The Liberal government announced Tuesday that it plans to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana in the spring of next year.
Health Minister Jane Philpott made the announcement during a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York regarding drug use and drug-related crime.
“We will introduce legislation in spring 2017 that ensures we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals,” Philpott said. “While this plan challenges the status quo in many countries, we are convinced it is the best way to protect our youth while enhancing public safety.”
No other details of the legislation were revealed during her speech.
Her address happens to coincide with 4/20 – the annual day of celebration for cannabis culture lovers, which takes on special significance in Canada this year, with the governing Liberals having promised to legalize and regulate marijuana.
As a doctor, the health minister spoke of witnessing “people suffer the devastating consequences of drugs, drug-related crime, and ill-conceived drug policy.”
“Our approach to drugs must be comprehensive, collaborative and compassionate. It must respect human rights while promoting shared responsibility. And it must have a firm scientific foundation,” Philpott said. “In Canada, we will apply these principles with regard to marijuana.”
Philpott’s announcement also came on the same day as a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute that shows 68 per cent of Canadians feel pot should be made legal, a nine-point increase from a 2014 poll asking the same question.
The survey also revealed 64 per cent of Canadians feel the legalization of weed will do more good than harm in the long run compared to 36 per cent who felt the opposite.
However, the survey also revealed that Canadians feel making pot legal is not a national priority. Fifty-four per cent feel marijuana legalization is one of the least important issues Canada is currently faced with. Nineteen per cent said it’s the most important issue.
About half of Canadians feel that if pot was legalized “it will be easier for children to get and use marijuana.”
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair criticized the Liberal’s announcement calling it another “broken promise,” while demanding immediate legalization.
“There are thousands and thousands of mostly young people who will have criminal records for the rest of their lives because Justin Trudeau did not respect his promise to legalize marijuana as soon as he took office,” Mulcair said. “If he found it too complicated, which is apparently the case, the least he could have done was immediately decriminalize.”
During Question Period in the House of Commons, Mulcair again went after the Liberals on failing to have marijuana already decriminalized.
“In the meantime, will the prime minister at least promise that there will be legislation to remove the criminal record?” Mulcair asked.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired back saying “decriminalization actually gives a legal stream of income to criminal organizations.”
“That’s not what anyone wants in this country,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister repeated his campaign talking about that legalizing and regulating pot will protect children.
“The fact of the matter is we have been clear, we believe in legalization and regulation of marijuana because it protects our kids and keeps money out of the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs,” the prime minister said to a chorus of boos.