Canada: Justin Trudeau Makes A Case For Legalizing Marijuana
By Steve Elliott
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday made a remarkable argument for the legalization of marijuana, basing his points not on economic benefits, but on the same factors many legalization opponents start from -- concern for the safety of children.
"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," Trudeau said at an economic conference, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.
"The first one is, young people have easier access to cannabis now, in Canada, than they do in just about any other countries in the world," Trudeau pointed out. "[Of] 29 different countries studied by the U.N., Canada was number one in terms of underage access to marijuana.
"And whatever you might think or studies seen about cannabis being less harmful than alcohol or even cigarettes, the fact is it is bad for the developing brain and we need to make sure that it’s harder for underage Canadians to access marijuana," Trudeau said. "And that will happen under a controlled and regulated regime.
"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," Trudeau said. "So those are my focuses on that."
"I have no doubt that Canadians and entrepreneurs will be tremendously innovative in finding ways to create positive economic benefits from the legalization and control of marijuana, but our focus is on protecting kids and protecting our streets," Trudeau said.
The prime minister made the remarks by way of responding to a conference participant who said that "Canada could be as cannabis as France is to wine." But his argument focuses less on economic benefits, and more with reducing supposed harms.
Trudeau points out that it's already easy for teenagers to get marijuana if they want to. Current policies, in other words, centered on making weed completely illegal, do little to keep it out of the hands of kids who want it.
The prime minister argued that taking pot out of the black market and putting it under a regulatory structure would make it harder for kids to get it. A recent study published in Lancet Psychiatry found that over the past decade, as 13 states passed medical marijuana laws and 10 states decriminalized, and as Colorado and Washington legalized recreational weed, not only have teen marijuana use rates declined nationally, but "problems associated with marijuana use" have fallen, too.
Moreover, federal data show no significant year-over-year changes in cannabis use among teens in Colorado and Washington in the year after marijuana became legal in those states.
Trudeau in January took the first steps towards legalization in Canada with a mandate letter to create the legal framework for such a move, reports Cady Lang at TIME.
Photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Diply