Canada is legalizing cannabis on Oct. 17, almost 3 years to the day since Trudeau’s Liberals took over the government after the last federal election back in 2015.
It’s been a long and arduous process getting to this point, and there have been many, many stumbles and fails along the way. Here’s a few of the biggest blunders by the government (so far).
Fail 1. Canada did not decriminalize cannabis
That cannabis was not decriminalized immediately after the 2015 election is a massive fail for the Trudeau government. When the Liberals’ campaigned on a platform that included legalization of cannabis and won, cannabis activists across the country were overjoyed because the Canadian people had given the government a mandate to end cannabis prohibition. But maybe they celebrated too early.
In the 3 years since being elected, the Liberals have refused to decriminalize cannabis, choosing instead to have the laws suddenly shift from illegal to legal come mid-October.
Oh yeah, and thanks to the inaction of politicians, 52,808 Canadians were charged with cannabis possession between 2015 and 2017 (which is the latest year we have data for). What a waste of resources, time, and taxpayers’ money just to potentially ruin the lives of more than 50k people over something that will be legal in a couple weeks!
And it’s not only decriminalization of cannabis that we’re talking about anymore. With Canada in the midst of the opioid crisis, one of the deadliest drug epidemics in history, health advocates are increasingly calling for the decriminalization of ALL drugs, and Portugal could even serve as an example for Canada as it successfully decriminalized drugs all the way back in 2001.
But that seems like a long shot since Canada won’t even decriminalize cannabis while it tries to figure out how to legalize it.
Fail 2. No amnesty for past cannabis convictions
Cannabis legalization is the biggest shift in Canadian drug policy since we repealed alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s (although some provinces like PEI held out longer, going dry until 1948!).
Cannabis has been illegal in Canada since 1923 (excluding medical cannabis, which was legalized in 2001) and you can bet there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians who have been convicted of non-violent, minor cannabis offences in the 95 years since cannabis was banned. An LP-affiliated petition going around for cannabis amnesty claims the number of affected Canadians is at least 500,000.
But right now, the government seems only focused on the legalization of cannabis and not repairing the damage done by decades of criminalization, often disproportionately Canada’s most marginalized and vulnerable populations. PM Trudeau was quoted by the Georgia Straight back in June:
“There is no point looking at pardons while the old law is on the books.
We’ve said we will look at next steps once the new coming-into-force happens.
Between now and then, the current regime stays.”
Fail 3. Missing the original legalization date
Even getting the date right for cannabis legalization was a fail! We all know now that it will happen Oct. 17, 2018, but even a year ago, we were far from sure what date we should circle in the calendar for this historic moment.
It was widely reported in 2017 that legalization would happen on July 1st, 2018, also known as Canada Day, but that never happened due to a myriad of reasons including Bill C-45 (aka the Cannabis Act) ping-ponging multiple times between the House of Commons and Senate before finally getting passed on June 19.
Once it became clear that July wasn’t feasible, the date shifted around as the provinces asked for more time (some wanted legalization pushed back until 2019), and it went from “sometime in the summer” to finally landing on the October date we’re all well aware of.
Featured image courtesy of Plant.
Cannabis Amnesty: About.
Georgia Straight: Justin Trudeau confirms official date for legal weed in Canada.
Global News: Marijuana won’t be legal on July 1, and here’s why.