Conservative leadership hopeful Peter MacKay would not move to re-criminalize cannabis as prime minister, his campaign says, despite his contention that the Liberal government’s legalization of the drug has been “a complete failure.”
“Mr. MacKay will not repeal the legislation. He will focus on protecting youth and fighting organized crime,” Julie Vaux, the MacKay campaign’s director of communications, told HuffPost Canada in an email Tuesday.
“He remains concerned about the significant impact on young people, the mental health implications and the impaired driving implications.”
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MacKay sparked questions on the issue by telling the Kelowna Daily Courier in an interview earlier this month that he does not agree with pot legalization. The government should have instead pursued decriminalization, he said. Those comments were highlighted this week by the Postmedia website, “The GrowthOp,” which covers cannabis news.
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who has enthusiastically defended pot legalization and has pushed for the decriminalization of simple possession of illicit drugs to help address the opioid crisis, took to Twitter Tuesday to throw some shade at MacKay over the issue.
MacKay told Kelowna Daily Courier editor James Miller that Liberals “forced” and “rushed” pot legalization, which came into force in October of 2018.
“I believe it wasn’t the highest priority for an incoming government. It was the back-of-a-napkin promise that the current prime minister had made,” he told the paper. “I believe we have jumped the shark on that issue.”
MacKay’s campaign did not elaborate to HuffPost on what elements of legalization were rushed.
The Tory leadership hopeful also told the newspaper the Liberal government’s pledge that legalization would “reduce the black market has been a complete failure.” But as noted by TheGrowthOp, Statistics Canada figures show the number of teenagers between the ages of 15 to 17 who said they had consumed cannabis in the last three months dropped from 19.8 per cent before legalization to 10.4 per cent since pot was legalized.
As a former justice minister and attorney general under Stephen Harper, MacKay resisted calls for marijuana legalization, but mused in 2014 he could be open to looser pot laws.
“By flouting the laws of Canada while holding elected office, (Trudeau) shows he is a poor example for all Canadians, particularly young ones,” MacKay said at the time. “Justin Trudeau is simply not the kind of leader our country needs.”
Just one federal Conservative — veteran Ontario MP Scott Reid — voted in favour of the Liberal bill to legalize marijuana in 2017.
“I’ve always believed it is unreasonable to have victimless crimes, to have people arrested and punished for doing something that’s not being done to anybody else; they’re doing it to themselves,” Reid told HuffPost’s “Backbenchers” politics show in October 2018.
Outgoing Tory Leader Andrew Scheer voted against marijuana legalization, even though he conceded he tried pot when he was younger. While Tories did not propose to bring back pot prohibition during the fall election campaign, Scheer falsely accused Liberals of wanting to decriminalize all drugs.