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I Would Never Have Pushed For Legal Pot If I Knew It'd End This Way

Kathleen Wynne's recent announcement declaring marijuana a provincial government monopoly is by far the worst thing to come out of the pot file.

09/12/2017 09:09 EDT | Updated 09/14/2017 10:56 EDT

If I thought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's marijuana policy would result in an Ontario retail pot monopoly, I never would have helped his party pass their pro-legalization resolution in the first place.

I've written about my modest contribution to the elimination of pot prohibition before. To recap, in 2011 I was hired by the Liberal Party of Canada's upper brass to pressure their delegates to vote yes on a policy initiative that would push for legalization. For three months, my team approached marijuana advocacy groups and rallied their members to bombard LPC delegates via email, tweets and Facebook messages. The plan was to put enough pressure on delegates until they voted for a Canada who would shed its draconian views on weed. When we started, just 30 per cent of delegates were in our camp. After the votes were tallied at the Liberals' 2012 convention, more than 75 per cent of delegates voted yes.

Toronto Star via Getty Images
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party leader at the time, with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

I was pleased with the results. Not only did I fulfill my action plan as presented to the Liberal Party, but on a deeper level I felt like I was a part of something truly revolutionary. Ever since I read the CD insert of my Cypress Hill CD as a young teenager I knew our pot laws were unfair, archaic and hypocritical. It was rewarding to help push down the first domino in legalization as an adult, especially from within a national party and long before Justin Trudeau was leader.

Trudeau was not pro-marijuana in 2012, despite his admission that he smoked weed as a sitting MP. In my interview with him at that same convention, Trudeau said of legalization, "I don't know if it's entirely consistent with the kind of society we're trying to build." So, at best, we had convinced Liberal delegates to come on board, but Trudeau was still on the fence. My piece last year outlined Trudeau's hypocrisy on weed. Specifically, his decision to not decriminalize pot while his government worked out the kinks on how legalization would look. I called it the Great Pot Hypocrisy because he had once cited the pending possession charges against his late brother, Michel, who was busted with a small amount of weed after a traffic accident. He said he did not believe his brother should have faced a possible criminal record for such a benign offence.

And he was right. Pierre Trudeau eventually saved his son's hide, but the greater message seemed clear: Trudeau did not want to see young people's lives destroyed by a simple possession charge. But his government refused to decriminalize pot, and to this day young people, the vast majority being Indigenous and black youths and young adults, are still having their lives turned upside down for something that will soon be legal. After all, they do not have a former world leader to call and get them out of trouble.

Rather than enabling pot entrepreneurs by propping up dispensaries and helping to create jobs, Wynne has opted to corner the market.

But the recent announcement from Kathleen Wynne — declaring marijuana a provincial government monopoly — is by far the worst thing to come out of the pot file. It's not like we didn't know it was coming, but to hear her reasoning, her tone-deaf declarations and nanny state-like posturing is predictably nauseating. One main attraction of legalization was supposed to be the wealth of opportunity for entrepreneurs to create new businesses and jobs, especially in a province where the cost of living is not offset by emerging markets.

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Instead, the provincial Liberals have destroyed a small business bonanza, deciding that Ontarians are not responsible enough to handle a product that many of us have been well acquainted with for decades. The recent crackdown of pot dispensaries was less about law and order and more about market share. Rather than enabling pot entrepreneurs by propping up dispensaries and helping to create jobs, Wynne has opted to corner the market in hopes that the added revenue will help bail out her government after a decade of mismanagement. Her political instincts have no identifiable benefactor except her government's own coffers and, suspiciously, Liberal party insiders who stand to make a huge sum of money investing in government grow-ops.

Let's not forget that this is the same government who, after decades of prodding, have finally taken a baby step and allowed a limited number of non-governmental retailers to start selling beer and wine. Alcohol, which has for decades proven itself to be far more sinister from a public health perspective than cannabis, should be used as an evolutionary guideline in how it is commodified. Instead, Wynne seems to prefer making the same mistakes Ontario has made with liquor under the ironic banner of protecting the public.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

And let's not absolve the Trudeau government for Wynne's short-sightedness. His legalization tour started with an enthusiastic speech in British Columbia (duh), to appeasing concerned conservatives in the House of Commons by promising to protect children, to stalling the legalization process and refusing to decriminalize, to punting the lion's share of the responsibility to provinces who will either follow Wynne's nanny-state example or do what any reasonable premier should do — allow the free market to create new wealth among its entrepreneurs.

But this? This is nothing but a slap in the face to those who have been fighting for legalization for years. This is a condescending reminder that some self-labelled progressives can only understand policy if it is executed by government will.

If I thought this would be the end result of the efforts we put into getting government to loosen its grip on weed prohibition, I would have never tried to sway Liberal delegates or asked Trudeau what he thought about legalization in the first place.

But I dropped the ball, and I should have known his non-committed answer was a signal that the future would be just as muddy.

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