Back in January 2012 I interviewed a moustache-sporting, longhaired Justin Trudeau at the Liberal Party of Canada's convention in Ottawa. Back in my hotel room where I was staying with 5 members of my team (we were hired by the outgoing Liberal president to create live content for the live stream broadcast), we had between us maybe a half-ounce of marijuana. For us -- writers, designers and technical support people -- it was pretty much the same thing as having a case of beer.
We spent that weekend interviewing much of the LPC upper brass, including former leaders Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion and former Prime Minister Paul Martin. Along with a fairly typical list of prepared questions, I had one inquiry I thought was most important, so I made sure I asked all of them the following question: Should marijuana be legalized in Canada?
At that time roughly 30 per cent of Liberal delegates supported ending marijuana prohibition. A few months before the convention, the party executive had contracted me to reach out to party delegates and supporters through third party marijuana advocacy groups. Our mission was to firebomb Liberal delegates with tweets and emails requesting they help pass a policy resolution to legalize marijuana.
By the time the convention commenced, my team had successfully executed our plan, making the marijuana resolution the most popular on the Liberal Party web site. We were hoping the 30 per cent support for legalization would balloon to at least 70 per cent, forcing the party's leadership to make legalization a main plank in the party's next election platform.
Bob Rae, then the interim Liberal leader, did not support legalization, nor did Dion. What many people might not know is that Trudeau, who would become leader just over a year after this convention, was also not for legalization. As he said to me during our interview, "I don't know that it's entirely consistent with the kind of society we're trying to build."
When the legalization policy initiative was voted on, 77 per cent of delegates chose legalization.
18 months later Trudeau announced in British Columbia, considered the Mecca of marijuana to potheads worldwide, that he and the Liberal Party would pursue legalization as one of their platform initiatives. And, mostly because I'm a freelance journalist and not part of a major media company, not many people knew he had flip-flopped on that issue.
But let's give credit where credit is due: Trudeau flipped to the right side of the issue.
The illegalization of marijuana, a substance far less harmful than alcohol, has destroyed the lives of countless citizens, especially non whites who are busted more often than whites, and often sentenced longer for the same types of marijuana offences. When Trudeau's Liberals won the 2015 election, many of us who were excited to be a country that would no longer foster a reefer madness policy towards pot users waited with baited breath for our new, hip PM to triumphantly declare an end to pot prohibition.
Also, and this is more key today than when he first made the admission, Trudeau himself had smoked pot since becoming an elected public servant. So when the Trudeau government finally announced, on April 20th no less, that the government would introduce legislation in the spring of 2017, many people breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, the ball was rolling.
But what about the way law enforcement approaches pot laws until the legislation is passed? Surely, given Trudeau's own personal admission of smoking weed, there must be a decriminalization policy in the meantime, right?
Trudeau, in a stunning piece of political theatre, stood up in the House of Commons and categorically refused to implement decriminalization, a refusal that will result in a continuation of unnecessary criminal records for a crime that won't even be a crime in a couple years.
This is especially hypocritical given Trudeau's past comments relating to his late brother Michel, who, at the time of his tragic death in 2003, was facing drug possession charges after police found a small amount of marijuana in his car after a traffic accident. Trudeau cited this incident as one of the factors that pushed him towards legalization, according to an interview he gave to the Huffington Post in 2013.
Clearly Trudeau felt that his brother should not have been subjected to a criminal record for such a benign offence, but for the thousands of soon-to-be offenders, he seems content with allowing their futures to be put at risk.
Trudeau has yet to explain this contradiction, mostly because our media seems unwilling to part ways with the types of stories people want to click on, like quantum computing sound bites, or clips of him at a boxing gym.
So, if you are a reporter for a major media outlet, let me offer up the right question for the next time you are part of a Trudeau press conference.
"Prime Minister Trudeau, you once said your late brother's pending drug charges played a role in your decision to pursue an end to prohibition. Given that admission, and seeing as you yourself have smoked pot since becoming an elected official, how can you defend the decision to not decriminalize marijuana now, before your legalization legislation is adopted?"
Full disclosure, I had weed in my pocket when I interviewed Justin Trudeau in 2012. Given our mutual experiences in flouting the law and speaking out in support of decriminalization, I think Trudeau needs to rethink his current position, and once again flip flop in the right direction.
Hell, I'll even send him something to help him brainstorm a way forward, if he needs it.
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