A senior RCMP officer says it would be “naive” to think organized crime in the cannabis market will be eliminated with the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“We’re very cognizant to realize that the chances of crime being eliminated in the cannabis market — [it] would be probably naive to think that could happen,” Joanne Crampton, RCMP assistant commissioner for federal policing criminal operations, told MPs on the Commons health committee studying the government’s legislation.
Crampton highlighted areas that give the RCMP concern, including the undercutting of legal prices by the illegal market, exportation, trafficking to youth and organized crime infiltrating the legal regime.
While most members of Parliament still have another week before they return to Ottawa, MPs on the health committee were back Monday to begin hearing testimony from medical and legal professionals, police officers and pot producers on the looming legalization of marijuana.
“We know that it is going to take some time to fully displace a sector that has over a century made a good gain in this area,” said Kathy Thompson, an assistant deputy minister in the Department of Public Safety.
In order to displace organized crime, Thompson said the government is working to ensure Canadians have a safe, accessible cannabis supply that will meet market place demands. Thompson also acknowledged that pricing is an important factor in achieving this goal.
Week of hearings
The committee is holding five full days of uninterrupted hearings that started 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.