Trudeau government begins dialogue on legalizing pot
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa
Published Wednesday, February 24, 2016 5:45PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 24, 2016 6:48PM EST
The Trudeau government took the first step towards legalizing marijuana today, bringing experts to parliament to speak on the issue. Legalizing marijuana was one of the Trudeau government's key election promises. But it's a complicated issue and, as we heard today, until there is a new law in place, the current law on possession of marijuana will have to be enforced and obeyed.
Cynthia Gossin travelled with her son from Toronto to take in the Senate Liberals open caucus meeting on legalizing marijuana.
After decades of debate in Canada, the issue appears to be moving forward.
"I think we're in process and got to go forward with this,” says Gossin, a retired dentist, “I’m not sure how long it will take, but we need to do it properly.”
That was the resounding sentiment around the table.
Liberal MP and former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has been given the lead role on this file for the Trudeau government.
“I believe we have a responsibility to do this right,” Blair told interested parties at the meeting today.
“I know many are saying well let's hurry up and get on with it,” he added, “Well getting on with it involves many complex issues.”
Issues around organized crime, jurisdiction and health concerns, particularly for young people, says Amy Porath-Waller, the director of research for the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, “We talked today about what the impacts are and there are many. We don’t know the impact of the increasing potency of THC levels on the developing adolescent mind,” she says, “then there is the increased risk of collision. A lot of people are using in combination with alcohol so that increases the risk.”
Then there's the question about those still getting busted for pot possession.
“British Columbia spends $10-million a year on pot possession cases,” says Jodie Emery with Vancouver’s Cannabis Culture, “and I'm sure across the country, the numbers are just as high. That’s money that should be spent on health care, not on arresting peaceful Canadians who are criminals today but encouraged to buy pot legally in a year from now.”
The President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police admits the dialogue has been confusing for them, too.
Clive Weighill says, “I think it would be helpful if government would release an action plan and steps they're going through with possible timelines so people’s expectations are lessened a bit.”
Until that happens, though, Weighill says police will continue to enforce the current law and people are expected to obey it.