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May 22nd 2018 - Social Affairs Committee with Various Witnesses

Senator Poirier: Thank you all for being here.

My question is for Ms. Forrest. In the article that you co-authored in Maclean’s, you say:

But our approach to alcohol regulation, which is the model that Canada’s legal-marijuana plan is copying, is similarly failing to prevent use in underage users, the exact population we are most concerned that marijuana will harm.

Can you expand on your thoughts? In your opinion, are we exposing ourselves to underaged use of cannabis to increase as well as it has with the alcohol?

Ms. Forrest: Sure. Since the time that we wrote our article, there has been some additional details released by Health Canada about how they plan to regulate cannabis. I’m not sure I will still say the approach we are going with is most closely aligned with alcohol. I would say it’s moving perhaps a little closer to tobacco. But as I mentioned in my statement before, I think there are still some loopholes that are created by the current regulations and by the act as it currently stands.

Senator Poirier: You also mentioned in that same article the marketing done online and the lack of regulations of alcohol marketing on the Internet and where the research suggests that this marketing is normalizing binge drinking and underage drinking. With Bill C-45 the way it is right now, are we at risk of repeating the mistakes of alcohol promotion and marketing but for cannabis instead?

Ms. Forrest: I have some concerns, I guess, the way that the act is written, about the ability of industry to circumvent what is in the regulations and in the act. Personally I have some concerns. I think that we risk kind of creating a lot of cannabis marketing that youth could see and that could incentivize increased consumption.

Senator Poirier: Also, from my understanding, it will be developed through closed door regulatory processing. In your opinion, should these regulations be in the law?

Ms. Forrest: I’m not too sure how to answer that last point. I would like honestly to see more details. I thought that the regulatory note that came from Health Canada was a little bit light on detail about how exactly promotion and marketing was going to be regulated, and I think that there are a lot of loopholes that could be created. There are some things you could do in the act to tighten those restrictions. I think I talked about calling for a ban on advertising on TV, on the Internet, in newspapers, on the radio, but allowing for informational point of sale marketing so adult consumers can have access to the information they need to make an informed choice about their cannabis consumption.

Senator Poirier: Thank you.

My next question is for Mr. Hammond or actually even Dr. Wang if he wants to jump in on this. I know we’ve already touched it. I think it was Senator Petitclerc who maybe brought up the second-hand smoke and the effect of the second-hand smoke from cannabis and youth brain development. In your professional opinion, will the second-hand smoke affect the children in the brain development? I know in New Brunswick, for example, we have a law already in place that we should not be smoking tobacco cigarettes in close proximity to a child. Should we be looking at this also with cannabis, for example, inside a home, inside a vehicle, a closed-in area like that? I would like you to expand on that a little bit, please.

Mr. Hammond: Let me start by saying there is a persistent myth that somehow cannabis smoke is less harmful because it is from natural herb. The fact is that most of the toxicants come from lighting anything on fire. It’s combustion. If I lit my tie on fire, you would see some of the same carcinogens. Pound for pound or litre for litre, cannabis smoke is just as toxic as tobacco smoke. That is the message that people should get. You don’t see the same level of lung disease because cannabis smokers just don’t inhale as much smoke as your average fifteen-cigarettes-a-day smoker, but in terms of its potential threats to children, you can think of it as being the same. Consumers and municipal bylaws should not discriminate between tobacco and cannabis smoke. If we're protecting kids from smoke, that’s the bottom line, and that should include tobacco and cannabis.

Dr. Wang: I totally agree and mirror those sentiments. Going forward, old marijuana compared to new marijuana and how frequently people will be smoking going forward, there needs to be a lot more research done on how it’s going to impact youth, passive smoke exposure. In Colorado, we have a paradigm. No one is allowed to use marijuana in public places. So where do they use it? They use it in their home. But if they use it in their home and they have children or families, they are exposing their families and children to potentially second-hand smoke. It’s a not as straightforward as just saying you can’t do it because if you can’t do it private or in public, where do you do it? I agree those are some of the concerns with passive smoke exposures.

Back to: Bill C-45 The Cannabis Act in Committee