Pubdate: Tue, 03 May 2016
Source: Compass, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 The Compass
Page: A4


The federal government is pushing ahead with plans to legalize 
marijuana and none too soon. 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. Philpott 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 Canadians.

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 seems silly in this day and age for anyone to have a criminal 
record for smoking a joint, any more 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 Philpott 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 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 run.

Canadians are ready.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom