Health Minister Jane Philpott is defending her government’s marijuana legalization plan, saying tough new penalties for people handing pot to minors are appropriate.
Those penalties, according to the legislation tabled Thursday in Ottawa, could include jail terms of up to 14 years for people giving or selling marijuana to anyone under the age of 18. The same maximum term would apply for anyone using a youth to commit a marijuana-related offence.
Giving your child a brownie laced with cannabis could therefore seemingly net you a significant amount of time behind bars. Providing alcohol to a minor in Ontario, by comparison, can trigger a fine of up to $200,000 and up to one year in jail, depending on the circumstances.
“Our goal here is to make sure that we send a clear message,” Philpott told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos when asked about the proposed laws surrounding marijuana.
“We’re particularly concerned about [minors] being exploited by people who are trafficking substances, including cannabis, and we want to send a very clear message that it will not be tolerated. It’s very important that we protect young people from cannabis and that they recognize the harms.”
Canada has some of the highest rates in the world of marijuana use among youth, the health minister noted, so “our focus on the legislation is very much around protecting youth.”
Another hot topic as the Liberals unveiled their proposed legislation on Thursday was drug-impaired driving.
Penalties for driving under the influence of pot may range from $1,000 to life imprisonment, depending on whether anyone was injured or killed during the offence.
The Liberals are also proposing a regulated limit of THC in a driver’s bloodstream. A roadside saliva test would be conducted to help determine impairment and trigger a more precise, followup blood test.
But the science behind detecting levels of THC in a driver’s saliva and blood is still developing, Philpott acknowledged.
Asked if she was concerned test results won’t stand up in court, the minister said only that “we recognize that there are still challenges that exist in terms of identifying not so much the presence of cannabis … but the work around determining when that person may have consumed cannabis.”
Philpott added that “the evidence will need to be there that a person has consumed cannabis, and also that they are impaired related to that.”