April 14, 2017
Main short-term physical effects of cannabis; source: By Mikael Häggström – All used images are in public domain., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5775703
What if provinces try to undermine legalization?
Journalists wondered what the federal government would do if some provinces were to try an end run around legalization by setting the maximum amount at, say, one gram and the minimum age at, for example, 75. Officials, who gave a not-for-attribution briefing prior to the politicians’ news conference, explained that if provinces were to use such tactics to, in effect, sabotage the new legislation, the federal government is prepared to facilitate online and mail order purchase of marijuana. Those unnamable officials also affirmed that recreational marijuana sales, overseen and controlled by the provinces, will, like sales of medical marijuana, be subject to the HST.
The politicians were less categorical on both points, but repeated a number of times that — again, in the interests of the children — it would be good if the provinces and municipalities were to work collaboratively with the federal government to implement the new legislative framework for weed.
At first blush, the provinces do not seem overly thrilled with Thursday’s announcement. Some, such as Quebec, argue that the Trudeau Liberals are downloading a raft of responsibilities onto the provinces, without commensurate additional cash.
Provinces, Quebec complains, will have to train police in new drug detection techniques, formulate a retail sales framework for legal marijuana, and find ways to mitigate against the increased risk of children getting their hands on soon-to-be legal pot.
While it agrees with the principle of legalizing marijuana, the Quebec government says it is concerned that the federal government has yet to offer the provinces any additional monies for the many new responsibilities Thursday’s legislative package imposes on them.
A joint prior to rolling, with a paper handmade filter on the left; source: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=430014
Conservatives are discreetly quiet; NDP, critically supportive
As for the opposition parties in Ottawa — the official opposition Conservatives are, so far, maintaining a careful silence. That discretion probably reflects the party’s internal divisions. Leadership candidates who have pronounced themselves have come down on different sides of the pot debate. Kellie Leitch, for instance, promises to repeal the legalization legislation. Many of her fellow candidates do not agree.
The NDP, for its part, does not significantly differ from the Liberal approach, although NDPers continue to urge the government to put a stop to marijuana prosecutions under the current law.
It causes great and unnecessary harm, the NDP’s justice critic Alistair MacGregor says, to give thousand of Canadians criminal records for engaging in an activity that will soon be legal.
MacGregor even goes so far as to say that, given all of its still-to-be-determined elements, the Liberals could easily have enacted the main features of this legislation 18 months ago, and worked out the details later.
It is worth noting, however, that NDPers do not criticize the increased police powers and criminal sanctions announced on Thursday.
The NDP, like the Trudeau government, is acutely aware that while most Canadians may not believe possessing small amounts of marijuana should be a crime, a good many still have big concerns, and fears, about the potential consequences of full-blown legalization.