Liberal Party Wins, Marijuana Legalization to Follow?

   

After nearly a decade in power, Stephen Harper has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party after Canadians voted for change and swept the Liberal Party into power. Exceeding expectations, the Liberal Party secured a clear majority outright, without the need to form a coalition government. Voters in our neighbor to the north voted for a clear progressive agenda that includes ending cannabis prohibition. Marijuana legalization advocates rejoiced across North America, looking forward to a sensible cannabis policy in Canada.

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has called for implementing legalization quickly, but it will be very interesting exactly how cannabis commerce will be regulated. Trudeau has pledged to move on legalization right away, but noted that it could take a year or two to implement. Trudeau’s director of communications, Kate Purchase, did state that Colorado was a model that the party was considering. As Canada develops the rules and regulations for cannabis commerce, hopefully the country will move forward with ending criminal penalties for personal possession, cultivation and sharing of cannabis.

The new prime minister provided a stark contrast with his predecessor on many issues, including cannabis legalization. While Trudeau admitted to using marijuana in the past and the Liberal Party made legalization a part of its platform. Trudeau was clearly more in line with the people of Canada as a recent poll found that over 56% support legalization; about 30% favor decriminalization; and less than 15% want to keep marijuana illegal. Harper, who declared marijuana “infinitely worse than tobacco” and supported prohibition, was clearly out of step with the Canadian people. While many people try to downplay the importance of cannabis policy in national politics, a candidate’s marijuana policy says a lot about his or her priorities and understanding of science.

With the Liberal Party securing 184 seats, more than the 170 needed to control a majority and the New Democratic Party, which supports decriminalization, marijuana legalization should be implemented without much political resistance. In the past, the Liberals have backed down from implementing national decriminalization under pressure from the Bush Administration. The Canadian government is unlikely to get any pressure from the Obama Administration since the United States federal government is currently letting states proceed with their own marijuana policies.

Legalization in Canada will likely speed up marijuana law reform in the United States and across the globe. When the sky doesn’t fall in Canada and the nation generates new revenue and creates more jobs, more states will have evidence to pass legalization measures, putting more pressure on Congress to allow states to legalize without restrictions. Uruguay has chosen to end cannabis prohibition and other countries, such as Mexico, may legalize cannabis soon as well. Just as cannabis legalization has spread state to state in the United States, we will see similar momentum around the world.

 

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.