May 2, 2019
Hon. Judith G. Seidman: Honourable senators, my question is for the government leader in the Senate. As you may recall, I rose in the chamber on October 17 and asked whether Health Canada has taken enforceable action against licensed marijuana producers who have endorsed questionable promotion events and advertising campaigns.
On February 19, in a delay response to my question of October 17, it was stated that:
. . . Health Canada communicated specific concerns to federally licensed producers undertaking promotional activities. In all instances, licensees addressed these concerns after being contacted by the Department.
In a Globe and Mail article published on March 6, 2019, it was reported that Health Canada is investigating whether two marijuana companies, Canopy Growth Corporation and Halo Labs, violated advertising laws when they sponsored the Kids, Cops & Computers charity fundraising event on October 23.
Senator Harder, is Health Canada’s investigation ongoing? When does the department expect it to conclude? If the investigation has concluded, has Health Canada determined that there has been a contravention of the Cannabis Act?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question. I will obviously have to make inquiries and report back. I will do so.
Senator Seidman: Thank you for that.
The rapid commercialization of the cannabis industry should give us pause when considering the Cannabis Act’s discretionary powers with respect to advertising. We know cannabis companies will make every effort to circumvent restrictions on product promotion, which is why five public health organizations in Canada, including the chief medical officers of health, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Paediatric Association and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health all recommend a complete ban on advertising.
This is yet another example of a government that claims it is taking a public health approach, ignoring the advice of every leading public health organization in the country.
Senator Harder, when will the government listen to the advice of every leading public health organization in Canada and align all marketing of cannabis with that of tobacco, effectively making it prohibited?
Senator Stewart Olsen: Good question.
Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question. She will know, because the senator was very active in the debate that we had in this chamber, that Parliament as a whole came to a different conclusion with respect to the prohibitions on and the regulation of advertising. You will recall that the ministers responsible at the time made a public policy decision and explained that balance between appropriate levels of advertising to ensure that the black market could be addressed and shrunk.
That is a challenging process. It’s one that ministers at the time acknowledged — that implementation of this bill was a process, not an event. The government and the ministers responsible continue to monitor and evaluate the implementation, taking into account the concerns the honourable senator has raised.