Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jan 2014
Source: News, The (New Glasgow, CN NS)
Copyright: 2014 Transcontinental Inc.
Author: Tim Harper
Page: 6


Trudeau has a lot riding on Colorado legalized pot plot

When Justin Trudeau dove into the legalized marijuana debate last
summer, it initially looked like an unnecessarily polarizing position
that too easily allowed his opponents to depict him as a lightweight
unable to grapple with more pressing issues.

The Liberal leader still surely doesn't want to get freighted down by
his pot ponderings, and it is never going to become the centrepiece of
a party platform.

But there is a case to be made that it will be an issue that can move
votes in 2015.

Whether Trudeau was being shrewd or was again kissed by serendipity,
there is now every reason to believe that marijuana legalization is
moving up the political radar and he has much riding on a number of
developments south of the border.

He suddenly has a lot at stake in Colorado, but also in Washington
state, New York state and a growing number of U.S. jurisdictions that
appear to be quickly lining up behind more liberal marijuana laws.

Colorado, which began its legalized marijuana market on New Year's
Day, is a key laboratory that Liberals will be watching.

If the state can distribute recreational marijuana in a way which
takes pressure off police, grows state revenues, does not lead to more
underage use or impaired driving charges, it will provide a blueprint
for any other jurisdiction contemplating the same.

Legislators elsewhere will notice and it will be on the continental
radar just as Canadians prepare to vote in 2015.

It will force Stephen Harper and his Conservatives away from their own
brand of reefer madness, manifested in their compulsive mentions of
Trudeau's pot gambit at every opportunity.

Of course, if the Colorado experiment devolves into chaos or faces
growing opposition, and is, in any way, deemed a failed initiative,
Trudeau may rue the day he styled himself as the prince of pot among
federal leaders.

With Colorado in business and Washington coming on board later this
year, New York is in the spotlight this week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a
potential presidential aspirant, unveiled an initiative Wednesday, to
move by executive order, bypassing the legislature and recalcitrant
Republicans, to make medical marijuana available in a state which has
one of the most punitive marijuana laws on the books.

He follows his neighbour, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican
who figures in all discussions of that party's next presidential nominee.

New York will become the 21st state, along with the District of
Columbia, to allow the use of regulated medical marijuana, something
that has been legal in Canada since the former Liberal government took
the step in 2001.

There are more than 39,000 registered users in Canada and late last
year, the federal government tossed the medical marijuana market to
the private sector, creating what is estimated to be a $1.3-billion
market within the next decade.

It is far too early to pass judgment on the Colorado plan and the
Financial Times Wednesday reported demand far exceeds supply in the
state, pushing the price of recreational pot to $400 per ounce.

State residents can buy an ounce at a time, with visitors restricted
to a quarter-ounce.

However, sales topped $1 million on day one and the state has
projected $70 million in new tax revenue for this year.

It would be hard to imagine that Harper and his law-and-order
Conservatives could ever move toward legalization after railing
against Trudeau and charging that he was advocating marijuana use for

In last November's byelections in Manitoba, Conservatives told voters
"Justin Trudeau's plan to legalize marijuana will make it more
accessible to our kids and encourage recreational drug use."

But strip back the politics and even the Conservatives are edging
toward more liberal pot laws.

Both Harper and his justice minister, Peter MacKay, have hinted they
are warming to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police view that
fines for possession of small amounts of marijuana are better than
criminal charges which tie up resources and manpower in a lengthy
legal process.

There are Conservatives who must know that a futile police war on
cannabis use, including a mandatory six-month minimum sentence for
growing as few as six cannabis plants, is increasingly out of step
with logic.

At very least, there are Conservatives who can look beyond the horizon
and see that this day-to-day combat over marijuana use is no longer
effective or economically efficient - or most importantly political
saleable, even if it's Trudeau who is seen as ahead of the curve.
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