Pubdate: Sat, 03 Aug 2013
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2013 The Western Star
Author: Howard Elliot, Canadian Press


An editorial from the Hamilton Spectator, published July 29: Is 
Justin Trudeau going to far too fast by embracing the legalization, 
taxation and regulation of marijuana?

On one level, no, because his party adopted legalization back in 
2012. Trudeau was skeptical at the time, preferring to take the 
incremental step of decriminalization. Recently, he changed his mind, 
saying he has given the matter much thought and attention, and now 
favours legalization.

Don't panic. What he actually said was: "a I realized that going the 
road of legalization is actually a responsible thing to look at and 
do." That's a recognition of the fact that not only does Trudeau 
first need to get an electoral mandate, but also that there would be 
numerous challenges to overcome before outright legalization could be 
accomplished. We're talking years. Trudeau also knows legalization 
will be a killer campaign issue in conservative strongholds.

Nonetheless, his new position does add another dynamic to the 
national leadership debate. The status quo, as epitomized by the 
Harper government's position, isn't working. Marijuana use is not 
shrinking in spite of the government's so-called zero tolerance 
policy. As far back as 1972, credible expert sources, including the 
association that represents Canadian police chiefs, have called for 
the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. 
Treating kids caught with three joints as serious criminal offenders 
is a waste of scant law enforcement resources and puts unnecessary 
strain on an overburdened court system. A ticket makes more sense. 
That's a strategy that has more broad-based support and might be 
achievable within an electoral term.

Legalization is another question entirely. There are strong arguments 
for it. It would control distribution, allow for monitoring and 
control of cannabis potency, make it more difficult for kids to 
access, not to mention generate some needed revenue through taxation. 
The government's moral high ground on the matter is shaky at best. It 
continues to embrace the big hypocrisy represented by legal tobacco 
sales. There is compelling evidence that pot is no more harmful than 
alcohol, which governments take great pleasure in dispensing. So, why 
not start down the road of legalization?

Because a significant part of the population is dead set against it. 
They are older Canadians, more likely to vote, and unlikely to be 
ignored. Could we see a situation in which younger, more 
liberal-minded voters line up behind Trudeau while boomers rally for 
the status quo? What would that election campaign look like?

At some point, Canadians will be ready to tackle legalization, as 
voters in Colorado and Washington state have done, and as British 
Columbia opinion polls suggest citizens there are ready to do. But 
drug laws in Canada are federal, and we're probably not ready to 
address legalizing pot across the country.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom