HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html If Pot Plan Goes Wrong, Trudeau Will Be The Dope
Pubdate: Mon, 17 Apr 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Geoffrey Stevens
Page: A9


In times past, when the government had a really big deal to announce,
or an item of long-awaited legislation, it would pull out all the stops.

Parliament would be primed. The prime minister would look on proudly
while the sponsoring minister(s) explained in lavish terms how the new
measure would dramatically improve the lives of ordinary Canadians and
make the nation stronger, safer and more prosperous. Hype like that.
That's not what happened last week when the Justin Trudeau government
honoured its signature campaign commitment to legalize the possession
and recreational use of marijuana.

When the new regime comes into effect next year, Canada, we are told,
will become only the second country in the world after Uruguay where
cannabis is legal nationwide. Cause for celebration? Not exactly. In
the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals - as a third party with
nothing to lose and the votes of young people to win - promised to
strike down the ancient prohibition against marijuana.

But the two bills they unveiled last week were not presented in the
context of modernization or liberalization. Rather, they were couched
in the language of restriction and control.

As Prime Minister Trudeau commented on the day before the measures
were introduced, "We want to make it more difficult for kids to access
marijuana. That is why we are going to legalize and control marijuana."

One wonders whether youths in 2015 anticipated that a vote for the
Liberals would be a vote for a government that would seek to make it
more difficult for their generation to get their hands on pot.

Be that as it may, the prime minister was absent from the Commons on
the big day.

Distancing himself, he left the heavy lifting of explanation to
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, her parliamentary secretary
(and former Toronto police chief) Bill Blair, Health Minister Jane
Philpott and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

They spelled out the nitty-gritty of the government's plan in Bills
C-45 and C-46 to get control of the marijuana market away from
organized crime, to limit access to pot among youngsters under 18, and
to crack down on driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

The measures include a new Criminal Code offence, punishable by up to
14 years in prison, for supplying cannabis to those under 18, and one
providing for roadside saliva tests for drugs with sanctions ranging
up to 10 years imprisonment.

While the production of marijuana will be regulated by the federal
government, the provinces will be responsible for setting up systems
to control its marketing.

Most provinces will probably opt for systems similar to Ontario's LCBO
for alcohol.

If this doesn't seem quite like the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, it

The Liberals found themselves between a rock and a hard

They knew their campaign promise to legalize marijuana had been more
important to millennials and other young voters than any other plank
in their 2015 campaign.

They could not afford to lose that support by breaking their promise -
especially not after breaking the promise to reform the electoral system.

Once in office, however, the Liberals discovered something they should
already have known - that there is no national consensus on marijuana.

Everyone wants to get criminals out of the pot business and everyone
can agree that the drug should be kept away from children.

But for every millennial who welcomes the Liberal measures, there will
be a parent or grandparent who fears, with good reason, that the
impending marijuana-control regime will be no more effective than
existing rules governing alcohol have been in stamping out underage

The Liberals have no choice but to try to make their pot regime work
with tight regulations and harsh penalties, some of which are bound to
face Charter challenges.

If it doesn't work - and some things are bound to go wrong - the
failure will be on Trudeau.

He won't be able to distance himself from the fallout.

- ------------------------------------------

Cambridge resident Geoffrey Stevens, an author and former Ottawa
columnist and managing editor of the Globe and Mail, teaches political
science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph.
His column appears Mondays. He welcomes comments  ---
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