Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken the first step toward legalizing marijuana in Canada when he issued a mandate recently to Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould directing her to begin the process of legalization.
In the document, Trudeau directs Wilson-Raybould to begin focusing on a number of important legal issues, including rethinking criminal justice sentencing policies, investigating the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women, and working toward racial and gender parity in government.
For Green Rush Daily readers interested specifically in cannabis legislation, though, perhaps the most important priority included in Trudeau’s letter is the mandate for Wilson-Raybould to..
” with the Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.”
Trudeau has long been open about his support of legalizing marijuana. Earlier this fall, in the months leading up to Canada’s October 19 election day, he told reporters that, “The Liberal Party is committed to legalizing and regulating marijuana.”
In particular, he voiced concerns over the ways that marijuana prohibition has become a central component in a costly and violent “War on Drugs.”
While running for Prime Minister, Trudeau said that legalizing marijuana would be a key step in fixing what he called “a failed system.” He also promised to “remove the criminal element” that’s become linked to cannabis under prohibition.
Pro-pot advocates see the publication of Trudeau’s new mandate as an important first step toward following through on these commitments.
For those interested in slowing the harmful tide of cannabis prohibition, the mandate comes at an important time, especially since, as VICE reports, the number of “marijuana-related incidents and charges went up 30 percent between 2006 and 2014.”
Trudeau’s mandate will hopefully begin to reduce the number of people being arrested, harassed, and imprisoned for growing and using cannabis.
To ensure that this happens, Trudeau’s mandate also focuses specifically on reforming Canada’s law enforcement policies.
In it, he calls for an “increased use of restorative justice processes and other initiatives to reduce the rate of incarceration amongst Indigenous Canadians,” as well as a “restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness.”
People concerned with the “collateral damage” of the war on drugs hope that the combination of efforts to legalize marijuana and attempts to reform law enforcement policies could become a powerful tool in dismantling the war on drugs.
Trudeau’s efforts to legalize marijuana and reform the country’s law enforcement policies have been met with some resistance. In particular, his new mandate comes immediately on the heels of a conservative pushback against the marijuana legalization movement.
Last week, police in Nanaimo, British Columbia attempted to shut down the city’s 10 marijuana dispensaries by giving dispensary owners letters that read: “You have seven calendar days to comply with this notice or you will be subject to police enforcement, including the arrest of all employees and patrons on site.”
Similarly, Inspector Dave Haye of the Saskatoon Police Service recently told reporters: “We will charge on a leftover roach if we can. It’s how we feel about the use of illicit drugs in this area.”
Now that marijuana legalization is officially on the Canadian government’s “to-do list,” many have begun exploring the real-world promises and challenges of implementing such a change.
“It’s going to be a lot harder to implement than you think. It’s going to take a lot longer to do it. And it’s going to cost more than you think,” Lewis Koski, director of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, told Trudeau in an article published by CBCNews.
In particular, Koski cited regulating and controlling the sale and use of edibles as well as policing for impaired driving as two concrete challenges the Prime Minister must be prepared to face as he rolls out his plans for legalizing cannabis.
But Colorado is also a model for what Canada has to look forward to when it completes legalization of marijuana.
In Colorado marijuana-related arrests have dropped 84% since 2010, significantly reducing the amount of money the state spends on processing all those arrests as well as the number of lives negatively affected by marijuana prohibition.
Similarly, the state collected $44 million in marijuana taxes in 2014 and is currently on pace to generate $125 million in 2015.
Looking realistically at both the challenges and the benefits of legalizing marijuana will be helpful to Canadian leaders as they begin working to fulfill Prime Minister Trudeau’s mandate to officially start the process of marijuana legalization.
Earlier this fall, Trudeau said the process of legalizing marijuana could take anywhere from a month to “a year or two” to complete. Regardless of how long it ends up taking, his recently issued mandate seems to be his first attempt to catalyze that process.