[ SkipToMainMenu ]

Legalization of Marijuana (Minister of Health)

Hon. Linda Frum: Minister, today in response to Senator Carignan, you reaffirmed your government's promise to introduce legislation that will legalize marijuana this spring. Did I hear that correctly? We are 21 days from spring, and the question that comes to mind is that we know that marijuana legalization will directly violate international treaties that Canada is party to, which include the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. These treaties have 185 and 189 members, respectively.

Presumably, you intend to withdraw Canada from these treaties. With the prospect of retaliation from member nations, including our neighbour to the south, what conversations have you had with your international counterparts to address the possibility of lengthier wait times at the border and invasive searches at points of entry once marijuana is legalized in Canada?

Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: You're absolutely right: We're committed to introducing legislation in the spring, 21 days away. The good news is that spring goes until June 1, so that gives us a little bit of a window there. We are committed to introducing that legislation in the spring.

You've raised an important point, which is the matter of the fact that the legalization of cannabis will put us in the scenario where we will be in contravention of three international treaties. This is something I have discussed with my colleagues. I discussed it with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and it has recently come up in discussions with the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is very much aware of this. We have discussed a range of options as to how Canada could respond to that reality.

The fact is that the world is looking at us very closely on this. I've had numerous international delegations that have wanted to speak to me specifically about this, because it's something that many countries around the world are very interested in. They are watching Canada closely, which speaks to the fact that we have to get this legislation right.

In terms of negative impacts, obviously those things need to be taken into consideration — what that could look like. As we go forward and make a decision as to our response to treaties, it is something that needs to be taken into consideration.

You will no doubt be aware that there are a number of states within the United States that have legalized cannabis at the present time. That doesn't put them in contravention because it's not a federal decision there, but it is a reality that they are also cognizant of. Clearly, we would not want to put Canadians' travel in jeopardy, and we will certainly take these things into consideration. I would be happy to update you at later time.

Back to: Question Period