In an interview with CKNW Vancouver, Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose said she wants the Liberals to move quickly on their promise to legalize and regulate cannabis in the country.
The opinion is a sharp turn for Ambrose, who, as the former health minister under the Harper government, took point on a hardline stance against marijuana.
Ambrose said her view was not against the recreational use of cannabis, but always against uncontrolled dispensaries networks and the use of cannabis by children.
“I was really concerned about the infiltration of these dispensaries that are not regulated,” said Ambrose. “There was evidence that they were selling to kids. The product is in no way regulated or checked by anyone so no one knows what’s in it and we’re still in that situation, so that’s a concern.”
Ambrose said she didn’t think her vocal opposition against cannabis cost the Conservatives any seats on the west coast or Toronto, where dispensaries have sprung up most heavily.
“I think the bottom line is is that there’s a huge amount of people in this country that, are mostly adults to be frank, that want access to pot and they want it legalized and it’s for recreational purposes and that’s the reality,” Ambrose said. “They were very loud and they were a very strong force, at least here in Vancouver, and they voted for the Liberals and they campaigned for the Liberals.”
“I’m not saying that that’s what won them the election by any stretch of the imagination.”
Ambrose said while she was health minister, the Harper government invested $7 million into a public health campaign that involved the scientific community focusing on the impact of cannabis on the developing brain and “potential cognitive and psychological problems,” messaging that she said needs to continue as legalization goes forward.
“My message was always about the public health impact on children,” Ambrose said. “I do though really worry because the Canadian Paediatric Association came out just a few weeks ago to say ‘be very cautious, because this is a very dangerous drug for the development of the brain of young people and there’s mental health implications.’”
The Conservative leader said that her party could do nothing to stop the booming dispensary industry across the country when they were in office, and that the responsibility was at the city level.
“We said many times we expected the police to do their jobs,” Ambrose said. “There was a decision made, not necessarily in other jurisdictions, but more so in Vancouver at the municipal level, to allow the dispensaries to move ahead.”
Ambrose said these cities are now in a difficult situation as they try to put a stop to new dispensaries opening.
“The cat’s out of the bag with dispensaries, there’s hundreds popping up not regulated,” Ambrose said. “I don’t know how they’re going to get that back.”
Accepting that legalization is now inevitable, Ambrose said the normalization and acceptance of cannabis will pose an issue to keep it out of the hands of youth.
“The faster they move on this the better, because the proliferation of pot dispensaries is quite large,” Ambrose said. “It’s moved now, not just in Vancouver, but across the country and they’re unregulated so the sooner they can move on that the better to protect kids.”