Local MP Scott Reid votes in favour of Bill C-45 (The Cannabis Act)June 8, 2017
For immediate release
Today I will be voting in favour of Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act, at Second Reading.
When a bill is approved at Second Reading, it is normally sent to a House of Commons committee for further discussion and potential amendment. Committee meetings are used to gather expert testimony that can result in substantial improvements to legislation, and bills are frequently reported back to the House of Commons after several months of committee hearings with considerable changes.
It is my hope that several months from now, Bill C-45 will, at the end of the committee process, be reported back to the Commons with a number of improvements, as the Bill is, in my view, currently a far-from-perfect piece of legislation. A few years ago, I laid out the outlines of a legalization program of my own, which I think is superior to the one contemplated in Bill C-45. Therefore, it is my hope that some of these recommendations will be incorporated into the final version of the Bill, when it is presented back to the House.
In particular, I recommend the following amendments:
- Bill C-45 proposes that the age of majority, for the purposes of cannabis consumption, be set at eighteen. In my view, this is too low. Canada should conform with the practice in states like Washington, California, and Colorado, and set the age for legal consumption at 21. Under no circumstances should the age be set lower, for cannabis consumption, than it is for alcohol or tobacco.
- When alcohol prohibition ended in Ontario the province established the practice of allowing individual counties to determine whether or not alcohol sales would be permitted within their boundaries. This was known as “local option;” it did not allow counties to prohibit the actual consumption of alcohol, merely its sale. This practice of respecting local community standards should be emulated in the marijuana legalization legislation (although local units other than counties would have to be used in some jurisdictions).
- The combined consumption of alcohol and cannabis is unsafe, and should not be encouraged. Therefore, it should be unlawful for cannabis to be sold at provincially-owned alcohol outlets such as Ontario’s LCBO outlets.
I have advocated the legalization of marijuana since I was first elected in 2000, publishing my views on the subject as far back as 2001 in Policy Options. Indeed, I have been a far more consistent advocate of legalization than the current prime minister, who, for several years after he became an MP, simultaneously advocated criminal sanctions against Canadians who consume cannabis, while quietly enjoying cannabis himself. It goes without saying that I welcome the improved consistency that has been brought about by his change of policy position.
Projecting forward, I propose to deal with Bill C-45 in the following manner at Third Reading (ie. after it has been reported back to the Commons, and is being voted on a final time). I will conduct a Constituency Referendum on the the question; “SHOULD SCOTT REID, MP VOTE FOR THE CANNABIS ACT (BILL C-45?” ) YES / NO”. I will then vote as instructed by my constituents.
This is the same manner in which I have dealt with statutes of a profoundly moral nature in the past. For example:
- 2001: Bill C-36, The Anti-Terrorism Act,
- 2005: Bill C-38, The Civil Marriage Act (ie. same-sex marriage);
- 2016: Bill C-14, The Medical Assistance in Dying Act.
The people that I represent in the House of Commons have consciences of their own, which are just as good as those of the politicians; and they face none of the incentives to vote against their judgment or conscience that can face a politician. For this reason, it has always been my practice to defer to the judgment of the people who elected me, when voting on such crucial matters.
This practice is not possible, however, at earlier stages in the legislative process, due to constant changes in the legislative schedule that would make it logistically impossible to hold a constituency referendum. As well, at the earlier stages of the process, the decision to go forward on a piece of legislation is provisional; only the Third Reading vote will determine whether or not it becomes the law of the land. For this reason, I am comfortable exercising my independent judgment at this stage in the process, confident that the people will have the final say, at the end of the legislative process.
For more information, contact:
Office of Scott Reid, M.P.