Once lauded as an election issue to watch, Canadaâ€™s marijuana laws are gaining a little more attention after the prime ministerâ€™s wife hinted she may support decriminalization.
Laureen Harper's comment at an Ontario campaign office appears to contrast with the stance underlined by her husband Conservative Leader Stephen Harper against loosening the countryâ€™s marijuana laws.
â€śWhen you go down that route, marijuana becomes more readily available to children, more people become addicted to it and the health outcomes become worse,â€ť he said during a rally in Markham, Ont. on Aug. 11.
In late August, Laureen Harper stopped at one of the partyâ€™s Brampton campaign offices and spoke to volunteers supporting Conservative candidate Ninder Thind.
Harper asked Thind about what issues local voters were repeatedly raising with her.
â€śA lot of moms are upset about the Liberals wanting to legalize marijuana, prostitution,â€ť Thind said.
â€śI disagree with that,â€ť Harper said. She then appears to disagree with the mandatory minimum sentences for pot-related offences that were introduced as part of the Tory government's â€śtough-on-crimeâ€ť legislation.
â€śYou know, you donâ€™t put people in jail â€” but thereâ€™s a big difference between that and having it next to a school or next to a shopping mall where you can go in and buy whatever you want.
â€śThereâ€™s a big difference.â€ť
Video footage of Harperâ€™s comments was uploaded by South Asian outlet Jhanjar TV. Their discussion begins at the 9:31 mark:
Laureen Harper is often regarded as the Conservative partyâ€™s not-so-secret weapon and has kept a busy presence on the campaign trail, meeting with candidates and constituents solo as well as alongside her husband and children.
Mandatory minimum sentences range from six months to three years depending on the severity of the offence. Under the law passed in 2012, someone who grows six plants â€śfor the purpose of traffickingâ€ť is automatically sentenced to six months in jail.
In the same year the mandatory minimums were introduced, a U.S. panel of former and current police officials warned the Conservative government about the consequences of launching a war on drugs.
â€śThese policies have bankrupted state budgets as limited tax dollars pay to imprison non-violent drug offenders at record rates instead of programs that can actually improve community safety,â€ť they wrote in a letter.
At home, attitudes have shifted in favour of marijuana decriminalization.
According to an Ipsos Reid-Global poll last month, the percentage of Canadians who support decriminalization hit a new high, with 65 per cent of those surveyed in favour and 35 per cent against.
The online poll was conducted among 1,000 Canadians between Aug. 13-17. The sample has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Also on HuffPost:
Marijuanaâ€™s advocates believe the long-maligned plant can enhance lifeâ€”and help deliver people from sickness and pain. A Seattle cannabis worker cradles the resin-dusted bud of a strain called Blueberry Cheesecake.
Lily Rowland receives a dose of an oil derived mainly from cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive substance in marijuana. She used to suffer hundreds of seizures with violent convulsions every day. Her family moved to Colorado, which voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, so that she could begin a daily regimen.
Phillip Hague, the chief horticulturist at a Denver cannabis company called Mindful, sniffs the roots of a plant to check on their health. Heâ€™s grown cannabis most of his life and has traveled the world researching its many varieties. Heâ€™s interested in developing new strains with higher concentrations of marijuanaâ€™s lesser known compounds that appear to have medical uses. â€śCannabis speaks to me,â€ť he says.
At Denverâ€™s LivWell, which has an enormous indoor growing operation, workers remove marijuana leaves before the buds are trimmed, keeping the plants destined for medical use separate from those for recreational use. After Colorado legalized marijuana, thousands of young people from all over the world flocked to the state to participate in the multimillion-dollar business phenomenon thatâ€™s been called the Green Rush.
Kim Clarkâ€™s younger son, Caden, 11, suffers from severe epilepsy. Despite having brain surgery twice, heâ€™d never had a seizure-free day until he started taking CBD oil.