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Canadian Federal Justice Minister Unapologetic Over Plans to Imprison Certain Pot Offenders

Advocates say implementing harsher penalties is not legalization.

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Despite a number of marijuana advocates having expressed concern over Canada planning to send some pot offenders to prison after it makes weed fully legal next year, Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says she refuses to apologize for moving forward with policies intended to keep the herb out of the hands of children.

During a recent interview with CTV’s Question Period, Wilson-Raybould said the intention of Canada’s marijuana legalization bill, which dictates a 14-year prison sentence for anyone who knowingly sells pot to kids, was created to put the offense in the same ranks as serious crimes, such as sexual assault, which can challenge the wellbeing of children.

"I am not going to apologize for the strict penalties that we put in place in this legislation,” she said. “I know it's going to benefit from debate and dialogue and discussion, not only in Parliament but across the country.

"We are not advocating or encouraging young people to engage and smoke cannabis,” she continued. “We are putting in strict penalties to ensure that anybody that invites a child or uses a child for any of the prohibited actions within the code... will suffer a severe penalty."

Longtime activists like Jodie Emery, who has been called Canada's “princess of pot,” argue that legalization should not come with harsher penalties. In a recent Twitter post, Emery said that Canada’s marijuana bill “is BAD “LEGALIZATION,” referring to it as “Prohibition 2.0.”

In Canada, anyone who sells alcoholic beverages to someone under the legal drinking age can be forced to pay a fine and possibly even serve jail time. However, the potential for being locked up in this scenario is not even close to as severe as the threat that comes with supplying pot to a minor under the Liberal government’s master plan. 

It is this inconsistently and apparent prejudice toward marijuana that has advocates unnerved about Canada’s concept of legalization.

But according to Colorado’s former drug czar, Andrew Freedman, Canada doesn’t need to worry about marijuana falling into the hands of children under a legal market. He recently told Question Period that Colorado has “not seen a significant increase in usage” among kids since the retail trade was launched back in 2014.

He also said Canada would likely experience a variety of other issues, like more emergency room visits for pot edible “overdoses,” before it is ever forced to contend with the issue of underage use.