Article by Jenna Valleriani, Lift
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently expressed frustration around the current cannabis landscape, explaining, “Until we have brought in the proposed system… the current prohibition stands”, and encouraging police to enforce the law, particularly as it pertains to the continued expansion of medical cannabis dispensaries in major cities across Canada.
The response has been one of uniform frustration from many angles, but I don’t believe Justin Trudeau actually lied about the Liberal party’s intentions on the cannabis file.
From the very beginning, the emphasis has always been on restricting andregulating access to cannabis. In 2014, Trudeau said his government would legalize and make it more difficult — not easier — for children to get their hands on marijuana. In September 2015, Trudeau said he would not like to see cannabis sold at corner stores. As early as 2013, he was quoted saying, “Our government has no interest in seeing any of these drugs legalized or made more easily available to youth”, and more recently he has been reaffirming the intention that, “our approach on legalizing marijuana is not about creating a boutique industry or bringing in tax revenues.” The budget did not even include any mention of marijuana.
To claim now that Trudeau lied seems confusing – no government could really get away with a legalization ‘free for all’, but more importantly, a majority of Canadians don’t want that. While there is certainly more room to have an open conversation about job creation, tax revenue, and stimulating our economy, often many of these objectives, whether we want to admit it or not, can be at odds with a public health approach to legalization. When he says the government is not trying to “appease recreational users”, its in reference to a system that needs to work for both cannabis users and a majority of the population who are not actually regular cannabis users.