Chris Selley: Listening to senators debate marijuana bill convinced me we need to abolish the Senate

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: Bill C-45, the Liberals’ marijuana legalization legislation, allows children between 12 and 17 to possess up to five grams of cannabis. It sounds crazy, right? The whole stated goal of the project was to keep marijuana out of children’s hands! Yet no lesser authorities than Conservative senators Thanh Hai Ngo and Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, along with their leader in the upper chamber, Senator Larry Smith, and Justin Trudeau-appointed “independent” Senator Marie-Françoise Mégie — a physician and former professor — insisted in a debate Thursday that it is so.

If a minor consumed all five grams in a given day, Ngo (correctly) opined, that could mess him up good and proper.

“Imagine looking out across a classroom of 12-to-13-year-old children, all permitted to have five grams of pot on their desks,” Smith demanded.

No, seriously, do it. Do it for Canada’s children.

In an otherwise blithering address to the Red Chamber, Senator David Wells at least gave away what on earth his colleagues were talking about: “youth ages 12 to 17 will be able to possess up to five grams of dried cannabis before facing criminal charges,” he said. He contended this was “hidden away” in the bill — “hidden away in Division 1, Section 8(1)(c)” — and he called it “shocking.”

Trudeau-appointed “independent” Senator Frances Larkin suggested to Wells that it wasn’t “hidden” at all, inasmuch as he cited its location, and asked whether he would prefer children aged 12 to 17 be subject to criminal sanctions for small-scale possession.

“I did find it hidden there,” Wells protested. “There are lots of things hidden in there” — in the bill, he means, which is on the internet and everything.

Wells denied wanting to send 12-to-17-year-olds into the criminal system, but he also argued the bill as written “give(s) tacit approval” to the practice. By not making it criminal. Which he wouldn’t support.

Furthermore, Wells demanded to know, “Why doesn’t it say from age 1 to 17?”

So, yeah, that’s all bananas. The provinces are free to punish young people under the legal age for possession of any quantity of cannabis, to seize said cannabis and to fine the young people for having possessed it. And there is every reason to assume they will do just that, just as they do for alcohol. (“Imagine looking out across a classroom of 12 to 13-year-old children, all permitted to have a 26-er of Canadian Club on their desks.”)

But this was the quality of debate I heard, slack-jawed, down the wire from Ottawa on Thursday afternoon.

On innumerable fronts, senators weighed in as if the government were inventing marijuana rather than legalizing it.

“Condominium and apartment dwellers are grappling with the prospect of their homes being infiltrated by the odour of second-hand cannabis smoke,” Senator Judith Seidman fretted. (Welcome to my condominium building.) Senator Yonah Martin wondered if Canadian servicemen would be allowed to show up for duty high. (Can they show up drunk?) Martin wondered if teachers would have to tolerate high students if they were of legal age to consume it. (Obviously not.)

The timeline “means that our young generations will not be taught about the implications and dangers of consuming marijuana … prior to its legalization,” Smith worried, insanely. (It’s called health class.)

This is the Senate at its finest

Boisvenu managed to land upon a legitimate complaint: that C-45 makes possession of more than five grams of marijuana a criminal offence for people under the legal age, but perfectly legal for adults.

“Do we really want young people ending up in the criminal justice system?” he asked. Except … this is the same guy who’s protesting kids being “allowed” to possess up to five grams of cannabis!

Senator Nancy Greene Raine wondered if legal marijuana might impact Canadian universities’ ability to recruit international students.

No word of a lie, she meant negatively.

“What will (parents) say when their 12-year-old suggests growing cannabis?” asked Mégie. “It will be legal, after all.” (They would say no.) “How will parents ever notice that one or two marijuana buds are missing from one of their … plants?” she asked. (How do they notice it now?)

Sen. Raynell Andreychuk didn’t just trot out the silly idea that Canada’s signature on various international anti-drug treaties could make legalization untenable. She said it could threaten nothing less than “the international order.”

“This is the Senate at its finest,” declared Andreychuk.

And that might be the moment I finally tipped over into being a full-blown abolitionist. This was a horror show. Any randomly selected group of half-literate, half-sober Canadians would have provided better insight than these (mostly Conservative) senators — including on the legitimate issues they identified, not least the implausibility of the stated goal of eliminating the black market, before burying them under a mountain of nonsense.

At least senators passed the damn bill in the end. It will now go to committee. But no body capable of producing such idiocy has any business meddling with any legislation passed by democratically elected politicians, no matter how stupid they might be themselves.

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