On Thursday federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau revealed that hes tried marijuana five or six times - including an incident three years ago while serving as an MP.
The most recent times was at a dinner party Trudeau hosted at his Montreal home. He said a friend lit a joint and passed it around. Trudeau admitted
having a puff.
It wasnt a mistake; he did inhale; and he made no apologies for doing it.
On Friday, the predictable reefer madness ensued in Ottawa.
The harshest criticism came from Justice Minister Peter McKay, who said Trudeau, by knowingly breaking the law while serving as an MP, showed a lack of judgment, set a bad example for young Canadians and is simply not the kind of leader our country needs.
In addition, McKay accused Trudeau of hypocrisy because the Liberal MP had voted in favour of mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana production in 2009.
McKay does have a fair point: if those who make and enforce the law dont follow them, than how can other citizens be expected to?
Even if Trudeau didnt buy the marijuana he tried, somebody did. And they almost certainly bought it from drug dealers and organized crime gangs, who ruthlessly control the highly-profitable production and distribution of the drug.
However, Trudeau conceded his private actions and public position had been at odds in the past, and that his position on drug control policy has changed over time.
Prohibition hasnt worked, he said, and it is time to consider legalizing and regulating marijuana instead of spending $500 million per year fighting it and criminalizing hundreds of thousands of Canadians for
On that issue, Trudeau is partially correct.
According to the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey conducted by the federal government in 2011, 39.4 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and up had tried marijuana in their lifetime and 9.1 per cent had used it in the past year (21.6 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 reported using marijuana in the past year).
Even among adults 25 years old and older, 6.7 per cent had used marijuana in the past year (12.1 per cent in B.C.)
In five surveys conducted between 2004 and 2011, the average age most Canadians first tried marijuana was consistently about 15.6 years old -slightly younger than the average age most Canadians have their first drink of alcohol.
Its clear from the statistics that Canadas current laws arent stopping a significant number of people, especially young people, from
Its also clear that legalizing marijuana use and regulating its sale in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco would significantly cut into the profits of organized crime, while
creating new revenue for legitimate business.
Legalization would likely increase the number of users, but many of those additional users would likely be the types of casual, recreational users who would occasionally like to share a joint at gatherings with friends and family.
And any public heath costs associated with additional marijuana use may be offset by reduced use of other illicit drugs. By taking drug dealers out of the equation, fewer Canadians would have the opportunity to be lured into trying illicit drugs.
In addition, legalization would ensure the marijuana being consumed is safe and not laced with methamphetamine or other chemicals to hook new addicts.
However, legalizing marijuana wouldnt totally eliminate the need for policing, as organized crime rings in Canada with existing growing capacity would look to continue to grow and sell weed to the U.S. and other markets where it is illegal.
With the decision to legalize pot in Washington state and Colorado in the U.S., and Uruguay in South America, there are legislative models for Canada to follow. Certainly it is an idea which is worthy of intelligent, rationale debate rather than heated rhetoric.
Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau famously quipped that it was time for government to get out of the bedrooms of the nation.
Perhaps his son will start the movement which will get government out of the
backyards of the nation.
-- Associate news editor Arthur Williams