09/30/2013 12:39 EDT | Updated 09/30/2013 12:46 EDT

Tories Say Trudeau Pushing Pot At Kids, Then Launch Medical Marijuana Free Market


The Conservative government is accusing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of pushing pot at kids, while at the same time launching a $1.3 billion free market in medical marijuana.

On Friday, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in a statement he learned Trudeau's chief financial officer and adviser, Chuck Rifici, wants to open a "massive medical marijuana operation in rural Ontario, while the Liberal leader champions marijuana legalization."

Blaney called pot legalization the Liberal leader's top priority.

"While the Liberals continue to push for policies that would make marijuana more accessible to children, we've been focused on what matters most to Canadians — the economy. Our plan is to create more jobs — their plan is to push pot," he said. "Canadians deserve to know why Justin Trudeau wants to make it easier for children to access drugs."

Trudeau — who admitted to HuffPost Canada that he smoked pot since becoming an MP in 2008faced similar criticism from Prime Minister Stephen Harper this summer.

"I look at the contrast with him promoting marijuana use for our children versus saying yesterday he will have no economic policy for several years," Harper said.

Trudeau maintains that legalizing weed will help keep it out of the hands of children.

But what wasn't mentioned in Blaney's statement was that his government backs the very large-scale, free-market marijuana production Rifici is pursuing.

As of Monday, Health Canada has begun phasing out an older system that relied on modest, homegrown medical marijuana of varying quality for large, indoor pot farms certified by the RCMP and health inspectors.

Under the old system, 4,200 growers were licenced to produce for a maximum of two patients each. Mounties complained these grow-ops could be fronts for criminal organizations and that the product was often diverted illegally to the black market.

Under the new system, firms will produce, package and distribute a range of standardized pot, all to be sold for whatever the market will bear. They may eventually provide an expected 450,000 Canadians with quality weed.

Story continues below slideshow

Photo gallery Which Province Smokes The Most Pot? See Gallery

According to Health Canada, any individual who wants to apply for a Personal-Use Production Licence to smoke medical marijuana must be at least 18.

Already 156 firms have applied for the lucrative producer and distributor status since June, with the first two receiving licences just last week.

Rifici of Tweed Inc. has applied for a licence to produce medical marijuana in an abandoned Hershey chocolate factory in Smiths Falls, Ont.

He says he wants to bring jobs to a struggling community while also helping patients suffering with pain.

"There's a real need," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "You see what this medicine does to them."

Revenues for the burgeoning new industry are expected to hit $1.3 billion per year by 2024, according to federal projections.

Last week, Trudeau was confronted by a woman in Manitoba who said her teenage daughter was caught with marijuana. The woman claimed weed is a gateway drug and that legalizing will lead to more addiction and broken lives.

In a clip posted to YouTube, Trudeau made his case that more needs to be done to regulate and keep pot away from kids.

"You found your 16-year-old with marijuana? So the current approach isn't working to keep marijuana out of the hands of your teenager. And what I'm saying is if we control it, if we regulate it the same way we regulate or even maybe slightly tougher than alcohol, your 16-year-old won't have easy access to marijuana and that's what we both want," he said.

At the end of the clip, a man claimed the woman is married to the executive assistant to former public safety minister Vic Toews.

"Then your husband knows how the approach, being tough on crime in the wrong way, just doesn't work," Trudeau says.

Medical marijuana facts from The Canadian Press:

Current number of medical marijuana users approved by Health Canada: 37,359, up from 477 in 2002.

Number of patients with personal licences to grow marijuana for themselves: 25,600 (ends March 31, 2014)

Number of growers licenced to produce marijuana for a maximum of two patients each: 4,200 (ends March 31, 2014)

Current number of entrepreneur applications to grow medical marijuana under new rules allowing larger facilities: 156

Health Canada's current price for medical marijuana produced under contract: $5 a gram (government sales end March 31, 2014)

Health Canada's projection of profitable private-sector price in 2014 after the new free-market kicks in: $7.60

Projection of average price as market matures in several years: $8.80

Advertised price of products of CanniMed, the first licensed distributor in the new system: $9 to $12 a gram

Current estimated cost of black-market dried marijuana purchased on the street: $10 to $15 a gram

Projected total additional cost to all approved patients as a result of the new system: $166 million a year for 10 years

Health Canada projection of number of approved medical marijuana patients in 2014: up to 58,000

Projection of number of patients by 2024: Up to 450,000

Sales projections for the new industry by 2024: $1.3 billion a year.

With files from The Canadian Press

America Votes
The latest polls, breaking news and analysis on the U.S. election from HuffPost’s Washington, D.C. bureau