Marijuana in Canada: Today’s Election Will Be Critical

Canada's election today could be a game changer for cannabis there.
Canada’s election today could be a game changer for cannabis there.

Canada is having its 42nd general election today to decide who will be its next Prime Minister. The three candidates are Stephen Harper, the incumbent from the Conservative Party, Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party, and Tom Mulcair of the New Democratic Party. This election holds huge implications for Canada’s future, and the future of marijuana in Canada is one of the key issues on which the candidates disagree. Here is a quick overview of what the three candidates have said about marijuana.

Stephen Harper has overseen the continued illegality of cannabis in Canada since he first took office in 2006. He has been vocal about his opposition to marijuana, even going so far as to say that, “Tobacco is a product that does a lot of damage.  Marijuana is infinitely worse and it’s something that we do not want to encourage.” Harper has taken a lot of media flak for this statement, including John Oliver positing on “Last Week Tonight” that he was high when he said it. Harper was also challenged on this statement by various news organizations in Canada asking for proof behind his statement, but Harper did not give any specific evidence to back up his statement.

Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party have been touting their plans to “legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.” The Liberal plan sets out two main goals for legalization in Canada:

“We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework.

We will create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied.”

Tom Mulcair, the New Democratic Party candidate, has said that he would decriminalize marijuana the “minute we form government.” Mulcair has focused on decriminalization over legalization, but has also conceded that full legalization of marijuana is the inevitable future for Canada.

This election is against the backdrop of a Canadian population that largely favors legalizing marijuana. In a Global News poll, roughly two thirds of Canadians favor the decriminalizing marijuana – a margin that remains roughly the same across age groups and among the various provinces.

Canada is on the verge of what may prove to be a political tectonic shift that could see serious changes to cannabis legalization in Canada. Today’s  election will be an important one for cannabis advocates everywhere to watch.

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