The Liberal Party has taken the general election in Canada by a landslide with 184 seats to form a majority government, meaning that the hardline federal policy keeping marijuana illegal is likely soon to fall.
With the Conservative Party out of power and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s resignation in hand, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising to legalize and regulate marijuana. In the absence of a majority government, the Liberals would have had to find another willing party. The New Democratic Party supports marijuana decriminalization, though not full legalization, and the Conservative Party is against the drug outright.
Harper recently attracted the ire of marijuana advocates after he claimed marijuana is “infinitely worse” than tobacco, and he’s already the source of much criticism over maintaining strict federal policy against the drug for almost 10 years.
According to the Liberal Party, a stance on legalization ensures the criminal justice system will not be unduly burdened by minor offenses and keeps users out of prison for non-violent offenses.
Additionally, the party argues that marijuana prohibition opens the door for organized crime, which in turn supports human trafficking and the sale of harder drugs.
The party’s proposed solution will remove consumption and incidental possession from federal criminal law and add much stronger penalties for those serving the drug to minors, attempting to drive a vehicle while under the influence and selling the drug outside of the approved framework.
Trudeau plans to implement legalization “right away.”
Even though powers not specifically granted to the provinces are held by the federal government—the opposite approach to the state-federal relationship in the United States—one province in particular has managed to hold off enforcement and allow medical marijuana dispensaries to thrive. The practice is technically illegal. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act only allows a small number of approved producers to engage in the medical marijuana trade.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, there are more dispensaries than Starbucks locations, and the industry is largely unregulated.
These dispensaries obtain marijuana illegally, but the city and police department say they have other enforcement priorities, and so look the other way. With the Liberal Party set to take government, Canada is likely to become the first country in North America to legalize marijuana on the federal level.
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