Canada’s New Democratic Party wants marijuana decriminalized immediately ahead of the legislation bill scheduled to consider outright legalization on tap for next year. If, as many expect, marijuana will soon be legal, NDP Justice Critic Murray Rankin wonders why then people should get marijuana-related criminal records now. De-criminalizing the drug means that possession up to certain amounts is treated more like a traffic ticket than a criminal offense. Medical use of cannabis is already legal in Canada.
Motion to be put forward in parliament
The NDP put forward a motion to demand decriminalization of cannabis now. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is supportive of legalizing cannabis federally. As such, the argument is that the Liberal government should not allow people to be criminally prosecuted on account of marijuana possession. According to Rankin, the government has had eight months to set a clear legal framework for marijuana use in Canada following Justin Trudeau’s promise. Nothing has been done yet, and cases continue to mount up.
Promises during federal election campaigns
The promise to regulate, restrict and finally legalize marijuana was a crucial part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s manifesto during the federal election campaigns. Jane Philpott, the Federal Health Minister recently reported that the legal modalities to eliminate federal prohibition will be finalized in a year. However, Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and Toronto’s former police chief, said that the current marijuana laws will remain in force until the legalization bill goes through. Blair leads the task force that is crafting new marijuana laws. His statement makes clear the government’s stance that possession of marijuana is still illegal and that until it is officially declared legal, prosecution is on the table. NDP Youth Critic Anne Minh-Thu Quach argues that by not repealing laws right now, many youths in Canada (read as young adults of age under the law, not little kids) are being prosecuted, giving them a record that they’ll have to carry around the rest of their lives.
As the government studies marijuana, young Canadians in possession of the drug should be acquitted of their crimes and set free, according to Quach. Tom Mulcair concurs with Quach, saying that it actually does not make sense to prosecute people for holding pot when plans to legalize it are underway.
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