Delivering on pre-election promises to legalize marijuana in Canada, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given his first official order to start the process. In a mandate letter issued to his Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, he lists the government’s top priorities. In the letter, Trudeau included working with the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health ministers to “create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.”
In the absence of an official cannabis policy change, police forces across Canada are using their discretion to decide whether or not to enforce current marijuana laws. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada says it will continue to prosecute drug offences under the existing laws.
In Nanaimo, British Columbia, Royal Canadian Mounted Police recently ordered the shutting down of several medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, saying if they do not abide, their owners and operators will face criminal prosecution.
In Saskatoon a high ranking police officer told media he would “charge on a leftover roach” if possible.
In Vancouver, where police do not generally lay charges for possession of limited amounts of marijuana, municipal authorities have begun a crackdown of the city’s 100 marijuana dispensaries, using newly created municipal regulations.
Trudeau’s mandate letter also calls for an immediate review of prison sentencing reforms with the aim of reducing incarceration rates amongst Indigenous Canadians. Under the former conservative government of prime minister Stephen Harper, there were imposed mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, including growing marijuana. This included a six-month minimum jail term for anyone found guilty of growing between six and 200 marijuana plants, a figure which under the law constituted growing for trafficking purposes.
Marijuana activists in the U.S. say they hope lawmakers here will take a leaf out of prime minister Trudeau’s new drug policy book. The hope is to legalize marijuana, or at very least, to remove medical marijuana from its classification as a Class A drug which prevents research into the medical benefits of medical marijuana.