Trudeau supports decriminalization of marijuana

Mitch MacDonald
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Federal Liberal leadership candidate speaks about drugs with Colonel Gray High School students

Federal Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau speaks to a reporter Tuesday after he took part in a question-and-answer session with students at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown.

The student didn’t even have to finish his question for Justin Trudeau to know he was about to be asked about decriminalization of marijuana.

During a session Tuesday morning with Colonel Gray High School students in Charlottetown, the candidate for the federal Liberal Party leadership came out in support of decriminalizing marijuana and even discussed the possibility of legalization.

Trudeau’s opinion on the touchy subject was the first thing the Papineau MP was asked during a question-and-answer session with English-speaking students at the school.

“What’s your thoughts on de-,” said the student, who paused when he appeared to forget the word.

“Decriminalization,” said Trudeau, finishing the student’s question for him.

“Of marijuana,” added the student.

The question sent a wave of laughter through the students.

However, from the look on many of their faces, few expected to receive the answer Trudeau was about to give.

“I think we have to recognize first and foremost that the war on drugs, as it exists right now, doesn’t work,” said Trudeau, adding that the current system puts criminal records on Canadians who consume the drug, while also allowing criminal organizations to profit from the prohibition.

“So I am a huge supporter of decriminalization.”

However, Trudeau added that the next step to look at would be legalization. This would take marijuana profits away from criminal organizations and allow the government to tax and regulate the drug.

Trudeau added that regulating the drug would mean keeping it away from children, since individuals would have to demonstrate ID before purchasing marijuana.

“(Because) you guys aren’t allowed to buy cigarettes or booze either. Because it’s not good for you,” he added.

By this point in the response, the student who originally asked Trudeau the question had stopped paying attention to the MP’s answer and began talking to his friends.

Trudeau noticed, and didn’t waste the opportunity to point out that while a number of studies have shown marijuana is less hazardous to health than alcohol and tobacco, the drug can also affect brain development if used heavily during teenage years.

“And the effect of marijuana on the growing brain is being demonstrated by the muttering in the corner right now,” said Trudeau of the unaware students.

His comment drew gasps, then laughter and finally thunderous applause from other students and staff.

While there are many arguments for decriminalization, Trudeau added that there are also many unanswered questions. One is the possibility of border control being thickened with the U.S. because of decriminalization.

Another is that while the drug isn’t as harmful as tobacco or alcohol, “it’s not exactly a health group supplement” either.

“Therefore we have to be mindful of the message that we’re sending, about what’s OK and what’s not OK, because we're trying to get people to live healthier lives,” added Trudeau.

“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.”

Organizations: Colonel Gray High School, Liberal Party

Geographic location: Charlottetown, U.S.

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Recent comments

  • phil clouts
    July 25, 2013 - 20:26

    sa sais bien la raison pour quoi je voterais pour le fédéral.

  • CharlieR
    November 29, 2012 - 18:43

    I support LEGALIZATION not decriminalization, because the LD-50 = ZERO. (LD=Lethal Dose). It also has many health BENEFITS. It does not damage the mind. Studies have shown that increased usage on young minds that are already predisposed to Schizophrenia will develop it sooner, but it does no damage. Yes, similar to alcohol it makes you silly for a few hours, but you return to normal long lasting effects. That can't be said about alcohol or hard synthetic pharmaceutical drugs. This is a naturally occurring plant, not a man made dangerous drug. It should be legal for all adults to grow it, use it and medicate with it.

    • Ramesh K. Sujanani
      March 13, 2013 - 12:12

      The fact that it is a natural product is irrelevant. For so is cocaine, heroin, cane sugar (makes alcohol), and tobacco. One of the findings is that when used at an early age(16+), marijuana creates a habit forming addiction, which manifests at 19 and over as a serious mental psychosis(derangement) says Dr ChrisThurstone who monitors the Substance Abuse Program in Denver Colorado. There seems to be a special harmful (bi-polar) in the brain of adolescents and young adults. In Jamaica, where I live the use, the trade, and growth of marijuana is illegal. And it remains so in the USA, though medicinal Marijuana has been given approval under controlled cicumstances.

  • Independant
    November 17, 2012 - 17:44

    Now the Chinese are really gonna kick our ass. A country full of pot heads and a generation of entitlement. The west is done.

  • dm
    November 15, 2012 - 14:31

    i will vote for him now for sure

  • NDP Now
    November 15, 2012 - 10:09

    I do not like The National Post as a rule but I have cross referenced this one. The Nat Post's Chris Selley's has a piece in today entitled - Trudeau embraces common sense - throws weight behind decriminalizing pot. I know all politicians do a bit of waffling. But I have been suspicious of the marketing campaign for the young Trudeau. He changed his positions on both marijuana and supply management. And he chose PEI to do both. I hope local editorial opinion recognizes this and acts critically at least as much as they would in regard to the NDP, the Greens or the Conservatives for that matter. Justin may be riding a huge wave but he has an undeniable tendency to stray all over the place. I just hope the media does not pretend otherwise.

  • Hardrock
    November 15, 2012 - 00:30

    Being from across the border in Colorado, I am all for Legalization, but dead set against "decriminalization". To decriminalize does nothing for taking the criminal element out of the equation. With legalization, (taxing and regulating) you will put the trade into the hands of business people. That's not to say that business people aren't almost as bad a criminals, just the lesser of the two evils. The Tax revenue that is generated can go a long way toward whatever it gets ear-marked for. Here in Colorado, Amendment 64 stipulates that the first $40 mill EVERY YEAR gets put into schools.

  • Seedy Roads
    November 14, 2012 - 19:47

    Falling coconuts kill 150 people every year. Marijuana still 0

  • Leave organized crime alone
    November 14, 2012 - 13:50

    Let's give organized crime a break. If pot is legalized how would the criminals get that money to be redistributed into prostitution, gambling and weapons? If pot is made legal, where are the criminals going to get the money to support those industries? And what about the lobbyists who work so hard to keep it underground and in the hands of organized crime - what about their jobs? If you legalize pot the lobbyists will have to go on EI too or go into advertising. And let's not forget the funeral directors in the third world countries who get so much of their money from the victims of the drug cartel murders. How will they survive? Nope, legalizing pot would be like taking candy from Baby Face Balboa . . . and we just don't do that in Canada!

    • Kaisey
      June 18, 2013 - 17:24


  • Pal
    November 14, 2012 - 13:30

    What is so great about Trudeau is he is young and has a more current view and understanding of the world. So much more than any politician of any party today!!!! Just look at our current greed oriented, Prime Minister. Trying so hard to be an Ugly American that he needs reminding what country he works for..... Go Trudeau....

  • Embarrassed
    November 14, 2012 - 11:49

    Just want to point out I'm embarrassed by the people commenting here, who are basing their votes for this young man on his father. Isn't that what we did with Ghiz? Look where that got us. Let Justin prove himself, then all you hicky old stubborn Islanders can comment on all the things he did wrong while ignoring all the good. I love this place, but come on people, lets all join hands and take a step into the 21st century.

  • Wayne Phillips
    November 14, 2012 - 11:25

    Recognizing that the war on drugs, as it exists right now, doesn’t work is a no-brainer. The current system neither protects youth or communities; it does, however, criminalize Canadians who consume the substance while allowing criminal organizations to profit from the prohibition of it. Moreover, prohibition fosters corruption which in turn foster distrust in, and, contempt of those who legislate and enforce prohibition.

  • SG
    November 14, 2012 - 11:04

    I will not vote for Justin Trudeau nor will I vote for Robert Ghiz in the next Election. Give me a man or woman of compassion who has experienced hard times, who knows what it is like to Work for a living, who knows what it's like to do without out and wonder where their next meal is coming from and I'll give you my Vote for that Candidate. I am impressed by a person's compassion and understanding for others and their determination and zeal to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.

    • aroneous
      November 14, 2012 - 12:28

      By your logic, one must have suffered in order to have a valid form of compassion for that form of suffering? Did you see his eulogy for his father? He mentions something about compassion and understanding:

    • Wayne
      November 14, 2012 - 14:20

      From SG... I will not vote for Justin Trudeau nor will I vote for Robert Ghiz in the next Election. Give me a man or woman of compassion who has experienced hard times, who knows what it is like to Work for a living, who knows what it's like to do without out and wonder where their next meal is coming from and I'll give you my Vote for that Candidate. =========================================== Are you saying you would rather have a lousy leader that has endured the experiences you've noted. Or would you rather have a brilliant leader that hasnt had those experiences ( I am not suggesting JT is bnrilliant... making a point )

    • Jason
      November 14, 2012 - 17:13

      Good luck with finding a candidate to vote for like that either leading a party, or running in your riding. "I'll only vote for a candidate who's doesn't exist." While you may never find a candidate to vote for, your idealistic stand shows the dilemma that Canadian "democracy" finds itself faced with: how can you get a candidate who will take your concerns to heart and address them meaningfully, in a party/lobby system that depends on well financed vested interest groups to operate?

    • Joe Ring
      November 14, 2012 - 19:22

      I believe at this point there are 15 candidates,..take a look around people,.we have choices and plenty of them. SG,.the man your looking for is John Williams,.he fits your description.

  • The Rat
    November 14, 2012 - 10:53

    Decriminalize it, sounds fine to me, but don't buy the "well researched, evidence based policy" pap. This is pure populism dressed up as coherent policy. The idea that you will stop gang violence or criminal organizations by decriminalizing pot is just shallow thinking at it's best. The gangs are into much more profitable synthesized drugs now and the violence over that trade will continue regardless of pot decriminalization. Again, I don't care much about pot, I do care about gang violence and I doubt decriminalizing all illicit drugs is a sound evidence based policy.

    • Todd Millington
      November 14, 2012 - 11:48

      The Rat: You're right, decrim is a useless half-measure. That's why Trudeau is proposising LEGALIZATION. Remember prohibition? It still doesn't work. Regulate and tax.

  • Grow up PEI
    November 14, 2012 - 10:44

    And let the Trudeau hate come in from the always open minded and accepting Islander's! This man will get my vote for sure! He is exactly what this country needs, young blood with young ideas for the future of this country. Unlike our current government he cares about more than making money in the easiest way possible.

  • bernie bb
    November 14, 2012 - 10:21

    Trudeau supports decriminalization of marijuana but the fact remains that while his father was in power,I was 18 at the time,I did get busted by the narcs while summer vacationing with a friend in Gaspesie area and remained in prison for more than a week.Needless to say,that was a bad experience which had tremendously shaken me for years to come and probably affected my future and my self-confidence for years and years.This is 40 years later and I still have nightmares about this sad episode of my life. So,my dear Justin no matter how sincere you can be about marijuana decriminalization,YOU WILL NOT GET MY VOTE.

    • Kwil
      November 14, 2012 - 13:03

      Justin's 40 years old. You're blaming him for something that happened to you before he was born?

  • don
    November 14, 2012 - 09:56

    YOU KNOW WHAT. they are liberals and money talks and so does POWER

  • don
    November 14, 2012 - 09:54

    decriminalization why not do that with all drugs then you can go to your local drug store and buy them as they are drugs. just think of the money the government would make. and just think of the dead people but Trudeau cares less.

    • Todd Millington
      November 14, 2012 - 11:44

      Don, no one has EVER died from marijuana. Look it up, you might be surprised.

  • Corey Wood
    November 14, 2012 - 08:44

    Anything is better then Harpo and his his Reform party or as i call them the kings of debt!

    • B. Carter
      February 05, 2013 - 11:19

      I agree the Harper Government is so ignorant towards Cannabis that they are changing the Health Canada rules which will hurt the Patients that need it for so many illnesses. MMAR Impact Statement Its come to my attn. that the new Commercial Grower Regulation means as a patient my prescription is for one grower and if he does not have my strain I will have to go back to my doctor for another prescription for another Commercial Grower, this will only cause more Headache, Grief and Physical Pain that has already been inflicted upon by HEALTH CANADA. If the Government is getting out of the Medical Cannabis Business, then they should GET OUT!!! And let Dispensaries take over.

  • Corey Wood
    November 14, 2012 - 08:39

    Trudeau is a breathe of fresh air .I would love to see him in power!

  • ChrisS
    November 14, 2012 - 08:13

    The pomposity of evidence based, well research and convicted policy decisions. What nerve!

  • Carver
    November 14, 2012 - 08:05

    Pierre Trudeau was PM when the Liberals first promised to decriminalize marijuana. And then they did nothing every chance they got in the last 35 years. Liberals woo voters with promises and then take orders from elsewhere. i cannot see anything about the rather feckless Justin that would make his approach to government anything different. He is as soft and doughy as silly putty. No thanks. This is a shallow celebrity PM game. If you want change AND justice then vote NDP. Do not fall for this superficiality.

  • tim tonkin
    November 14, 2012 - 07:55

    How can people say it is harmless. Studies show it promotes mental illness .

    • Kris McConnell
      November 14, 2012 - 10:07

      The problem here is that both advocates and opponents to the drug can cite various studies supporting their respective positions. Keep in mind that a lot of the studies that claim there are various mental issues are unclear as to whether this is causation, correlation, or consequence. I think we currently see a trend amongst Canadians pushing for the full legalization, regulation, and taxation of the drug. Why spend money on combating illicit cartel's when we can legalize their cash cow? After all, it is no worse for you than alcohol and tobacco, and if it puts pressure on dangerous criminal organisations, aren't we all then a little bit safer?

    • To Tim Tonkin
      November 14, 2012 - 11:02

      Tim, the "studies" don't really promote mental illness. Most studies I've read say that mental illness is bad and should be avoided. You also shouldn't read anything from a medical journal just after you've blazed up. It's a real buzz kill when the words dance around on the page. Most of all, even if you're not stoned it's easy to get real paranoid when people use words like "studies" without any citations or referencing their sources . . . sort of makes a person dubious about the validity of their opinions.

    • Ross Folkes
      November 14, 2012 - 15:27

      Living in our modern world promotes and re-eforces mental illness at all strata - rich and poor alike. We live in a crazy time!

  • Dave
    November 14, 2012 - 07:47

    As a professional with extensive experience in the are of jurisprudence and pubic policy, I too support the decriminalization of pot. I also support its legalization. We should be able to grow it and use it and buy it from legal and taxed sources. It just makes sense. Coinciding with this, we should also set standards for its use. Of course, it's absurd to think it can be used in schools or while operating heavy machinery or during open heart surgery. Hold on a sec . . . yeah. I'm back. And, yeah, it maybe shoudn't be usd if your typin stuff. If you wrting things in these little bitty boxes like this one you dot need pot to say it, right? I mean, these boxes are like amazing. If you think about it. Loook your readin what I'm thinking. Read this, read this and this! Wow, that's too cool, eh? Hey, but when you think about it, no, no, but when yhou really really think about it, how come you can read my thoughts right now but I can't see your thoughs? I mean, shouldn there be room for your thoughs two? Holy man, I tthink I can feel what you'r thinking now - really, can't you? I mean, you're thinking right into this little box just like me but i'ts only my words here, wow. I love thes little boxes donlt you? I love you too man, i love Trudeau and even that Ghiz guy, ghizzy guy, ghizzy shizzy dizzy guy. Ghod I'm hungry . . . Dave, is that you?

  • ChrisS
    November 14, 2012 - 07:36

    Finally a politician making evidence based decisions. He mentioned 'evidence based policy' in the speech that launched his campaign and the more I hear him talk the more I see he means it. This is all the buzz in my office today and people are responding very positivly at the water cooler. Jood job Justin!

  • Hank Snow
    November 14, 2012 - 06:44

    Probably the most promising words to come from a LIBERAL mouth I've heard yet

  • Loretta Clark
    November 14, 2012 - 06:08

    We all worry about developing brains which is why must be concerned about Ritalin --which many young ones go off of and start medicating with cannabis --Why? And Why do many do better and never listened to and let us not forget many children's lives depend on cannabis who have cancer but stigma and lies about this remarkable plant prevent access. The war on cannabis has caused much harm and not one, not ONE kid nor adult has ever died from organic cannabis --however not wearing a helm it or chewing on your pen caps, causes far more death--educate your selves young ones because the true safest way forward is legalization and put those helmets on!

    • hollinm
      November 14, 2012 - 08:43

      How unsurprising that Trudeau would support decriminalization or even support legalization. He is a kid himself. The Liberal party has tried to do this before and did not succeed. Most thinking adults do not agree with legalization but decriminalization is another matter. Putting a criminal record on a teenager for the rest of his life because he smoked a little pot in his youth is pretty drastic.

  • Johnny Liberal
    November 14, 2012 - 06:02

    What's Trudeau's position on free birth control pills and condoms? Obama won the youth vote a few days ago by promising that. Surely the Liberal Party of Canada policy can do better than the US on social freebies.

  • My Opinion
    November 14, 2012 - 03:46

    Anything to get votes. There goes productivity, even lower, specially in the Maritimes, but what the heck, let's feel groovy! Besides, who cares what they think in England.

    • Todd Millington
      November 14, 2012 - 11:52

      Maritimers play secong fiddle to NO ONE when it comes to work ethic - just ask the folks in Fort Mac. Don't we deserve the choice to relax with a substance that is (by every measure) safer than alcohol?

  • D Moore
    November 14, 2012 - 01:56

    From an article by Peter Jaworski based on the World Drug Report conducted by the UN annually and the 2002 Senate Special Committee Report on Illegal Drugs, including other sources; "Maintaining prohibition of marihuana costs the Canadian government $1.33 to $3.06 billion in lost taxable revenue (or, $2.195 billion +/- $865 million), and approximately $400 million in law enforcement costs. Meanwhile, the social costs of marihuana are minimal, estimated at between $430.7 to $517.2 million per year. Considering only domestic costs and benefits, the decision to continue to keep marihuana illegal is, from an economic point of view, profoundly irrational." Add to that the approximately 30,000 people every year in this country are charged with marijuana related offenses - who are otherwise law-abiding citizens, and Trudeau is simply intelligent. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • ChrisS
      November 14, 2012 - 08:36

      Those numbers are a decade old. I can give an update on some of it as I have read on the matter extensivly. In 2011 we arrested over 60,000 for posession only cannabis offences, we gave a criminal record to 10 of them or over 6,000 Canadians. It cost us over $1.1 billion dollars to do so. This data is freely available from Juristat and/or CANSIM. The taxable revenue has increased as well somewhere between $4-$6 billion in forgone revenue. It makes me quesiton the economic literacy of any political party that is against legalization.

  • Josef Faber
    November 14, 2012 - 00:50

    Ya, the prince of nothing...unlike Harper, the king of....what now? This guy is growing up fast, dealing with people better and becoming a well rounded candidate to lead this country. I cant wait to see PM Trudeau. Almost as much as I cant wait to see no more Harper.

  • Blair T. Longley
    November 14, 2012 - 00:08

    This appears like a bit of change from some of the previous Justin Trudeau statements. I guess that the consistently above 50% in favour opinion polls, with BC reaching 75% in favour of changing marijuana laws, has finally made a dent. The next Federal elections may probably be in October 2015 ... which is a LONG TIME, given that the rest of the world is changing exponentially fast. But nevertheless, the problem appears to still be the same then as before. The vote will split, in such a way that the minority that wants marijuana to be more criminal will win again! It is ironic that, the same day we learned the State of Colorado had voted to legalize growing 6 plants, the Harper government mandatory minimum jail sentences took effect across Canada to impose a possible six months in jail for growing 6 plants. Welcome to the psychotic breakdown of pot prohibition. Things are NOT going to get better, they are going to continue to get worse and worse, for many years. Thousands more people every year are going to go to jail, and that will cost tens of billions of dollars! The vote splitting in the 2015 election will probably make sure that continues to happen, rather than stops!

  • Todd Millington
    November 13, 2012 - 23:02

    From the Birthplace of Confederation to the Birthplace of Legalization...has a nice ring to it. Nice to see a politician finally siding with the will of the people. This will go a long way towards winning the next federal election for the Liberals. You want to talk about youth vote?! And it started in PEI!

  • redman
    November 13, 2012 - 21:56

    Garth get a life'''great response by Mr Trudeau on this "set-up" question from an evidently not so bright Tory.

  • You know what....
    November 13, 2012 - 21:12

    I thought Robbie Ghiz was a bit of a Pompous kid....however Justin is way worse!

  • Leroy Jones
    November 13, 2012 - 20:42

    Oh, fuddle duddle!

    • cody ryan
      December 03, 2012 - 11:55

      hes got my vote ever one smokes some weed in thare life time he dont hurt you

  • Garth Staples
    November 13, 2012 - 20:28

    The Guardian can't get enough of the 'prince of nothing'.