The two leading political parties in Canada are going to war over Canada’s marijuana laws
Back in 2003, outgoing Liberal Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien brought a bill before the House of Commons that would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. Chretien tried to rush the bill’s passing in fear it would die with his retirement, and it did. The bill did not get passed.
At the time, talk of marijuana decriminalization spooked law makers in the United States and angered the newly formed Conservative Party of Canada. The Chretien Government backed away from the bill in fear of a furious reaction from the Bush Administration. The Conservatives were angered that Canada let the United States dictate its policies even though they themselves opposed decriminalization.
Marijuana legalization, let alone decriminalization was still a twinkle in the eyes of Colorado and Washington State. Canada would have to wait, and watch those two American states take a lead role.
Since being elected in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party have moved in the complete opposite direction. Harper doubled down on the failed war on drugs, especially Cannabis. Arrests for marijuana possession have jumped by 40 per cent and harsher mandatory penalties have been enforced for growing as few as six plants.
Over that same time span, public opinion in Canada has been changing. As the Conservative Government moved to toughen laws and introduce mandatory minimum sentences, support for both marijuana decriminalization and legalization has risen. As of 2012, 57% of Canadians favor legalization while 66% want it to be at least decriminalized. Both are up 10% from a decade earlier.
Leaderless and embarrassed by their devastating 2011 election loss, the Liberal Party of Canada decided to endorse marijuana legalization at their 2012 policy convention in Ottawa. The normally cautious centrist party is now using marijuana legalization to put the once dominant party of the country back on the electoral map.
So far it seems to be working. New Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has come out in favor of full marijuana legalization and is now teetering on a majority government in the polls. With the next general election still a year away, the Liberals and Conservatives are already going to war over it.
Trudeau for his part has facts and logic on his side. Experts in Canada have been advocating for marijuana legalization as far back as the 1970’s. A special committee in the Canadian Senate did the same thing back in 2002.
Stephen Harper and his conservatives on the other hand have lies, fear mongering and deception and are already playing hard ball. The Conservative Party released an ad earlier this week indicating that Trudeau’s pot stance would make it easier for children to acquire marijuana.
The Conservative minister of veteran’s affairs, Julian Fantino, went even further by distributing a flyer in his Toronto-area riding which said that Trudeau’s “first order of business is to make marijuana more accessible to minors,” and that the Liberals “want to make buying marijuana a normal, everyday activity for young Canadians.”
Along with Fantino, other Conservative MP’s are mailing flyers which falsely claim Trudeau is “speaking to elementary school students about the benefits of marijuana.” He has done no such thing.
Good old Republican tactics at play in Canada. Trudeau has of course said marijuana should be regulated and taxed similar to liquor sales. He has also made the case of how legalization could keep the drug out of the hands of children. A policy a majority of Canadians support.
Enter the self-proclaimed Prince of Pot, Marc Emery, a pro-marijuana advocate since the early 1990’s. Emery ran a Vancouver hemp store and played a major role in expanding Canada’s underground cannabis-related paraphernalia industry. He also founded three pro-marijuana political parties and founded cannabis culture magazine.
In 2005, Emery was arrested in Nova Scotia at the request of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency on charges of “‘Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana”, “Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana Seeds” and “Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering” even though the alleged offences took place in Canada where no charges were laid.
Marc Emery decided to plead guilty if the charges against two of his friends were dropped. The plea-bargain deal collapsed because of the refusal of the Canadian Conservative government to approve its side of the arrangement. In 2009, Emery was extradited to the United States and sentenced to five years in federal prison.
Yesterday Emery returned to Vancouver to a crowd of supporters, but what he said a month earlier may have stirred the political pot brownie mix. While awaiting extradition back to Canada in Louisiana, Emery vowed political revenge against the Conservative Party.
“My own government betrayed me and I’m going to wreak an appropriate amount of political revenge when I get home and campaign against the Conservative government. The whole thing is nonsense. I should never have been turned over to the U.S. government,” said the Liberal supporter, fired up for next year’s general election.
While Emery has not been shy in his support for the Liberal Leader’s marijuana stance, Justin Trudeau is keeping his distance from Emery, perhaps out of fear of being associated with a “convicted criminal.” Nevertheless, the Conservative spin machine is already pairing them together.
It may seem like a political gamble on the surface, but if I were Trudeau, I would embrace the marijuana activist. For one, the Conservatives are going to marry the both of them in the eyes of the public anyway.
Second, the prince of pot name might be self-imposed, but it’s a deserving moniker. When Emery was arrested, forty different protests broke out around the world in opposition to his arrest. A few years later, rallies were held in over 100 cities around the world in support of Marc Emery and opposition to his extradition to the USA.
Third, if Emery is involved in a liberal victory, perhaps we won’t see a repeat of 2003 when the Liberals chickened out on decriminalization. Emery is already a politician and a businessman, a perfect fit for the Liberal Party. If anyone can get the stoners off their hazy cannabis couches and out to vote, it’s him.