Pubdate: Thu, 20 Apr 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Authors: Laura Stone and Daniel Leblanc
Page: A10


Other Conservative candidates have expressed mixed reactions to the
Liberals' proposal to overturn prohibition of the drug

Conservative leadership candidates are split over marijuana policy,
with Kevin O'Leary the only serious contender voicing support for
legalization and Maxime Bernier refusing to say whether he'll vote in
favour of the Liberal legislation to lift the prohibition on the
recreational use of cannabis.

Mr. O'Leary said up to 30 per cent of the population uses the drug
medicinally and recreationally, and he believes the Conservative Party
membership understands it has to embrace "a much larger

"I think the party has moved into the place now where they understand
it's going to be part of the Canadian culture," Mr. O'Leary said in an
interview this week. "In order for the Conservative Party to be
relevant, to actually build a platform that can remove Justin Trudeau
from power in 2019, we have to have a very large tent."

Fellow leadership contender Kellie Leitch, a doctor, has been highly
critical of both Mr. O'Leary and Mr. Bernier, who has expressed
support for legalization in the past. "Legalization would make this
drug more available and accessible to children and, as a pediatric
surgeon, I'm very concerned about the effects it has on the developing
brain," she said in a short campaign video.

Ms. Leitch's spokesperson said Ms. Leitch would repeal the Liberal law
and supports decriminalization as laid out in Conservative Party
policy, which recommends that peace officers issue tickets for the
simple possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Erin O'Toole and Andrew Scheer, two other leadership hopefuls, are
voicing displeasure with the Liberal legislation, but say they
wouldn't recriminalize the drug and would instead focus on improving
the bill. Michael Chong's spokesperson said Mr. Chong supports an
approach "that doesn't ruin a person's future" for possessing small
amounts of marijuana and reduces harm, but wouldn't specify his
preferred policy.

Lisa Raitt said she will vote against the legislation but won't
reverse it after it passes into law. "If we run an election in 2019 on
making it illegal again, we'll lose," she said. But she said she
thinks the age should be increased from 18 to 25. "My fear is that we
are going to be going down a path of American-style commercialization
and promotion of marijuana.

"I don't want them marketing to kids."

The Liberals' legislative package includes one bill to create a new
federal-provincial regime to produce and sell cannabis, and another to
overhaul and strengthen laws related to impaired driving by users of
both marijuana and alcohol.

Mr. O'Leary said he supports legalization with strict regulations
regarding impaired driving. He said that includes any proposals
brought forward by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, such as
zero-tolerance for THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the substance that
gives marijuana its intoxicating effect, for Canadians under 21 years
old. He also supports giving police the ability to use roadside saliva
testing to detect drug-impaired drivers.

"I'm for regulating it, taxing it, controlling it federally, going
under the guidelines of what MADD brings forward and listening to the
police in terms of how they're going to enforce it," Mr. O'Leary said.

He added that if the bill is adopted as planned by July, 2018, "it is
going to be a great thing for business. It's also going to be a great
thing for government revenues." He said he'd prefer any taxes to be
returned to federal - not provincial - coffers.

"I'd prefer this to be a federal mandate, controlled by the feds and
administered as such," Mr. O'Leary said. "I'm not for giving more
power to the provinces. They've abused it badly."

Mr. O'Leary, who is not a member of Parliament, said he supports the
Liberals' proposal to punish those who provide cannabis to youth with
up to 14 years in jail. The bill sets the possession limit of dried
cannabis at 30 grams, but leaves edible cannabis products to be
legalized at a later date. Mr. O'Leary said edibles should also be

When asked if marijuana should be decriminalized until the law passes,
Mr. O'Leary said, "I'm waiting to see actually what's tabled, as the
rest of the country is, too. Now you're getting very specific."

He later said that until the bill passes in law, current laws
shouldn't be changed.

"There's no grey law. When it becomes law, we'll abide by that law.
Meanwhile, we'll abide by the existing laws," he said.

Mr. Bernier told The Huffington Post last August that he supports
legalization in principle, but would comment on the Liberal plan once
it was tabled in the House. Last week, Mr. Bernier told reporters in
Ottawa that he was in favour of decriminalizing marijuana, which would
mean users would no longer face a criminal record for possession.
However, that position does not go as far as the current government
proposal to legalize marijuana for adult consumers and ensure its
distribution in government-run stores.

"Maxime wants to take the time to read the legislation and different
experts' analysis on that bill before commenting," a spokesperson for
Mr. Bernier said on Tuesday.

Mr. Bernier has already been endorsed by pot activist Marc Emery, who
based his choice on the fact that he shares libertarian views with the
Conservative leadership candidate. The position in favour of
decriminalization falls well short of Mr. Emery's calls for

"I'm supporting the Free Minds/Free Markets candidate Maxime Bernier,"
Mr. Emery, who is known as the Prince of Pot, said on his Facebook
page last week.

Mr. Emery added he will do everything in his power to "make sure
Kellie Leitch never becomes leader."

Mr. O'Leary said the policy of decriminalization sends a "very
confusing message.

"At the end of the day, you either regulate and tax it or you don't,"
he said.

"You basically want to take it out of the hands of criminal
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