On Monday, October 19, Canadian citizens ousted their Conservative Party Prime Minister of nearly a decade, Stephen Harper, in a general election and instead selected Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party candidate. While public policy toward medical and recreational cannabis is typically supported most by liberal or progressive politicians, Trudeau stands out based on his campaign promise of legalizing recreational marijuana at the federal level in the Great White North.
During the campaign, the Liberal Party proclaimed:
“We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana. Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work.”
If Trudeau and the Liberal Party are able to achieve federal legalization of recreational cannabis, it will result in the first developed nation to do so. Currently, Uruguay is the only country to have legalized recreational cannabis at the federal level.
Given Canada’s tight trading relationship with the U.S. and the long border the two countries share, such a policy shift would certainly gain the attention of those in Washington who oppose legalization and the current state-level medical and recreational “experiments” that exist in the States.
While Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia have legalized and begun regulating recreational marijuana, Canada’s acceptance of the herb on a national level could signal a new revolt to decades-old international treaties prohibiting a slew of drugs, including cannabis. These treaties, a collection of international agreements and laws led by the United States and orchestrated via the United Nations, were signed over a 27-year period between the 1960s and 1980s.
There are currently three major international drug policy treaties, all signed between 1961 and 1988:
- 1961: Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
- 1971: Convention on Psychotropic Drugs
- 1988: UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
Canada’s secession from these treaties would send a progressive, rebellious signal to the international community that the economic, political, and regulatory models evolving — and thriving — in states like Colorado, California, and Washington should be heeded as a positive example by the world. Lower crime, increased tax revenues, improved public health, and an overall better economy can all be claimed by both first and third world nations that legalize in an effort to join the small enclaves of the world, like Oregon and Uruguay, that have chosen a decidedly 21st century approach to drug policy.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party believes that public policy must be progressive and embrace marijuana legalization, treating it as public health and economic growth opportunity issue, not a criminal one. “If we pass smart laws that tax and strictly regulate marijuana, we can better protect our kids, while preventing millions of dollars from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.”
Wrote German Lopez on the topic:
“So Canada’s decision to legalize pot — if it comes, and that’s still unsure — would be the most high-profile rebuke of the international treaties since they were signed.”
Whether Canada, under its new, young, charismatic leader will actually succeed in legalizing cannabis remains uncertain. The Conservative Party and others opposed to such progressive legislation aren’t dead; they simply lost a federal election. But the will of the people in Canada is clear: They want rational, progressive laws, regulations, and taxes applied to legal recreational cannabis, finally completing the federal-level medical cannabis program the country implemented way back in 2001 — and that Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have been fighting against ever since.