Courtesy of Lift Magazine
The Standing Committee on Health passed a motion today to begin discussing Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, and hearing from witnesses the week of September 11-15, 2017. This is a week before the House is scheduled to return from summer break.
The motion to sit the week prior to the House returning was brought forward by committee member Bill Oliver, with amendments added by the committee to add an additional day of Friday for the committee to sit and create time blocks to discuss specific themes and topics.
Time blocks will be two or four hours in length, with either four or nine witnesses, over five days, with 96 witnesses in total, plus the ministers of health, justice and public safety.
The categories to be covered in these time blocks will be federal, provincial and territorial, justice and public safety, other jurisdictions/international considerations, household cultivation, age for possession, prevention and treatment, workplace safety, the impact on indigenous, municipalities, labeling and packaging, edibles, and medical cannabis.
The motion passed 6-3, with Conservatives Colin Carrie, Rachel Harder and Len Webber voting against, citing concerns with the motion being too prescriptive and not allowing for more leeway in debate and hearing from more witnesses if necessary.
The committee had been scheduled to discuss the issue privately (in camera), but after the objections of opposition committee members Don Davies (NDP) and Colin Carrie (Conservative), the conversation was made public.
“Before you close the meeting,” said Carrie, “I notice you will be going in camera, but as everybody is aware, the cannabis bill has been referred to our committee, and this is one of the most, I would say, important bills that we’ve had the opportunity to review, there’s a lot of interest in it. I was just wondering if you could explain why we would be going in camera?”
This sentiment was seconded by NDP Health Critic Don Davies, who said it was not appropriate to take the discussion behind closed doors.
“There should be no reason whatsoever that the public can’t listen to our different views on how we choose to engage public input to this committee,” said Davies.
In presenting his motion, Oliver said it was not intended to limit or restrict debate, but to provide the committee with time prior the the House returning from break to ‘kick start’ the process with dedicated, ‘focused’ time, without distractions from the House.
“Nothing in this motion is intended to say there will be no more witnesses, nothing is intended to restrict the witnesses,” said Oliver. “We can still continue after this.”
Davies, however, says he is skeptical. In an interview today with Lift, Davies said he still suspects the Liberals intend to push this through the committee quickly, and wants to ensure there is enough time given to discuss such an important and even controversial subject.
“I still think there’s a large part of them who want to