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Justin Trudeau To Legalize Weed in Canada

Time to start buying stock in Tim Horton’s.

By Robbie Gramer, a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.
canadian cannabis

The Canadian maple leaf may soon get another leafy friend. Canada’s Liberal government is poised next month to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana, CBC first reported Sunday. Under the bill’s provisions, the drug could be legalized by July 1, 2018, nicely coinciding with Canada Day.

It’s one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s  most controversial campaign promises — but one that helped his Liberal Party capture the youth vote and propel it to victory in the country’s 2015 elections.

But before American youngsters crash Canada’s immigration website again, Trudeau warned the drug is still illegal until the legislation passes. “Until we have a framework to control and regulate marijuana, the current laws apply,” he said earlier this month. And legalization will have strict federal guidelines.

The federal government will oversee the supply and license producers, but provinces will regulate the drug’s distribution, sale, and prices. There will also be a limit of four plants per household. The national age for buying marijuana will be 18, but provinces can boost the age limit as they see fit.

There’s a decidedly different battle playing out in Canada’s southern neighbor. Washington, D.C. and seven U.S. states legalized recreational marijuana use: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, and Maine. President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t yet taken a stance on legalization — or looking the other way while states green-light the drug. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions is avowedly against it, saying in the past it’s a “very real danger” and increase heroin and cocaine usage as a gateway drug.

The news up north follows the December release of a lengthy Canadian federal task force report on implementing marijuana legalization. Former Justice Minister Anne McLellan, who chaired the report, said 18 was the ideal minimum age. “Eighteen is the age at which young adults — and I call them deliberately young adults — are expected to be able to make decisions, whether it’s who to vote for, to buy alcohol, to smoke,” she said in an interview.

The Liberal platform said legalization would keep the drug “out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals.” McLellan said total prohibition was ineffective. “We aren’t even meeting our public health goals, right? We’ve got this prohibited substance. What’s the most easily available substance to your teenage kids? More available than alcohol? More available than tobacco? It is cannabis. So we’ve failed. So let’s fix it.”

But law enforcement groups voiced concerns about legalization. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) released a response in February outlining “concerns with regards to impaired driving [and] impact on organized crime.” It added “public education is critical and should begin immediately” as the government paves the way for legalization.

Trudeau’s push for legalization caught political flak from other parties, even parties on the left who fear it could turn into another one of Trudeau’s broken promises. “I do not believe Justin Trudeau is going to bring in the legalization of marijuana and as proof that … we are still seeing, particularly young Canadians being criminalized by simple possession of marijuana,” said British Columbia MP Peter Julian of the left-leaning New Democratic Party.

In February, Trudeau reneged one of his top campaign promises to reform the country’s electoral system. The move was widely criticized by opposition parties and some of his own supporters.

Canada’s Conservative party largely opposes legalization. But not Kevin O’Leary, widely considered a frontrunner in the race for the party’s leadership. The former reality star-turned politician (sound familiar?) told conservative news outlet The Daily Caller he would embrace legalization as long as it doesn’t increase impaired driving.

Photo credit: Cannabis Culture/Flickr/Creative Commons

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer