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How Cindy Lamoureux and the Manitoba Liberals fought against Pallister's trap for 18 year olds - high fines and imprisonment when they possess or consume cannabis

Bill 11, the THE SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE RETAILING OF CANNABIS ACT (LIQUOR AND GAMING CONTROL ACT AND MANITOBA LIQUOR AND LOTTERIES CORPORATION ACT AMENDED) passed third reading in the Manitoba Legislature on May 31, and received Royal Assent yesterday, Monday June 4.   The Liquor and Gaming Control Act will now include provisions such that a young person (under age 19 years old) is prohibited from possessing or consuming cannabis.  When a young person is age 18 they can be subject to a fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment of up to one year for possessing or consuming cannabis.  For those who are under 18 years of age, they will be dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act so that severe fines and imprisonment are unlikely.   For those who are 18 years of age and have not yet reached their 19th birthday, they are subject to a fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment of up to one year for possessing or consuming cannabis.  The size of the fine and the length of imprisonment are unduly harsh for an 18 year old, particularly when at age 19 it will be legal to possess or consume cannabis.  Cindy Lamoureux, Liberal MLA for Burrows, supported by our Liberal caucus, spoke up in the Manitoba Legislature to address and change the terms of Bill 11.   As part of this effort whe brought in an amendment to eliminate the Pallister trap and the unduly harsh punishments.  The Pallister government did not listen and so now 18 years olds will be caught in the Pallister government's trap and can be subject to very high fines or imprisonment for possessing or using cannabis.  It is important for all 18 years olds to know the potential severity of the Pallister trap for 18 year olds in Manitoba - the imposition of very high fines and imprisonment for possessing or consuming cannabis.   These penalties will come into force on a day yet to be determined, when the act is proclaimed.

The relevant provisions of the new Liquor and Gaming Control Act are:

"young person" means a person under the age of 19 years. (« jeune »)

No providing cannabis to young persons 101.17      A person must not give, sell or otherwise supply cannabis to a young person.
No possession or consumption by young persons 101.18      A young person must not possess or consume cannabis.

148         A person is guilty of an offence under this Act who
(a) contravenes a provision of this Act; or
(b) knowingly makes a false statement in an application for a licence, permit or approval or in any record, return or report required under this Act.
Penalties 149(1)      A person who is guilty of an offence is liable on summary conviction
(a) in the case of an individual, to a fine of not more than $100,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both;

It is important to note that Cindy Lamoureux was not the only person who spoke with concern about the Pallistser trap for 18 year olds.  Manitoba's Children's Advocate said at Committee Stage:
      "The concern is that Bill 11 is creating an increased opportunity for criminalization of young persons 18 and under by including an outright prohibition on possession and consumption of cannabis. This concern is exasperated by the fact that Bill 11 and the act it amends, The Liquor and Gaming Control Act, do not set out specific penalties for young persons or minors who are found to be in violation of prohibitions set out in the act.
      Bill 11 has increased the penalties for violation of the act by removing the individuals, will be prosecuted on summary convictions, increasing the   maximum fine to $100,000 and maximum imprisonment for one year. Wording in Bill C-45 makes it discretionary on whether youth will be liable on an indictable or summary conviction for cannabis-related offences. Due to the varying levels of disposition associated with these types of convictions, young persons will require a clear understanding of when their possession of cannabis will be subject to criminal sanctions.
      The CCCYA supported the position that steps  should be taken to avoid criminalization of youth by allowing for non-criminal sanctions such as confiscation and ticketing. While it's perfectly reasonable to identify that only those persons 19 and older will be allowed to purchase cannabis, it needs  to be clearly identified how Manitoba law enforcement agencies will be enforcing possession of cannabis for those 18 and under. The federal government has identified the following objectives for cannabis legislation: restricting youth access to cannabis, protecting young people from the promotion or enticements to use cannabis, protecting public health and reducing the burden on the criminal justice system. With these objectives in mind, it becomes unclear why legislation would criminalize youth for consuming or being in possession of cannabis.
      Bill 11 also states that a person must not give or sell, otherwise supply cannabis to a young person, and Bill C-45 has created new criminal offences for adults who supply cannabis to minors.
      Law enforcement efforts should focus on who is supplying cannabis to children and youth and should not limit youth criminalization–and should limit youth criminalization through confiscation and by providing education and resources to youth who violate the cannabis prohibitions.
      Impact on indigenous youth and communities: Indigenous overrepresentation in the criminal justice  system is a recognized concern in Manitoba for both adult and youth populations. Without clear regulations on how Bill 11's prohibition of youth possession in cannabis will be applied, there are  concerns about how indigenous youth may be subject to increased criminalization over their non‑indigenous peers. Inequitable access to diversion programs, support programs, mental health and addiction services will influence the potential for indigenous youth to be criminalized at a higher rate for cannabis possession. Additionally, mitigating the mental health risk factors of cannabis use in youth will be compounded within indigenous communities, as there are recognized disparities in access to needed services. Without concrete action to address these disparities, indigenous communities may raise legitimate claims to violation of their Charter rights."

Daphne Penrose further stated in answer to a question:

Again, I am concerned about the prohibition piece because the data shows that children–not children, but youth are in fact engaging in the use of cannabis and having any cannabis on them at all up to the age of 19 is a criminal offence and when you are 18 and you get a possession charge, it is very different than when you are 16 years old and you get a possession charge, so–and that can follow you through your life in–you know, your friend is 19 in one day and they can have a number of grams on you, but you're 18, 11 months and two weeks and you're going to possibly get a criminal record, and so that disparity, I believe, needs to be addressed, and certainly we don't want to see more criminalization for children and youth and young people in the province.

Mr. Ariel Glinter also pointed out the problem at Committee, saying:  "under Bill 11, if that 19-year-old shares legally purchased cannabis with the 18-year-old in his or her own home, they are now both criminals and subject to criminal prosecution"


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