High time

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is push­ing ahead with plans to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana and none too soon. Health Min­is­ter Jane Philpott cer­tainly didn’t play down the con­tro­ver­sial an­nounce­ment. She chose a spe­cial ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly in New York re­gard­ing drug use and drug-re­lated crime.

The tim­ing was more than co­in­ci­den­tal. Philpott chose April 20 to re­veal that Ot­tawa plans to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana in the spring of next year. Her ad­dress co­in­cided with 4/20 - the an­nual day of cel­e­bra­tion for cannabis cul­ture lovers, the so-called Na­tional Weed Day.

De­spite Lib­eral party prom­ises, the speed to­wards full le­gal­iza­tion is still a pleas­ant sur­prise. Many peo­ple thought that per­haps the gov­ern­ment might first move to­wards de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion - that full le­gal­iza­tion was too rad­i­cal, too quick, too dan­ger­ous. But Ot­tawa de­cided to move for­ward as promised be­fore and dur­ing the fed­eral elec­tion last fall.

The le­gal­iza­tion is­sue was re­ally a no­brainer for Justin Trudeau.

And it was one of the defin­ing mo­ments for the youth­ful leader of the Lib­eral party as he sought to stake out a le­git­i­mate claim to be­come prime min­is­ter.

His pledge to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana was unortho­dox and po­lit­i­cally dan­ger­ous. It could have back­fired and de­railed the party’s elec­tion hopes. The Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment was re­lent­less in its at­tacks: le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana would lead Cana­di­ans to co­caine and heroin ad­dic­tion. But it badly mis­cal­cu­lated the views and sen­si­bil­i­ties of Cana­di­ans.

A ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans ad­mit they have tried mar­i­juana. What uni­ver­sity or col­lege stu­dent hasn’t?

There are al­ready widespread med­i­cal ex­emp­tions to use mar­i­juana for pain con­trol and re­lief. Li­cences to grow le­gal mar­i­juana for med­i­cal use are noth­ing new.

It seems silly in this day and age for any­one to have a crim­i­nal record for smok­ing a joint, any more than hav­ing a bot­tle of beer or a glass of wine. In Van­cou­ver, pub­lic use of mar­i­juana is widely ac­cepted and ig­nored by po­lice.

Sev­eral U.S. states such as Colorado and Washington have le­gal­ized mar­i­juana, gen­er­at­ing mil­lions in tax rev­enue.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment is set­ting up a com­mit­tee to as­sist in draft­ing mar­i­juana rules and reg­u­la­tions.

As Philpott said, it’s es­sen­tial the leg­is­la­tion keeps mar­i­juana out of the hands of chil­dren and prof­its out of the hands of crim­i­nals. The gov­ern­ment is wise to take the po­si­tion that le­gal­iza­tion is the best way to pro­tect the coun­try’s youth while en­hanc­ing pub­lic safety.

It’s im­por­tant that Ot­tawa gets the leg­is­la­tion right. It must se­verely pun­ish those who pro­vide pot to mi­nors or drive while un­der its in­flu­ence.

As Philpott was speak­ing in New York, a new An­gus Reid poll was be­ing re­leased in Canada. It showed that 68 per cent of Cana­di­ans feel pot should be made le­gal, a nine­point in­crease from a 2014 poll ask­ing the same ques­tion. The poll found that 64 per cent of Cana­di­ans feel the le­gal­iza­tion of weed will do more good than harm in the long run.

Cana­di­ans are ready.

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