Pubdate: Wed, 21 Oct 2015
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2015 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Trevor Hughes


DENVER - Canada's leap to the left in Monday's elections could have the 
country singing a new anthem: "Oh, Cannabis."

The United States' largest trade partner overwhelmingly selected Justin 
Trudeau's Liberal Party to run Canada, a sweeping change that may lead 
to full marijuana legalization for our northern neighbor, which already 
allows medical pot use.

Trudeau promised that under his leadership Canada would create a system 
to tax, regulate and sell marijuana, along with stiff penalties for 
anyone giving pot to children or caught driving while stoned. The 
Liberal Party's cannabis legalization statement echoes the language used 
by many U.S. legalization advocates.

"Canada's current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does 
not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end 
up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug," the 
party's position statement says. "To ensure that we keep marijuana out 
of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, 
we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana."

U.S.-based cannabis activists hailed Trudeau's election as a milestone, 
suggesting that a day may soon come when cross-border trade talks 
include not just the Keystone XL pipeline, maple syrup or prescription 
drugs, but also legal weed. Border states Alaska and Washington have 
already legalized recreational marijuana use, as have Colorado, Oregon 
and the District of Columbia.

"It's no longer a pipe dream to imagine a day when consumers and growers 
in Washington state and British Columbia, for example, could be ordering 
each other's wares on the Internet for cross-border shipment," said Tom 
Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization Marijuana Majority.

Trudeau earlier this month said he'd begin work to legalize marijuana in 
Canada "right away" if elected, but declined to specify a timeline for 
implementation. His campaign told CBC News that it was looking to 
Colorado as a potential model.

Colorado permits residents to buy and possess up to an ounce of 
marijuana at a time, and taxes each sale. Last month the state collected 
nearly $12 million in marijuana taxes, with the money used to fund 
school construction and anti-abuse campaigns.

In 2003 and 2004, Canada's Liberal Party offered a proposal to 
decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but the plan 
died and a Conservative government took power in 2006. At the time, U.S. 
officials invoked the specter of prolonged border crossings if Canada 
changed its laws to permit broader marijuana use.

Since 2001, Canada has permitted medical marijuana use, as do 23 U.S. 
states and the District of Columbia.

Canada's potential move toward recreational legalization could add to a 
growing international discussion about drug possession and penalties, 
which has become a major cause for billionaire entrepreneur Richard 
Branson, who on Monday renewed his push for the United Nations to back 
decriminalization of drug use.

"Together with countless other tireless advocates, I've for years argued 
that we should treat drug use as a health issue, not as a crime," 
Branson wrote on his blog, responding to a draft U.N. proposal. "While 
the vast majority of recreational drug users never experience any 
problems, people who struggle with drug addiction deserve access to 
treatment, not a prison cell."
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