Photo: John McCallum
Recently, our northern neighbours experienced a dramatic change in their leadership. After deciding that it was time for a progressive government, they elected Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as their new Prime Minister. Although Canada has a population smaller than the State of California, their political influence is still quite large, especially when it comes to one issue in particular: marijuana reform.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s platform has promised legalization and regulation of the drug at a national level. The way his government goes about doing so will be closely watched by international leaders, especially in the US. If successful, Canada will be the second country in the world to completely legalize and regulate the substance, making them leaders in developing a system where legalization and democracy go hand in hand.
He's setting an example for the world
Trudeau has been outspoken about his progressive stance on cannabis in the past, but he made legalizing the substance a top priority in his electoral campaign. After being elected Prime Minister and being sworn into the house, he wasted no time before asking the Justice Minister of Canada to begin drafting a framework for legalization.
The reason for this is simple—legalizing cannabis gives the government control over the substance. His party aims to save the country money and keep youth safe through legalization and regulation. By regulating it much like they would alcohol, they’ll cut off a lot of easy access to the substance (i.e. low-level drug dealers that normally sell to adolescents). This will also reduce related criminal activity, meaning the government won’t have to pay as much for policing, trials and prison costs related to marijuana offenders.
If successful, his government's framework could be applied internationally and used as a relevant case study for pro-cannabis candidates and governments in the future.
He's influencing the American elections
Trudeau’s new position and reform movement comes one year before America elects their new President. It’s always said that hindsight is 20/20, but U.S. candidates will have a leg up using Trudeau as an example. Progressive candidates such as Sanders and Clinton will be able study the first year of Trudeau’s reform and apply it to their campaigns, making adjustments to whatever didn’t work or slowed down the process.
Canada’s new government doesn’t have a toolkit on how to legalize cannabis in North America, but they’re on the way to making one. If all goes well, the next President of the United States will be able to reference a relevant case study from a country with a comparable political climate.
He's legitimizing marijuana at a national level
As the leader of a modern, developed nation Trudeau has given legitimacy to the battle of legalization. Now, the majority who support reform can speak with credible examples and without fear of stigmatization or repercussions. By running and winning with this as a part of their platform, the party has demonstrated that this is, in fact, a legitimate political issue. Not only that, but by having the topic of legalization at the forefront of his campaign and keeping it there after being sworn in, Trudeau has set a standard for how to address the topic and still come out on top.
The new government’s progressive stance places them as a policy leader who will dictate how cannabis can be legalized in a western democracy, as well as how the country may deal with international trade in the future. The topic of “if marijuana will be legalized” has switched to “when marijuana will be legalized,” and Prime Minister Trudeau has made the wise decision of being at the forefront of the discussion and action.