Canadian Prime Minister Has Uncommon Reasons for Suppoting Marijuana Legalization

While most pro-marijuana politicians tout the economic advantages and job growth that accommodate legislation, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supports marijuana legalization for safety reasons.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out a pragmatic argument for supporting nationwide cannabis legalization at an economic conference recently in Toronto. Unlike most pro-cannabis advocates and politicians that assert the economic and employment benefits associated with legalization, the liberal Trudeau asserted that legalization is important for ensuring public safety.

“Look, our approach on legalizing marijuana is not about creating a boutique industry or bringing in tax revenue, it’s based on two very simple principles. The first one is… we need to make sure that it’s harder for underage Canadians to access marijuana. And that will happen under a controlled and regulated regime,” Trudeau explained.

“The other piece of it is there are billions upon billions of dollars flowing into the pockets of organized crime, street gangs and gun-runners, because of the illicit marijuana trade, and if we can get that out of the criminal elements and into a more regulated fashion we will reduce the amount of criminal activity that’s profiting from those, and that has offshoots into so many other criminal activities.”

Full legalization, Trudeau argued, would help manage teen marijuana use and reduce illegal activity.

Research supports Trudeau’s assertions. Multiple studies have shown that legislative changes that legalize or decriminalize marijuana cause a decrease in teen cannabis use. Another study found that legalizing recreational cannabis doesn’t make it any easier for teens to get access to marijuana.

Crime does also appear to decrease with the passing of cannabis laws, research suggests. One study found that legalizing medical marijuana reduced some violent crime, like homicide and assault. Another showed a clear decline in theft and violent crime, as legislation was followed by a reduction in drug gang activity. The state of Colorado experienced a 14.6 percent decrease in crime in the year following the passing of adult use legislation.

Strong support for Trudeau’s pro-legalization argument came from The Washington Postremarking that Trudeau “is concerned less with creating benefits, and more with reducing harms. He starts from the same place that many legalization opponents start from — concern for the safety of the children.”

Trudeau became prime minister in October of last year after he won in an election against Stephen Harper, seeking a third term. Trudeau ran on the promise he would immediately work toward legalizing marijuana and, upon taking office, drafted a mandate letter with a legal framework for legalizing marijuana. Complying with international treaties that criminalize the possession and production of marijuana, however, have slowed his efforts.

The international treaty hiccup hasn’t deterred Trudeau, however, and Canada’s health minister told the UN in April that federal legislation for marijuana legalization will be introduced next year.

“We will introduce legislation in spring 2017 that ensures we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals,” health minister Jane Philpott said in her speech to delegates. “We will work with law enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal justice measures. We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem.”

Although marijuana has been prohibited in Canada since 1923, a February poll found that 68 percent of Canadians support or somewhat support marijuana legalization.