(Published in 24 Hours Sept.  3, 2013)

Trudeau’s pot stance should spark debate


   By Leo Knight




Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau completed his flip-flop on pot while rousing the party faithful recently in Kelowna.

Trudeau had previously voted with the Conservative government on a bill to put in place mandatory minimum sentences for possession for the purpose of trafficking. Then last fall he mused about decriminalization in Charlottetown before his recent unprompted statement in Kelowna made the about-face complete.

Fair enough, I suppose. His comments and subsequent explanation for his “evolving” views were covered extensively in the media.

Strangely, though, Trudeau’s remarks didn’t spark a debate as much as it led to a rather curious questioning of politicians from across the country about whether they had also smoked pot. This included questions to such politicians as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who admitted to using “lots” of the drug, to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who admitted using it before her children were born some 30 years ago.

One wag even asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper the same question, drawing the retort, “Do I seem like I smoke marijuana?” Given the stuffed-shirt personality he portrays, that does seem rather obvious.

The groan of the week came from federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who said Trudeau’s credibility went “up in smoke.”

But quotes from politicians, witty or pithy, are not a real debate. And Trudeau’s remarks, one of his first stated policy positions, seem likely to make it an issue in the next federal election, if not before.

Hopefully, this will spark a real debate, one not marked with the canards often used to promote the legalization of marijuana.

Such as the suggestion that legalizing pot will somehow deal a mortal blow to organized crime. This shows a profound lack of understanding. Yes, organized crime — in its many guises — controls the trafficking of drugs in Canada. But it’s all drugs, not just marijuana. The primary cash cow is cocaine, but there’s also heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy and a whole host of other drugs — even counterfeit Viagra.

Organized crime isn’t going anywhere, regardless of what the politicians decide about marijuana.

And to suggest, as Trudeau did, that legalization and strict government control along the lines of liquor will somehow keep the drug out of the hands of teens is merely wishful thinking. Teens manage to get cigarettes and booze in all manner of ingenious ways.

Trudeau’s statements have placed the issue firmly on the public stage and a public debate should ensue. Let’s hope the debate is based on accurate arguments on both sides of the question.


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Columns 2013