11/14/2012 12:10 EST | Updated 11/14/2012 12:33 EST

Justin Trudeau: Marijuana Decriminalization The Way To Go


Justin Trudeau has come out in support of the decriminalization of marijuana.

Speaking to high school students in Charlottetown on Tuesday, the front-runner for the Liberal Party leadership said he is a "huge supporter" of decriminalization, according to The Guardian. Trudeau also spoke about the failure of the war on drugs, the prospect of eventual legalization and the health effects of pot. Click over to The Guardian to read all the details.

Trudeau isn't revolutionizing the Liberal Party by coming out in favour of decriminalizing marijuana. At the party's convention in January, 77 per cent of delegates voted in favour of a future Liberal government legalizing the drug.


But Trudeau hedged his bets on legalizing when interviewed at the convention.

"There's a lot of good arguments that say that pot is not as dangerous as tobacco or alcohol, and those are legalized. However, if you look at the big narrative of things, we're trying to get away and reduce the consumption of alcohol and reduce the consumption of tobacco and we're trying to encourage people to be healthier and to be more engaged with the world and one of the things that pot does is disconnects you a little bit from the world. It's not great for your health," Trudeau said in an interview with ProjectRedDot from the convention floor.

"So I don't know that legalizing it — although I totally understand the arguments around removing the criminal elements — I don't know that it's entirely consistent with the kind of society we're trying to build."

Trudeau has cast votes in the past that some view as anti-pot. In 2009, he voted with fellow Liberal MPs for Bill C-15, which would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana-related offences (the legislation never became law).

Canada's patron saint of marijuana, Marc Emery, has been critical of Trudeau's votes on pot-related legislation. Emery is currently incarcerated in the United Sates for selling marijuana seeds.

Trudeau's reticence to fully embrace marijuana may be related to his own mother's experience with the drug. Margaret Trudeau said quitting pot was a key part of her recovery from mental illness, according to The Vancouver Sun.

Marijuana laws are in the spotlight now partly due to votes earlier this month in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington to legalize the drug for recreational use. Medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts.

The Conservative government has not reacted positively to the news. International Co-Operation Minister, and former commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, Julian Fantino said the government is concerned about drugs coming across the border and the money pot provides for organized crime in a recent interview on the U.S. votes with CBC's Power and Politics. Fantino stressed that while the Tories remain opposed to decriminalization or legalization, those found with small amounts of marijuana should not go to jail.

The federal government has changed a lot since 2003, when former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien openly said his government planned to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of pot, a plan that was quickly changed after the U.S. federal government expressed its stern disapproval.

Now it seems roles have been reversed, with the U.S. (at the state level, at least) driving the trend toward liberalization of drug laws even as Canada cracks down.

Public opinion in Canada, however, remains firmly in favour of decriminalizing small amounts of pot, with two-thirds of Canadians expressing their approval in a recent poll for Postmedia and Global TV.

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