In a prepared speech to the United nations in New York City on April 20th (a date referred to by marijuana enthusiasts as 4/20), Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced to attending delegates that the wheels are set in motion for Canada to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
“We will introduce legislation in spring 2017 that ensures we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals.”
The special session at the General Assembly kicked off three days of meetings meant to evaluate and review the implementation of the UN’s 2009 Action Plan to combat drugs worldwide. Philpott’s announcement came as a surprise by some, who wondered whether to news was leaked pre-emptively, before the government really has an opportunity to discuss what the legislation might look like and how it will take effect come next spring.
Bill Blair, Toronto MP and former chief of police in the city, and the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, is heading up the government’s effort to draft legislation making recreational marijuana legal. Blair was also in attendance during the UN meetings, and attempted to fill some of these gaps, commenting on the measures needed in order to ensure the forthcoming legalization legislation is executed and enforced effectively:
“It’s a great deal of work. It’s important to do it right. And so, we’re looking at regulations with respect to production, distribution, the retail and consumption of marijuana and we want to make sure that it’s based on the best advice from experts.”
Lucas Powers of CBC, raises a point echoed by many critics online. If the government is taking legitimate steps towards legalizing marijuana, shouldn’t they cease enforcing the current possession laws that are currently in place? And for those who have already been arrested, charged and imprisoned for marijuana related offences, should they be released and have their criminal records wiped clean?
The current laws are still in effect. So, individuals carrying small amounts of marijuana for recreational use can still be arrested and prosecuted. However, if a major change is imminent, it ”undercuts the whole foundation for arrests and prosecutions,” according to Alan Young, a lawyer and associate professor at Osgoode Hall, and a key proponent in the anti-prohibition movement in Canada.
The arrest and prosecution of individuals for minor drug violations like possession, has long been argued to be a waste of police resources and courts, causing a backlog of cases in the court system that slows things down significantly, potentially denying individual’s their Charter right to due process in an expedient fashion.
The solution being put forth by Tom Mulcair of the NDP party, in a statement made to the House of Commons, is that marijuana should, at the very least, be decriminalized until full legalization is enacted next year.