justin trudeau marijuana

Justin Trudeau – The Marijuana Club

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It was just like a John Hughes film.

Justin Trudeau admitted to smoking pot while he was a sitting member of parliament, telling the establishment where to go like a young Judd Nelson. Stephen Harper was the school principal, shaking his head at the young delinquent with all the confidence of a middle aged white man deciphering rap lyrics.

Cue fist pump.

Trudeau is on the right side of the issue, and history will call him the only leader by the year 2013 who had the stones to say publicly what most Canadians already knew; marijuana should be legal to use and possess. The wait for the end of prohibition has always been about politics, not science. And the liberal leader, as overly youthful and idealistic as he seems to some, is betting on a winning hand.

He’s been lucky, too. Forrest Gumpian gaffes have benefited Trudeau as the responses and talking points of the Harper government become stale and predictable. The conservatives have not gained any traction among Canadians and have numerous albatrosses in the form of greedy senators and domestic spying allegations. The government is still raising lots of money, which is crucial to any party, but close to half of Harper’s base agrees with Trudeau in principle, even if they won’t admit it publicly. These libertarians know they won’t ever vote Liberal or NDP, but they’re already frustrated with this prime minister and may not feel so inspired to cast a ballot in 2015.

The one area where Trudeau might be feeling pressure is internally, especially among the old party stewards like Stephane Dion and Ralph Goodale. At the January 2012 Liberal convention in Ottawa, Dion told me marijuana was a “dangerous substance” and should not be legalized. Goodale publicly stammered his way through a Q and A when asked about marijuana, sounding more like a man who was wondering what his constituents in Saskatchewan were thinking. Now, both of these men, and it’s likely a dozen or so other liberal MPs, feel a little sandbagged. This did not have the feel of a well oiled policy announcement, to say the least.

But it’s a winner in the long run, especially with two years before the next election. And for the liberals, it’s also a coup of sorts. The NDP and the CPC will be singing from the same songbook, and Trudeau will be stripteasing right between them, collecting votes from young people from both sides along the way, not to mention scores of new voters.

He may also have increased voter turnout among voters under 35, a feat that would be more important than any other strategic victory for him and his party.

As if the recent announcement of Sophie Trudeau being pregnant wasn’t widening the generational gap enough, Trudeau may have just secured the sensible middle vote too. Pot might not be the most important issue to most Canadians, but courage ranks high. Like him or not, he is acting like the game changer his party hoped he would be.

It’s just that this version may take a while to kick in.

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The Legalization of Marijuana – Why Canadians Are Finally Ready

By: James Di Fiore

There is no issue more controversial and misunderstood than the fight to legalize marijuana. Ever since the 1930s when Christian fundamentalist Dwain Esper produced the propaganda film, Reefer Madness, the North American public have been clandestinely led down a road where weed is the organic equivalent to heroin or cocaine. Historically there are several reasons for the demonization of the plant, including lobbying efforts from the textiles industry who feared the mass production of hemp, a superior raw material, would have sliced the overall demand of the competitive textiles industry in half. This first domino of misinformation created a political climate where marijuana, branded as evil and dangerous for children, fell into the inaccurate abyss of some of the more notorious and addictive narcotics.

75 years after Reefer Madness was produced, marijuana has come a long way. Once you look at the science, both socially and biologically, marijuana not only becomes an attractive substitute for more nefarious drugs like nicotine and alcohol, but as an attractive revenue source during a time when the economy needs it most. Detractors continue to falsely label marijuana as the dreaded ‘Gateway Drug’, a moniker coined by long-time Commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. Anslinger, who also claimed non-whites were more susceptible to becoming marijuana addicts, cobbled together police reports from across America, arbitrarily connecting brutal murders with marijuana use while molding a national opinion that the plant was inherently evil.

It all sounds so ridiculous today. The public are more well-versed about marijuana, partly because of access to information not supplied by the government, and partly due to their own personal experience smoking or eating the plant. In any event, the most often cited argument in modern day marijuana activism is still the strongest – if alcohol can be sold on shelves and used as a substance of celebration and generally accepted by society, why not weed?

The answer is simple. After decades of bad PR, marijuana has had an uphill battle unparalleled to any other potential commodity. But a shift has been underway since the early 90s when polls began to show Canadians were softening their stance on marijuana. The most recent polls indicate a majority of Canadians now support fully legalizing and regulating the substance, a tipping point in society that could stimulate the economy and actually help shield children and teenagers from the easy access prohibition has provided. The people are more sophisticated, and the old arguments centered around addiction have mostly been removed from the public zeitgeist. While politicians have yet to decipher an effective messaging strategy that could break the backs of the old fashioned, out-of-touch crowd, whispers of legalization have been heard on Parliament Hill.

Most recently, the federal Liberal Party, reeling from an unprecedented defeat in 2011, have included legalizing marijuana as one of their main policy resolutions for their upcoming convention in January. It might have been just an experiment, a desperate ploy for new supporters, but the resolution is among the top ranked issues on their convention web site, a potentially surprising development that will force the party to create a modern, viable message a majority of Canadians seem to support anyway. The Liberals have an opportunity chart a path that neither the Conservatives or NDP can risk. The base of the Harper government is split between traditional conservatives who are out of touch on the issue and libertarians who care less about the potential adverse effects of the drug and more about keeping the government out of personal decisions like what citizens can put in their bodies. Meanwhile, the Layton-less NDP are trying to shed the label of being too ideological and won’t risk the potential communication gaffes on the issue. This gives the Liberals, if their communications department can competently deliver a sophisticated message, the opportunity to cultivate new supporters through an issue whose time may have finally come.

It won’t be easy and is riddled with potential risks, but if there was ever a time to mobilize Canadians by giving them more liberty it is now, especially when they are being told by their current government that growing a few plants warrants a tougher mandatory sentence than showing a child your genitals. Presenting that kind of contrast can not only sway non-partisans, but should be enough to rally enough Canadians to make the next election closer than you think.