Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is starting out strong with cannabis legislation. The Liberal Party leader already announced that he was aiming to legalize cannabis, and is not wasting any time in doing so. Less than a month into office, Trudeau has already given Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould the order to move forward on cannabis legalization.
In a letter addressed to Minister Wilson-Raybould, the Prime Minister explained his expectations of the Minister while in office. “I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory, and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities,” the letter stated.
The Prime Minister then listed out the priorities that were drawn out mainly from the Liberal Party’s election platform which includes “working with the Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health, [to] create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana,” as well as a call to review past sentences over the last decade and look into sentencing reform. Like the United States, Canada has a history of harsh drug laws which include mandatory minimum sentences and has only recently started to reform these laws which trap low level drug offenders in the criminal system.
Newly appointed Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, will be at the head of legislation change, was previously a prosecutor, treaty commissioner, and Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations before taking her role as Justice Minister. When asked if she has smoked cannabis she said, “I have never smoked pot but I hope that’s not the whole story. It’s a personal decision for me.” Apparently, she was hesitant to speak on the subject which may indicate that it is not on the top of her priority list.
The Forum Poll recently polled Canadians and found that close to 6-in-10 approve of the trend toward legalization and decriminalization, with another poll earlier this year showing 7-in-10 approval. That is 59% approval of the people who were part of the random sample. This is a great boost for the cannabis industry in Canada and will likely have strong influence on how easily and quickly new legislation will pass.
While it is good news that the Prime Minister is taking the first steps toward legalization, it will still take time for the government to finalize it. Even in his letter, Trudeau says he wants the Justice Minister to start the process of legalization which shows there will be a lot of work for Minister Wilson-Raybould before Canada can pass full legalization.
In the coming weeks, Wilson-Raybould will conduct meetings with the Privy Council Office to discuss her plans, commitments, and priorities and we will learn more on the steps Canada will implement for cannabis reform.
Canada has recenlty been making strides in improving the cannabis industry, which includes making all medical cannabis legal, but it is still considered an illegal substance for recreational use and has not be decriminalized. Arrests are up to the discretion of arresting officers and cases can still be prosecuted until the government takes action to change this.