they’re having one dose of marijuana. It’s something I wish we had done at the beginning because people pay for the equipment that they use in order to create those edibles pretty early on, so the sort of thing where you either limit it to 10 milligrams altogether or make sure that they’re easily scored and demarcated and the universal symbol is stamped directly on the product.
Also, starting out on the front end with banning certain shapes. There is just no reason there should be a gummy bear. Not only banning those shapes, but having a direct talk with industry that says please don’t come anywhere near this line or we’ll ban it in the future and you will have paid for equipment you can’t use down the road. I think doing both of those in conjunction allows for some self-regulatory power in the industry.
The second was home grows once there is a right given to citizens. In Colorado, we had people arguing they needed 99 plants growing at home, which is not an argument we hear anywhere else. Make sure you have a clear right that you’re giving that. I do like the part of your law that you don’t allow for co-oping and that it’s per residence or dwelling and that’s clearly defined.
The third thing is advertising. Again, it’s one of those places where some people will spend a lot of money deciding that advertising is their path forward to gaining a lot of market. Setting rules early that set the strictest forms of advertising will help you stop that sort of industry capture.
Senator Poirier: You touched on this a bit in your presentation, Mr. Freedman, but in the same interview, when it came to driving while high, you also mentioned the importance of having cannabis legislation committed a year ahead of time and to use that time to properly train our officers and have a year’s worth of data before we go into legalization. In your opinion, based on your experience again in Colorado, how crucial can that one year be to ensure public safety and public education?
Mr. Freedman: I’m not sure I can quantify how crucial it is. I can tell you that the first two to three years of information that we got — and this is somewhat to Beau’s point — from our Driving While High was right after we changed the driving while high laws and then spent a couple million dollars training people to be drug recognition experts, training police officers. The biases alone in the system rendered any trend absolutely useless.
If you can’t get a year’s worth of training, I would choose a few jurisdictions and get people trained quickly and get some test examples of what you’re seeing on the street now. I think it would help in the future to see if you have a new growing dynamic of the problem or if you simply have the same problem but you’re catching it more.
Dr. Madras: I just saw data from the Massachusetts General Hospital that was generated a few days ago comparing drug recognition expert views of people intoxicated with marijuana compared with their self-reports of being quite high, compared with blood pressure increases and other parameters. Their accuracy rate was among the lowest of all the other parameters that were being tested as a way of understanding who is and who is not impaired with regard to potential for driving.
Ms. Margolis: I have defended dozens of cannabis DUIs in the last 15 years. We came later than Colorado and earlier than you, but I think it’s important to recognize that the skill sets that are being used by officers in evaluating intoxication, both from controlled substances and alcohol and in combination, are not new skill sets at this time. We’re not going to need to see — and we did not need to see it in Oregon — a new training program implemented. In Colorado, we saw a 16 per cent decrease for any type of DUI between 2011 and 2016. Marijuana DUIs went down 33.2 per cent between quarter 1 of 2016 and quarter 1 of 2017. In Washington, we saw a 32.9 per cent decrease for any type of DUI between 2011 and 2016. In Colorado, only 4 per cent of all DUIs involved people testing positive for THC, and 8 per cent in Washington.
Senator Manning: I thank our witnesses for their testimony here.
My question is for Dr. Madras. We have heard so much here over the last several weeks in regard to statistics, research and studies that, to be honest with you, it’s getting a bit mind-boggling to keep track of it. It seems that whatever you want to hear, you will find it if you pay somebody the right money to get it for you. What I’m trying to get at is the fact that we’ve heard mixed commentary again today. I’m trying to ascertain how we get to the bottom of it. Is there a way, or is there just so much information out there, or not enough of it? It’s very confusing at this point for us to know exactly what the research is and exactly what the facts are from the people who have been involved with this for a number of years, as the United States has. I asked Dr. Madras, but anyone else can answer.
Dr. Madras: I hope I don’t overstay my boundaries in terms of time, but I just rotated off the president’s opioid commission. We just filed the report. It was interesting to excavate the causes of the opioid epidemic in the United States. One of the conclusions that is on the final page of the report are the lessons learned for other drugs. A great deal of those lessons learned applies to marijuana in terms of statistics, advocacy and so on.
The first thing I would do with any witness that you have is to find out what their conflicts of interest are. Who are they being paid by? Who are they getting honoraria from in terms of their advocacy one way or another? Full disclosure should be mandatory because that helps in terms of understanding whether or not these are data that are being tortured until they confess to whatever you want them to say.
Here are the lessons learned, and I think it’s instructive for this committee. Vast sums of money were spent to promote the opioids. They were promoted for many medical conditions. They were promoted as safe and nonaddictive. There was no scientific evidence for chronic use. The advocates for the opioids received attention, but not the opponents. Addiction and diversion was not anticipated. Medical education lagged far behind, and government regulations failed to protect the public. Those are the lessons learned from the opioid crisis. I think they are directly applicable to marijuana currently.
The Chair: The senator has invited others to respond. Further response or any declarations, as the professor suggests?
Ms. Margolis: I feel that I need to respond to that, although I feel, again, we are in duelling data points.
I want to point out that, in the United States, we’re looking at a very serious opioid epidemic where people are dying on the streets. They are reduced to homelessness. They’re contributing to an enormous problem, particularly for low-income people. There is absolutely no data to correlate the end result of opioid use and abuse and heroin use and abuse to the way that cannabis is consumed and used.
I just want to add that we could maybe go back and forth with each other as our own sideshow, but we are not seeing those same things correlated with each other. We are seeing increased recognition of efficacy for cannabis in treating chronic pain. We’re seeing that it is an appropriate exit drug. Studies have shown that using medical marijuana resulted in a 64 per cent reduction in prescription opioid use, and another study showed a 44 per cent reduction among sample members. We are seeing in medical marijuana states and marijuana states that overdose mortality rates are 25 per cent lower than states that have no legal access to cannabis. So to conflate the two, I think, is a misstatement —
The Chair: I’m sorry, we’re past the five minutes. By the way, colleagues, I think today we will get into a second round. There is a good chance we’ll get into that today.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much to everyone for being here.
I’d like to ask your experience on who has been investing in the cannabis business in the U.S., and what kind of controls do the governments have to prevent the current illegal supply of marijuana from moving into the legalized supply? Please explain what your experience is. With regard to the increase in the retail sales of cannabis, how have the various jurisdictions gone about preventing the marketing of the products?
The Chair: Who are you directing the question to?
Senator Raine: I will start with Mr. Freedman.
The Chair: And then anybody else?
Senator Raine: Yes, please.
Mr. Freedman: I think those are excellent questions.
On the question of ownership, every state does it differently. The general rules seem to be, at the beginning, that you had to be from within the state and you had to be an actual person. The in state part of that has gone away across the nation, so you can be from anywhere inside the United States and have an ownership piece. Up until now, however, no publicly traded companies have been allowed to invest or be the corporate structure of the corporations. There are movements afoot. California allows for publicly traded companies to be involved in the space, and a lot of that is coming from Canada into the United States. There are whispers all the time.
My short answer is that the opening money here was friends and family money. You couldn’t get a bank loan or access to private equity without paying a lot of money, so a lot of people were putting up their life savings in order to start these companies. That has changed over time. You see different types of capital coming into the game, and there are more complicated financial structures also getting into the game, and you will only see that more over time. I can’t tell you how much of it might come from tobacco or alcohol or might be crossover.
In terms of how to maintain the integrity of our inventory system, in Colorado and in a lot of states, every marijuana plant is tracked from seed to sale with a radio frequency identifier tag from the moment it is more than five inches tall, in Colorado, all the way to the point of sale. That ensures that when a regulator comes in, at any point within that regulatory system and checks how many plants are in there, it lines up with amount of plants they are being told should be within the system. When you say that people are analyzing tens of millions of pieces of information, most of that comes from the seed to sale tracking system that’s involved.
On the third part about preventing advertising, at least in Colorado — we also contracted with California, Florida and Massachusetts — most of the talk is how best to crosswalk previously existing tobacco advertising restrictions over to cannabis, which is a little difficult because a lot of those are agreed to and are not in law. It’s part of the settlement agreement. But to the extent possible, most people are trying to gather the advertising restrictions from there, and I think where they fail to do so, you quickly see advertising enter into that space.
Mr. Kilmer: With respect to ownership and thinking about alcohol and tobacco companies, it raises this larger issue about how we think about the public health consequences of legalization. Yes, we will want to pay close attention to what happens to youth consumption, youth dependency and other problems experienced by adults. But that’s only one part of what we want to look at when we look at the overall public health implications of cannabis legalization.
We also want to look at what happened to the consumption of tobacco, prescription opioids and other opioids, and also the consumption of alcohol. You want to look at how the legal change influences all of those. This is something that, as a public health researcher, I’m paying close attention to. We know that if you look at the literature, especially with respect to tobacco, it is suggested that tobacco and cannabis are economic complements. People are more likely to use them together. However, most of that research was done before we had e-cigarettes and people were vaping hash oil, so I don’t know if they still are economic complements. We will be looking into that.
This is going to be important when we think about ownership. Do you want to allow tobacco companies to get involved? If I was a tobacco company, put yourself in their shoes; you would be trying everything you could to figure out how to get in the business to get more people not only to use cannabis but also back to using tobacco. As this is implemented in the states right now, in most places you can’t sell products that have cannabis and tobacco in them. But that could be subject to legal change, so you want to pay close attention to that when you think about ownership.
In the United States, because of federal prohibition, the tobacco companies aren’t really getting involved, but we have heard stories about U.S. tobacco companies actually investing in cannabis companies here in Canada. I have no idea if that is really happening or if that is legal. But if that is legal, if it would be possible for tobacco companies to invest in those companies that are producing cannabis, I think you might want to take a step back. If you think about this from a public health perspective, I don’t see how that could end up being a good idea.
Senator Omidvar: I have two questions, both for Mr. Freedman. Does the experience of Colorado bear out the fears and concerns of Dr. Madras? I will ask my second question if I have time.
Mr. Freedman: This is an almost impossible thing for me to answer. I think what you’re seeing today is that a lot of people have very emotional responses for what we’re seeing.
I will say, on the top line measures of how Colorado is doing as a state, we are on the same trend lines we have always been on. We have one of the most robust economies in the United States. It’s one of the safest places to live. There are certain statistics that we wish would go up and certain statistics that we wish would go down. A U.S. News & World Report just named Denver the top city to live in in the United States. That is all to say that this is one very small part of a picture of what your economy, public health and public safety look like. While it may or may not be a good idea or a bad idea, it does not play out as much on the national top line trends of the health of your state and economy.
Senator Omidvar: I was asking more specifically around the use of cannabis and the evidence that Dr. Madras presented around its danger, its effect on the brain, its relationship to alcohol and tobacco. You have lived experience in this, as short as it may be, but you can still embroider that out for us as opposed to the top line indicators that you presented.
Mr. Freedman: Senator, this is hard for me to say because I always stay out of this part of the debate, but I would say it has not borne out in Colorado. At this point — and I’m not saying this will continue as there are certainly dynamics I am concerned about — Colorado has not seen negative health consequences.
Senator Omidvar: My second question is again to you, Mr. Freedman. Last week we heard from Dr. Kenneth Finn, who is also from Colorado, associated with an organization called Parents Opposed to Pot. He told us that a majority of municipalities in Colorado had chosen to opt out of legalization. He also told us that drug cartels were in plain sight of the state. Can you help us fill in the blanks there?
Mr. Freedman: First, it’s that a majority of municipalities haven’t opted in to having licensees and being a place where you have a licensed structure, and that’s by geographic size and not by population. You still have the same criminal rights in whatever jurisdiction you’re in in Colorado, but most of what he’s talking about are large, rural counties, and you don’t have to allow for the cultivation nor the sale of marijuana. You have to positively create a licensing structure in order to have that, and that just hasn’t happened. Most of the licensees exist along the highways and in more populous areas.
The second question about cartel action is we had a problem and I think it still exists to some extent, but it’s from our large home grows that I mentioned. Allowing for 99 plants to be grown at home was something cartels looked at and said, “We want in on that game.” We did find multiple examples of cartels coming in and getting six of those medical cards and using that as one program in order to create out-of-state diversion. To this moment, from our regulated side of the sales, we have not found one cartel action. We’ve just found our first, very small-scale scheme to create out-of-state diversion for black market activity.
Ms. Margolis: Oregon has also had regulation and legalization, and we have not seen any of those harms play out. We also have counties and cities that have opted out, although many are opting in due to the great economic benefit that cannabis has brought to cities and counties who are able to tax both at a state and local level.
We had the opportunity to listen to somebody from public health come and present to our United States attorney summit, and they presented data about the public health impacts on our state. Much of the data I have talking about Oregon came from him, and we have really not seen the concerns around overdoses, abuse, youth use, emergency room visits and poison control calls. Those have not played out in the State of Oregon.
The Chair: I am going to ask one little question here based on Mr. Freedman’s last response. One of the things we’ve heard is that Colorado has reduced the illicit market by an estimated 70 per cent since they legalized and regulated cannabis. Is that a true figure?
Mr. Freedman: I believe that figure comes from a state-issued demand report from 2014 that was paid for with state tax revenue. That report took the total estimated demand of marijuana in Colorado and then, from our seed-to-sale tracking data, we could say how much by weight was coming out of our regulated system. Therefore, simple subtraction says that 70 per cent of what is demanded in Colorado is being supplied by the regulated market. I think if you updated that report, you would show greater than 70 per cent at this point.
The Chair: Dr. Kenneth Finn has been noted by Senator Omidvar. He also said before us that the Governor of Colorado reported a $500 million shortfall in the 2018 budget, so significant cuts to roads, schools and hospitals, increasing state tuitions, plus the elimination of taxpayer refunds, were at risk. He linked this with the cost of legalization. I’m not sure whether this is Dr. Finn’s opinion or the governor’s opinion. Can you clarify that?
Mr. Freedman: It is most certainly not the governor’s opinion. As you guys will be most aware, budgeting is a much more complex thing than adding in one source of tax revenue and deciding what that means toward your entire fiscal picture. Our budget shortfall comes mainly from a set of complex rules called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights that has absolutely nothing to do with marijuana tax revenue.
The first thing we put money into from marijuana tax revenue, which was an estimated $250 million last year, is the cost of regulation. Now, that doesn’t mean the big societal cost; I mean the direct costs of regulation, including law enforcement costs, and it comes to about $30 million of that $250 million. Again, the direct costs of marijuana are covered by tax revenue, but the long-term societal cost is a much more in-depth question.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you for your presentations.
We’re dealing with the duelling data, and my questions are around that for Dr. Madras and Mr. Kilmer. Canada is just entering into this field. In your opinion, based on knowledge that you have, what should the Canadian government be tracking statistically to ensure Canadians’ safety? Dr. Madras?
Dr. Madras: That’s an excellent question. I was asked that about a year and a half ago with representatives from the State of Colorado and other states that were troubled with this problem. I ended up with a six-page summary of the types of questions that should be tracked, and those were just bullet points.
I think that the answers include obviously increased episodes of psychosis within hospitals. The drugged driving issue is very critical but the problem is that, at the present time, if a person tests positive for alcohol at .08 or .05 per cent, depending on what the regulations are in Canada, a lot of people stopped testing at that point, and there is very good evidence that the combination of marijuana and alcohol exacerbates impaired driving.
We can literally go on for six pages, and I will try not to. I think the consequences to youth are critical. How many kids are dropping out of school? How many kids are no longer applying for college? And it has to be related to marijuana.
The data we heard about the opioid-marijuana nexus from my erstwhile colleague, Ms. Margolis, is association studies that have been terribly discredited by epidemiologists because they are not uniquely identified for the individual. They are just state-level issues which don’t mean anything. Canada has a very good study showing that people who use marijuana are more likely to drop out of treatment for opioid addiction than people who don’t use marijuana, and people who use marijuana are much more likely to use opioids. What I’m saying is extrapolating back to the marijuana issue.
You have to not look at overall dropout rates but overall dropout rates from youth that are using marijuana, because the amotivation syndrome has been looked at longitudinally. That is a powerful way of studying the epidemiology of consequences, and there are at least three independent studies that show that a person’s use as a function of how much they use over their youth are much more likely to drop out, much less likely to graduate college, much more likely to be on welfare and much more likely to be unemployed.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Is it possible you could forward that summary to our clerk?
Dr. Madras: I would like to put it into the written record because I think it is absolutely critical. What is also critical and why I would hope that Canada delays this rush to judgment and conclusion is to develop pre and post data, because there are some parameters that you don’t have national statistics on that are really robust. It would be really important to have that database so that you can say that, from the inception of marijuana, we had a change in this parameter, but I will put it into the record so that I won’t perseverate.
Mr. Kilmer: I am impressed with how seriously Canada has taken collecting pre data. I consulted with Health Canada in terms of helping them create their cannabis survey, and the results came out a little while ago. This will be useful, especially being able to get the information by province and territory, to begin doing some of these pre and post comparisons, because it looks like there will be variation in terms of how legalization gets implemented in the different provinces if Bill C-45 were to pass.
It’s definitely about paying attention to how much is being consumed and what is being consumed. As Andrew mentioned earlier, so much of the research being cited in the United States now is based on whether someone used in the past month. From a public health perspective, we need more than that. I know there have been efforts within Health Canada to collect more information on consumption.
You want to keep track of what’s happening with price. I also believe Statistics Canada is already beginning to try to crowdsource that information. That’s quite useful.
A final point is with respect to thinking about impaired driving and how cannabis legalization influences traffic safety. You need to pay attention to what happens to overall crashes or fatalities. You don’t want to just pay attention just to the share of deaths where someone tests positive for THC. Yes, in both Colorado and Washington, if you look after legalization, the share of drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for THC doubled. That’s a fact, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that traffic safety got worse. THC stays in the body for quite some time, so you can test positive and it may not impair you at the time when you get into the accident.
There is new research coming out. There was a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2017 that actually tried to use control groups to try to understand what was happening in Colorado and Washington in terms of total crashes and total fatalities. They found no effect. At the same time —
The Chair: I apologize, but we must move on.
Mr. Kilmer: We can discuss it later.
Senator Bernard: I have a number of questions, and I won’t likely be able to ask them all, so I will go on the second round.
Let me start with this: The war on drugs in the U.S. has had a disproportionate impact on racialized people and poor people, and we have seen the same thing in Canada. Can you comment on how legalization might address that issue?
Ms. Margolis: Thank you very much. That’s a fantastic question and is directly tied to at least how we perceive the failed war on drugs overall, particularly on cannabis. We know that people of colour and low-income people have been significantly and disproportionately impacted by arrests, in particular for cannabis.
The states, in varying ways, have sought to address that. I briefly mentioned it in my introductory remarks. In Oregon, we reduced penalties, reduced crimes and offered an expungement opportunity for almost all cannabis crimes except for specific subsections like cannabis crimes involving children or where there were coexisting offences that had to do with person crimes. That is one way the states have addressed it. Washington is just implementing a similar expungement program where they’re able to wipe clean almost all of the cannabis offences that would have been legal.
We’re seeing programs pop up, such as in Oakland. Oakland has regulated their licensing program and have done something interesting. They, in connection with a group of young African American women, created a business incubator to help people learn business skills as well as giving priority to people who have had cannabis convictions, as a way to bring them into the system and repair some of the harm and damage that has been done. We’re seeing that in a variety of places.
By encouraging people of colour to enter into the industry, by working to expunge offences and by lowering the penalties for crimes, some of the states in the United States are working to fix that disproportionate impact and repair the harm.
The Chair: Do you want somebody else to respond, or do you want to put another question?
Senator Bernard: If a witness has something different to contribute —
Mr. Freedman: It’s around the data we see in Colorado. The criminal justice and social equity side of legalization fell short, to be honest. We did see a decrease across the board for marijuana-related arrests. We saw a disproportionately large decrease for Caucasian arrests that we did not see for the African American or Hispanic communities.
Additionally, small amounts of information tell us that the same proportion of rich White men own cannabis dispensaries and cultivation operations, as with any other industry in Colorado. So on the socio-economic development front, I don’t think you saw anything specifically happen toward the war-on-drugs community.
The last, small point is that we didn’t think through a couple of the zoning issues, which caused cultivations inside Denver to be in predominantly Hispanic neighbourhoods. Those are all things I would go back and address differently if I were to go back.
Senator Bernard: Were you trying to respond to that?
Dr. Madras: I was just echoing his data that the disproportionate arrests and school suspensions in Colorado among African Americans and Hispanic youth have remained and persist disproportionate since legalization.
Senator Bernard: Earlier, you said that no new training was required for law enforcement. If these arrests have something to do with racial profiling, might that be a training requirement?
The Chair: Who do you want to answer that?
Senator Bernard: Anyone who can.
The Chair: They only have 10 seconds.
Mr. Freedman: This is a place where we were asked to collect better data than we did, specifically on marijuana-initiated contacts, that in the long run probably would have been helpful toward creating better training programs.
Senator Mégie: As I listened to you, I noticed that the statistics are really contradictory. If I understand correctly, one of the questions addressed the amount consumed by young people in the past 30 days.
To address the other aspects of cannabis use by young people, was there a distinction made between smoking and other forms of use such as cannabis-laced muffins, for example? The question specifies use in the past 30 days, but what about frequency? Were other subquestions like that asked during the surveys?
Mr. Kilmer: It’s an excellent question.
As I said, we have the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is done every year. It is intended to generate nationally representative insights, so I can tell you about what happened about the total past month prevalence for the entire country. They collect information about what state you live in and even what county you live in, but it has been hard for researchers to get access to those data.
Over time, they’ve been able to combine two years’ worth of data, so I can’t tell you what the past month prevalence rate was in Colorado in 2015 with these data, but if I combine the data from 2015 and 2016, I can give you an estimate. The federal government puts those numbers out, and unfortunately, they only include the question about past month prevalence. In that report that comes out, they don’t include information on frequency. I can’t tell you how many people in Colorado in 2015 and 2016 used daily or near daily. That said, things are beginning to change. It’s now going to be possible for researchers to dig into those data and generate the frequency information so we can begin to get a little bit more information beyond just prevalence.
More important, we still are not collecting really good information about total amount consumed and what products. For example, I mentioned that a couple of years ago, I did that work for the State of Washington to help them estimate the size of their market. Yes, I can go to the federal data and get some information about the total number of users. Even back then, total user data was available, but since they didn’t have information about the total amount consumed, I had to administer my own web survey, where we had pictures of unrolled joints and uncrushed buds next to a ruler and a credit card and said, “This is a picture of a gram. On a typical day, do you use about this amount, half this amount, twice this amount?” I randomly assigned what the pictures looked like. That was something we did over a couple of months because we didn’t have any other data. I’m hoping that we can move beyond that and do the surveys that have the proper psychometric testing so we cannot only get beyond prevalence and frequency but get at this question about how much people are consuming and also what products they are consuming. That’s going to be very important for us when we try to assess what the public health impacts of legalization are going to be.
Dr. Madras: There are actually three surveys that are done, and if I include the NESARC data there are four: The Youth Risk Behavior survey, the Monitoring the Future survey and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
We can cast aspersions on self-reporting, as the senator questioned earlier, but when all the surveys agree with each other fairly accurately, there is strengthening of the conclusion. The NSDUH survey monitors about 70,000 people; Monitoring the Future about 40,000 young people, Grades 8, 10 and 12; and the Youth Risk Behavior survey monitors thousands of people as well. All of them confirm the trends in all three areas. I don’t think that with that strength — we’re now up to well over 100,000 people surveyed — that one questions the data. I think there is face validity to it.
Speaking to what Beau spoke to earlier, in one college study a few years ago, they divided students into two groups. They hooked up one set of college students to a machine they called a Verifactor, and the other they hooked up to nothing and said, “We’re not going to confirm your responses based on this instrument.” There was no instrument. In fact, they had fooled the students. They found quite large disparities between how the students responded to the surveys depending on whether or not they felt that if they lied they would be uncovered. The disparities were greater amongst drugs that students feared, such as cocaine and heroin, and far less with marijuana and smoking and alcohol.
The Chair: Before we go to round two, I would like to pose a question to Dr. Madras. We are experiencing in this country a very high usage, one of the highest in the Western world, in terms of cannabis, particularly with young people, teenage up to 25 years. We’ve also experienced substantial arrests for cannabis usage and possession, disproportionately, I might add, for minority communities. All of these feed a $7-billion illicit drug industry in this country. So we’re looking for solutions to better deal with the health issues here. We’re looking to remove that illicit market over time. At the same time, we don’t want to be putting our young people in jail and giving them criminal records.
You’re against legalization. What are you for? What would you suggest is the answer to this? Because the traditional “Just Say No” to drugs or the war on drugs obviously isn’t working in this country.
Dr. Madras: Yes. I think that’s a very valid question. I’d like to respond with a few points that I think have to be made.
Number one is that legalizing a drug can certainly, with regard to tobacco and alcohol, which are legal and widely available, cause a lot of physical, especially with regard to alcohol, brain consequences.
The ratio of costs to our government at the federal, state and local, the health care costs, is approximately ten to one compared to the taxation revenue. For every dollar we collect in taxes, we are spending close to $10. That’s an estimate. It certainly varies. We’re spending $10 in terms of the consequences. So to assume that legalization and taxation is going to cure the problem or alleviate it or mitigate it, I think, is not a narrative that I would subscribe to at this point.
So the question is, what does one do? One de-normalizes chemical coping and chemical reward. We did not have a society for almost a century that leaned on illicit drugs for chemical coping and chemical reward. We did not normalize this. The assumption that we are facing is that it is impossible to go backwards, to reverse the history. Kids are going to use, and that’s the end of it.
I think there is enough public health information and enough information on adverse consequences to begin to develop a very significant campaign. As you can see from this session, and I’m sure some of your previous sessions, this is always going to be disputed because advocates are far more vocal and far more dismissive of the scientific data than are the people on the front lines of the science.
The second issue is we talk about the war on drugs. We recognize, without a shadow of a doubt, the racial disparities that it has its impact on, but I would like to give you one example of why supply reduction does work. In 2006, we had a fentanyl crisis in the United States that no one remembers. I remember it because I was very close to this issue at the time I was serving in government. There were approximately 1,000 deaths due to fentanyl. When one super lab in Mexico was taken out, fentanyl deaths went back to baseline, which was very low.
So the idea that supply reduction, which is a part of the so-called war on drugs, doesn’t work I think is folly. There are many ways in which you reduce supply, and you do reduce consumption.
The Chair: Thank you. I also timed myself, and my time is up.
We now have 22 minutes left in this session, and I believe there are seven names on the list for the second round, so we are at three minutes each, please, including the question and answer.
Senator Seidman: I’d like to address my question to you, Mr. Kilmer. You spoke a lot about THC potency and the fact that most of the evidence we have is around lower potency as far as health effects are concerned and a public health approach to cannabis.
In your presentation to us, as well as the piece that you published in the New England Journal of Medicine, you talked about THC levels. You said that the fastest growing segment of the legal market in Washington State is extracts for inhalation, which you say, by the way, was reported to be more than 65 per cent concentration, which is really rather shocking.
I’d like to go back to this issue about whether we should limit the potency of products, whether we should put some kind of restriction, whether we should tax higher-potency products. If we’re really looking at a public health approach to this, how do we deal with this particular issue?
Mr. Kilmer: I think you have at least four options, and they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive.
One would be to temporarily ban certain products. You could implement some type of sunset clause. “For the first five years, we’re not going to allow concentrates over X per cent THC, and, then, at the end of five years, we’ll decide whether or not we want to continue that or try something else.” Related to that, the second option would be to impose a THC cap. One could be about products. The other could be, “Okay, we’ll allow these waxes, but only under a certain amount.”
The third option, which I think could be implemented here in Canada, would be just to set the prices. So, to the extent that many of the provinces and territories are going to have government wholesalers or even government retailers, it would be very easy. You could set higher prices for products that have a higher amount of THC if you want to nudge some people down.
The other option would be the tax as a function of THC. I said there would be some work in terms of trying to set that up. As Amy mentioned too, right now you could think about taxing as a function of THC, but, maybe five years from now, we may have better information to where, you know what, we really should be taxing as a function of THC to CBD. So you want to kind of build that flexibility in there. It would take some work, but, if you believe you have a really good and reliable testing and labelling system, this should not be difficult.
Senator Petitclerc: My question is for Mr. Freedman. We see this bill as a public health approach. In Canada, as in many places, one of the challenges we have is the very high youth consumption and the consequences. When I hear all of the different data, even if it’s all very different, one of the things that I don’t see, that I would love to see, is a decrease or a very significant decrease in youth consumption or a very significant decrease in the perception of the harm that is possible.
You did touch on awareness and education, but I don’t know if you have data or comments on how big a role education can play. Obviously, legalization itself did not have a huge impact on diminution of consumption in youth, so what could have an impact? What role could advertisement or education play if we want to achieve those goals?
Mr. Freedman: I’m going to be really quick to get this in in three minutes.
First of all, I know that we’ve heard a lot of data. You actually all heard the same data stream today, which is the NSDUH data, and it’s specific to Colorado. Some people take the start point from 2006 to today. Some people have taken the start point from 2008. I said 2014 because that was the beginning of legalization in Colorado. There was only one statistically significant year, which was a decrease this last year, but, again, I agree with Beau. We should be patient with data, and we’re drawing conclusions far too quickly. I would say we know nothing. It’s a hazy outlook on the impact on youth.
Perception of risk has been going down over time, but what’s interesting is that there are other reasons kids don’t use things. I would say our reliance on risk as a government has ruined our credibility. My case study on that would be our first youth prevention campaign, which was called, Don’t Be a Lab Rat. While we didn’t intend it to be, it became a just-say-no-to-drugs, hard-on-drug thing, and our pre and post tests showed that it was completely ineffectual. Our most recent one is called Protect What’s Next, which is a more positive message about kids embracing whatever short-term goals they have in life. Kids do believe that marijuana gets in the way of their short-term goals. I think that we should look at a lot of different ways, and we should be speaking directly to youth about what influences them, rather than relying on the just-say-no-to-drugs parlance we’ve been using forever.
Senator Manning: Just to go back, Mr. Freedman, to your opening remarks, you touched on the fact that, with regard to the discussions on the black market, the sales have moved to the regulated market more. The question then becomes: Have other drugs stepped in to take the place of what the black market was selling before? It’s a concern that we have here.
Mr. Freedman: The answer is I have no idea, and, to be honest, I don’t think anybody actually does. There have been trends over time, but nobody has done a sort of study that shows that there is a causation, either on the supply side or on the demand side, for any other types of drugs over the course of the last four years. I don’t think I can answer that question with any sort of validity.
Senator Manning: Very quickly, on accidental ingestion, are there any statistics on that with regard to hospitals and medical facilities? That seems to be a concern, available products versus the —
Mr. Freedman: Unfortunately, there is no great way to know whether something is an overconsumption problem or an accidental ingestion problem as far as our coding systems work. It is a something that, if it is a concern to you, is a question I would put into the screening during the poison control centre calls, to make sure that there is a code between somebody purposefully over-ingesting versus accidental ingestion. I think that would be very useful data to have.
Senator Raine: I’d like to ask again a little bit more about the financing of the licensed producers in the states that you have knowledge. I’ve seen information that shows a lot of the financing that’s moving into the cannabis production in Canada, and these companies are being publicly traded. Right now, there’s a real kind of gold rush on the stock markets. But some of the financing is coming from offshore, kind of hidden types of investors. I just want to ask, first of all, maybe to Mr. Kilmer or Mr. Freedman, if you have any information on that. Then I would also like to ask Ms. Margolis what has happened in Colorado.
The Chair: She’s Oregon.
Senator Raine: I’m also kind of concerned with California, if you know anything about that.
Mr. Freedman: I would say, in Colorado and in most states, at the beginning, we required an actual person at the end of the day who can be fingerprinted and go through criminal. This is entirely new with publicly traded, and California and Canada will be the first people in on it. That means we know very little about who is investing and how they’re investing in it.
Ms. Margolis: I’ve done thousands of financing deals, and we do a lot of work with Canadian publicly traded companies. We do a lot of work with out-of-country and out-of-state investors in Oregon, and I represent clients all over the United States. Actually, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and Florida are all states that allow publicly traded companies to have some ownership, if not all ownership. I’m actually missing a few in there, but I’m talking quickly. Almost all states have required that you dig down into who the person is. In states that allow publicly traded companies — and almost all of those are Canadian publicly traded companies because you allow cannabis companies to be publicly traded — we do require that at least a 5 per cent ownership threshold and above be disclosed, and, because much of the public financing up here are bought deals and private placements even in publicly traded companies, you have many owners who are over 5 per cent. So almost every state is requiring that you dig past the entity itself into who the owners are, and they’ve set an ownership threshold that you have to go down to. That’s a very low ownership threshold.
Senator Raine: Is that working? Are you getting to know who is investing?
Ms. Margolis: Yes. Everywhere that I’ve seen — and, again, I’ve worked everywhere — we are seeing who is investing, at least who the primary investors are in terms of percentage of capital deployed. That’s really what you want to see. You’re not going to see a cartel come in at a 1 per cent investment in a publicly traded company. That would be very strange. You are seeing where most of the money, to a very small degree, is coming from, and it is working.
Senator Pratte: My question is for Mr. Freedman. I want to go back to the highway crash statistics. This is data that is quite clear. I know we have to be careful on how to interpret it, but, from Colorado and other states, it’s clear that the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes and the number who have tested positive for THC has increased considerably in Colorado and other states. It has increased faster than the percentage of users, which is pretty striking. Is there any interpretation? Have the number of tests increased? Are there obvious reasons where we would see these results?
Mr. Freedman: It’s possible that some of it can be observation bias and we’re looking now more than we looked at it before, but I agree that I think it’s a concerning statistic right now, particularly because it actually shows up not only in THC but also in active THC, which dissipates within three hours. I don’t know what to tell you, and I have the same problem with the fact that it’s much above the pace of what our usage data is showing us. I think there is a problem here. I will say again, just to put the problem in context, that Colorado’s roadways are on par with anyone in the United States. We don’t have less safe roadways per 100,000 miles driven. You’re less safe in Arizona, our neighbouring state, than in Colorado. I think it’s a discrete problem that should be dealt with on its own, but it’s certainly not a wave the red flag public safety issue.
Mr. Kilmer: This is one of those circumstances where you want to make sure you have a control group. Just because we see these increases in different places, you want to be able to understand if it could be happening for other reasons.
I got cut off when I was talking earlier about this. There is an American Journal of Public Health article which used those same data looking at Washington and Colorado, controlling for a number of other factors, trying to figure out if total fatalities actually could be because of legalization, and they said no. That was their conclusion. There’s also another working paper that I just saw, which has not been published in a peer reviewed journal yet, which uses a stronger methodology. This is by Ben Hansen at the University of Oregon, which also doesn’t find an effect. Remember that this is still fairly early. When we think about the health consequences, we need to look at what happens not only in terms of the short run but also in the long-run. It’s still very early.
Senator Poirier: My question is for Dr. Madras. The government’s rationale with the legalization of cannabis has been that it will keep it out of the hands of young people. Actually, we had Bill Blair, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, appear before our committee. He is the point man that was working on the legislation. He appeared before our committee a few weeks ago and he actually said that the goal of legalization is that it would eliminate usage among our youth. Does the experience to date in the United States jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis bear out this theory? Is it a realistic observation?
Dr. Madras: I think it’s totally unrealistic. Here are some of the reasons why. Eliminating marijuana sales to youth does not necessarily eliminate access to marijuana by youth. For example, if parents are using and older siblings are using, what is going to stop them from sharing marijuana with each other? What is going to stop the denormalization of its use in a household? There is nothing to indicate that.
There is nothing to indicate that marijuana use de facto is going down among youth. The trends are in the opposite direction. It’s risen. We had a downturn up until 2007. We actually had a drop of between 18 and 24 per cent of youth marijuana use while it was illegal in all the states between 2002-07, by two different surveys. One was the NTF; other was the NSDA. With a rekindling of normalization and a rekindling of permissiveness within the federal government, youth use soared again. It increased, and we lost all the gains we had made during that period of time.
My feeling is that by legalizing the drug, we are feeding into the youth perception — I have the data right here — that it’s safe, it is not harmful and the perception of harm is going to decrease.
The idea that we don’t make direct sales to youth is the same concept we have with alcohol and tobacco. You have to be over 18 to buy alcohol and over 21 to buy tobacco. That never prevented young people from having access to those substances.
Senator Omidvar: My question is to Dr. Madras and follows on your observations about alcohol and tobacco. Do you believe that alcohol and tobacco are more or less or equally dangerous than cannabis?
Dr. Madras: I’ve been asked this question probably 50 times. My feeling is that you cannot make side-by-side comparisons. If you use death rates overall, in the long-term tobacco kills, in our country, in the United States, about 380,000 people, but it’s very long term. It takes many years for the cardiovascular disease and cancer to exact their toll.
In the short term, tobacco isn’t intoxicating. If you had an airline pilot who smoked a marijuana cigarette an hour before the flight, I would run off the plane and wait until another pilot came on board. If they smoked a nicotine cigarette, I would feel comfortable.
The side-by-side comparisons depend on what parameters you’re looking at. Marijuana per se does not kill. If you look at the psychiatric status of people with marijuana use disorder, you find they have an overabundance of other psychiatric problems. They have marijuana use disorder, nicotine, alcohol, other drugs. They have a much higher frequency of bipolar disorder, of schizophrenia, of depression. You don’t see the same with other drugs.
So if death rate is your outcome, there are clear differences. If there are other parameters of adverse consequences, it’s very difficult to make comparisons. They are different in terms of the consequences.
Senator Omidvar: Would you not agree that alcohol leads directly to expressions of violent behaviour, whereas I have not actually heard that cannabis leads to violent behaviour?
Dr. Madras: There is more and more evidence now that cannabis-induced psychosis leads to violence and cannabis withdrawal state can lead to increased violence. The data is very new. It’s just coming on board, but I would not say that there is no evidence in this case. It’s beginning to grow.
The Chair: We’ve come to the end of this session. I want to thank our four panellists who have given us various perspectives, not to mention various statistics. I thank my colleagues for their questions.
For our second panel, I’m pleased to welcome our colleagues, the chair and deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, Senator Boniface and Senator Dagenais, who are with us to make their presentations. I’d ask that you take up to 10 minutes to make your presentation. If you want to do less, that’s fine too. Then we’ll have questions and answers from our colleagues around the table.
Hon. Gwen Boniface, Chair, Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence: Honourable senators, thank you for the opportunity to present a summary of our report on Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.
As you know, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence was authorized by the Senate to study the subject matter of Bill C-45 insofar as it relates to Canada’s borders. In our remarks this afternoon, we will present a summary of the report that you now have in front of you.
At the committee’s meetings of March 19, March 26 and April 16, 13 witnesses appeared to present their views on the subject matter of Bill C-45. In the report, the committee made the following recommendations to minimize any negative effects of Bill C-45 of the movement of travellers and goods across the border.
In terms of its goals, the committee wishes to prevent, as much as possible, Canadian travellers from being further interrogated or searched by U.S. customs officers as a result of the legalization of cannabis in Canada. The committee also wants to prevent, as much as possible, an increase in the number of Canadian-U.S. travellers being stopped at the border for possession of cannabis.
The committee heard from witnesses who believe that after Bill C-45 comes into force, Canadians could face delays and more Canadian travellers could face legal proceedings. Witnesses also said that Canadians can be banned from entering the United States for life for a cannabis offence or for simply admitting previous cannabis use to U.S. customs and border protection officers.
To prevent these problems, the committee encourages the Canadian government to have formal discussions with the United States government to clarify its position with respect to Canadian travellers who admit to previous cannabis use. Specifically, the committee encourages the government to have formal discussions at the political level in order to clarify whether Canadians who admit to having previously used cannabis will face inadmissibility to the United States if Bill C-45 is passed. If so, the committee encourages the government to make it clear to U.S. authorities that following the coming into force of Bill C-45, Canadian travellers should not be prohibited entry into the United States for activities that are legal in Canada.
The committee encourages the government to continue its dialogue with the U.S. government and to clearly and firmly communicate Canada’s position in order to minimize the impact of Bill C-45 on Canadian travellers. This dialogue could also find solutions to issues and problems that will arise at the border following the entry into force of Bill C-45.
In the context of this dialogue with the United States, the committee encourages the government to negotiate an agreement with the United States on the treatment of travellers at the border on issues related to cannabis. This agreement could clarify the types of questions related to cannabis that border officers of both countries ask travellers. We believe that these questions should reflect the fact that consuming cannabis will be legal in Canada and that it is already legal in several American states. This bilateral agreement could also protect workers of Canadian companies in the cannabis sector in order to ensure that the workers of these companies are not banned from entry into the United States because they are associated with drug trafficking as current U.S. law states.
With regard to the awareness campaign, the committee encourages the government to increase its scope in order to make it clear that Canadians crossing the Canadian-U.S. border while in the possession of cannabis will remain illegal even if Bill C-45 comes into force. This awareness campaign should also make it clear to Canadians that they may be denied entry into the United States if they admit to previous cannabis use.
An awareness campaign will be launched soon. The committee believes that additional efforts should be made in the coming months. For example, the committee believes that additional awareness campaigns — one specifically targeting youth and the other focused on those who hold or apply for trusted traveller programs like Nexus — should be put in place due to the unique vulnerabilities of these groups.
Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais, Deputy Chair, Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence: Honourable senators, with respect to posters at border crossings, the committee encourages the Canadian government to install signs at border crossings clearly explaining to travellers that it is illegal to cross the Canada-U.S. border with cannabis.
Witnesses from Public Safety Canada told the committee that such signs would be installed at the border. The committee encourages the Canadian government to make sure that the posters are installed before Bill C-45 comes into force. Travellers must be aware of the consequences they face if they try to cross the Canada-U.S. border with cannabis.
The committee also considered the effects of Bill C-45 on the preclearance system. In this respect, the committee encourages the government to modernize preclearance measures in light of Bill C-45. In accordance with the Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, travellers are obliged to truthfully answer any question posed to them by a U.S. border officer, which means that Canadians who submit to preclearance must truthfully answer any questions about their cannabis use.
At regular border crossings, travellers who refuse to answer these types of questions can be denied entrance into the U.S., but do not face lifetime bans or prison terms. However, travellers who refuse to answer questions in preclearance areas could face sentences of up to two years in prison for resisting or wilfully obstructing a preclearance officer, police officer or border services officer in the exercise of the officer’s powers. The committee encourages the government to modernize the Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States in light of Bill C-45.
Last, the committee requests that the government table before Parliament a plan to protect Canadian travellers at the border. This plan should outline the measures that the government intends to take to minimize the impact of Bill C-45 on the movement of travellers and goods across the Canada-U.S. border. The committee believes that this plan should also explain the approach that the government intends to take in its negotiations with the United States in order to ensure that Canadian travellers are not denied entry into the United States for previous cannabis use or for engaging in any other type of activity that would become legal following the entry into force of Bill C-45.
Dear colleagues, those are the key points of our report. We believe that, if the government accepts our recommendations, Canadian travellers will be less likely to run into problems at the border because they will have a better understanding of their rights and obligations. The high-level talks between Canada and the United States that the committee recommends would lay the groundwork for the legalization of cannabis in Canada. The talks would also allow the two countries to find solutions to the issues and problems that could come up at the border following the coming into force of Bill C-45. Taken together, these recommendations would reduce delays at the border for travellers and goods.
We would now be happy to answer your questions about our report.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We will now have questions. I think a five-minute period should work for questions and answers, colleagues. We will start with the deputy chairs.
Senator Seidman: Colleagues, thank you so much for being with us today, and thanks to you and your committee members for all of the hard work you did in order that you might report the testimony and recommendations to our committee.
Your committee’s report states that the Canadian government must act quickly to clarify the United States’ government’s position on Canadian travellers and cannabis use. Based on the information provided to your committee by Global Affairs, Public Safety, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, what is the status of discussions with their U.S. counterparts, and have any timelines or deadlines been set out pertaining to discussion on cannabis and the border?
Senator Dagenais: Witnesses from the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and Global Affairs have said that they are currently in discussions with their American counterparts. However, we have not been able to get a clear answer as to the results of these discussions. That is why we indicated in our report that we strongly encourage the government to pursue these discussions. So far, we have not gotten clear answers from the different security agencies.
We must never forget that the United States is a sovereign state and that federal laws concerning the U.S. border will be enforced. We demand, although that is perhaps too strong a word, that the Canadian government intensify its efforts to get Canadians clear answers before they try to cross the border and admit that they have smoked marijuana or that they have marijuana in their possession.
Senator Boniface: I have a quote in front of me. When Minister Goodale appeared, he said, “It comes up in virtually every conversation we have.” To Senator Dagenais’ point, getting a better sense of where that conversation is at was challenging, and it’s not like you would expect it to be too defined anyway.
Senator Seidman: If I understand what you’re saying, it comes up in every conversation they have, but how structured are those discussions and what are the timelines? Are there timelines or deadlines, for example, to have some agreement prior to the legislation coming into force?
Senator Boniface: We didn’t get that type of detail. I think that’s why our report says we would think that a plan being in place would be helpful, and we indicated it should be tabled in Parliament. There are ongoing discussions, but at what point they’re at, we weren’t able to make clear.
Senator Seidman: Item No. 7 in your recommendations says your “committee requests that the government table before Parliament a plan to protect Canadian travellers at the border. The plan should outline the measures the government intends to take to minimize” — and you go on. You read it to us. Do you think that plan should be tabled prior to this legislation coming into effect?
Senator Dagenais: Senator Seidman, it would be best if the plan were submitted before the bill is passed. We mustn’t forget that thousands of Canadians cross the U.S. border. Canadians often wrongly believe that, because marijuana is legal in five states, that they will be able to circulate freely. Mr. Sanders, an attorney specializing in immigration, handles files in the United States and Canada. He explained the situation of British Columbia, which borders Washington State, where marijuana is legal. You must understand that border crossings are under federal jurisdiction. Canadians need to know that, even if cannabis is legalized in Vancouver, they will not be able to freely cross into Washington.
Also, when travellers arrive at a U.S. border crossing, they are often asked where they are going to stay, for how long and how much money they have in their possession. They are also sometimes asked if they smoke cannabis. If they answer yes, border officers could assume that they will try to purchase cannabis in the United States. This puts Canadians in a difficult situation. That is why it is very important that the Government of Canada pursue its discussions with its American counterparts in order to obtain clear and specific answers so that Canadians can exercise caution.
Senator Petitclerc: First, thank you very much for being here and taking the time.
I’m wondering if, during the different testimony you heard from everybody, you got a sense of the scale of the risk or challenges for Canadians who, for example, if they are asked whether they consume cannabis, will say they did. I’m just trying to get a sense of how big a challenge it will be or how big a risk, and what the consequences are they will be facing. Did you hear about that?
Senator Boniface: I’ll let Senator Dagenais join in, but one of the witnesses who actually works as a defence counsel and whose firm had a large business especially on this subject indicated that he’d have it reported to him maybe twice a week. If you look at that in terms of the context of the number of people who would have been crossing the border in a week, then that would give you a little bit of an idea. Many of the witnesses we asked said they’d never been asked the question. It’s more difficult.
The other thing that was an important observation that we couldn’t get any indication on is whether even Washington, where it’s legal, and at the British Columbia border — if there is anything we could learn coming the other way. There was nothing available, and I’m not sure people had turned their minds to it. It was an interesting observation as well.
Senator Dagenais: I would like to add something to Senator Boniface’s answer. Last year, I went to Colorado on a Canada-U.S. Parliamentary Association mission. Marijuana is legal in Colorado. We learned that even if you purchase marijuana in a state where it is legal, you can’t circulate freely in the U.S. in possession of cannabis. You can be arrested in another U.S. state. All of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia are sovereign states, and you can be arrested for bringing marijuana in illegally. That is why it is important to get clear and specific answers.
We urge the Government of Canada and Minister Goodale to make sure that Canadians are well aware of this reality. We have been told that there will be posters at border crossings. You know very well that people may try to bring cannabis across the border. You need to understand that legalizing marijuana places Canadians who regularly cross the border in danger. I say that they are “in danger,” because, for example, NEXUS card holders who admit to having smoked cannabis can have their card revoked. The U.S. government could also refuse to renew the card for a person who, two years earlier, declared that she had smoked cannabis. We must therefore get clear answers in order to ensure the safety of Canadians.
Senator Petitclerc: This being said, in your opinion, Senator Dagenais, are awareness campaigns already under way to make sure that Canadians are well informed and that they can make sound decisions? If not, if what is being done is not enough, would that be one of your recommendations?
Senator Dagenais: Listen, I follow the news closely and, so far, I have not seen any awareness campaigns informing Canadians of the risks associated with trying to cross the U.S. border once the bill has been passed. I hope that we will start seeing some soon, preferably before the bill is passed. This is a very long border, and the situation affects thousands upon thousands of Canadians.
The mayor of Windsor testified before our committee, and he is extremely concerned. There are five border crossings in Windsor, and that is a concern for him. It also affects trade with Detroit. We’re not talking about visitors only, but people who do business between Detroit and Windsor, in particular those who drive delivery trucks. If a truckload of car parts needs to get to Detroit and the driver admits to having smoked pot, he will be subjected to an inspection that will delay him for several hours. I do not want to get ahead of you, but I asked the question. I was told that a one-hour delay for a truck costs about $100. If the truck is detained for five hours, that is $500 that will be passed on to consumers.
Do you understand the importance of raising awareness and informing people what can happen once Bill C-45 is passed?
Senator Boniface: There are plans under way — I’m just looking again at the minister’s evidence — to install signage at ports of entry as well as some awareness campaigning. CBSA indicated they would get funding of about $40 million over five years to help them upgrade their systems.
The Chair: Let me clarify something here. Are we aware that this kind of a question, however they pose it — “Do you smoke pot? Have you ever smoked it?” — is being asked now by U.S. border officers? Is there any evidence that that’s being asked?
Senator Boniface: I wasn’t there the day the evidence was given, but the example given was that about twice a week was what this lawyer indicated was the experience with clients.
The Chair: That somebody would ask that not of somebody with a criminal record based on possession or whatever or someone who has any on them, but simply, “Do you now or have you ever consumed cannabis or smoked pot?” However the question is put, do we know that that question is asked?
Senator Boniface: I think you would have to be in the mind of the U.S. border officer and what information he or she had when they asked the question. But it is a question they can ask.
The Chair: Yes, I suppose they can. But do we have any evidence that they are doing it, or is it all speculation that they might?
Senator Boniface: No. The evidence that we received from counsel who represents people who are crossing the border dealing with it indicated that at least twice a week he would deal with clients who said they were asked the question.
The Chair: Okay.
Senator Pratte: It seems it’s very difficult to know what the U.S.’s policies or intentions are at the border. I wonder, from the evidence that you received, what is the problem here? Is it that the United States government has no policy regarding the border and cannabis legalization in Canada? Or do they have a policy but they haven’t told the Canadian government? Or do they have a policy and they’ve told the Canadian government, and the Canadian government doesn’t want to tell Canadians? What is your impression? It’s quite extraordinary that, after many months, we as parliamentarians have tried to understand what the U.S. policy is and we still haven’t managed to get a clear answer on this.
Senator Boniface: My sense of it is that the Americans haven’t taken a position on it. I would expect, from everything I have heard, that they see themselves as a sovereign country and they will proceed in the way that they do or choose to do with it. I don’t think it’s a matter of whether they see it as an issue. I don’t think we know whether they see it as an issue. I suspect other priorities are weighed in. They have as much interest, I would think, of Canadians travelling to the U.S. and goods coming into the U.S. from a trade perspective as anyone else. The dialogue is taking place, but I don’t know that they are prepared to take a position.
Senator Pratte: You would expect that they would, at some point, I suppose, issue a directive telling their border officers that cannabis will be legalized in Canada by October 1, and you should, from now on, deal with Canadian citizens in a given way. I don’t know.
Senator Boniface: I think I had a similar exchange with one of the witnesses on exactly that. What would you do if you were the head of the agency? I would expect that they would give some information in terms of it being legal in Canada and it is a change of policy in Canada. But realistically, from a large agency perspective, officers will work with whatever information they have to deal with it in whatever way they deem appropriate. It’s still exporting and importing if bring it in with you, and that will be an important thing for them to still keep their eye on.
Senator Pratte: Your committee recommends that Canada negotiate an agreement with the U.S. and that we also look at the act we just passed a few months ago on pre-clearance, which would also necessitate negotiations with the U.S. Have you any signs from your witnesses that there would be any appetite from the U.S. to negotiate such agreements?
Senator Boniface: No. Typically, our understanding is that U.S. witnesses don’t appear before a committee. It’s really a recommendation in terms of how to nail down the dialogue so you can advise Canadians appropriately. But we were very respectful, I think, in the committee to understand it’s a sovereign country and they can choose to do what they like. The best you can do as a Canadian government is to keep the dialogue open and going so you can ensure that, as you change the cannabis legislation here in Canada, they’re well aware of it and hopefully have the same interest in treating people fairly that you do.
As you will see in one of the recommendations, in some of our discussions we were also able to talk about monitoring where situations arise so you’re able to identify. This is why I raised the question from a number of witnesses on Washington and British Columbia. Did we see this the other way? Is there anything we could have learned? Are there any processes that we could adapt? There was no information that people were aware of.
Senator Pratte: Thank you very much.
Senator Raine: Thank you for the report, which we have studied. In your report, you didn’t make any specific recommendations. Do you have some to forward to us for our report, or shall we just take a synopsis from what you’ve said here?
Senator Boniface: I think you can rely on the report. I think our biggest issue was the dialogue and the second was awareness campaigns for Canadians.
Senator Dagenais picked a good example in terms of currency. People have been educated in Canada to know you can only take so much currency over the border to most countries. How were we successful in doing that? Let’s take a similar process, directed particularly at youth and NEXUS holders as an example.
Senator Dagenais: When you cross the border, and we have all crossed the border at one time or another, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the U.S. border officer. He can ask you any questions he deems important. Minister Goodale was very clear. He said that, for now, it is illegal to bring marijuana across the U.S. border. If, for some reason, you are asked if you smoke or have ever smoked marijuana — We are privileged to have two former police officers here today. I don’t know if you have ever smelled marijuana. When I was a police officer, and my boss asked me to seize a cannabis plantation, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic. My clothes smelled of marijuana for two, three and even four days. Sometimes I had to bring them to the cleaners or simply throw them away. Imagine a Canadian who smokes marijuana legally and who, the next morning, tries to cross the U.S. border. It is certain that the border officer will ask him if he smokes marijuana, because he will smell it on his clothes. That is the U.S. border officer’s prerogative.
That is why, in our report, we strongly encourage the government to adopt a clear policy: if there is no agreement with the U.S., Canadians must be very careful. We also need to think about those who do not use marijuana. Imagine that you are stopped at the U.S. border for a second inspection. It may cause serious delays at the border. Each delay costs money. That is why it is important to pursue discussions with the government. Right now, the U.S. administration does not allow anyone in possession of marijuana to cross the border.
I had the privilege of meeting a representative of the U.S. embassy. He told me that there is as yet no agreement, so no one in possession of marijuana can cross the border. That shows us that the government needs to seriously pursue discussions with the U.S. authorities.
Senator Raine: Thank you. I appreciate that. What we come down to is for anyone who has ever smoked marijuana or consumed cannabis products, if that border security officer asks you and you tell the truth, you will face consequences on the spot. You could face consequences.
Senator Dagenais: The witnesses who appeared before the committee were very clear. It is not in your best interest to lie at the border. Border officers will find the truth out one way or another. If you are asked if you ever smoked marijuana, you had better tell the truth. Then you will suffer the consequences.
Senator Raine: In the experience of the Security and Defence Committee, do you have any idea how long it would take to get an agreement on this issue passed through the U.S. government?
Senator Boniface: No.
Senator Raine: Suffice to say, it’s not going to happen before this summer.
Senator Boniface: We have no information that they would be interested. You need to have two parties to agree.
Senator Raine: Yes. Thank you very much.
Senator Manning: Thank you to our witnesses and for your work on your committee. Reading through quickly, you’re not making any specific amendments to the bill, just recommendations.
On No. 2 of your recommendations, halfway down through the paragraph, it says Canadian travellers shouldn’t be prohibited entry into the United States for activities that are legal in Canada, such as using cannabis or working for a company that legally produces cannabis. Did you guys hear any testimony in relation to that? Most of the discussion in the public eye has been about those that have smoked cannabis or whatever the case may be, but this is the first time I’ve seen something in regard to working for a company legally. That person could be working for the company and never touched marijuana or cannabis themselves. Is that part of your discussions? I wonder where that came from. That’s another concern I have that I wasn’t aware of before your testimony today.
Senator Boniface: There’s a provision in the legislation on the American side, and I think I referred to it in my comments related to trafficking, if you’re trafficking in drugs. But if you’re legally involved in the cannabis sector here in Canada, how they would interpret that south of the border is what we were referring to. If south of the border it’s illegal and you’re participating in illegal activity, you’d be trafficking. That’s the distinction. It is legal on one side and illegal on the other.
Senator Manning: Did you have witnesses before your committee who raised that issue? Where did that come from?
Senator Boniface: Witnesses merely referred to it as one of the things government needs to turn their mind to. Realistically, we’ve had medical cannabis on this side of the border and people going back and forth who have been involved in the medical cannabis business. They indicated in the United States, if I’m correct, that 30 or 31 states have legalized or medicinal marijuana. So I think there is a shift in understanding on this issue from an endorsement perspective.
Senator Manning: On the awareness campaign, did you get any indication that our government is working on that now and is preparing documentation? They’re talking about posting signs, and it will take so much time to develop and get someone to agree on what needs to be done. Did you hear witnesses come before you that gave the indication that is being worked on now and will be ready to go, maybe not exactly when the bill would come into law but very shortly after?
Senator Boniface: The minister gave evidence in that regard, and he indicated that CBS plans were already under way to install signage at ports of entry indicating what the restrictions would be, particularly to help Canadians understand that once you cross the border, you’re actually in the position of exporting if you have it with you. So it’s making it clear. He indicated that the signage is part of the strategy that they’re undergoing and that it would be posted at the border.
Senator Manning: You need two parties to sit down and come up with a plan; you need both parties talking. I guess the message that you’re bringing us to today is that the two parties are not discussing this at the present time.
Senator Boniface: On the contrary, the minister said he engaged in almost every discussion, but what we were unable to get more definitively, and perhaps rightly so, is what point the discussions were at and whether those would end up in some sort of formal agreement.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you both of you for being here and for the hard work.
I was reading some interesting witness testimony at your committee from Lorne Waldman. I’m paraphrasing, but I think the essence of his testimony is that it would be easier for Canada to tackle border issues once cannabis was legal because we would be on a stronger moral and legal ground and therefore could argue against a ban for entry or a lifelong ban for entry into the United States. What was the committee’s response to that position? Perhaps both of you could answer?
Senator Dagenais: I’ll say it again: the United States is a sovereign country. I don’t think it will be easier to apply the law once cannabis has been legalized. My concern is that the only clear answer we got from the minister is that posters will be installed at border crossings to inform Canadians that they are not allowed to bring marijuana across the border. Even if marijuana becomes legal in Canada, I don’t think that will change.
Moreover, the U.S. federal administration that governs border crossings has been very clear: it will not allow Canadians in possession of marijuana to cross the border. We need to be careful, because Canadians don’t always differentiate between the sovereignty of a U.S. state and the borders, which are under federal jurisdiction. Despite the fact that discussions are ongoing between Public Safety Canada and the Canada Border Service Agency, we have not gotten an unequivocal answer to what will happen once the bill is passed. The only clear answer is that there will be posters at the border crossings to inform Canadians that they cannot bring marijuana across the border. Will that be enough? We shall see. Right now, nothing is clear about the other side of the border.
Senator Boniface: Mr. Waldman was a good witness, as could be expected, and I think he was saying that when it’s legal, you can take the position when you’re engaged with your American counterparts and ask the question, “Why are you penalizing Canadians for doing something that’s legal in Canada?” It’s not exporting or carrying it in your pocket — that’s a clear no — but he was saying that if you have to answer the question, what you’re answering to is something you’re legally allowed to do in Canada. That’s why your discussion puts you in a firmer position.
Senator Omidvar: I travel to the United States a great deal, and I now know after living many years in Canada that I do not take any food with me, because it is not allowed. Other countries do allow that. I imagine over time, with these signs — and we’re not talking about taking a huge amount, an apple or two or whatever it is.
I’m wondering if you’ve thought about it the other way. Currently, cannabis is legal in nine states in the U.S. and is decriminalized in a whole lot more. Currently, cannabis is not legal in Canada. What do we ask the Americans when they come visit their cottages in Nova Scotia or cross the border to go to British Columbia? Do we have any sense of what we do?
Senator Dagenais: If I may, Senator Omidvar, you said it well. You travel to the U.S. on a regular basis, as do I, and you cannot bring food across the border. Tomatoes are legal in both Canada and the United States, but don’t try to cross the border with a tomato. I have tried, and I will not do it again. We’re talking about a tomato, so imagine what it will be like with marijuana. Your humble servant was able to renew his NEXUS card but, in my case, I was warned never to try to bring tomatoes across the border. I hope that, even if marijuana is legalized in Canada — Our American colleagues can be rather severe. I hope that no one tries to bring marijuana across the border for now.
Senator Boniface: Particularly regarding coming on this side of the border, one of the examples the minister gave, if I’m correct in my recollection of this, is that we can deny people coming into Canada if they’ve been convicted of impaired driving. This is part of the discussion we would have to have. I’m sure if I was sitting on the American side, I’d be wanting to have some other discussions, so it’s much bigger, I think, than this.
To the point that Mr. Waldman made, he said it’s a stronger argument, in his view, when you’re having that discussion to be able to open a discussion around penalizing somebody for something that we consider to be legal within our country. Each country is sovereign, and that’s where you have to be respectful of the rules, no matter where you travel.
Senator Bernard: Thank you both for being here.
In my team’s research on this bill, we met with a lawyer who told us that racialized women are particularly impacted at the border. They said these women typically experience racial profiling and unconscious bias that lead to assumptions that they are traffickers. Some people use the term “drug mules,” depending on where you’re travelling from. Their experience is that they’re more likely to be stopped, searched and so on. Did any of that information come up from any of the witnesses you met with?
Senator Boniface: No.
Senator Bernard: Were there any questions asked about that this?
Senator Dagenais: I don’t think so. We didn’t ask.
Senator Boniface: Not that I recall.
Senator Bernard: Thank you.
Senator Boyer: Thank you very much for the report. I’m looking forward to reading it.
My question goes along with Senator Bernard’s. If you’ve heard from 13 witnesses, and we know there are First Nations communities on the border, has their perspective has been brought into this report at all? We’re talking about Canadians being vulnerable, and we know that First Nations are vulnerable, so I just am wondering if that has been mentioned in the report as well.
Senator Boniface: No, you won’t find that contained in the report. We were really focused more on the awareness issues at the border in terms of the general population. We didn’t get into specifics like the Jay Treaty or anything like that.
Senator Boyer: Okay, thank you.
The Chair: Earlier, I asked a question about whether anybody was being asked the question, not whether they had cannabis in their possession or a criminal record based on it, but simply if they have ever smoked or consumed it. You said there was a witness who indicated that they had a client to whom this happened a couple of times a week. Regarding the people to whom this question was put — “Have you ever smoked pot?” — were they denied entry? What was the result?
Senator Dagenais: We asked, but we didn’t get an answer as to whether they were denied entry to the United States. Mr. Sanders told us that some of his clients, for whatever reason, admitted to having smoked marijuana and were denied entry into the United States. Mr. Sanders works in both Washington State and British Columbia. He related cases where some of his clients were refused entry to the United States because they had been accused of trafficking marijuana or because they had a criminal record for possession. Some of his clients were even banned from the U.S. for life. They may have had a criminal record for trafficking or possession of marijuana.
The Chair: You’re saying the minister you had before you, Mr. Goodale, I take it, hadn’t indicated where they were in the process. I think Senator Seidman asked you originally what the status was, and there was no indication what the status was. But we’ve had a form of legalization already for a number of years in terms of medical cannabis. What’s the understanding of people who consume cannabis for medical reasons and do so quite properly? Are they asked the question when they go across the border? Are any of them being refused? Are there protocols between the American government and the Canadian government on people who have consumed for medical reasons?
Senator Boniface: There is no indication of any protocol in place. There are 30 states in the U.S. that are either medicinal, legalized or in the same position. We had no indication. Certainly with medicinal, you can’t take it across the border because you’d be in the same position of exporting.
Getting a sense of how it’s actually working seemed to be one of the most challenging issues. I thought about the experience between B.C. and Washington, a legalized state, but we still have that oddity that it’s a federal border and not a state border. There was no experience from that that anyone was able to relate to help us.
The Chair: There are other jurisdictions that have not necessarily legalized but have decriminalized the use of marijuana or cannabis. A couple of countries that come to mind are the Netherlands and Portugal in Europe, and a lot of their citizens would travel to and from the United States from time to time. Was your committee able to get any data on any problems they might have? They would have a high usage of it and it’s not criminalized in their country. Do you know if they have had difficulty getting across the United States border on trips?
Senator Dagenais: We haven’t followed cases in other countries, because we are focusing on the legalization of marijuana in Canada and its impact on the Canada-U.S. border. We did not ask questions concerning the legalization of marijuana in other countries that share a border. We have been focusing exclusively on the Canada-U.S. border.
The Chair: I understand. It could be instructive as to how other people are being treated by border officers as well as how it might happen for Canadians.
Senator Raine: This is really a point of clarification. I understand that if you travel out of Canada and you are in possession of cannabis, you are breaking the law of Canada because you are in the process of exporting cannabis.
Senator Boniface: It would be both ways. You would be exporting from Canada and importing into the U.S.
Senator Raine: I’m thinking in terms of other countries. When you go to any other country, there are many other countries where possession of cannabis is a very serious offence. You could travel across the world and find out that they might have stiffer laws and you can’t get in, but also now that you have left and been charged over there and not been allowed in, you might have trouble getting back into Canada because you have broken the law. You didn’t look into that?
Senator Boniface: No.
The Chair: It’s close to 6 o’clock. The bells are ringing and the Senate awaits us upstairs. Thank you to both Senator Dagenais and Senator Boniface for being with us and answering our questions.
I would remind you that our next meeting is Wednesday at 3:15 in the usual place over in the Victoria Building.
(The committee adjourned.)