While most members of Parliament still have another week before they return to Ottawa, the House of Commons health committee is reconvening today to question medical and legal professionals, police officers and pot producers on the looming legalization of marijuana.
The committee is holding five full days of uninterrupted hearings starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
Committee chair and Nova Scotia Liberal MP Bill Casey said he’s concerned about key public policy issues such as preventing the contamination of cannabis growing facilities, the four-plant allowance rule and a minimum 18-year age of access.
“We have a lot to learn and a lot to listen to,” he told CBC News.
NDP MP Don Davies, vice-chair of the health committee, has accused the Liberals of rushing the hearings process, “cramming” in witnesses to dilute parliamentary and public engagement and debate around flawed legislation.
“I’m concerned they’re trying to rip the bandage off and move to the next stage without getting really varied and diverse input from Canadians,” he said.
Along with the witness hearings, the Commons health committee has also received 99 written submissions.
The Canadian Medical Association repeated its concerns about health risks associated with cannabis, particularly in its smoked form. It urged the government to set the legal age at 21.
The government plans to have legislation passed by July 2018.
Casey said the committee will likely make recommendations on how to improve and strengthen the legislation, and he did not rule out a potential suggestion to alter the age limit.
Late last week Ontario became the first province to announce a framework around the sale and consumption of marijuana, which includes 150 stand-alone stores by 2020 and an online ordering service. The legal age for cannabis use in Ontario will be 19.