The Liberal plan to legalize pot next year will not only make history. It may be key to the governing party’s chances of re-election in 2019.
Polling data that surfaced after the 2015 election suggests that the youth vote strongly contributed to the Liberals’ majority win at the ballot box. Millennials reportedly turned up at the ballot box in “unprecedented” numbers. It has also been suggested that most millennial voters want to see pot – and in some cases all drugs – legalized.
David Colletto, who leads Abacus Data’s Canadian Millennial Research Practice, says it’s important for the government to make good on this promise if they hope to retain the youth vote that was largely responsible for their majority victory two years ago.
“The Liberals have to follow through on this,” he says. “It’s a proxy for them doing what they said they would do. I think there are liabilities across the board if they don’t legalize.”
Canada’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, which was chaired by former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan and vice-chaired by medical researcher Dr. Mark Ware, presented more than 80 recommendations at a press conference last year intended to inform the government’s legislation on cannabis (Bill C-45).
A few concerns have been raised by Opposition MPs and activists since the release of the Task Force’s final report. For instance, until Bill C-45 becomes law, all current federal and provincial laws still apply.
Call for pot criminal record amnesty
Also, there will be no amnesty granted to young people (or anyone) with pre-existing criminal records for pot possession, despite the fact that even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted to smoking pot early on in his political career.
The NDP says the government’s current plan does not go far enough to support young people. Newly-elected NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told VICE News that if he becomes Prime Minister he will “immediately decriminalize all personal possession offences when it comes to drugs.”
Millennial weed activist and co-owner of Cannabis Culture, Jodie Emery (known to her fans as “the Princess of Pot”), was arrested and taken into custody at a Toronto airport earlier this year. She and her husband and business partner, Marc Emery (“the Prince of Pot”), were charged with drug trafficking, conspiracy, and possession. Emery claims the government’s consultation process on cannabis was insufficient and is expressing concern with its approach.
“Many [young] Canadians voted for the Liberals because of their promise to legalize cannabis. But like so many other election promises, the Liberals lied and turned on their supporters,” she argues. “We need strong pro-cannabis leadership from another party in order to rally votes.”
Jordan Sinclair, director of communications for Canopy Growth Corporation (Canada’s first publicly-traded weed company), has no concerns on the way the government is approaching this file. He believes the Trudeau Liberals are “intent on legalizing cannabis to replace the black market with a regulated marketplace.”
All provinces and territories seem to be on board
Sinclair says that although Canopy Corp. did not participate in the Task Force public consultation process, it made a submission and found the Task Force’s final report to be “thorough.” He adds that making it more difficult for young people to access illegal drugs while taking revenue out of the hands of criminals – which is said to have been a large focus of the Cannabis Task Force’s final report and of Bill C-45 – is “a worthy policy pursuit.”
Former CEO of Canopy Corp., Chuck Rifici, who recently co-founded Cannabis Wheaton Inc., says legalizing recreational cannabis will undoubtedly boost the economy. He also expresses full confidence that the Liberals’ Cannabis Act will protect young people from accessing illicit drugs from the black market.
“I think Canada’s leading the world as the first G8 country to legalize [cannabis],” Rifici says. “We’re now exporting our knowledge and our products. I think a lot of activists are learning that they’ve won the battle they were fighting for.”
All provinces and territories seem to be on board with the Trudeau Liberals’ plan to legalize and are undergoing public consultations and reforms to existing laws in anticipation of Canada’s July 1st 2018 legalization date. Ontario was the first province to lay out their plan to sell and regulate recreational cannabis through the LCBO system for alcohol sales.
The Ontario Ministry of Finance announced Friday that the province is continuing to prepare for the federal government’s plan to legalize cannabis by July 2018 by working with municipalities to identify possible store locations.
Jodie Emery, who says she was denied access to the Trudeau Liberals’ Cannabis Task Force consultations, isn't happy with the Government of Ontario’s plan either.
“The Wynne Liberal government's proposal will be costly and harmful in a number of ways,” she says. “Taxpayers will be forced to pay for a ramped-up expensive crackdown on peaceful non-violent dispensaries, which will deprive patients and consumers the access they require … Government monopolies on cannabis sales also deprive taxpayers the potential tax revenue and job creation that private retail businesses create.”