TORONTO – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took his stance on marijuana a step further in a public appearance in Kelowna, B.C. this week.
“I’m actually not in favour of decriminalizing cannabis. I’m in favour of legalizing it– tax and regulate,” he said, over a burst of applause from the crowd.
Trudeau gave his opinion without being asked a direct question, in response to a sign advocating the decriminalization of cannabis.
“It’s one of the only ways to keep it out of the hands of our kids,” he added.
This is a departure from Trudeau’s previously-expressed position of supporting decriminalization of pot, but remaining skeptical about full-blown legislation, a position adopted by his fellow Liberals at last year’s policy convention.
On a page headlined “Getting smart on crime and cannabis,” the party website says Liberals stand for evidence-based crime policy.
“Liberals understand the need to consider ending the prohibition of marijuana and addressing the root causes of crime to see real results,” reads the statement, after various criticisms of what they call the Conservatives’ “failed war on drugs that only benefits organized crime and increases gang activity.”
In response to Trudeau’s comments, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay’s spokesperson said the Conservative government has no intention of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana.
“These drugs are illegal because of the harmful effect they have on users and on society. We will continue protecting the interests of families across this country,” wrote Paloma Aguilar in an email to Global News.
Julie Carmichael, the spokesperson for the Minster of Public Safety, emphasized the government’s position, writing that the “fact that one of Justin Trudeau’s first policy priorities is legalizing marijuana demonstrates once again that he does not have the judgment to be Prime Minister” in an email to Global News.
In November, Trudeau surprised Charlottetown, P.E.I. high school students by calling himself a “huge supporter of decriminalization,” according to the Charlottetown Guardian.
He then mentioned legalization as the next step—saying regulating the drug would mean keeping it away from children—but pointed out potential risks related to brain development.
“Therefore we have to be mindful of the message that we’re sending…because we’re trying to get people to live healthier lives,” he reportedly added. “But like I said, I’m a big fan of decriminalization because it (prosecuting drug crimes) is using up resources and feeding into a system that right now isn’t working.”
Watch the video of Trudeau’s comments above, followed by reaction from the hosts of Global News’ The Morning Show July 25.