Activists in Canada Worried About the Path to Marijuana Legalization

Activists in Canada Worried About the Path to Marijuana Legalization

(Photo: Maryam Shah/Toronto Sun)

One of the planks of the platform for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party in last year’s Canadian elections was support for recreational marijuana legalization (Canada already has a medical marijuana program). Things seem all set for that to happen, with the process starting next spring.

But many activists in the country are worried. Ongoing crackdowns on marijuana shops in Toronto and recent statements by the Canadian Prime Minister lead many to believe that things aren’t going to be as rosy as a lot of people had hoped.

"It's the government's intention to legalize it. So why is the government still arresting people?" asked Cannabis Culture owner and former U.S. federal prisoner Marc Emery; Emery has had several of his businesses in Toronto raided recently.

One of the answers may lie in the timing and the Canadian government not wanting the issue to be decided for them. “People are right now breaking the law,” Trudeau told the Toronto Star’s editorial board.

“We haven’t changed the laws. We haven’t legalized it yet. Yes, we got a clear mandate to do that. We’ve said we will. We’ve said we’re going to do it to protect our kids and to keep the money out of the pockets of criminals.”

Under current Canadian law, the shops popping up in Toronto are illegal. And until legalization is implemented, Trudeau wants police to continue targeting them.

“The promise we made around legalizing marijuana was done for two reasons … that I was very, very clear about: one, to better protect our kids from the easy access they have right now to marijuana; and, two, to remove the criminal elements that were profiting from marijuana,” he said.

“We believe that a properly regulated, controlled system will achieve both of those measures. But we haven’t brought in that properly regulated, controlled system because it’s important that we do it right in order to achieve those two specific goals.” Until then, Trudeau said, the “current prohibition stands.”

So it seems the battle will continue over the next year or so, until the new law is passed and implemented across Canada. That’s not a situation likely to foster cohesion between the Liberal government and legalization activists going forward.