Pubdate: Sat, 30 Apr 2016
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 The Western Star


The federal government is pushing ahead with plans to legalize
marijuana and not before time. Health Minister Jane Philpott certainly
didn't play down the controversial announcement. She chose a special
session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York regarding
drug use and drug-related crime.

The timing was more than coincidental. Minister Philpot chose April 20
to reveal that Ottawa plans to introduce legislation legalizing
marijuana in the spring of next year. Her address coincided with 4/20
- - the annual day of celebration for cannabis culture lovers, the
so-called National Weed Day.

Despite Liberal party promises, the speed towards full legalization is
still a pleasant surprise. Many people thought that perhaps the
government might first move towards decriminalization - that full
legalization was too radical, too quick, too dangerous. But Ottawa
decided to move forward as promised before and during the federal
election last fall.

The legalization issue was really a no-brainer for Justin Trudeau. And
it was one of the defining moments for the youthful leader of the
Liberal Party as he sought to stake out a legitimate claim to become
prime minister.

His pledge to legalize marijuana was unorthodox and politically
dangerous. It could have backfired and derailed the party's election
hopes. The Conservative government was relentless in its attacks:
legalizing marijuana would lead Canadians to cocaine and heroin
addiction. But it badly miscalculated the views and sensibilities of

A majority of Canadians admit they have tried marijuana. What
university or college student hasn't?

There are already widespread medical exemptions to use marijuana for
pain control and relief. Licences to grow legal marijuana for medical
use are nothing new.

It seemed silly in this day and age for anyone to have a criminal
record for smoking a joint, anymore than having a bottle of beer or a
glass of wine. In Vancouver, public use of marijuana is widely
accepted and ignored by police.

Several U.S. states such as Colorado and Washington, have legalized
marijuana, generating millions in tax revenue.

The Canadian government is setting up a committee to assist in
drafting marijuana rules and regulations. As Minister Philpot said,
it's essential the legislation keeps marijuana out of the hands of
children and profits out of the hands of criminals. The government is
wise to take the position that legalization is the best way to protect
the country's youth while enhancing public safety.

It's important that Ottawa gets the legislation right. It must
severely punish those who provide pot to minors or drive while under
its influence.

As Minister Philpott was speaking in New York, a new Angus Reid poll
was being released in Canada. It showed that 68 per cent of Canadians
feel pot should be made legal, a nine-point increase from a 2014 poll
asking the same question. The poll found that 64 per cent of Canadians
feel the legalization of weed will do more good than harm in the long

Canadians are ready.
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