Federal MP Bill Blair, who is tasked with leading the nationwide marijuana legalization, met with some Canadians at a town hall meeting on Tuesday in Toronto. Blair vowed to protect Canadian youth from organized crime, whom he said cash in about $20 million a day selling illicit cannabis.
He believes ending prohibition will set in motion a regulatory framework to protect Canadian youth from “organized crime,” who doesn’t care about selling “untested, unregulated, unsafe” cannabis, which “often contains chemicals, which are unfit for human consumption.”
“We do not want to lock up our kids. We do not want to give them a criminal record, but we want to strip any access for risky drugs,” he told attendees for a Marijuana Town Hall meeting at J.J. Piccininni Community Centre in Toronto during his opening address.
Blair was invited by the Liberal federal MP Julie Dzerowicz of the district of Davenport, home to the largest Portuguese community in Canada.
“So the best way to keep it off the hands of kids in our opinion is to strictly regulate it,” he said.
The new Cannabis Act sets the minimum age as 18 or higher, depending on the decision made by a province or territory. The new act will also land offenders, who are illegally distributing or selling to the youth up to 14 years in jail.
One of the reasons behind tightening the grip on cannabis sale to youth is that the previous regime has failed in stopping these young Canadians from obtaining marijuana.
According to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey (CTADS), the number of youth (22%) and young adults (26%) who used marijuana in 2013 was more than two and a half times that of adults 25 and older (8%).
To raise awareness over cannabis use among the youth, Blair said:
“We are investing over $63 million dollars in public education. We are going after young ppl.”
He said “before we used to tell them not to use it as it is against the law, but…it didn’t work, our kids are using cannabis the highest rate in any country in the world,” pledging to inform Canadian youth with more “facts, science with health information.”
Blair reiterated the government’s position on risks pertaining to youth consumption of marijuana, and how it could impair the “developing brain.” He said there are not only health risks but social dangers for the youth.
“We also know that 100 percent of the illicit market is controlled by criminals.”
“They don’t do anything good with that money in our communities. People here in Toronto have seen or heard of shooting that has occurred in our city, where young people have lost their lives too often in a dispute of territories in which cannabis can be sold in our neighborhoods.”
“[Drug] Trafficking kills more people than cannabis. Cannabis is not a deadly drug but drug trafficking and some of the gun violence are.”
Money Made by Criminals
The MP said “organized crimes” make $20 million a day from illegal cannabis. “It is the easiest money they could make,” totaling to about $68 billion a year.
“That money no one makes taxes from it, no one is accountable for it,” he explained.
Before Blair’s address, Dzerowicz said she met with young Canadians from as young as grade six as up to grade 12.
“Every class asks about the legalization of marijuana, it is quite interesting, it doesn’t matter their age,” she said.
“And I always tell them, we are making it more difficult for them [to obtain it], it is quite interesting because they are [initially] very excited and then their face kind of falls.”
She added: “I tell them we are going to be placing strict penalties.”
Dzerowicz said the Cannabis Act prohibits making cannabis products appealing to the youth.
“On a federal level, we try not to make it sexy to kids to buy or try marijuana.”