Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 4 -- Evidence (Morning Sitting)
Ottawa, Thursday, April 18, 1996
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-8, respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances and to amend certain other Acts and repeal the Narcotic Control Act in consequence thereof, met this day at 8:30 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: A few senators have been delayed by another committee meeting. We will hear from the witnesses, beginning with Hempline.
Mr. Geoff Kime, Director of Operations, Hempline Inc.: Thank you, Madam Chairman and honourable senators, for this opportunity. I represent the views of business people, scientists, farmers, environmentalists and consumers from right across North America as a director of the North American Industrial Hemp Council. This organization has been organized recently to promote the development of the hemp industry in Canada and the United States.
I also represent Hempline Inc. which has been doing government-sanctioned research on hemp-growing and processing for the last couple of years. It is based in Tilsonburg, in the heart of the tobacco-growing region. I grew up on a farm northwest of London, Ontario. I have a background in mechanical engineering and machine design.
I must admit that when I began my career in engineering and business, I certainly never expected to be coming to Ottawa to speak to a Senate committee on a bill titled the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
I have come to speak to you today about fibre hemp and how it is affected by Bill C-8. I will start with a brief history of hemp in Canada, followed by an explanation on what is fibre hemp. I will give the slide presentation at that time with some background based on our experience in growing and processing it. I would also like to touch briefly on some of the many potential business opportunities these products represent. I will conclude my presentation with a description of the effect of Bill C-8 on fibre hemp and an explanation of our proposed amendment to the definition of "cannabis" in Schedule 2. The amendment would exclude the mature hemp stocks and the fibre produced from these stocks from being defined as controlled substances.
Let us first consider the history. Hemp has been used by humans for thousands of years to make paper, textiles and rope. Many of the manuscripts upon which our history is documented are printed on hemp-based paper. The first recorded planting in Canada was in 1606 at Port Royal, Acadia in Nova Scotia.
Hemp was an important crop in helping to found this country in that tracts of land were often issued on the provision that hemp would be grown and sold back to Britain and France for use in their naval effort. Hemp was a thriving industry at the turn of the century. All of this is clearly documented in Lucille Brash's position paper, "The Romance and Statistics on Cannabis" which was a part of the LeDain commission in the early 1970s. If you want further background on the product, I recommend you read it.
Come the 1930s, the cultivation of hemp began to decline, primarily due to competition from cotton, synthetics and other imported fibres. The concern for the narcotic content in some strains of cannabis ultimately led to the total ban of hemp-growing in 1938.
One of the last plantations to grow hemp was that of Howard Fraleigh in Forrest, Ontario, about half an hour from where I grew up. Mr. Fraleigh was successful in working with companies like International Harvester to develop the hemp harvester shown in this sign. He also worked at developing a number of other different processing technologies which, if put into full production after the ban, would have probably brought hemp back as a competitive material against cotton and synthetics. Here we see Mr. Fraleigh on the left. He was an MP from Lambton East for two terms. He routinely grew his crop to heights from 12 to 14 feet, the majority of which he exported to England.
Since 1938, little work has been done on hemp. Some testing was done at agricultural stations during the war. The next piece of research of any significance was the studies done by Dr. Ernie Small in Ottawa in 1971. During his experiments, Dr. Small grew 350 different strains of cannabis. He concluded that there were distinct varieties of cannabis, some fibre varieties and some narcotic varieties. The difference he found was in the THC content which is the psychoactive ingredient in marihuana. It is the compound which comes under the Narcotic Control Act and which this bill is trying to control.
Dr. Small established that the point of distinction between these two types was 0.3 per cent THC by weight in the leaves and the flowers. This particular research was the foundation of our licence application to Health Canada in 1994. Given that the government had paid for this research, it was difficult for them to deny that there was a difference between fibre hemp and marihuana. Ultimately, they allowed us to grow ten acres of hemp in Tillsonburg. We planted five varieties.
Here in the slide you see my partner, Joe Stroble, standing with one of the plants at the end of our project. This was the first non-governmental hemp research project since the 1940s.
The interest generated from our project prompted Agriculture Canada in December of 1994 to publish the Hemp Bulletin. This is quite a thorough review of exactly how to grow hemp and the number of potential uses for it. I recommend that you pick up a copy at the back, which I have supplied for you.
In 1995, in part because of the interest in our project, the widespread media coverage, as well as the fact that Agriculture Canada put out the Hemp Bulletin, Health Canada received quite a significant number of applications for field trials. In 1995, seven different groups right across Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan planted a combined area of 40 acres for hemp field trials.
Through all of this, and even preceding our work, the demand for and interest in hemp products was being brought to the forefront by Canadian entrepreneurs who were importing a wide variety of hemp products and retailing them to an increasingly environmentally-conscious market. Many of these goods were coming from countries which never stopped growing hemp, such as China, Hungary, Romania, Poland, and France. France has been doing a lot of work to develop strains of hemp that contain low levels of THC.
In 1993, England recommercialized industrial hemp and planted 700 acres. They have since been increasing their acreage, using these materials for textiles, paper and animal bedding.
In all of these countries, a legislative distinction is made between varieties of cannabis used to produce hemp and varieties used to produce narcotics. As well, products made from the fibre hemp are not considered illegal.
At this point, I am sure you are wondering what exactly is fibre hemp? Hemp is a specific variety of the species cannabis sativa, which is an annual plant that grows from seed each year.
Because of the distinctive shape of the cannabis leaf, people routinely look at it and assume that all the physical characteristics of the plant are the same. This is simply incorrect. It would be like looking at any particular type of dog and assuming it is exactly the same as a Chihuahua or a Great Dane just because they are dogs. Of course, there are significant differences between those types of dogs. We just do not do the same with cannabis. We see that leaf and think "narcotic".
From the work of Dr. Ernie Small and many other scientists around the world, hemp has been shown to produce very low levels of THC in the leaves and flowers, generally less than 0.3 per cent as compared to the 5 to 10 per cent found in marihuana.
Hemp is also considered a bast fibre plant similar to flax, meaning it has long, slender fibres on the outside of the stalk and a core fibre similar to wood on the inside. I have samples of some of the stalk which I will pass around to you at this time.
In this slide, you see the cross-section of the fibre sections magnified 125 times. At the top portion of the slide, we see the bast fibre, the long slender fibres used for textiles and fine paper. At the bottom, the pinkish colour is the core fibre, which is the stiff part that holds up the plant. The bast fibre, the white materials at the top, are held together and to the stalk by a material called pectin which is a glue-like substance that we break down through the retting process. In the samples I am passing around, you will see fibrous materials starting to come off the stalk. It is white in colour. That is material in which the pectin has been dissolved, and we can then take that fibre away. I have a picture of that here. We can see along the bottom the core fibre, the stalk, and the primary fibres along the top. The bast fibre represents 25 per cent by weight of this stalk, which is fairly typical for bast fibre plants.
In order for our field trials to proceed in 1994, 1995, and this year, we have had to go through a fairly extensive licensing process with Health Canada. We have had to obtain a licence to import the seed, a licence to distribute the seed, and a licence to cultivate the seed. The seeds are being imported from Europe. The resulting leaves and flowers have been proven to contain less than 0.3 per cent THC. We have tried ten different varieties of seed to date, from Poland, Hungary, the Ukraine, France and Romania.
We planted our hemp using existing grain drills at a density of 60 to 80 kilograms per hectare. Ideally we like to plant as early as possible but in the past we have been delayed due to issues surrounding our licensing. The plants germinate within two to three days of being put into the ground, depending on the moisture content and the temperature.
As well, we do not use any pesticides. The main reason is that there are very few pests that attack cannabis, or hemp in particular. It grows so quickly that it chokes out any other weeds. It shuts off the light that goes to any weeds and they simply die. We are using chemical fertilizer because hemp requires quite a bit of nitrogen when it grows.
Here we see some of the plants after they have started. We are planting them in a row spacing of about seven inches. Hemp requires good soil to grow in, so typically any land that supports corn or soybeans would yield high quantities of hemp. The soil also has to be non-acidic in nature with a pH above six.
Here is a picture of the base of the stalks before they are about to be harvested. You can see along the bottom that there is quite a bit of foliage because the leaves fall off the stalk as it grows. As well, when we cut down the crop, many of the leaves deteriorate and go into the soil. Some studies indicate that as much as 70 per cent of the nutrients taken out of the soil when hemp grows are put back in from the leaves that fall off as they go through the process of retting, which is the process of breaking down the pectin and loosening the fibres.
Hemp has a very expansive root system. It is a tap root, so it helps to get down into the soil, extracting nutrients from the subsoil and pulling them up to the top. It also helps to break up soil that is hard-packed soil by heavy machinery, allowing water to percolate back into it. It also helps prevent soil erosion. Generally, hemp is not considered to be hard on the soil. As a matter of fact, it is considered of benefit to the soil and, in rotation with other crops, to have an overall positive effect.
Here you can see an overview of one of the fields we grew last year. We are planting very densely, as many as 200 to 300 plants per square meter. One of the questions we are always asked is what is to prevent someone from sneaking in and hiding a marihuana plant right in the middle of it? First of all, I do not think anybody would be able to find their plant if they did that because there are literally millions of plants per acre. They would have heck of a time tracking it down. As well, people growing cannabis for marihuana want it to get bushy with lots of leaves, whereas we want the stalks. If someone wanted to put a plant right in the middle, they would have to clear out a lot of space, and what they were trying to do would become quite noticeable.
We cut down fibre hemp fairly early on, when the male plants begin to pollinate and before it sets seed. People growing marihuana would want it to go as long as possible, so there is about a month's difference. There would be a patch in the middle that would become obvious to anyone. As well, because we are growing low THC varieties, the pollen from the plants would cross-pollinate varieties of marihuana and ultimately dilute the strains that people have worked so hard to develop. Ultimately, the worst place to plant marihuana is in a hemp field, so in reality there is no need for concern over growing large-scale acreages of hemp and the possibility they can become a source of marihuana.
Here we see a picture of my partner Mr. Strobel cutting down our crop. It generally hits about 10 to 12 feet in our field trials after about 75 to 80 days, so it is growing extremely quickly, as much as two inches a day. You can see at the right side of the slide a cloud of pollen coming off the material. If you are allergic to pollen, you certainly do not want to be out in the middle of a hemp field when we are cutting it down.
Once hemp is cut, you lay it to dry the same way you lay hay. At the same time, this assists in mechanical defoliation and getting the leaves off and back into the ground as fertilizer, which is what they are best for.
We have used existing hay bailing equipment with some success. Hemp is tough on equipment because it has such a thick stalk. Repairs are a little more frequent. If we are to proceed, work will need to be done to develop new machinery for harvesting, especially if we are intending to produce a textile crop.
Here is my partner standing with one of the hemp bails we produced in our 1994 field trials.
At this point, I will pass around some of the samples of the materials we produced from those trials. I have some fibre here that has been extracted. Here is the fibre, and here is the core fibre that can be used to make a number of different products. As well, I have a sample of hemp medium-density fibre board which is made in Oregon. It has been tested to show that it is as strong as wood. One last sample is some hand-made paper sheets that I made at the University of Western Ontario. These are not the best samples. I just wanted to show them to you to show you the different thicknesses and grades of paper that are possible from hemp. As well, the position paper I provided you is printed on hemp-based paper.
In order for us to distribute the materials once we have harvested them, we need a distribution license. The people who obtain the materials also need a distribution license, because the materials you are looking at now are considered a narcotic under the Narcotic Control Act, and also under the bill we are discussing today. I have a copy of the licence we are required to obtain.
For whatever reason, the Americans exclude the stalks and the fibre produced from the stalks from their definition of marihuana, so it is easier for us to ship the materials into the United States to have research done on them. This does not seem to make a lot of sense. In a letter from the Drug Enforcement Agency to Health Canada as part of our obtaining an export permit, it states:
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has no legal basis to object to the importation of mature stalk of the Cannabis sativa L. plant that is completely devoid of any other part, viable seed or resin of said plant. The mature stalk of the Cannabis sativa L. plant is not included in the definition of marihuana as defined in Section 802(16) of the Controlled Substances Act of 1971 as amended.
It is easier for us to move this material out of the country to have research done on it, which is unfortunate because we would like to keep the work in Canada.
You are probably wondering why we have gone to all this effort to obtain the licences and do all of this hard work. The simple reason is that there is real economic potential from the wide range of products that hemp can be used to produce. You can make textiles from the primary fibre we have shown you suitable for upholstery, wall coverings, industrial fabrics, and garments. You can also make paper and building materials. You can make fuel, ethanol, cosmetics and food from the seed. There are business opportunities all the way through the value-added chain. Jobs will be created in agriculture, industry, research, and the retail sector. Currently there is no other fibre source similar to hemp that we can grow in Canada. We cannot grow cotton.
As well, there is a trend in Canadian agriculture towards industrial-based crops. The elimination of the Crow rate in the prairies has prompted many industries and farmers to look to new crops that they can grow and to add value to the crops in the area in which they are grown. There are also opportunities for equipment and process development, which is something in which we are interested.
Before all of these things can happen, there needs to be further work in market and product development and continued research and development, and a new infrastructure for primary processing must be put into place. All of this will require capital. Before this can take place, the federal government will need to implement a commercial licensing strategy for the cultivation of hemp. We will have to deal with the fact that existing legislation considers the materials I have shown you a narcotic, so we have to exempt these from the definition of cannabis.
The Chairman: I assume you are getting towards the end?
Mr. Kime: Yes. If we consider fibre hemp in Bill C-8, it will be a big step towards the issuance of commercial licenses. Clause 55.(1) clearly allows the Governor in Council to make regulations for the industrial uses and distribution of controlled substances. These regulatory powers as defined in clause 55.(1)(a) include importation, exportation, distribution, production and sale of all materials. If the word "industrial" were added to the regulations it would give the Minister of Health a clear mandate to implement commercial licensing. These regulations can be developed using existing models from Europe and in consultation with people who have been doing research on the subject, the police and other interested bodies.
However, in Schedule II of Bill C-8, the definition of "cannabis" as a controlled substance is still too broad. The derivatives of cannabis, the stalk and the fibre are considered a narcotic, as I have indicated, so the paper, textiles, and building materials, all these products that we can make, are considered a controlled substance even though they do not contain a narcotic.
This failure to exclude fibre from the definition of cannabis puts hemp into a quasi-legal status for importing these materials. It has been tolerated by Customs, but it is difficult to say how long that may last, so the status of hemp fibre must be made clear. Ultimately, the failure to exclude it is hindering research and development and slowing down the development of the Canadian hemp industry.
I should like to note that the definition of cannabis does exempt non-viable seed in recognition of its commercial importance, so we are simply asking that the same be done for fibre hemp. As I pointed out, the United States clearly excepts stalks and fibres from its definition of marihuana.
As well, article 28 of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs reads:
This convention shall not apply to the cultivation of cannabis plant intended for industrial purposes...
So there is international precedent for the amendment for which we are asking.
We propose that the following addition should be made under the "but not including" section in the definition of cannabis in Schedule II of Bill C-8. We would like to add:
(9) The mature stalk of such plant and fibre derived from such stalks.
Such an amendment will allow Canada to develop hemp as a profitable resource and allow us to develop a competitive advantage in the global situation for the increasing demand and production of hemp materials.
In conclusion, I urge you to implement this proposed amendment in order that hemp may again become a truly important crop in Canada.
Mr. Roddy Heading, Director, Hemp Futures Study Group, Member of the International Hemp Association, Canadian Industrial Hemp Lobby: I agree with and support everything Mr. Kime has said. We are honoured to be appearing before the Senate subcommittee reviewing Bill C-8 and pleased that the government has acknowledged that it is time to consider amending legislation to recognize the fundamental differences between hemp and marihuana.
It is our belief that Bill C-8, in its present form, presents an insurmountable barrier to the establishment of hemp as a legitimate agricultural crop and seriously jeopardizes further opportunities for Canadian manufacturers to process and market this hemp in Canada and abroad. Until such discerning legislation is created and passed into law, our fledgling industry will be obliged to operate in an intolerable climate of vague legality and the ever-present threat of criminal prosecution, fines and prison for doing business should some future governing body decide that an unamended Bill C-8 should be enforced to the letter of the law.
As long as the growing hemp plant and its stalks, fibres and seed continue to be regarded as cannabis derivatives, our industry continues to face penalties of unprecedented magnitude. For this reason, the Canadian Industrial Hemp Lobby dares not leave its very existence to chance and fortune. We find it unacceptable that the future of Canadian Industrial Hemp lives in the benevolent interpretation of fine points of law.
Because Canadian law does not clearly distinguish legitimate hemp from marihuana, our members have found it difficult, if not impossible, to approach industry with samples of innocuous fibre hemp and innocuous seed hemp for testing and evaluation. The clinging stigma of drugs and the harsh penalties the law provides keeps industry at a respectful distance from considering hemp as a new source of cellulose and vegetable raw materials.
In brief, industry simply has too much to lose if they embark upon hemp testing programs and inadvertently run afoul of the law. Industry fears - and rightly so- the drastic consequences of criminal prosecution, negative publicity and financial loss for their innocent research efforts. Although industry is cautious, it is very curious about hemp. Until the confusion regarding the legality of the fibre and the oilseed are settled in the courts, industry cannot reasonably be expected to enter into discussions concerning the investigation of the potentials of hemp as a raw material.
I have travelled to Europe on three occasions within the last 12 months to study the rapidly emerging European hemp market firsthand. In March of 1995, I met with Dutch hemp farmers and visited Dutch hemp garment manufacturers in Amsterdam. I saw their wares on display in the showrooms and boutiques and examined their hemp garments and hemp oil products in development. These items were of high quality, though somewhat more expensive than cotton goods. I was assured that in a very short time hemp and cotton would be equally priced.
In November of 1995, I attended a major cannabis culture convention in Amsterdam that celebrated and promoted every aspect of the cannabis plant, even the smokable varieties. Holland is noted for its liberal policy of social tolerance. They have separated hemp from marihuana without a lot of fuss. This clear division has yet to be grasped in North America.
Hemp merchants from a dozen nations displayed their hempen wares. There I learned how Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France and England are in the process of responsible modification of their own respective laws governing cannabis to accommodate this new "Euro-hemp" industry. The EEC pays agricultural subsidies to their farmers to grow hemp. I discovered how European manufacturers obtain Chinese and European hemp textiles and arrange manufacturing contracts with Portugal, Turkey and Nepal to produce a wide range of hempen clothing, footwear and accessories that is retailed right across Europe. They are preparing to market hemp goods to North America in the very near future, and they will be doing it in a big way.
In March of this year, I attended BIO FACH, an enormous four-day natural products trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany. I interviewed dozens of German hemp merchants, designers, retailers and distributors from whom I obtained hemp marketing tips, colour catalogues and product samples. I saw hemp seed oil laundry detergent, hemp oil enzyme stain removers, hemp composite board furniture and hemp seed food products for people and pets. Non-drug hemp flower essential oil found its way into organic perfumes, hemp oil based soaps, balms, lotions, shower gels, et cetera, with the finesse, the high quality and the lovely smell one expects from things European.
Many other hemp merchants offered a fine range of hemp paper products from computer paper to fine stationery. Compressed hemp flower - which is just the powdered stalks - mixed with biodegradable vegetable source plastics appeared in an impressive variety of household articles from shirt buttons to salad bowls.
The items which I examined were not samples or prototypes. These were authentic hemp products in commercial production which were being offered to the marketplace. Most were available in wholesale quantities. Many were shipped in hemp waste packing fluff and recycled cardboard paper boxes.
In conclusion, I can say with certainty that the Europeans - the Germans in particular - are moving into first place in the emerging world hemp market which North America has yet to appreciate, much less penetrate. The Europeans have demonstrated that they can appreciate hemp's potential. They are committed to the development and marketing of their hemp. They sell hemp with confidence and they fully intend to take the lead over other nations such as Canada, which is watching from the sidelines. Will we be content to be their retail customers, or will we be entering into this lucrative new hemp market ourselves? This depends on whether Canada can modify its own cannabis legislation in time to permit the cultivation and manufacture of hemp within our own borders.
Mr. Larry DuPrey, President, Hemp Club Inc.; Chanvre en Ville, Trustee; Hemp Industries Association of North America; Canadian Industrial Hemp Lobby: Madam Chairman, most of the things I had to say have been covered. My work history is in fashion. For the last 26 years I have been dealing in the fickle trade of the fashion accessory business in Montreal.
Hemp brought to my attention the fact that we had here a brand-spanking new textile that had not yet been exploited. That is what brought me into the hemp industry. One of the things which has not come up as much, although Mr. Kime drew some attention to the ecological benefits of hemp, are the compelling environmental concerns of today which have led many to question the sustainability of synthetic-fibre production. Research hints that there may be negative long-term effects from long-time wearing of these synthetic fibres.
These synthetic textiles do not decompose easily. They may remain unchanged in our landfills for centuries, if not thousands of years. How this may affect the ecosystems of our world in the future is yet undetermined.
Cotton, the most popular natural fibre, substantially contributes to serious environmental problems because of its dependency on petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The American cotton crop requires more than half of all of the pesticides and herbicides used in North American agri-business. As Mr. Kime has pointed out, hemp is almost its own pesticide, although we are starting to see with field trials that there are bugs which will attack it. Hemp has been used throughout history to dispel many pests; nor does it need the types of herbicides that we have seen.
Immediately we have ourselves a textile that has been and is being grown right here in Canada. For the textile business, the use of hemp would make us equal partners in NAFTA. We are cut out of the NAFTA deal now because we do not have a natural fibre. It is not possible for us to grow cotton. Hemp will put us in line with NAFTA rules in that the fibres in the material are from North America.
The German Parliament recently reintroduced hemp industries to their own agri-business portfolio by creating legislation that allows their farmers to grow hemp as a commercial crop. Germany is on the verge of a hemp renaissance. I have received regular reports about German businessmen buying up the hemp seed stock in eastern Europe for this year's first German hemp crop. In my opinion, Germany is in a position to become the leader in hemp in the world.
As a country we find ourselves desperate to find ways of putting our people back to work. Hemp is all about work, jobs and creating new industries. Let us introduce the agri-entrepreneur to the hemp entrepreneur and watch them create local-based industries that will amaze our countrymen for generations to come. However, before this can happen, hemp must be legally distinguished from marihuana.
The Chairman: I understand Mr. McMurray is here to answer questions but will not make a presentation.
Senator Jessiman: I am interested in Mr. Heading's remark about the smoking variety of hemp. Tell me about that.
Mr. Heading: Excuse me, sir. Let us start clearing this up. There are smoking varieties of cannabis. Mr. Kime will back this up as will any of your drug experts; the plant cannabis sativa has been deliberately and selectively bred for over 12,000 years, very much like the dogs in the previous analogy. The human race, which gets no footnote or copyright, has developed three distinct varieties of cannabis: one for strong fibres; one for its rich, oily, nutritious seed; and one for its pleasant, euphoric effects.
That is another aspect of Bill C-8 and I did not come to this city to talk about it. The smokable aspects are easily dealt with in Amsterdam. You can look at any of our popular press literature here and read about the hash cafés, but I do not want to talk about hash cafés.
Senator Jessiman: I am serious; I assume from what you said that, in some manner, this product can be used, although the THC content is only 0.3 per cent compared to 5 per cent for marihuana for smoking. Can it be put together in that way?
Mr. Heading: Can I speak freely here?
Senator Jessiman: We are trying to learn. I do not understand why we would be here otherwise.
Mr. Heading: Sir, I do not run a laboratory but I have smoked the hemp which is grown in Europe. In my opinion - and I would say there are 20 million North Americans who want to hear about this - it would be called trash, unacceptable.
Senator Jessiman: But it has been and is smoked now?
Mr. Heading: No. It is garbage. No more than someone who enjoys brandy would take the alcohol off shoe polish.
Senator Jessiman: I guess there are some who do that, too.
Mr. Heading: They are few, and it has nothing to do with the product. We should address your question seriously now that we have had some fun, because usually everyone laughs and we cannot not get on with the real problem at hand.
Senator Jessiman: I am not here to laugh about it. I am serious. I have changed my mind so much about this subject.
Mr. Heading: Cannabis has three varieties which are distinctly different in the way they are grown; their heritage; how they are harvested; how the female plant is used, whether for marihuana as is mentioned in Bill C-8, or other use. Mr. Kime has not mentioned that the hemp which he grows and the hemp to be used for industry is the male plant, completely unsuited for the criminal market, completely unacceptable in the black market. It would be rejected in the bars and dark alleys of North America as an unsuitable black market product. It is completely unsuitable.
Senator Jessiman: Can you grow hemp in the United States?
Mr. Heading: It is unsuitable to grow in the United States. It is too hot down there. It is a northern temperate plant. The latitudes at which it succeeds pass benevolently and beneficially through Canada. Those latitudes also swing through Russia, China, Korea, Romania. In America, it is okay but not great.
Mr. Kime: It will grow in the United States. Technically, though, they cannot do that.
Senator Jessiman: I would think it would grow in the northern states. But my question was, regardless of whether it is economical from a business point of view, what do the laws allow? Our people say there should be certain restrictions. What are the laws as far as the United States is concerned? That is my question.
Mr. DuPrey: Let me draw attention to something that has happened recently in the United States. Two American states are pushing to have industrial hemp crops; Vermont and Colorado. I am not fully versed in their procedures, but both Colorado and Vermont must go through their Senates and their state legislatures and hold votes on the appropriate legislation.
The bill passed in the Colorado Senate and that was quite a move. It received a lot of excitement amongst hemp activists in the United States. One Colorado senator is pro-hemp and he managed to get the Senate to approve the bill. On Friday past, there was an assembly of their state legislature and they held their committee meetings. During those committee meetings, the DEA, the U.S. Department of Drug Enforcement, gave testimony and advised this august body that, even if the state of Colorado passed this legislation, the DEA would not allow this plant to grow in the United States.
This has happened before. It happened last year in Kentucky. It looks as though they will have some kind of problem getting this by their drug enforcement people. They have their own agenda, as do the prison systems in the United States. Personally I feel that, if the Americans want to continue to build prisons until their land is full of them and they want to ban this crop, that is quite all right.
We unfortunately do not have one document here which we would like to have, and that is a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, made last fall for the Department of Commerce, on the potential of hemp for America.
One of the conclusions that this study came to, which we felt was quite unnecessary, is that hemp would be a marginal item that could be taken care of by imports. The last time I looked, Canada was the major exporter to the United States. For me, that was an invitation to the Canadian industry to become the American supplier of hemp.
Senator Jessiman: I guess that is a long answer to the question. You probably could have said, no, it is illegal in the United States.
What about the United Kingdom with respect to hemp?
Mr. Heading: Unlike North America, where you have the grass roots industry appealing to government, in the U.K. the House of Lords prepared a report, offered it, and that set off their industries. We are coming from the bottom to the top. The U.K. started from the House of Lords down, with their report on the sustainability, feasibility, and suitability of growing hemp in the U.K., because of the requirement that Europe have tree-free paper. They have a law that says that any paper will have high prominence if it is derived from non-tree sources and, heavenly days, has no chlorine bleaching and all that nasty stuff. The House of Lords in the U.K. pointed at hemp as a potential and asked, "Who wants to grow it?" On that basis, small subsidies were given to farmers, which led to a small renaissance in textiles. So it came from the top.
Senator Jessiman: Is that recently?
Mr. Kime: 1993.
Senator Jessiman: Is the simple answer that in the U.K., yes, you can grow hemp?
Mr. Kime: Yes, they can grow hemp. They have established simple regulations. They require the farmers to get a permit for the area in which they are growing. They have to grow approved varieties of seed. It is quite a simple system.
Senator Gigantès: What is the relationship of hemp to sisal?
Mr. Kime: Sisal is a more tropical plant. It is also a bast fibre plant. They are very similar. They can be used interchangeably in some applications. Sisal has fibres that are a bit more coarse, so they could not be spun into a fine textile. It would be more suitable for cordage and rope twine. Sisal was one of the imported fibres that displaced hemp.
Senator Gigantès: I remember during World War II people saying that some of the sailors that I was with smoked rope. Are you telling me they smoked sisal? Or was hemp cordage available during World War II?
Mr. Kime: There was hemp cordage in World War II. That might have been a metaphor, "rope" and "dope" indicating the difference between hemp and marihuana.
Senator Gigantès: If the Germans and others are entering strongly into this market, would they not want to do what all businesses with a new product want to do, which is to make entry by Canadians very difficult by lowering their prices to keep Canadians out?
Mr. Heading: Land in Germany and Holland is expensive to rent. When I brought to their attention that you could float Holland in Algonquin Park and have room left over, they were amazed. We have room here. They do not have room there.
Senator Milne: Mr. Kime, I was rather hoping you would tell us that this crop could be grown on some of those lighter tobacco-growing soils around your way, Tillsonburg and Delhi, but you say that it requires a good soil.
Mr. Kime: Basically it requires a loam-based soil, such as any soil currently supporting corn, soybeans, or these types of crops. It would fit well with that rotation. Field trials were done in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and all of them were successful. All were able to grow crops that reached anywhere from eight to 12 feet, so we have seen that it can be done across the country.
Senator Milne: Are you telling me that it is a more suitable crop for, say, the heavy clays of Peel County than it is as a substitute for the tobacco crops down your way?
Mr. Kime: Not really. I think it can be grown on any loam-based soil. We grew some northwest of London last year on a heavy, clay soil and it was fine. Our only problem was that it was planted quite late and we did not have the right germination from the lack of moisture. Pretty much anywhere in South-western Ontario will be fine, so long as you have adequate drainage. One of the advantages of growing it in sandy soil is you have natural drainage, whereas with clay, you would have to put in some type of drainage.
Senator Milne: How many acres are being licensed for production this year?
Mr. Kime: To my knowledge, no licenses have been issued by Health Canada. We are asking for ten acres. We are working in conjunction with another group in Ontario which is asking for 12. I suspect that out in Manitoba, they will probably be going for about a 20-acre field trial around the province.
Senator Milne: About the same total number as last year?
Mr. Kime: Yes. We are not going to see a significant increase. Technically, it is still at the research level. We cannot sell our crop, so it does not make a lot of sense to start scaling up and being unable to derive any economic benefit from it.
Senator Milne: That brings me to my last question. How much of a market is there? Is there enough of a market that, say, Tillsonburg and Delhi could suddenly convert to growing hemp?
Mr. Kime: Definitely. We have been approached by large American textile companies which are keen on acquiring a domestic source of either flax or hemp for upholstery fabrics and a number of other industrial-related textiles as opposed to garments. Their estimated demand would probably justify 3,000 to 5,000 acres right off the top. That would fit in well with setting up one central processing mill. I would think you could hit about a 35 to 40 kilometre radius outside of that economically. Once you go outside that radius, transportation costs become a factor. All we really need are the legislative changes and industry will take care of the rest.
Senator Doyle: Pursuing that same subject of the possibility of growing hemp instead of tobacco, a lot of research has been done in the Delhi-Simcoe area of Ontario on what may replace tobacco if our export market goes the way of domestic consumption. There has been discussion on ostriches and peanuts and all sorts of things. Do you know if they have spent any money or any time researching the potential of hemp from an agricultural point of view?
Mr. Kime: We are basing our research southwest of Tillsonburg, so we are right in the heart of the tobacco-growing region. That is where we got our start, so, yes, we are doing research.
Senator Doyle: Is it linked with what is going on in other areas in the tobacco country?
Mr. Kime: No. We are just looking in Tillsonburg right now. We have not moved out of that area, although I would like to add that we are obtaining funding right now from a combined project of Agriculture Canada and the Ontario Department of Agriculture called the Tobacco Diversification Program. They have given us $135,000. They have put certain restrictions on how we spend that money but they have made these funds available to us to develop hemp as a potential alternative to tobacco.
Senator Doyle: That is the answer I was looking for. I have one or two other short questions. I understand hemp is one crop per year.
Mr. Kime: Yes.
Senator Doyle: You said at one point in your presentation that it was easier to move research out of the country than face the laws we have here. To what extent is research being pushed out of the country? Do you know of any projects where we have had to go abroad because of the difficulties here?
Mr. Kime: The research organizations in Canada have looked at this as a hot potato. They do not want to touch it because considerable paperwork is required to handle the crop. There is the perception of security and other difficulties, so they have not wanted to get involved.
The Americans are lining up to get materials from us to do research. This is for a wide range of products, including fibre board, textiles, and paper. International Paper is looking at this very seriously. They have been contacting us.
Unfortunately, we just have not seen the interest in Canada because of this association to the legislative challenges and consequent difficulties.
Senator Doyle: The movement to the U.S. has been largely initiated by the Americans looking to take advantage of what we are doing or not doing or who we know and do not know, rather than the other way around, and them saying, "You do this project because we cannot."
Mr. Kime: I do not think any of the research they are doing could not be done in Canada. We could be doing this in Canada. We are just not at that point.
It is a lot easier to move materials around in the United States. Every single place it goes, it has to have one of these fancy little licenses with a seal on it from Health Canada. It is an overwhelming and time-consuming process to acquire them for every single person who wants to do some work with the fibre material I showed you. There are no narcotics in that, no THC in that fibre, and yet it has been treated as such. That process is tying our hands in getting this endeavour moving.
Senator Doyle: How far back does the history of the hemp industry go in making a bold effort on its own behalf? When did you start to say to the Canadian government, "You are doing the wrong things, and here is the right program that you should be following"?
Mr. Kime: I am not sure exactly how far back that would go.
Senator Doyle: Was it a factor before Judge LeDain?
Mr. Heading: After the First World War, North America learned that traditional sources of vegetable fibres from the tropics - sisal hemp and coconut fibres - were cut off. During the Second World War, hemp was grown extensively in Canada and the United States for the war effort. America consumed it for itself, and Canada started shipping it over to Britain right after hostilities began, so there was a big war production.
The government at that time was able to interpret the law, push the button, and war production began. The law was even harsher and more vague. They saw a purpose for Canada and the empire at the time and were able to clap their hands, move their pens, and assign 150,000 acres around the Great Lakes, Wisconsin, Minnesota, southern Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.
The Department of Agriculture did a lot of work, and they used a lot of Mr. Fraleigh's work. That was the world's first totally mechanized hemp farm. Before that, hemp was ploughed by horses, cut by men and machines, and broken with tremendous labour and toil. Mr. Fraleigh invented a mechanized hemp operation.
So successful was that operation that he had visits from Henry Ford's people, who were impressed and soon began their own hemp production. Just before the war, Henry Ford produced hemp composite plastics because he wanted to demonstrate to America that he could produce an automobile that was grown from North American soil. "Do not worry. No matter who cuts off the supplies, you will get a Ford somehow." So we had a plastic car. He created plastics from hemp oil. He put hemp fibre inside. He used it for the trunk mats, and for the cords inside the tires. Some people were making synthetic rubber, he was making synthetic cars.
Mr. Fraleigh's farm was also visited by a delegation from Japan who was very impressed. They went back and grew tremendous amounts of hemp in Manchuria, which they had annexed. Because Japan was rather small, they used Manchuria for their agriculture to produce the war products they needed. Just before the war, Germany, Italy and Japan were cut off from the colonies in Africa and other parts of Asia. They were denied their traditional sources of cotton, so they grew hemp. Germany grew a lot of hemp between the wars. Italy produced a tremendous amount of hemp between the wars. They made a deal where they provided hemp to each other. Russia grew a lot of hemp between the wars. World production of hemp between the wars went up significantly.
Senator Doyle: That is an amazing answer. You only left out Thomas Edison.
Mr. Heading: He used a bamboo fibre in his light bulb.
Senator Doyle: Edison passed on the hemp passion to Henry Ford.
Senator Bryden: Mr. Kime, I found your presentation very objective and informative. Is there a test for THC that is portable and can be done readily in the field?
Mr. Kime: Nothing is commercially available at this point, although considerable work is being done in Europe to establish it. Right now there is a laboratory test they can do in two days, I understand.
Senator Bryden: When you refer to the rotation of hemp with other crops, what period of time rotation are you talking about? Is it year for year or five years with two years? Do we know?
Mr. Kime: Again, it depends on the area, but I foresee a four to five year rotation. You would try to put a nitrogen fixing crop in first like hay or other green manure applications. We are planting rye in the fall and ploughing it under to get the nitrogen into the ground.
Typically, they used to grow beans after hemp because it would eliminate the weeds and it had a positive effect on the soil. They seemed to get the highest yields of soybeans and white beans after hemp, and then they probably followed with corn and then wheat.
Senator Bryden: Has there been any comparison with fibre strength and quality between hemp fibre and northern softwood fibre or hardwood fibre for the purposes of paper making?
Mr. Kime: Quite a bit of work has been done. In the samples I passed around are two different fibre types. One has a woody core and the other has a long bast fibre. The long bast fibre type is a high strength, high quality fibre which would be more suitable for specialty type papers. The tea bag is probably one of the most highly engineered papers because you have to soak it in hot water. Normally it would break up. The core fibre is typically a little bit like hardwood, a shorter fibre and not quite as strong.
There is work being done. The University of Toronto just contacted me last week, and I am going there for a meeting tomorrow to initiate some research for hemp with paper making. A lot of work is being done in the States. Many large companies are looking at it but not talking about it publicly.
Senator Bryden: At this stage, are you finding that you are getting cooperation or opposition from the forest products and textile industry?
Mr. Kime: The textile industry is coming on side. They recognize the move towards natural fibres and want to cash in on it. The forest products industry is starting to recognize that maybe they are in the fibre industry, depending on which company you talk to. They have a considerable investment in their equipment and they want to keep it running. If it is wood fibre, that is what they are geared for. If it is not, they are starting to recognize that they have to look at alternatives. Again, work is being done in this area. They may not admit it publicly, but they have certainly indicated privately that they are very interested in hemp, as well as wheat straw, flax straw and other agricultural materials. We are trying to promote the use of annually renewable crops for a number of products.
Senator Nolin: Mr. Kime, just to ensure that I understand clearly your intent this morning, you are focusing on Schedule II?
Mr. Kime: That is right.
Senator Nolin: You say that the exclusion in Schedule II is not broad enough?
Mr. Kime: That is right.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your presentation this morning. It was extremely informative. I certainly learned a great deal.
Has there been any discussion about changing the name of the product you are growing? I do not now whether it was coincidence or whether people liked the name better, but once the name of rape seed was changed to canola it became acceptable almost overnight. Has there been any discussion about a name that is perhaps not so closely associated with marihuana as hemp has become?
Mr. Kime: You may have noticed that I call it fibre hemp or industrial hemp. I try to tack on that little descriptor. There has been a lot of discussion on this point. No one has come up with any particularly brilliant suggestion. We are certainly open to suggestions. If you have any ideas, we would be willing to entertain them.
Mr. Heading: We support calling it industrial hemp rather than simply hemp.
Mr. DuPrey: There has been discussion within the American movement with which I am associated. They agree that the name is a problem. They like the French name "chanvre" which we use in Quebec, although it is not well understood there. It is possible that we may begin to market the cloth under that name in order to remove the stigma.
Senator Nolin: I hope some people from the Department of Justice are listening to these arguments. We will question them on how to broaden this definition and those exclusions. Obviously, we have nothing against these people. I assume that the same is true for Health Canada. I hope that justice officials are listening and will appear here and explain how we can broaden the exclusions.
The Chairman: We will ensure that officials from Health Canada and the Department of Justice know that we wish to query exactly that.
Honourable senators, our next witnesses are from Cannabis Canada, Dana Larsen and Marc Emery, as well as three private individuals, Robert Hamon, Andy Rapoch and Nicholas Bureau, all of whom will be presenting more or less together today.
Please proceed, Mr. Emery.
Mr. Marc Emery, Publisher, Cannabis Canada: Honourable senators, my name is Marc Emery. I am the publisher of Cannabis Canada magazine, the nation's magazine for the cannabis culture. It is available on news-stands throughout Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto and most cities across the country. I am also the proprietor of an international export-import business called Hemp B.C., with retail locations throughout Vancouver. I consider myself an industry advocate and trade representative for the British Columbia marihuana growing industry, which has a domestic consumption value of $800 million a year in British Columbia alone. It is the largest natural resource industry in British Columbia, exceeding mining and forestry. All of the resource industries do not come near the financial dollar production value of marihuana in British Columbia.
I am 38 years old. I was a bookseller for 20 years prior to my two years in the marihuana and hemp industry. I have two boys aged 15 and 16. I am here to present the case on behalf of the marihuana grower and the marihuana consumer of this country.
One thing no one discusses is what it is like to smoke marihuana. I operate under the presumption that no one here has ever smoked marihuana. That may be erroneous, but in my experience, I have smoked marihuana off and on since I was 23. I do not consider it a drug because nothing really changes when I smoke it. I get a warm, gooey, fun sensation. On occasion, I get a little introspective. The walls do not move; the ground does not shake. Occasionally my wife and I get along a little better. Sometimes I am able to listen to my children a little more attentively. Sometimes the trash on television even seems a little more interesting.
The Chairman: God forbid.
Mr. Emery: I do not regard it in any way as meditation. It does not change the world or change the perspective around me. It changes my interpretation of a few minor details. It makes them more pleasant, perhaps.
The situation in this country does not reflect what I have just said. There have been over 1 million marihuana-related convictions in this country over the last 30 years. That is spectacular. That represents 800,000 individuals making up 1 million convictions for what is substantially a benign plant which has been on this planet for 8,000 years and is used in every culture except the northern Inuit culture because it cannot grow there. Cannabis has been grown in every culture on this earth. In addition, 100,000 people are arrested every year in this country for possessing marihuana. Only 35,000 - a spectacularly large number - are actually convicted, but an additional 65,000 are fingerprinted, hauled off to jail or otherwise intimidated. They have their pipes taken away from them and stomped. They are handcuffed and pushed over on cars. Police officers act in a surly and degrading manner mostly to young people. Once you are my age and you have a home and a place to go, you are not necessarily as liable to run across a police officer if you have marihuana in your hand as you might if you are a teenager. People who have the fewest number of jobs and need the greatest amount of opportunity to find jobs face criminal sanctions that curtail their livelihood substantially for the rest of their lives.
In addition to the 35,000 individuals convicted every year and who now have criminal records, 6,000 will be jailed. Tens of thousands of human days have been spent in jail over something as benign and, I would say, as wonderful as the marihuana plant. Again, it has been ingested and smoked for its mild, euphoric qualities for centuries and centuries. In fact, marihuana was planted in this country by Samuel de Champlain's apothecary, Louis Hébert. It was planted in Nova Scotia, which was then called New France, about 350 years ago. Cannabis sativa was part of Canada from the very beginning of the founding of this country or prior to Confederation. It grew widely in Quebec and Ontario. It provided the sail cloth and rigging during the War of 1812. The Americans raided southern Ontario at the time to destroy the hemp plantations. It was essential to Britain's fight against Napoleon during the Napoleonic wars as actual hemp rigging and hemp sail cloth provided the British Empire with its navies. Canada has provided Britain with hemp for its naval requirements for over a century. Cannabis sativa hemp has been part of this country's legacy since 1606 and was grown here until about 1930, when it was banned.
Nonetheless, 6,000 are jailed, 33,000 convicted. What does this mean? It means that travel for up to 1 million people is severely restricted. You cannot enter the United States if you have any kind of cannabis conviction. This inhibits people whose jobs require them to go there, and it hurts relationships with other human beings, particularly within families.
The government buys advertising. I see it all the time in Vancouver. They basically use my tax money to buy ads that degrade and humiliate me. They advocate to my neighbours to turn me in if they see the cannabis. Call 669-TIPS. I see these advertisements for people who are merely wanted for cultivation of marihuana on TV. I see big signs saying, "Call 669-TIPS if you see this person. He is wanted for cultivating marihuana."
This is a very degrading and humiliating thing, considering that we think the marihuana plant is a wonderful thing with no negative side effects whatsoever and should be embraced by anyone who is slightly curious about a mild euphoric. It is safer than almost anything that I can see that is legal out there today and it should be considered similar to caffeine, chocolate - mild euphorics, possibly - alcohol, tobacco, and any number of prescription drugs.
Our children can be taken away from us. My wife has been in constant worry about whether the state would take our children away from us, deem us unfit parents because we openly advocated the use and enjoyment of marihuana. When our children do go to school, they do not attend government schools for the fundamental reason that they are propagandized against their own parents who may smoke marihuana, given propaganda advising that marihuana use is bad, dangerous, and criminal, and these people should be turned in. Indeed, in Vancouver recently, some children did turn in their parents. I can think of nothing more shocking than the school system advocating that children turn their parents in for the benign use of marihuana. This is happening with our tax money.
The police can even murder you in this country for smoking marihuana. It is not unknown in this city. In 1991, the police shot dead, in cold blood someone who merely had a few joints on him. It is certainly true in Vancouver given that, in 1992, a 16-year-old was shot dead by four North Vancouver police who were busting into his home, this for having merely a few joints.
My passion sometimes gets the best of me. I have spent much of my life wondering how this persecution could possibly come to exist in what I have always been told is a free and democratic country. As a marihuana smoker, I have the anomaly of trying to justify the concept of being free and democratic with what is really a vicious, bigoted police state. We are persecuted more severely than any other minority group in this country. There is no group that has had a million criminal convictions against its culture. It is unprecedented. The number of man-hours and the human hours spent in gaol for cannabis cultivation exceeds all the time Japanese Canadians were incarcerated during World War II. I like to use figures like that because this is a pogrom of extraordinary proportion, a vicious cultural genocide. They can murder us, burn over a million of our plants every year, get our children to turn against us, use tax money to demonize us on bill boards, and put us in gaol. They beat us. Police officers routinely beat people.
The first time I ever met an RCMP officer was in a provincial park in 1973, and I was 13 years old. I had never even smoked a cigarette or seen a joint or any kind of drug. Three RCMP officers destroyed my entire campsite looking for heroin, they told me. I had never even heard of heroin at 13. It was the first time I had been away from the tutelage of my parents. I was with two other friends, age 14 and 15, and that was my first experience with the RCMP. It was not to be the last. They came in with flashlights shining in my face, threw badges at me, ripped apart my little pup tent, ripped apart our bags of popcorn and potato chips, trashed everything they could find, stomped out our fire, and yelled at me meanly for about an hour, looking for what they claimed were drugs. Of course they found nothing. Ultimately, they went away claiming that perhaps they had the wrong campsite after all.
That was 1973, 23 years ago. In a way, I am kind of fed up. I will die in about 23 more years. That will be about the end of my life cycle, sometime in my 60s. I would like to think that this attitude will not always go on, that the concept of a free and democratic approach to this issue will actually materialize to give some legitimate meaning to the 2 million of us who smoke marihuana and offer no harm to anyone. All we want is to be left alone and respected and treated at the same level as any other Canadian, potentially decent people who should be assessed for their character, their activities, and their contributions to society, not for the kinds of things they put inside their body, which is really no one's business, certainly not the business of the Canadian government.
The damage to our community goes much deeper than the nearly 2 million Canadians who live in fear because they smoke marihuana. Any day police with semi-automatic rifles may bust in their front doors looking for two or three plants in the corner of their houses, and they could kill them potentially if there was a misunderstanding as they bashed through that door. This happens every day. Actually, an arrest relating to marihuana is been made every five minutes of every hour of every day of every month of every year for the past 25 years.
We live in a constant state of fear and degradation because of what the Canadian government has deemed a narcotic. It is really only a mild euphoric. In my opinion, it is not addictive, psychologically or physically, and it is much safer than almost any other kind of similar property you can get through prescription or even legally available at any time of the day, but it also costs the taxpayer $3 to $5 billion every year in court time, policing, management, gaols and prison.
This magazine I publish called Cannabis Canada is actually banned. Police often try to get the magazine removed from news-stands throughout Canada. There is a law on the books that says to advocate, promote and encourage the use of marihuana will get you a $100,000 fine for the first offence and $300,000 for a second offence, and that is ancillary to six months in prison. Possession of marihuana only has a $2,000 fine, but to actually advocate the use of marihuana, under section 462.2 of the Criminal Code, will get you a $100,000 fine.
There is no other kind of advocacy that is banned in the Criminal Code other than hate literature. This is certainly not hate literature. It is love literature because we love marihuana. I have smoked marihuana for 15 years. Most people who smoke marihuana have smoked it for decades. We like it. We have a good relationship with the plant. We like to grow it. We like to wear it. My shoes, my pants and my T-shirt are also made from cannabis sativa hemp. Our magazine is printed on hemp. We use hemp throughout our entire office. We employ 18 people full-time. We provide 10 full-time jobs in ancillary industries manufacturing goods and products for us. We could create tens of thousands more jobs than those already created in the marihuana industry.
In addition to the $3 to $5 billion the government spends tracking us down, ruthlessly pursuing us, the government is losing a fabulous amount of revenue. Not only is it spending money unnecessarily merely to persecute millions of its own citizens, but of the $800 million spent annually in British Columbia on marihuana, it is missing out on $55 million in GST payments and $55 million in provincial sales tax. It is missing out on over $100 million in income tax payments that would be made available to the government if this plant were simply decriminalized and the income being made was taxed in a normal manner.
Ultimately, that is my proposal. I ask you to make an amendment to decriminalize marihuana so the government can stop spending these fabulous amounts of money we know it does not have, by its admission, and so it can collect taxes it so desperately needs, as it has claimed.
Ultimately, decriminalizing marihuana will create hundreds of thousands of additional jobs because British Columbia marihuana is the most highly regarded marihuana in the world, after the marihuana that comes out of Amsterdam. We have 100 million people worldwide who smoke marihuana. It is smoked in every country on earth. Its supporters are uniformly pursued and persecuted in every country on earth. This is a worldwide cultural genocide. They are out to get us in every country. In several countries, you can get the death sentence for marihuana.
I must point out to you that I already face six counts of trafficking in marihuana, although all I sold was little seeds that contain no drug quality. Each one of them carry with it a life imprisonment sentence. Not only am I looking at life imprisonment in this life, but you also have me facing life imprisonment in my next five reincarnations. That is a bit severe, I think, considering that we are talking about an extremely lovely, benign plant, and my next couple of centuries of life on this planet are already owed to the Government of Canada because I sell marihuana seeds as part of our business.
We will continue to sell marihuana seeds because our philosophy has been that we have to "overgrow" the government if we cannot convert the government.
We have given the government 30 years. We have seen two to three generations smoke marihuana, and we have not seen any deleterious effects. Most parliamentarians have smoked marihuana by now. If there is a case to be made for brain damage we would have to look at ourselves, would we not? We can only conclude that marihuana, by and large, is not particularly harmful to the Canadian public over an extended period of 30 or 40 years of on-the-street experimentation. The evidence is in. We look around but we must conclude that marihuana did not affect us in an adverse way.
However, the Canadian government's policy does affect us in an adverse and severely deleterious way, in a way that you cannot imagine unless you are a marihuana smoker. You live in a constant state of fear. That paranoia does not come from marihuana, it comes from the real hatred of the Canadian government and its police minions. Approximately 1,000 police officers are out, at any given time, chasing down marihuana and marihuana offences. Combined there are more police officers tracking down people smoking, growing, cultivating and selling marihuana than there are investigating homicide at any one time. That is a shocking statistic and a shocking abdication of the obligations of this government to monitor the legitimate concerns of its people. Instead, you are ruthlessly pursuing this. I cannot understand that. Approximately 30 years of hatred by the government should come to an end. It is the 1990s; we are too enlightened to continue this ridiculous idea that there is something wrong with marihuana, such that we must imprison 36,000 people per year, criminalize 33,000 others, and keep another couple of million in a state of fear. That is nonsense.
How did we get Canadian cannabis prohibition? One of the things I find difficult to discuss in Vancouver is how prohibition came about. It was done to get rid of the Chinese. The first drug law that we had in this country was in 1908. It was called the Opium Act. It was endorsed by William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was labour minister at the time and who later became Prime Minister. The white people got all tanked up on booze in my home neighbourhood of Gastown, which was named after the owner of the local saloon. Boozers have a place in Canadian history that seems to be lauded. John A. Macdonald was known as a whisky drinker, even during sessions of Parliament. Alcohol had some heralded sentiment in this country, but opium did not because it was used exclusively by the Chinese. In order to get rid of the Chinese, who were threatening the labour markets of Western Canada, they passed the Opium Act. Over the next 25 years, this allowed the Government of Canada to deport tens of thousands of Chinese people out of Canada to gaol, basically to get rid of the Chinese population. That is how we got our first drug law.
The second drug added to that law was marihuana. In 1923, Emily Murphy, a famous Canadian magistrate, a feminist and a white supremacist member of the Orange order, took testimony from the Los Angeles Police Department. As a result of that testimony this drug was added to the Canadian Narcotic Control Act. It was never meant to be applied to white people, which is a great irony. I am not saying whether it is good our bad. The origins of the opium and marihuana laws were founded in pure race hatred toward a group of people who were Canadian citizens then and are Canadian citizens now. This law was founded on the most immoral of all principles.
I have a copy of Hansard from the 1920s. Health was never mentioned by any parliamentarian during the prohibition of marihuana. No one was concerned about our health. This was a chance to get rid of undesirables, and it is still being used in the same way.
Emily Murphy was a staunch supporter of an all-white Canada. She won the Persons case in 1929. She is our first and most famous feminist. The little known fact about our first most famous feminist is that she was a white supremacist who hated all other races. That fact showed up clearly when you look at her court records and the records of her convictions. The same offence by a white person would net about one-fifth the sentence for a Chinese person or a first nation person. She is a hero but not necessarily always when the light of truth is revealed. She referred to the Chinese as "drug fiends, the dregs of humanity whose final objective is to subjugate the bright-browed nations of the world." She wrote this in Maclean's magazine. How appropriate that we were propagandized in our national magazine even back then. The Los Angeles police chief who testified in 1922 said that persons using marhiuana will smoke the dry leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane. This was accepted by her without any rebuttal by any medical authorities at the time. I am glad to see that committee hearings have improved since then. The chief went on to say that the addict loses all sense of moral responsibility. Addicts of this drug are immune to pain while under its influence. They become raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons using the most savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility.
I do not know any marihuana smokers like that, and I have been around a while. Reading that kind of testimony makes me think: "I hope things have improved." I have not seen any results at the legislative level yet.
That brings me to my final plea to you. I want you to consider coffee. It creates hypertension, is bad on your stomach lining, makes people jittery and jumpy, contributes to insomnia and is carcinogenic. It is loaded with pesticides when you buy it and yet, consider what would happen if we banned it. The price would be approximately $50 for a couple hundred grams of coffee. People would steal for it - I guarantee it - because, after all, millions are addicted to it. You could not get rid of coffee today. You would have a crime wave. You would have people stealing and breaking into places to get coffee. You would have a black market price for coffee. I will go one step further. Think of chocolate. Chocolate also contributes to hypertension and the obesity of over half a million Canadians. It is addictive. Consider what would happen if we were to ban chocolate. Some studies show that women choose chocolate over sex in 25 per cent of the cases. It must be addictive if it can override an inherent biological desire. Consider what would happen if we were to ban it. It would be the same situation. The price would go to 10 to 20 times higher, but people would still want it. They would still commit crime it get it. They would still indulge in this passion, and you could not stop it. After all, it would only be our idea of harm to them. The harm would be putting them in prison, creating a police state in order to enforce the law, and taxing them to oppress them for their own choices. The harm would be the degradation of our society by adding yet another item to prohibition which we do not need.
Please consider the option of decriminalizing and ending the criminal sanction for marihuana use. You do not have to go so far as to legalize it; leave that to me. I will drag this country, kicking and screaming, come hell or high water, into an era of legalization in my lifetime. For now, I ask you to end the criminal sanction against the peaceful use of marihuana.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Emery.
Mr. Robert Hamon: Madam Chairman, thank you for allowing me to appear here. With me is Mr. Rapoch, who has put together a paper talking about the problems of putting cannabis in Bill C-8 and is prepared to talk about sentencing problems and particularly harsh sentencing; and Mr. Nicholas Bureau, who is being courageous in coming here to talk about and enlighten you on the heroin problems in Canada.
I have prepared a paper containing my own personal feelings. While Mr. Emery and other people have addressed so many other aspects of this law and this bill, there is something in particular that I find dreadful with regard to our cannabis laws, namely, the problem of police corruption. My paper talks about that aspect, my personal feelings on the matter and what has happened in the U.S. because of this.
I was told that I was not allowed to include this sheet in your copies of our presentation because it is not in two languages, but there is a paper in the back that starts with the war on drugs. Contained therein is ex-police chief MacNamarra from Kansas City and San Jose, who also talks about how criminalizing cannabis and drugs leads to massive police corruption.
I will not talk too much. Our strength on the board here is in answering questions from senators. I will simply read the recommendation that the three of us have.
First, we ask the Senate not to pass Bill C-8. Instead, send a Senate bill to the House of Commons that conforms with all the recommendations of the Canadian Bar Association; failing that, we ask that the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs adopt the resolution endorsing harm reduction as the appropriate social policy for dealing with drug problems; and, third, that the Senate itself open an inquiry concerning the problems of police corruption as regards drug law enforcement.
An example of harm reduction policies is what the city of Amsterdam has done. They take the position that they cannot stop people from using drugs but that they can stop people from using bad heroin or from overdosing by having the government provide the heroin to addicts. They provide clean needles to stop the spread of HIV and the other problems which result from the use of dirty needles. Their harm reduction policies reduce crime by ensuring that drug addicts do not have to commit crimes in order to get their drugs.
Mr. Andy Rapoch, Past President, N.O.R.M.L.: My contribution to our presentation is an item-by-item critique of the scheduling of marihuana under the subheading "Problems with Bill C-8". I took a very narrow approach. Perhaps in my comments this morning I can take a broader approach. I would be glad to answer any questions, but I believe that because what I have to say is so narrow, it is quite clear.
I am repeating comments which have been made by the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy, the Addiction Research Foundation, et cetera. In fact, the majority of witnesses who have appeared before you have said that the offence and penalty structure in this bill bears no relation to the relative harm of cannabis compared to that of all other drugs and that the scheduling must be made more rational.
I prepared a table that sets out the penalties. You may find it useful in your deliberations. You can clearly see that the penalties are completely out of line. Health Canada considers cannabis to be on par with speed. On summary conviction, it is considered the same as heroin.
I will not go through this schedule in detail, but you may find it useful when you consider the claim that the scheduling of cannabis is completely out of line.
We have prepared some pie charts which show that cannabis accounts for 66 per cent of all drug offences. As Mr. Emery said, the law is not catching the heroin offenders. Of those, 70 per cent are charged for simple possession.
The next table shows adult sentencing. Of sentences for possession of marihuana, which comprises 70 per cent of the cases, 16 per cent of those convicted go to jail. When Mr. Kaplan was Minister of Justice, he used to say that no one goes to jail for marihuana offences any more. That is simply not true.
Another 50 per cent are given a fine. However, the incarceration rates show that one-third of all offenders in jail are there for nonpayment of fines. Therefore, just because they are fined does not mean that they do not end up in jail.
Thirty years of real-life experience with marihuana, with real live Canadian children and adults, has shown that marihuana does not warp your mind very much. However, I can tell you from experience that getting arrested and being sent to jail certainly does change your mind.
I should like to qualify myself for you. I have come out of retirement to speak to you this morning. From 1979 to 1984, I was executive director and later president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marihuana Laws. From 1980 to 1985, I was the chairman of the board of the Canadian Hemp Industries Corporation, which tried to do 15 years ago what the previous presenters are managing to do today. I have been a public servant for 25 years, and I still am. I smoked marihuana for 20 years, although I have not smoked it for the last eight; nor have I drank alcohol or smoked tobacco. That may be due to a mid-life change of heart or whatever you wish to call it.
I am appearing before you today simply as a Canadian citizen because I believe that the greatest single problem today is exactly what it was when Mr. LeDain made his report. The biggest problem with this law is the disrespect for it. That disrespect can come about in numerous ways. One of them is the ridiculous scheduling of marihuana. Everyone knows that the law as it exists, and even as it is proposed, bears no relation to the harmful consequences, such as they may be, of the substance compared to that of the others in the act. I am not alone in that opinion. Almost all other expert witnesses who have appeared before you concur in it.
Second, those who were unfortunate enough to be arbitrarily caught up by the legal system certainly have disrespect for the law when they are subjected to unnecessary brutality by the police, who consider them to be narcotics offenders, and when they are exposed to plea bargaining in the system. When I was first arrested 20 years ago, I was appalled by the plea bargaining system. When my lawyer said, "Plea to the lesser charge, say you are guilty", I was outraged. This is the introduction to the criminal justice system of people who are, for the most part, first offenders, and it is as a result of this law. What has happened to those people is appalling. What must they think of this country?
That is really my point in speaking to you as a citizen and as a public servant. I am appalled at what has happened to the view of Canadian citizens of their government as a result of this legislation which has affected more young people than any other. It is a piece of unfinished business from the 1960s. In its Throne Speech in 1981, the Liberal Party said that it was time to decriminalize marihuana. It was time 20 years ago.
In fact, 20 years ago this year, the Senate was well ahead of Health Canada when it adopted Bill S-19 which included smaller penalties for marihuana offences and the deeming away of criminal records to undo the long lasting damage of a conviction, which this bill does not address. Simply because people do not have their fingerprints on record does not mean that they do not have a criminal record. I believe the department has admitted that, as has every other witness who appeared before you. The long lasting damage is still there.
As we have recommended, the Senate could take the extra step this time of proposing another bill. We recommend one modeled on Bill C-420, Jim Fulton's private member's bill of the last two sessions.
I will stop there. I think I have made my points. I would be glad to answer questions.
Mr. Nicholas Bureau: I come from a middle class family. My parents are highly educated. In my family, there are no thieves or cheaters, much less heroin addicts.
I was raised in an environment in which I was taught sound values such as honesty, respect, politeness and so forth.
Six years ago, for reasons too complicated to get into at this time, I started to use heroin. At the beginning, I managed to support my habit with my earnings, but after a few months, things got out of hand. My habit became too expensive.
The heroin addiction cycle is a vicious one. Once a person becomes addicted, it is as if an illness sets in and everything in that person's life revolves around the need to feed the heroin addiction.
When a person is physically dependant on heroin, a habit which can cost between $100 and $300 a day, money must be found to support the addiction. Slowly, the person turns to crime and becomes an outcast in society.
The law of this country treats heroin addicts as criminals simply because they have this substance in their possession. However, certain types of criminal behaviour emerge in addicts because of the need to find a supply, not because of the consumption. In fact, many persons will begin selling heroin to support their addiction while others will turn to prostitution, theft, fraud and so forth.
It is not the use of heroin as such that leads to crime, but rather the fact that the substance is illegal. I would like this to be clearly understood. Several acquaintances of mine are dead today because of the lack of resources available for drug and heroin addicts.
If I am still alive today, it is for all kinds of reasons, but certainly not because of the government. That is unfortunate. The government provided no assistance whatsoever in helping me to kick my habit. I had to do it all by myself.
Through Bill C-8, the government will continue to treat heroin addicts and outcasts even more vigorously than before. Its actions will therefore contribute to an increase in the number of deaths owing to a lack of resources.
Instead of banning the use of this substance, the government should focus on providing services to the user and to propose valid alternatives like the ones offered in a number of countries. There, heroin addicts can check themselves into free clinics without having to wait several weeks before getting into a treatment program.
This program could be administered under medical supervision, as is already the case in several countries including Switzerland, Germany and Holland. By introducing even more repressive measures, the government will continue to provide an opportunity for corruption in all its forms to take hold.
I am calling on the Senate today to follow, at the very least, the recommendations of the Canadian Bar Association regarding Bill C-8. In my opinion, this is the least it can do and it would be a step in the right direction. Why criminalize behaviour which, at the outset, affects no one else but the user? Send the bill back to the House of Commons so that the government can do its homework, gather information about programs offered in other countries or at least reconsider its position. It may realize that this bill is not the right way to go and that another approach could be taken. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bureau.
The Chairman: Mr. Larsen, do you want to add something to the discussion?
Mr. Larsen: I want to make a brief statement. I have had a lot of correspondence with the federal ministries of health and justice over the last few years. If you ask them any questions about decriminalizing cannabis or any questions about drugs, you get a form letter which has not changed from the time of Pierre Blais to Allan Rock. It is exactly the same letter with a different name on the bottom. They give three reasons as to why they do not want to decriminalize marihuana, and I assume they apply to other drugs as well.
The first reason they give is that decriminalizing cannabis could result in greater use of the drug by Canadians, thereby increasing the health and safety hazards associated with it. The second reason they give is that it might put us in violation of international treaties that we have signed. The third reason they give is that decriminalizing cannabis is likely to meet with considerable opposition from the public. They say that there are public opinion polls which consistently show that Canadians are opposed to liberalizing access to marihuana.
I spent about year and a half making Access to Information requests to these departments. My patience finally paid off when I received a number of documents from the departments of the health and justice which show their claims are based upon absolutely nothing. As to the claim that usage would rise if marihuana was decriminalized, after about a year I received 12 pages of references from the Minister of Justice. Six of those are from the Twenty-eighth UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1979, and they are simply statements made by individuals on the different commissions to the effect that they feel that, if we decriminalize, it could increase rates of usage, and there is no documentation or back-up.
The other six pages they sent me were from a document called "Questions and Answers on Cannabis", prepared by the Ministry of Health in 1980, and they ask the question, can an increase in cannabis use be attributed to reduced penalties for use of the drug? They quote two American studies, and their conclusion from the evidence is that reducing legal consequences for possession of small amounts of cannabis does not accelerate the growth rate in use. In other words, decriminalizing cannabis does not affect the rate of usage.
With regard to the international treaties reason, after long delay, I finally received a response. Article 36 of the 1961 convention on narcotic drugs states that, subject to its constitutional limitations, each party shall adopt such measures as will ensure that cultivation, production, and so on, shall be punishable offences. "Subject to its constitutional limitations" is a key phrase there.
As we know, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that all Canadians are equal under the law and are entitled to protection without discrimination, in particular against, race, religion, ethnic origin. Marihuana is used as a religious sacrament by a number of different groups, such as the Rastafarians, the Church of the Universe based in Ontario, Tantric Buddhists, Kabalarians, and a number of other organizations. This to me seems to be religious use, which seems perfectly acceptable under this treaty. An interesting note is that there is a herb called kat, which will be banned under this bill, as was explained in testimony before the Parliamentary committee. It is presently legal. It is used by the Somalian community. If this bill is passed without an exception for this herb, we will be forcing Somalians to choose between their culture and the law, which does not seem to be appropriate. We are not bound by these treaties. We do not have to have these harsh penalties under international treaties either.
The final reason given was that Canadians oppose liberalization of access to marihuana, and that public opinion surveys show this, according to the government. Both the ministers of justice and health claimed to me that these surveys were done in the early 1980s. After a fair amount of time, I was told by the Access to Information Coordinator that there was no record of any such surveys taken in 1980. The only record they had was from 1994, Canada's Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey, and what this survey showed is that 27 per cent of Canadians said that it should be completely legal, 41 per cent said it should be illegal but punishable by only a fine or other non-jail sentence, and only 16.8 per cent of Canadians supported keeping marihuana illegal with a first offence being a criminal sentence, which would be the case under this bill. The remaining 14 per cent did not have an opinion. Despite the government's claim that Canadians will not support decriminalizing marihuana, it appears that about 70 per cent would support such a move and only 16 per cent are strongly opposed.
According to evidence given to me by the government, under the Access to Information Act, decriminalizing marihuana would not increase the rate of its use among Canadians, would not put us in violation of international treaties, and it would be supported by a high majority of the Canadian people. It seems to me that there is no justification for continuing this kind of violation of people's rights, their property and so on, nor for all the horrible things that happen to marihuana smokers that Mark Emery discussed. If there is no justification for keeping it illegal, I would support the idea that we decriminalize marihuana as soon as possible and I hope that you will do that. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you for your presentations.
Senator Gigantès: Madam Chairman, I have a small aside. We have heard the figures of 12,000 years and 8,000 years. As far as I know, the first recorded instance of the use of marihuana is from the 5th Century B.C. by the historian Herodotus who found that that is what they were doing in Russia. If you have another source, I would be grateful for it. I collect these little details.
We had a page in the Senate who suffered a massive brain haemorrhage. The boy she was with at the time called the police, who assumed she was drugged. They put handcuffs on her and threw her in jail and did not take her to a doctor for 24 hours, which aggravated her condition. Police do tend to be a little rough.
There is always a problem with children when you talk of decriminalizing any particular thing. At what age should children have access to that particular thing? We try to interdict access to tobacco, not very successfully. I saw very young kids smoking tobacco in the street yesterday. We certainly do not succeed in keeping them from getting hold of daddy's whiskey bottle. What do we do if we decriminalize a particular substance? What do we do about kids?
Mr. Hamon: I would say, senator, it is a problem. None of us would like us to see our children on drugs of any kind, whether it is alcohol, tobacco, marihuana, or anything else. We make laws for adults, not for children. It is true that we have to find a way of stopping our younger people from partaking of these things, and I believe that should be part of their education. It does not help that we have laws that allow, for instance, drugs such as alcohol and tobacco to be widely advertised and basically condoned by most of society. We should be telling our children that no drugs are good, whether it is alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. We do not aim our laws at children. They are aimed at adults. To deny adults the opportunity, for instance, to have a glass of wine with our meal because there is a chance that a 17-year old or a 15-year old might get hold of the whisky bottle is wrong. There must be a way around that. I am sure we can find a way around it, possibly through education and different advertising.
Senator Gigantès: Those who oppose decriminalizing marihuana say, "What about children?"
Mr. Emery: I have 15-year-old and 16-year-old sons. My 16 year old started smoking marihuana at 14. I felt no fear of that. After all, how could I tell my children not to do something that I do myself? That is a terrible example as a parent. My children have to regard anything that I do in my home as normal. If it is not normal, then I am leading this hypocritical, dual life. The worst thing one can do to children is to say one thing and do another.
Most people my age started smoking marihuana when they were 15 or 16. I would be hypocritical to say that we should shield our children from that. I started smoking when I was 23, but most contemporaries my age started smoking marihuana at 15 and 16. What are you to do? You have a prohibition now, and every high school kid has more access to marihuana than most adults my age. Their social circle is totally rife with marihuana and we have a prohibition! How could decriminalization possibly make this more accessible? This is what I do not understand. There is a naive disassociation from reality here. They already have access to alcohol and tobacco. Prohibitions are in place. The fact is that you will never solve this problem. No matter what the age is of an individual in this country, if you want something, you will find it. The questions are these: Should we make it more difficult and more expensive? Should we invoke a police state? Should we give these people criminal records? We are talking about an ideal social setting where we reduce the harm involved in any kind of human activity. Prohibition accomplishes none of these objectives. It increases penalties, ruins people's lives and costs the taxpayers. Ultimately, it is folly. It accomplishes none of its stated objectives.
Senator Gigantès: You have told us all of that, Mr. Emery.
Mr. Emery: I am telling you that there is nothing you can do about children.
Senator Gigantès: I am aware of some young people who take marihuana. They are terribly bright. However, they seem to develop a more relaxed attitude about obtaining good marks than employers would like. Employers look at marks as proof of the capacity to apply oneself. It is not brains; they know that. It is application. These young people did not seem to take this career approach seriously, and our society is geared to that. You will get that objection too.
Mr. Emery: Is that a reason to criminalize a segment of our population because they do not have the same degree of loyalty to the government's way of measuring their lives?
Mr. Rapoch: I have three children. Two are in their twenties, and they do not smoke marihuana. They drink beer, but that is fine. I have a 13-year-old who has smoked marihuana. Frankly, I did not like it. I will be honest with you. I smoked it for 20 years. I was not happy that my 13-year-old was smoking. The present law and this bill do nothing to remedy that situation. The state, in general, cannot take my place as a parent. It is up to me as a parent to deal with my child and say, "Listen, I do not like you doing that. I wish you would not. These are some of the things that could happen to you. You could be arrested. Be careful of the people you hang around with. Learn to listen to your own mind and make your own value judgments." I can pass on the lessons about growing up.
This law does not help me as a parent. In a discussion, you quickly run up against this comment: "Yeah, but it is against the law, and this law is stupid; don't you agree?" This law is not helping me, as a parent, deal with this problem. We need a social policy that will facilitate education by removing an irrational legal sanction which muddies the water, if you will, and puts smoke around the issue. It makes it harder for a parent to deal with the problem.
I can report to you that my 13-year-old has backed off, but it had nothing to do with the law.
Senator Gigantès: I have to say to you, gentlemen, that I do not think much of a law that criminalizes marihuana.
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin: My question is for Mr. Bureau. I am impressed by your honesty and frankness.
Did you smoke marihuana prior to using heroin?
Mr. Bureau: Yes.
Senator Nolin: Yes? I have a question and I want you to be honest. Did marihuana give you the urge to try a stronger drug?
Mr. Bureau: Not in the least.
Senator Nolin: This is one of the concerns that we have as parents and legislators. A person may try a drug that is not that dangerous, but, in my opinion, this whets that person's appetite for a stronger drug.
Mr. Bureau: I think that at the outset, some distinctions must be drawn. A person may try substance X, but there will always be people who want to go one step further and get a bigger buzz. Some people go mountain climbing or do sports. Others take drugs. Of course, that may not be the best solution. In my case, smoking marihuana had nothing to do with my trying heroin. On the contrary, I always wanted to stay away from it. Circumstances led me to become a user. Several weeks later, I had become addicted and I decided to continue using this drug. However, it was a choice that I made freely.
But to answer your question, no, my smoking marihuana had nothing to do with my trying heroin.
Senator Nolin: When you were young, did you have access to marihuana at school? How old were you when you began smoking marihuana?
Mr. Bureau: Compared to young people today, I started late. I began smoking a joint casually with school friends when I was 16 or 17 years old.
Senator Nolin: With your permission, Madam Chair, I would like to ask the witness if he also had access to alcohol at school. It is a given that cigarettes were readily available.
Mr. Bureau: Alcohol was not readily available at school as such. However, it was available at a corner store beside the school. As for hard drugs, they were not...
Senator Nolin: Available at the corner store? Are you talking about wine?
Mr. Bureau: Yes, but hard drugs were not available at school. That was not my experience.
Senator Nolin: What exactly do you mean by hard drugs?
Mr. Bureau: I am talking about cocaine and heroin.
Senator Nolin: These are drugs referred to as designated substances in the bill.
Senator Milne: Mr. Emery and Mr. Larsen, I should tell you that we had presentations at a previous meeting of this committee from legal and medical groups. They made a strong and compelling argument for decriminalizing the use of marihuana. Then, last night, I sat down to read your magazine. I would say that you know your readership very well. It is an interesting and a novel approach to a magazine. However, then I came to your coverage of Bill C-7, as it previously was.
Mr. Larsen, I should tell you that the way you treated the chairman of the House of Commons committee in this article that you wrote made my blood pressure rise. You called him a liar many times.
Mr. Larsen: Are you concerned with the veracity of the article?
Senator Milne: I am concerned about the approach you took to this gentleman because he apparently believed some other witness rather than believing the witnesses that you thought he should believe. I wish to point out to you the damage that you have done to your own cause in that way. I should like also to ask you how we, including the chairman of this committee, can expect to be treated in any written articles in the future?
Mr. Larsen: I wrote that article. Mr. Emery did not read it before it was published. We have a magazine going to print shortly. I was hoping to write a page or two about my experiences here today.
Paul Szabo made some comments upon which I commented. He said that marihuana today is stronger or as strong as cocaine was 20 years ago.
I read all the transcripts of the testimony given to him. I received all the written presentations. Nobody told him that in any of the presentations that I saw. I wrote to his office and asked for a reference for that comment. He never gave me one.
I have heard the claim made before that marihuana today is much stronger. I have never heard it compared to cocaine in its strength, and I am not sure how you compare that because they are entirely different substances. It is simply not true. Marihuana potency has not increased dramatically over the last few years, and it is certainly not comparable to the effect of cocaine in any way. I do not know where he got the information from, but it is wrong. I am sure he believes what he says. I cannot see him getting up there and saying things that he thinks are untrue, but the fact of the matter is that he is wrong.
To me, it is important that these kinds of statements not be allowed to persist, and for people to believe that it is true that marihuana is stronger than cocaine when it is not true, befuddles the issue. If I find senators making comments afterwards that I consider to be inaccurate, I will call them on them and I will say that the Senate has said something that I consider not to be true.
I do not mean to personally insult Paul Szabo, but I felt that his comments as chairman of that committee, as recorded in the transcripts that I read, demonstrated that he was not very open to listening to peoples' ideas. I was not there, and it is hard to say from the transcripts how things happened, but he cut off many witnesses and said, "We are not here to discuss that kind of stuff now. I do not want to hear that right now."
I am not overly familiar with the parliamentary process. This is the first bill that I ever looked at in this much detail, but I did not think he was doing a good job, and I felt it was my position as a journalist or as the magazine editor to call him on that and to state what I felt was the truth. I will defend everything I wrote in that article. I stand by everything, and I think that everything I wrote was accurate.
Mr. Emery: I take it you are not subscribing.
Senator Milne: You better believe it. I will say that I intend to disregard the way you wrote about him, and I will make up my own mind on what I hear here.
Mr. Larsen: Of course.
Mr. Hamon: To finish the question of the senator, I have here the Commons Debate from October 30, and there are two quotes by Mr. Szabo with which I take exception. He says here that under the provisions of the various international treaties to which Canada is a party, marihuana possession must be a criminal offence. I would quote from a report dated 1981, when John Chrétien was Minister of Justice, but unfortunately the cover has been stuck in the back of the justice department report. That report says that Canada is a party to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This international treaty obliges parties to subject cannabis in all its forms to stringent domestic control. With regard to the possession, cultivation and transfer of small amounts of marihuana or hashish, punishment is not required to be of a criminal nature.
Finally, regarding Mr. Szabo's quote about cocaine, he says that marihuana is about 15 times more potent today than it was 10 years ago and that marihuana is as potent today as was cocaine 10 years ago. That is absolutely untrue. I have found a quote from a magazine that says that from 1972 to 1992, the American Police Association gathered evidence on cannabis strength, and they found that there was very little difference between cannabis potency in 1972 and 1992.
I can tell you from experience and knowing what is happening out on the street. On the Ralph Benmurgui show in the month of December some woman said that cannabis had gone up to 60 per cent THC. That is absolutely untrue.
What is true about the market is that the potency of hashish cannabis has gone down over the last 20 years while the potency of marihuana cannabis has gone up. They are more or less about the same potency nowadays. To say it is ten times more potent than cocaine just goes to show that someone has really had the wrong information fed to them.
Mr. Emery: He is not necessarily a liar, just misinformed. I should correct that, as the publisher. We would not want to cast aspersions on their motives.
Senator Losier-Cool: Thank you, Madam Chair. First of all, I would like to thank the five witnesses for appearing before the committee. In reference to what Mr. Emery said:
We don't have a warm, gooey feeling from marihuana. Maybe chocolate. Some of us could be lucky and have sex.
I have been a high school teacher for many years, and this morning I wish I would have kept all the essays wrote in the 1980s on legalizing marihuana. It would have been very enlightening.
Senator Losier-Cool: I had a question for Mr. Bureau, but Senator Nolin already asked it. I was really under the impression that a person started out by using soft drugs and then gradually moved on to harder drugs.
Mr. Bureau: That is indeed a widely held belief, albeit a misguided one. I cannot speak for others, but in my case, that is not at all what happened.
Senator Losier-Cool: Mr. Emery, you mentioned prohibition in the west with the Chinese. In our history, there was prohibition of alcohol. Suppose we remove the prohibition on marihuana as we have removed the prohibition on alcohol. I do not mean to say that we should come back to prohibit alcohol, but we are now faced with societal problems with alcohol which cost a lot of money and harm many families.
Could there be the same danger? Could we come out with strong societal problems from legalizing marihuana as we have with alcohol?
Mr. Emery: I would suggest that if you made marihuana legal or more accessible, you would see a reduction in the use of harmful drugs like cocaine and a reduction in the use of alcohol. Marihuana is a natural competitor for people on weekends or in moments of private time who are looking for some euphoria. Their current option is largely alcohol and/or prescription drug abuse. Because the price of marihuana has escalated so shockingly to about $250 to $300 an ounce, it puts it out of the market for people who could spend a dollar for a beer. You are consequently seeing the alcohol industry thriving, the tobacco industry thriving, and prescription drug abuse, because they can be more readily obtained through some quasi-legal means. Marihuana is not available.
Marihuana would satisfy the needs of people who are seeking other things that are more dangerous because they are legal. I think you would see a reduction in the harm created by other chemicals and substances because their use would drop. I would say that marihuana use would probably go up. I would certainly be advocating that increase. I would be a hypocrite to say other than that. My job is to endorse and encourage the use of marihuana.
Once people begin to try marihuana, they will understand the contrast - that it is far safer, more healthy, non-toxic. Its fatality ratio is 40,000 to 1. You need 40,000 times a normal dose of marihuana to possibly kill yourself. With alcohol, it is like 10 times. With other drugs, it is a small fraction.
I would say that things would improve readily at many levels, including a reduction in the misuse of other substances, because if people can get marihuana, they will not go to other things. Marihuana is a very attractive substance for its many virtues, and I think our society would be greatly improved.
Senator Losier-Cool: I agree with you to a certain extent, but you are saying something different than Mr. Bureau. He did not take marihuana but went to street drugs right away.
Mr. Bureau: No, that is not what I said. I said that smoking marihuana does not necessarily make a person move on to harder drugs. That is what I said.
Senator Losier-Cool: Do some people immediately start out experimenting with hard drugs?
Mr. Bureau: Yes, there are some who probably do.
Mr. Emery: People who move on to other drugs have the idea that if marihuana does not satisfy, they will try something else. Ultimately people who end up as heroin or cocaine users try everything up to that point that is legal. Finding that it does not satisfy what they are looking for, they continue on their search. This will happen under any circumstances. People ultimately get to the drug they are looking for.
Marihuana is not included in this list, but many people take dangerous drugs to deal with a kind of emotional pain, from sexual abuse to emotional abuse to physical abuse, often originating from their childhood. Many people seek bad relationships or prostitution or drug use or some kind of punishing activity as a way of escaping the hell they were in.
People do not look at a heroin addict and say, "That is what I want to be when I grow up." That is obviously a terrible role model, but people end up using heroin because the pain in their lives is so incessant and never ending that heroin is the only thing that dulls it.
I live in a community where most of Canada's junkies can be found. Like everyone else, I suffer from the crimes these people commit. They steal in order to buy poisoned drugs which come from cartels. They cost such fabulous amounts of money that they are required to steal to buy them. I am both a victim of and a neighbour to these people. Who would want to become what they are? Obviously, no one. These are desperate people who have reached a desperate point. Heroin numbs their pain. When one interviews these people, one invariably finds that they come from broken homes and abusive families from which they were set adrift at age 13, after which they went through a series of foster homes. They are not like my kids; from middle class families with two parents who are always there, et cetera. These are people who have been abandoned and treated like garbage and this is where they ended up in life.
We must not forget that there are only about 5000 heroin addicts in Canada and that there are about 2 million cannabis users. Obviously, the heroin users went a completely different route than the vast majority of marihuana users.
Mr. Hamon: With regard to the suggestion that decriminalizing marihuana or lessening the penalties for its use would result in an increase in its use, I point out that Mr. Chrétien's report states that they see no reason to believe that this would happen.
We tend to concentrate on the cannabis issue. I personally am terribly disappointed that we have not introduced harm reduction policies before now. I got this book entitled The Amsterdam Drug Policy from the Dutch Embassy. It contains an interesting chart which shows the amount of hard drug use among people less than 22 years of age from 1981 to 1991. Their programs have resulted in a decline from 14 per cent to 2 per cent. That is a fantastic victory. We have no such victories. The present policy is guaranteed to continue the same thing. We will not save anyone.
Mr. Bureau knows of a young lady who was killed while prostituting herself in order to raise money for heroin. This young lady's parents are terribly angry about what happened to her. They wanted to appear before this committee. I do not know whether they will have a chance to tell you that they believe that their daughter is dead because of the drug laws. They were not allowed to help her. They could not do what they could have done in Amsterdam, for example, that is, register with the government to get the drugs she needed.
There will come a time when these addicts will say, "I want to stop now." They are coming to us and we are there to help them stop. They currently have no one else to go to for help in stopping. Criminals are not interested in having these people stop using drugs. They want them to continue. Canadians are dying every year. There has been an epidemic of heroin deaths in Vancouver. These people do not have to die. They are dying because of the lack of political will to change this law and to do the proper thing. Our problem is that moral judgment is getting in the way. We are saying that what they are doing is wrong and that we should condemn them as criminals. That is not the way it should be done. That is not the way it is done in Amsterdam, in England, in Italy or in Germany. They want to get on with a newer and better way of doing things.
We have had 89 years of prohibition and no success. The successes in Amsterdam show that we could do something, but we cannot do that if we pass Bill C-8. I would love to see the Senate send this bill back and say that we must do something to stop these deaths, that we must do something to reduce the amount of drug use.
In spite of the fact that there are some 2000 coffee shops distributing cannabis in Amsterdam, use there has decreased in the last ten years. Currently, Dutch people have the lowest use per capita in all of Europe, especially among their youth.
It seems obvious that changing the policy and reducing sentences does not necessarily mean that there will be an increase in use. As a matter of fact, there has been a decrease in use everywhere this has been tried. The state of Alaska legalized possession of up to 15 plants in 1975. Alaska used to have among the highest per capita use in the United States and is now 20 per cent under the national average in the U.S.
Senator Losier-Cool: Thank you very much. Your comments are very enlightening. I do favour the decriminalization of marihuana.
Senator Doyle: I have a worn "LeDain" button that I have been wearing all these years. I do believe in decriminalization. Yet, I have a nagging worry, and you have brought it back to the surface like an itch; that is, if decriminalization is going to do all these wonderful things for us and help to the extent that you think it will, what answers do you have for that other drug that comes so close to being criminalized? I speak of tobacco. It does far more damage, yet we have said, "No false controls. We will not go into a house and seize a pouch of tobacco. We will do nothing other than prosecuting someone selling it directly to a child."
What do we think our results have been on this free and open sale of tobacco and how that would stand us if we suddenly open the doors on the use of marihuana?
Mr. Emery: Tobacco is an addictive substance. Cigarettes are not correctly labelled. Pure tobacco, grown organically, is not nearly as harmful as the tobacco we buy commercially today, because of the number of additives, which are not listed on the side of packages, which help create addiction.
I do know that many tobacco addicts are relatively poor people. Whenever the price of tobacco goes up, variety store theft increases dramatically, and cigarettes are the prime article stolen, even more than cash. Cigarettes are the primary item stolen out of all variety stores.
The difficulty is that prohibition of tobacco creates the same problem as any prohibition. It creates an underground market and black market prices. We saw the massive degree of smuggling that went on as prices, due to taxation, caused tobacco to go outside the realm of the working class and the poor. They would stoop to buying it illegally from known criminal elements. They would smuggle it. A massive industry was created involving thousands of people dealing in smuggled cigarettes.
I do not smoke tobacco. I think it is a very dangerous and kind of dirty habit. However, I do know that any attempts to circumvent people getting it will create more problems than we already have.
I also think the government is upset that socialized medicine has come home to roost and everyone is now taking advantage of it with various illnesses and diseases due to personal neglect. Sometimes I think that socialized medicine is being held up as a way to strip us of our civil rights. People have a right to smoke tobacco. People do not have a right to impose the cost of their health care on others, in my opinion. However, this country has evolved to mean the reverse: You do not have the right to put whatever you want in your body and everyone else has a right to interfere in your lifestyle because of the socialized cost of your health care.
Ultimately, you are really concerned about socialized medicine; you are worried about the infrastructure costs and the damage that tobacco can do to people. In an increasingly aging population we will see a lot of cancers related to tobacco. However, I know of no successful way, other than education, of routing people's desire for tobacco. Anything like prohibition will cause more crime.
Senator Doyle: I was really not advocating that we get a control program on tobacco. We have a relatively open market for tobacco. People can easily buy and use it, and we do not send them to gaol for using it. What would happen if the same situation applied to marihuana?
Mr. Emery: To get the desired effect from marihuana, you only need to smoke one to three joints. That involves a much lower consumption of hot gases, tar and carbon monoxide. I do not consider the health hazards to be similar. Marihuana is not an addictive agent. I have discontinued use many times, depending on where I was and the availability of marihuana. Its expense is a serious problem.
Senator Doyle: Did you not just tell us that the use of marihuana by young people has increased tremendously?
Mr. Emery: Yes, and that is because it is a preferred alternative. That is an intelligent choice. Unfortunately, there may be the misconception that, when young people choose marihuana, they are demonstrating a higher degree of sensitivity to the alternatives. We would hope that they have rejected alcohol, tobacco, prescription drug abuse, and various other things that are readily available and have chosen marihuana because they know, from the empirical evidence around them, that it is the safest, least harmful, least toxic and the most fun. Alcohol has many down sides. I remember at high school dances a number of people throwing up all over the place, behaving violently, and having clashes over possession of boyfriends and girlfriends. I have never seen that happen with people who use marihuana. This is a preferred substance by every other comparison, but I cannot state categorically that it will create the benefits I claim it will. If it does not, we can always go back to the prohibitionary model which has been in place for approximately 60 years. If we tried a non-prohibitionary model for a couple of years, this country would benefit greatly from the experiment. We can always go back to this dark road from where we have come. However, I do not think anyone would think of going back once we have tried a non-prohibitionary model.
Mr. Rapoch: Tobacco is legal a legal substance. Our position with respect to marihuana is decriminalization not legalization. Legalization entails industrial production, commercial marketing and advertising. It would become a commodity. I, for one, do not endorse that. Unfortunately, for reasons of greed, which are all very attractive today when we have a fiscal crisis, the prospect of legalization is very attractive to some people. Some members of Parliament may be favour of legalization because the tax dollars generated from sales could be applied to the deficit. That may be so, but the legalization of tobacco and tobacco products is a fine example of what happens when the government makes money from the legalization of drugs.
Decriminalization means that people who want to grow a small amount of marihuana in their backyards to smoke with their friends are free to do that. That would not involve billboard advertising and the industrial production of cigarettes. That is the fundamental difference between tobacco use, which is legalized, and cannabis use, which we want to decriminalize. Eliminate the harmful consequences of this law and do not replace them with profit motivation, especially by government.
Senator Jessiman: Do you share that view, Mr. Emery?
Mr. Emery: Not at all, no.
Senator Jessiman: I would not have thought so.
Mr. Emery: I think advertising marihuana will solve many of our problems. It will lead people away from alcohol. Marihuana and alcohol share the same market, but marihuana is not as harmful a substance. Alcohol advertising is aimed at young, single people with time and money on their hands. The same would apply to marihuana advertising. Those are the people entering the market. They would have the choice between smoking marihuana on the weekend or drinking alcohol. Billboard advertising of marihuana will substantially reduce alcohol consumption by young people. We will all benefit from that.
Senator Gigantès: Have you considered the increasing number of American tourists this might encourage?
Mr. Emery: I am all for that. In fact, plane loads of Japanese tourists will be coming to our cannabis cafe this summer. We are arranging their visit. Billions of dollars are to be made and that will provide Canadian jobs.
Senator Pearson: I appreciated the distinctions drawn by Mr. Hamon and Mr. Rapoch. However, my main concern is harm reduction. We are considering this legislation as a measure which will result in less harm and more good, so to speak. The distinction you draw is very helpful.
Mr. Hamon spoke about legislation being for adults and not for children. However, legislation impacts upon the whole population. When drafting legislation, we must never forget that whatever we sanction for adults may not be appropriate for children. Legislation must reflect that distinction. Would you agree with that?
Mr. Rapoch: Certainly, and that has been done in respect of many other substances and behaviours in our lives. I do not know why common sense cannot apply to this particular substance as well.
Senator Pearson: Your argument on harm reduction is very persuasive.
Mr. Rapoch: The Canadian Drug Strategy, which was initiated to try to come up with a social policy respecting drug use, will cease to exist next year and, so far, no provision has been made to replace it. It will be evaluated next year, and a decision should be made whether the policy review promised by the Minister of Health should be coordinated with the evaluation of drug policy.
Your question raises a much larger issue of dotting the "I"s and crossing the "T"s on this particular bill. We should be looking at much larger questions of social policy respecting drugs: marihuana in particular; other drugs in general.
This bill is too little, too late. Twenty years ago the Senate itself went down this same road. The time has long passed for this bill. The process and the sequence of events attached to this bill are completely wrong. The cart has been put before the horse by the Department of Health. As I said earlier, as a public servant, I am having some difficulty with what I am about to say.
The Department of Health seems to be out of control and out of step with what is going on in this area of expertise. Why is it that all the expert witnesses you have heard are opposed to the position taken by the Department of Health? Why is it that the Department of Health is hijacking this agenda? When this bill was before the House of Commons, they simply refused to discuss policy questions because they said, "This is just a housekeeping bill." It is clearly not just a housekeeping bill. You, honourable senators, have been in government long enough to know that is a tired old rouse used by bureaucrats to sweep stuff away from your attention. You know this measure is more than just a "housekeeping" bill. What is really required in this instance is house cleaning - that is, it must be seriously considered.
With the expiry of the Canadian Drug Strategy next year, surely it is time for another look. It is better not to pass this bill and better for the Parliament of Canada not to be extorted and held hostage by the Department of Health, which has said that it will not even consider a review until and unless this bill is passed. That is certainly my reading of the legislative summary that was prepared for this legislation by the research branch. As a citizen and as a public servant, I am outraged that the Department of Health has taken the position that it can refuse to discuss policy because, in my estimation, policy is set by government and not by the bureaucracy. Their job is to advise, to assist, to implement and to give their expertise.
Senator Gigantès: As a former public servant, I agree with you that public servants usurp the power of their political masters.
Mr. Rapoch: We have a classic case in point here. The Department of Health is out of control and certainly out of step. I will not go so far as to say that, in this age of downsizing, they are putting personal interest ahead of the good of Canadians.
Senator Nolin: You just said it.
Mr. Rapoch: All of their arguments are proven by their own documentation which had to be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and which put all their arguments into disrepute.
It is my sense, when every expert group in the country and around the world is opposed to this bill, that there is something wrong with this picture. Bureaucrats in Health Canada have been "beavering" away at getting their bill through the system for probably more than a decade now. Their thinking on this bill has not changed from the day they started preparing their legislative proposals. They are completely out of touch with reality. I suspect they are still driven by the Reagan-Bush drug wars.
Canada is already well in line with UN requirements; in fact, we are over the line. Even if we toed the line with a bill that represented the UN's requirements, we would have a much less severe bill than the one now before you. Frankly, what we have here is a law problem and not a drug problem.
Thank you for opening that door. I wanted to get that across to you. I believe we have a serious governance problem with respect to this bill.
Senator Jessiman: Perhaps one of you gentleman can assist me. The psychoactive ingredient in marihuana is THC, and we all know what that is, although I just found out what it is. Is that the same psychoactive ingredient that is found in cocaine?
Mr. Hamon: It is totally different.
Senator Jessiman: Beer contains a certain percentage of alcohol, wine may contain more, and hard liquor even more, but they all contain, basically, the same substance. Are you saying that these drugs do not follow that pattern?
Mr. Hamon: Cannabis is completely different from both cocaine and heroin. Hashish and marihuana are similar in pattern to the differences between beer and hard liquor, for instance.
Senator Jessiman: If you drank enough wine, you would finally become drunk. Drinking less hard liquor gives the same effect. Would the same thing happen if you smoked enough joints of marihuana? Would that have the same effect as taking cocaine?
Mr. Hamon: No, absolutely not. People generally only take two or three puffs of cannabis product in order to become high. I have heard it said that it is two or three joints, but that is rare. A few people will share a joint which is, of course, trafficking under the law.
Cocaine is totally different. Cocaine is like a speed drug. It makes you vigorous and gives you energy. It makes you nervous, whereas the average heroin addict is sleeping on a couch. There is a big difference between trying to control someone who is completely stoned on cocaine who might be very tense, and trying to wake someone who has used heroin. A heroin user usually creates no problems. He is usually to be found on the couch sleeping.
You ask whether there is any difference between marihuana and cocaine. There is an enormous difference. They are not at all alike.
I notice, senator, at previous hearings you asked questions such as: "What is cannabis?" You asked the department to explain that to you.
Senator Jessiman: I know what it is now.
Mr. Hamon: One group of witnesses was from the Canadian Medical Association. In 1970, they appeared before the LeDain commission and said that they favoured decriminalizing cannabis because the laws cause more harm to the individual than the drug.
About four years ago, Bill C-240 was introduced in Parliament by Mr. Fulton. At that time, the Canadian Medical Association presented a paper recommending decriminalizing marihuana. Yet, here we are, four years later in the war on drugs, and when Senator Jessiman asked the Canadian Medical Association representative whether he agreed with legalizing marihuana, the doctor said, "I am wise enough to duck that question."
To me, that is an abrogation of his responsibility as a doctor. He should at least say something, not duck a question because it is politically incorrect or because it may get him into trouble. He is a doctor and we rely on the medical association for some medical evidence here. I am disappointed with the medical association's response to this bill.
Senator Nolin: If we decriminalize possession, should trafficking still be considered a crime?
Mr. Rapoch: I am suggesting that we have an enforcement regime that represents minimum compliance with the UN agreements to which we are a party. Yes, we would have to continue some sanction against trafficking and some sanction against importing.
I suggest, however, that cultivation of marihuana be abolished as a separate offence. Under the provisions of this bill, growing marihuana in my backyard is punishable by seven years in prison. However, if I cut the plant down, I would merely be in possession of it, and that carries another penalty. That is an absurd distinction but a serious one in law.
Senator Nolin: What is happening in Holland?
Mr. Rapoch: Perhaps Mr. Hamon can assist you in that regard since I have come out of retirement for this and I am not fully up to date on what is going on there.
Mr. Hamon: Unlike our government officials, the health minister of the Dutch government claims that marihuana is not a problem drug. Under Dutch laws, and because of international agreements, it is still illegal to possess cannabis in Holland.
The Dutch believe that, by separating hard and soft drugs, they will discourage young people from mixing with the milieu who use hard drugs. There has been a marked decrease in the use of hard drugs by young people.
Cannabis sales are allowed in cafés. It is obvious that someone must sell it to the customers. Amounts of 30 grams have been allowed for sale, but I believe that will be reduced to 5 grams at a time. If that decrease has not already happened, it will happen very soon because other countries are complaining that tourists were going to Amsterdam and buying 30 grams two or three times and then taking, say, 90 grams back to Germany, Italy or wherever.
Other governments have recognized this as a problem. The governments of France, Belgium and Germany have agreed to provide funds to the Dutch government to assist them because it is their own population that is going to Holland. Obviously, the Dutch must somehow allow the trafficking of small amounts. The government has gone ahead and done that, claiming it is for the good of society because it keeps purchasers away from the criminal element when they buy. It is illegal, but it is done. It is a harm-reduction policy which they have adopted. They disregard their international obligations if they interfere with the health and safety of their own country.
The Chairman: I have one final comment, rather than a question. I must say, Mr. Emery, I was very surprised at your comments with respect to children. Parents of a three-year-old may have sex, but I do not suspect that you are, therefore, recommending that children should have sex at three years of age.
Mr. Emery: No, but you would not tell them it is unhealthy. They are not likely to have sex at three, but you would not start telling them, "Sex is bad, but meanwhile your mom and I are doing it upstairs." You would tell them that sex is healthy and that there will be an appropriate time for them to have sex. You would take the same approach to drugs. I would never tell my sons that marihuana is bad for them or in any way harmful because then they would question why I use it. I would then have to admit that I was involved in self-destructive behaviour. That is an hypocrisy that I, as a parent, could never abide.
When he was 14, I introduced my son to marihuana. We took a helicopter ride around Seymour Mountain. I said, "This is a wonderful way to experience marihuana because we will have something fantastic in nature to see and we will have this plant to enjoy and it will be a really great experience".
I did that so he would always associate something special with the use of marihuana and so it would not seem routine and ordinary like a tobacco habit. That is how parents introduce their children to wine. They have wine with their children during the meal so they have a sense of what is normal and appropriate behaviour.
This idea that if we tell our kids not to have sex and not to take drugs that we will accomplish something useful is a complete fallacy; it is folly. Behind our backs they will behave in a way that they consider appropriate. As a parent, I would not want that. We should not send children mixed messages. We should not be hypocrites. We should tell them the truth, and parents should behave in a consistent manner with respect to that truth.
I am not suggesting we should promote drugs to children. However, if children do use them, there is no sense in placing criminal sanctions them. That will only hurt the child involved, not help him or her. Young people are most interested in experimentation. Experimenting with marihuana is a lot healthier than experimenting with other substances.
In reality, many of our prime ministers and cabinet ministers have used marihuana. I suspect that many started when they were teenagers. It does not seem to have impaired their careers or lifestyles.
Among the two million of us who use marihuana, many started as teenagers. It is hypocritical to say that we should protect our children for the next 20 years from doing something that they have learned to love. I see no sense in that. It is irrational.
Mr. Larsen: The youth of today know when they are being told lies. The information they have available to them indicates that if they smoke marihuana, all sorts of horrible things will happen to them. Our government places it in the same category as hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. However, when you smoke a joint, you realize that it is not that bad. You enjoy it. You see your friends smoking it, and they are not going crazy. It could confuse the issue because you think that if this is okay, then other things the government is banning are okay too. The gateway effect of people smoking marihuana and moving to harder drugs is not very common. However, it confuses children when we pretend that marihuana is the same category of drug as cocaine. It teaches them that adults are lying to them and that they should not listen to what they are told by their government or by their parents. They lose respect for the government. People do not understand which substances are dangerous and which are not because they realize that much of what they are being told is simply untrue. It is better to be honest with our children. It is counter-productive to lie.
Mr. Emery: It would be like our government lying to us. How counter-productive would that be? You can think of it in the same way. The government lied to us about prohibition for six years, and look at the harm it has done. Apply that to the microcosm of your own home.
The Chairman: Thank you for presenting your positions this morning. It has been interesting and informative.
Honourable senators, our next witnesses are representatives of the HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society.
Please proceed, Mr. Jürgens.
Mr. Ralf Jürgens, Project Coordinator, Legal and Ethical Issues, HIV/AIDS Legal Network & the Canadian AIDS Society: Honourable senators, I should like to thank you for allowing me to make this presentation on behalf of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society.
This is a summary of a larger submission. In this presentation, I will outline how Canadian drug laws and policies impact on the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as hepatitis B and C. I will provide some information about the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society and, in particular, about the activities of the two organizations in the area of drug use.
I will then summarize the results of Phase I of a Joint Project on Legal and Ethical Issues Raised by HIV/AIDS that started in January of 1995 and that is still ongoing. As part of that project, I was able to meet with public health officials, representatives of provincial ministries of health, the Canadian Bar Association, people living with HIV and AIDS and many people working in HIV/AIDS service organizations across Canada. Over 60 of the individuals and organizations I met with expressed concern about the impact of Canadian drug laws and policies on the spread of HIV. I undertook a literature review as part of the project. It showed that many authors express a review that drug use should be treated as a health issue rather than as a criminal activity and that our drug laws and policies need to be respectful of the human rights of persons using drugs.
I will then briefly discuss the results of the research undertaken by the joint project in the area of HIV/AIDS and drug use in prison. This research shows that drug use is a reality in Canadian prisons and that Canadian drug laws and policies contribute to the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases - in particular, hepatitis C - among prisoners and to the community.
I will conclude by supporting the changes to Bill C-8 that were proposed to this committee by the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation.
Annexed to the submission is a paper that I first presented at a meeting on AIDS justice and health policy. The paper argues that, particularly in view of the advent of HIV infection and the resulting increase in mortality for drug users, laws and policies should be revised because they have been recognized as ineffective in reducing or suppressing drug use and the harms resulting from drug use and as impeding efforts to achieve these outcomes.
The HIV/AIDS Legal Network is a charitable organization based in Montreal. It is a national organization that educates about and promotes policy and legal responses to HIV infection and AIDS, and it respects human rights. It also facilitates access to accurate and up-to-date legal information about issues raised by HIV, and it links people working with or concerned with relevant social and legal issues raised by HIV and AIDS.
The Canadian AIDS Society, the other organization on whose behalf I am making this presentation, is a national organization that supports community action on HIV and AIDS issues in Canada. It represents more than 100 community-based organizations across the country. It provides the bulk of education, support and advocacy programs and services for individuals and communities affected by HIV in Canada.
I will make a few remarks about the recent activities of these organizations in the area of HIV and AIDS. The Canadian AIDS society completed a project on HIV, alcohol and other drug use in February, 1995. This project identified numerous systemic barriers that marginalize and dehumanize drug users. The report of the project indicates that one of the barriers encountered relates to crime control. For example, users are viewed as criminals and will fear judgment if they attempt to access help. Another barrier relates to restrictive policies. For example, people without an address cannot access services. Methadone prescriptions are not allowed in some areas. People who use drugs cannot use any drugs while in certain treatment programs, thus eliminating necessary medications.
The project recommended that the Canadian AIDS Society:
Gets involved in advocating against negative judgments and attitudes toward people who use drugs;
Advocates for the decriminalization of drugs;
Advocates for harm reduction approaches;
Advocates for prescribing programs.
The project report of that project concludes that the ultimate goal is to create programs and societal attitudes which not only accept people living with HIV and chemical dependence, but welcome them.
Mr. Russell Armstrong, Executive Director, Canadian AIDS Society, just joined us.
Another project undertaken by the Canadian AIDS Society was the organization of a national workshop on street-involved people and HIV and AIDS. This workshop, which was held in March of 1995 and was funded by Health Canada, issued a variety of recommendations. First and foremost, it recommended opposition to the passage of Bill C-7, which of course now is Bill C-8, and recommended that drug addiction should be seen as a social and medical issue rather than as a criminal issue. The workshop recommended that we should use harm-reduction approaches rather than abstention and criminal approaches; that we should recognize that drug use is linked to other social issues such as poverty, abuse, lack of self-esteem, and families in difficulties; that marihuana use should be legalized; and that services to drug users in prisons should be increased.
Because of the recent increase in the rates of HIV infection among drug users, the Canadian AIDS Society chose the theme of AIDS and drug use as the theme of its 1996 AIDS Awareness Week.
Further, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society are undertaking the joint project on legal and ethical issues raised by HIV and AIDS, to which I already made reference. As part of this project, key legal and ethical issues raised by HIV/AIDS in Canada have been assessed and prioritized. Among the list of top eight priorities in the area of legal and ethical issues raised by HIV and AIDS is drug laws and HIV/AIDS. People felt that we had to deal with the problems deriving from Canadian drug laws and policies in the area of HIV and AIDS.
Individuals and groups with which I consulted - and, as I said, I consulted with over 60 individuals and organizations across Canada - were concerned that, first, drug users, rather than being offered easy access to treatment for both their drug use and HIV, were being driven underground by the criminal law; that existing laws and policies make it difficult to reach out to them and to educate them; and, finally, that drug use is treated as a criminal activity rather than as a health issue. Many also pointed to the existing inconsistencies between laws and policies regulating licit drugs, whose use is sanctioned and often even encouraged, and laws and policies regulating the use of illicit drugs.
Other concerns raised included limited access to methadone in Canada; limited availability of drug treatment; mandatory HIV testing for people seeking access to certain types of drug treatment programs; counselling of abortion for drug users, whether HIV positive or not, which was said to be common; limited availability of needle-exchange programs, often only in major centres, and there, only in downtown areas; and, finally, the non-inclusion of drug users in clinical trials for new drugs for AIDS.
The literature review I undertook showed that the concern about HIV and AIDS, especially about the connection between the sharing of contaminated syringes and the spread of HIV, is having or should have a significant impact on the course of drug policy and laws in Canada and other countries. One example that is put forward is government-funded establishment of needle-exchange programs. Such programs are said to represent an explicit recognition of the social reality of drug use, the impracticality and futility of efforts designed to eradicate the problem, and the public health necessity of adopting measures to contain the rapidly increasing rate of HIV infection among injection drug users.
There is consensus in the literature that existing as well as proposed new drug laws and policies often render efforts to reduce the harms from drug use, and, in particular, the spread of HIV, more difficult to undertake. Canadian drug laws are contributing to the deaths of thousands of people through the preventable spread of HIV and other infections such as hepatitis and tuberculosis. These laws have encouraged users to ingest certain drugs in more efficient ways, often by injecting, increasing the risk of HIV infection and other blood-borne infections.
They have further created a culture of marginalized people, driving them away from traditional social support networks. They have also fostered a reluctance to educate about safe drug practices for fear of condoning or encouraging the use of illegal drugs. They have further fostered public attitudes that are vehemently anti drug user, creating a climate in which it is difficult to persuade Canadians to care about what happens to their fellow citizens who use drugs. They have focused too much attention on punishing Canadians who use drugs. They are downplaying critically important issues, such as why people use drugs and what can be done to help them.
They have also greatly increased the risk of spreading HIV in prisons, and I will turn to that in a moment. They have finally led many drug users, who fear being arrested for possession of illegal drugs and having their own syringes used as evidence against them, to forgo using their own drugs and syringes. Instead, they may go to shooting galleries where they may be given syringes contaminated with HIV.
In the literature, there is further consensus that this should be a time to re-evaluate Canada's drug laws and to draft new ones based on public health and harm-reduction principles. Canada should move towards treating drugs as a health rather than criminal issue.
There is also further consensus that the spreads of HIV is a greater danger to individual and public health than injecting drug use itself. Major improvements in professional and public attitude to injection drug use and injection drug users is necessary, since the policies and actions which fail to respect the human rights and dignity of injection drug users may promote the hidden use of drugs and impair the effectiveness of measures to combat the spread of HIV.
In 1994, about 200 Canadian experts in the area of HIV and drug use convened in Edmonton at the Second National Workshop on HIV, Alcohol and other Drug Use. These are some of the recommendations that were debated by the participants: de facto decriminalization of personal possession and use of cannabis; changes to drug paraphernalia laws so that needles can be sold to shooting galleries; development of alternatives to imprisonment for people involved in drug crimes or drug related crimes; drug offenders should generally be referred to community help and treatment services rather than be sent through the courts; acknowledgement by governments in Canada of the multiple harms caused by responding to drug issues through the criminal law; and, again, one of the recommendations was to stop the proposed legislation, Bill C-7 at the time, and Bill C-8 today.
It was said that this bill was aimed at strengthening and perpetuating the use of the criminal law. Instead, governments should focus on social policy and health measures to reduce drug related harms at the individual and societal level.
I will now briefly turn to the issue of AIDS and drug use in prisons. I have worked on this issue for many years, first as a project co-ordinator of the Expert Committee on AIDS in Prisons and again recently when, as part of the joint project, we produced an update on issues raised by HIV/AIDS in prisons in Canada. Again, I have both an English and a French version of this report which I will leave with the committee.
The major concern in the area of HIV and AIDS in drug use in prisons is that, because of current drug laws, many drug users spend many years of their lives in and out of prisons. In prisons, they are at increased risk of contracting HIV if they are HIV negative when they get into prison or, if they are HIV positive, of transmitting HIV to fellow inmates and, once they contract HIV in prison, of transmitting the infection to their spouses and partners when they are released from prison.
The Expert Committee on AIDS in Prisons, in its final report that was released in 1994, said:
...some inmates will enter prisons already infected; for those not infected when they enter prison, persistent injection drug use in prison without access to clean injection equipment means that HIV infection will be unavoidable. Some offenders will begin using drugs when they are incarcerated. And a significant number of inmates share injecting equipment for the first time when they are in prison.
Imprisonment is the single largest response to the drug problem and more resources are used in moving drug users through the criminal justice system than any other form of management; medical or social. As the Expert Committee on AIDS in Prison said:
Many of the problems created by HIV infection and by drug use in prisons could be reduced if alternatives to imprisonment, particularly in the context of drug-related crimes, were developed and made available.
The World Health Organization has stated:
Governments may...wish to review their penal admission policies, particularly where drug abusers are concerned, in the light of the AIDS epidemic and its impact on prisons.
In the study which I recently undertook, I looked at developments that had happened in the 18 months since the Expert Committee on AIDS in Prisons released its final report in April of 1994. In those 18 months, there has been a 40-per-cent increase in the number of known cases of HIV infection in federal correctional institutions in Canada. There has been an increase in the number of prisoners living with symptomatic HIV infection or AIDS in prisons. There has been increasing evidence of high-risk behaviours in prisons, particularly evidence that prisoners inject and use unclean materials because they do not have access to sterile injection equipment in prisons.
Numerous studies have shown that HIV is being transmitted in prisons. One study done in Scotland proved that, in a period of only one or two weeks, at least 13 prisoners in one small Scottish prison were infected through sharing of injection equipment in that prison.
There is also evidence of the rapid spread of hepatitis C in prisons in Canada. Three studies have been undertaken in Canadian prisons in 1994 which have shown rates of hepatitis C in those prisons ranging between 28 and 40 per cent.
There have also been some developments in other countries such as pilot projects of needle distribution in prisons in Switzerland. I was recently in Switzerland and was able to witness that those programs function very well and are accepted and supported not only by prisoners but by prison employees, the public and politicians.
When I was in Switzerland in February, a review of Swiss drug legislation was published recommending, among other things, decriminalization of the use of all drugs.
In August of last year, 200 people met in Kingston to look at issues raised by HIV and AIDS in prisons. Participants agreed that many of the problems raised by HIV in prisons are a result of Canada's drug policy which, instead of providing drug users with much-needed treatment, care and support, criminalizes their behaviour and puts many of them in prison. Further, the financial and human costs of this policy are enormous. Prison systems are burdened with a problem with which society fails to deal and with which they are even less equipped to deal.
Among people and organizations working on issues raised by HIV and AIDS in Canada, there is much concern that current and proposed Canadian drug policies and laws contribute to the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases among drug users and to the general public. There is consensus that, while many reasons existed before the advent of HIV to call for changes of laws and policies, the rapid spread of the disease has made these changes even more important and pressing and that the spread of HIV is a greater danger to individual and public health than drug use itself.
There is consensus that drug use should be treated as a health and social rather than a criminal issue. There is consensus that respect for the human rights of all individuals, including drug users, needs to be ensured, and generally that reducing the harms from drug use needs to be the primary focus of Canadian drug laws and policies.
What are the alternatives? This committee has heard before that Canada needs an honest, open, objective, non-partisan reassessment of its drug policy. I believe it was mentioned in the presentation of the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation and in the presentation by the Addiction Resource Foundation of Toronto that we need to examine the role, the appropriateness, and the status of the criminal law at the centre of this policy, and that we need to investigate the available alternatives.
Three fundamental principles under which a policy review should take place were mentioned: public health; rational pharmacology; and cost effectiveness. We should like to add to that: respect for human rights.
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society believe that the bill is fundamentally flawed. If it were to be defeated, it would send a clear signal to the government that the current and proposed drug legislation is irrational and defective. However, we also know that it would then probably be years before a new bill is introduced. Therefore, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society would like to strongly support the amendments proposed to this committee by the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation and submitted to this committee on February 1, 1996.
In particular, we should like to support the following:
the exception for "a syringe containing an amount less than set out in Schedule X in relation to the substances identified there, in introducing the substance into a human body" under section 2.(2)(b)(ii);
the "Declaration of Principle" inserted as section 3.1;
the express inclusion of a review process of Canada's drug laws and policies;
the removal of the criminal prohibition for the possession by adults of small amounts of substance for personal use; rationalization of sentencing for offences involving possession of larger amounts of substances; removal of the criminal prohibition on the transfer among adults, for no consideration, of small amounts of substances; and continuation of the prohibition of the trafficking of substances to minors, whether for consideration or not.
We believe that these amendments would reduce the spread of HIV and other blood-borne infections among injection drug users and to society in general. They would further ensure that the necessary and long-overdue in-depth review of Canadian drug laws and policies takes place and would constitute a first step towards treating drug use as a social and health rather than criminal issue, and toward treating drug users as human beings rather than criminals to whom we owe no respect and who have no dignity and no rights.
In conclusion, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society support harm-reduction approaches to drug use. We vehemently oppose passage of Bill C-8 as it is now because of its emphasis on criminalization of drug users and because of its impact on the spread of HIV in Canada. As a compromise, we would support passage of Bill C-8, provided it is amended as proposed by the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation.
The Chairman: Thank you Mr. Jürgens. Mr. Armstrong, do you wish to add to the presentation?
Mr. Russell Armstrong, Executive Director, Canadian AIDS Society: No, not at this time.
The Chairman: I am sure we will hear from you during our questioning.
Senator Bryden: If we cannot control the access to drugs, hard drugs, soft drugs and otherwise, and if we cannot keep intravenous needles out of top security prisons, I would think that is a commentary on how we might think we are able to control, by criminal law, the access of general citizens to these things.
Am I correct that the use of drugs by prisoners is higher than in the general population?
Mr. Jürgens: That is not correct. However, it is true that drugs are accessible in prisons. In fact, they are often easily accessible in prisons. That is a comment on our ability to prevent drugs from entering our country. We are unable to prevent them from getting into high security prisons.
In spite of the war on drugs that, for example, our neighbour to the south, the United States, has been engaging in for many years and the financial investment by way of imprisonment of millions of people - and Americans still have the same easy access to drugs that they had before that war on drugs started - drugs are often more accessible today. They are cheaper. Not only are we unable able to prevent drugs from entering our country, we are unable to prevent them from getting into high security prison environments.
Senator Bryden: How does the incidence of AIDS, HIV, in the prison population compare with the general population?
Mr. Jürgens: Studies have shown that it is at least 10 times higher. The incidence of HIV in prisons reflects the incidence of HIV infection among injection drug users outside prisons. Injection drug users tend to spend quite a bit of their lives in prisons. When rates rise outside prisons, rates also rise inside prisons. But because injection drug users are overrepresented in prisons, studies have shown that, in some prisons, up to 8 per cent of inmates are HIV infected. The average would be about 1 to 2 per cent which is at least 10 times higher than in the general Canadian population.
Senator Bryden: Are you restricting your use of the term "prison" to federal institutions, or are you including provincial jails?
Mr. Jürgens: This includes provincial jails. Studies have been undertaken in both provincial and federal institutions. The highest prevalence of HIV among injection drug users is found in provincial institutions in Quebec, and in particular, in Montreal, compared to other areas of Canada.
Senator Bryden: Under the provisions of this bill, young persons convicted of trafficking, for example, by passing a small amount of marihuana among themselves, would be subject to at least six months imprisonment. From what you have said, are we not putting that young person at some risk for two reasons: First, if he is not a drug user now, he will be when he comes out; and, second, he or she may come out with HIV or AIDS?
Mr. Jürgens: Indeed, that is what we are doing. We are spending a lot of money to put people in prison who are drug users or for drug-related crimes. We do not offer appropriate treatment there. We do not appropriately educate them in prisons. We expose them to other users in prisons. Studies have shown that some users start injecting in prisons or they start sharing the equipment, which is really dangerous when you consider the spread of HIV. Instead of sending drug users to prison, we would save a lot of money and a lot of lives by offering treatment and education.
Senator Lewis: Following up on what Senator Bryden asked, you speak of the high rate of infection amongst inmates. I presume those figures come from testing the inmates. Is there any program for testing people who are about to be sentenced? Is there any program to test them before they get into prison or at the start of their prison sentence? In other words, is any distinction made? You have the rates of infection of inmates, but is there anything to show that they were not infected or were infected when they first went into prison?
Mr. Jürgens: Testing is always undertaken only voluntarily. That is very important. Often, we do not have data to compare but we have studies that, as I said, show that HIV is being transmitted in prisons. It is not only the risk of transmission of HIV in prisons that should lead us to change the laws, it is the whole thrust of arguments that I made, starting from the cost to the ineffectiveness of treatments that are being offered to the unavailability of educational programs in prisons. We could send people to treatment or offer them better education outside prisons.
The Chairman: You said that the testing is always voluntary. Is there certain pressure from the institution that testing be conducted?
Mr. Jürgens: There is a lot of pressure on some inmates to be tested in institutions. In Canadian institutions, both provincial and federal, the principle that testing be voluntary has been upheld.
Prisoners are offered tested at intake and at various other times during their stay in prison. Thus, you could say there is a certain pressure that they be tested, but there is no mandatory testing.
The Chairman: Is there any trend in the evidence you have studied toward the use of cocaine, and away from marihuana, because of the amount of time that the substance remains in the bloodstream? Has the use of cocaine increased in prisons because of drug testing and because marihuana remains longer in the bloodstream?
Mr. Jürgens: You are talking about the urinalysis program which has been instituted in federal institutions. In effect, one of the main concerns when that program was instituted was that prisoners would switch from the relatively harmless drug cannabis to heroin and cocaine, drugs which stay in the blood for shorter periods of time and are, thus, less detectable.
I have spoken to many prisoners in Canadian prisons as part of my work both as project coordinator of the Expert Committee on AIDS in Prisons and then as part of my present project. Prisoners have confirmed that that is indeed happening. They have told me that, yes, they are smart enough to know that cocaine and heroin are detectable for shorter periods of time. They do not want to run the risk of being detected and that, yes, they have switched to the more harmful drugs.
That has also been confirmed by research outside Canada because, unfortunately, although we have been pressing that the urinalysis programs be evaluated by research from outside the prison system, as yet no such evaluation has been done. Researchers in other countries have confirmed that outcome. I recently had a chance to speak with researchers from England and Scotland, and they confirmed that that was, indeed, happening in prisons there too.
Senator Lewis: You used the words "risk of being detected". Is there any sanction on inmates who are detected with these drugs in their systems?
Mr. Jürgens: Yes, there are sanctions for those detected as having used a drug.
Senator Doyle: Following this line of questioning, with regard to HIV testing, what is the argument against testing all people who enter or leave prisons, other than the basic argument that it would interfere with their human rights? We have already interfered with their so-called "rights" by sending them to prison. Is it too far a jump? Would it not help your analysis to know whether inmates are acquiring AIDS after their arrival in prison and before their departure from prison? Are those not important factors to know?
Mr. Jürgens: There is, as you mentioned, the human rights argument, but there are also practical arguments as to why it is not necessary and why it could even be counter-productive to institute mandatory testing programs. The major issue is that it would create a false sense of security in institutions. The tests which are available only detect the presence of antibodies to the virus which were present about six months before time of testing. You could never really know and be sure that all people who tested negative are, indeed, negative at that time.
Also, it would automatically mean that all prisoners with HIV would have to be segregated. We are talking about segregating hundreds of people who are healthy and where there is no reason to be segregated. Rather, all prisoners should have the same means that are available to people outside of prison to protect themselves against acquiring HIV. Testing is really a false way to obtain that security. Testing cannot be used to prevent the spread of HIV.
Senator Doyle: Would those weaknesses in the tests also apply to tests conducted outside prisons?
Mr. Jürgens: Yes, they are the same.
Senator Doyle: You are not subjecting them to something unusual. The only difference is the security factor.
Mr. Jürgens: The argument is often made that people should be tested so that other people can know who is and who is not infected and that people can be protected from infection. Inside prisons, as is the case outside prisons, that argument is flawed for many reasons.
I was trying to point out that, instead of advocating mandatory testing which will not increase the security, we need to make available to prisoners the same means, such as condoms, bleach, and clean needles, which are available to people outside of prisons through government programs funded to prevent the spread of HIV. We know that drug use is going on in prisons and that we cannot prevent it.
Senator Doyle: Are those who are serving terms for drug offences and who themselves have been addicts, more likely to go through the prison systems more quickly than those who commit other categories of criminal offences?
Mr. Jürgens: Many drug users go into prisons at various times of their lives. They are usually given short sentences, but they will continue to use drugs once they are released and will end up returning to prison. They will follow that pattern until, at some point in their lives, they stop using drugs and stop having any contact with the criminal system. As I said, it is a continuous cycle of people who use drugs going in and out of the prison system.
Senator Nolin: You said that condoms were not available in penitentiaries. That is not the information that we have. Condoms are available, but not syringes.
Mr. Jürgens: Condoms are available in federal institutions and in most provincial facilities. However, in many provincial institutions, condoms are not yet available. For example, in Quebec, inmates must go to the dispensary to request a condom, and this is something that they do not do. The condom issue is not yet resolved.
Senator Pearson: I have a question about "harm reduction". There is an assumption in the use of that term that you will never eliminate the problem completely. Many people engaging in these kinds of drug-related activities have other problems that will cause them difficulty. We are attempting to manage a situation that already exists to some extent.
Mr. Jürgens: I think it is a very pragmatic concept. We realize we cannot eliminate drug use. There are many reasons why people use drugs. Social issues are contributing factors. Thus, the approach should be to reduce the harms derived from drug use rather than continue what we have done for so many years now which has obviously failed.
Senator Pearson: When you write in your text about drug-related offences, are you thinking of the kinds of offences that have to do with the possession of materials, or are you thinking of what the general public understands to be a drug-related offence which is the commission of breaking and entering or violent acts committed while using drugs?
Mr. Jürgens: The text relates to all the offences that people who use drugs typically engage in because the drugs are expensive.
Senator Pearson: While you may get some sympathy for the understanding of addiction, you will not get much sympathy for acts of violence committed while using drugs. In your presentation there is some suggestion of decriminalizing that kind of act. I am uncomfortable with that concept.
Mr. Jürgens: The suggestion is not that those acts not be treated as criminal acts. There are several suggestions in the paper, and they are backed by research. The argument is that many drug-related crimes are not the result of drug use; rather, they are the result of existing drug laws because the drugs are prohibited and people have to pay a lot of money in order to get them. They have to get them in dark corners, and they have to deal with criminals in order to obtain them; therefore, people end up committing acquisitive crime. The argument is that, by decriminalizing the use of small quantities of drugs or the possession thereof, some of this crime would be reduced. That fact has been proven in other countries where such models have already been tried.
Senator Pearson: I understand that. However, we have been struggling with the ethical question, for example, of violence against women while someone is drunk. Unless we are totally wrong, we, as a public, tend to understand that certain types of drugs relate to incidents reported in the newspapers, such as the careless or reckless discharge of firearms. The challenge for legislators is to ensure that the distinctions one makes among the actions that people undertake do not at the same time exonerate them because of what is being described as a "medical condition". This concept is a challenge.
Mr. Armstrong: By that argument, perhaps we should criminalize drinking, but we do not. People with drinking problems are referred to treatment. That is part of our argument in this instance. We should stop this artificial hierarchy of drugs and drug use and realize that we are dealing with public health problems. We are stuck with this antiquated notion of certain drugs being evil and certain drugs being acceptable.
Senator Pearson: I understand your distinction, but I think you must understand our challenge. With respect to this issue of alcohol-related violence against women, we are nervous about excusing people from any responsibility for their actions. We must ensure that somewhere along the line we make the correct discrimination.
Mr. Armstrong: I understand that. I think your challenge is to help clarify these fundamental contradictions. If you are concerned about solving the problem of violence against women because of alcohol use, you are dealing with the wrong piece of legislation.
Senator Pearson: I am not talking about solving the problem of violence against women. Nobody would disagree that shooting guns in order to steal drugs is a criminal act. Somewhere along the line, we must say that an individual has responsibility for what he or she does.
Mr. Jürgens: That is definitely not what we are saying. A sentence on page 8 of the appendix summarizes our point. It reads as follows:
It has been concluded that people who use illicit drugs and do not hurt anyone are not the state's concern; that if somebody uses illicit drugs and ends up hurting himself or herself, he or she needs help, and not criminal sanctions; that if other people are hurt, punishment should follow not for the use of the drug itself, but for the act committed.
The Chairman: Thank you very much for your presentation. It was extremely informative and valuable.
Honourable senators, this committee stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. this afternoon.
The committee adjourned.