Trudeau supports decriminalization of marijuana

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

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on November 13, 2012
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.
Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

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.”