One question that Canadians can’t stop asking is whether legalization of recreational cannabis is a done deal. Is it really going to happen? Or is the Liberal government dangling this promise in hopes of re-election in 2019?
Lessons from past decades show us that government initiatives pertaining to pot—even those introduced in the House of Commons—don’t always flourish as expected.
A short history of cannabis in Canada
In 1969, the LeDain Commission, a federal government initiative, re-examined the criminalization of cannabis. The commission’s 1972 report recommended removing criminal sanctions on cannabis possession, and although the conclusion received some support, it lost momentum and didn’t go anywhere.
In 2003, Jean Chretien’s Liberal government announced its intention to decriminalize recreational cannabis. Those apprehended with less than 15 grams of marijuana would be punished with a fine, while those found with between 15 and 30 grams would either be ticketed or arrested for a summary criminal charge. However, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was unimpressed, and some reports say U.S. officials threatened Canada with border hold-ups if the legislation went through.
Chretien’s bill stalled, although it was re-introduced by the Paul Martin government in 2004. But when the Martin government was defeated in a vote of non-confidence, the bill died again. The Conservatives came to power shortly thereafter, dashing any hopes that the bill would go through.
And now, in 2017, we are being promised that—yes!—cannabis will finally be legalized.