Amendments to Bill C-45 good, but more needed

  • April 25, 2018

Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, set to become law this summer, is making its slow way through the approvals process, arriving in mid-April at the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

The CBA made a submission on the bill earlier in the process. For this Senate committee hearing the Criminal Justice Section sent a letter acknowledging that we generally support amendments made to the bill in the House, but emphasizing that the CBA still has serious concerns.

Amendments to the bill since our submission last fall include removing the height-restriction for home-grown plants, setting $200 as the maximum fine and specifying that probation is not to be imposed for ticketing offences, and adding certain immunities from prosecution for possession offences in the context of medical emergencies.

The House also added a mandatory review of the law after three years, and the CBA suggests that this review be coordinated with a review of the Criminal Code amendments for drug-impaired driving under Bill C-46. “The science in the area of drug detection and understanding of the impact of THC levels on impairment is continually developing,” the letter says.

The CBA continues to have serious concerns about other parts of the bill, including the number of offences that carry a maximum sentence of 14 years, for which conditional sentences and discharges would be unavailable.

“If reducing court delay is a government priority, we suggest those sentences be set at a level consistent with sentences for tobacco and alcohol,” the letter says. “We also suggest encouraging use of judicial discretion which leads to earlier resolution of cases, removing them from the justice system before trial dates are even set.”

As well, the lack of a legal market for youth to obtain marijuana, and the continued stiff penalties for offences involving youth, mean illicit production and distribution is likely to continue.

Paul Calarco represented the Criminal Justice Section at the Senate Committee hearing on April 18, 2018.

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