Canadian Prime Minister Mandates a “Process that Will Lead to the Legalization of Marijuana”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is already working on fulfilling his campaign promise to legalize marijuana.  On November 13, 2015, he stated in a mandate letter to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, that one of her “top priorities” will be to work with the “Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health [to] create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo via Cannabis Culture under a Creative Commons License.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo via Cannabis Culture under a Creative Commons License.

In a politically unprecedented move to publish what is normally kept secret at the federal level, the letter is a lengthy list of campaign promises that were made public “so Canadians can hold us accountable to deliver on our commitments.”

However, as the letter requests Wilson-Raybould to first create a “process” that could lead to legalization, actual legalization may still be in the distant future.

Trudeau has repeatedly stated that he is not comfortable “with marijuana being sold at local corner stores,” and that any legalization scheme would require mechanisms to restrict access of the drug to minors.

Also if Canada legalizes marijuana, Canada may be in violation of the three treaties that treat marijuana as a prohibited substance: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Currently, the United States government has not directly addressed whether it is in violation of the marijuana treaties due to 23 states and Washington D.C. legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use.  Uruguay, which became the first nation  to legalize the sale, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis in 2013, is also in a similar boat.  The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board has reported to both the United State and Uruguay that they are not in compliance with drug treaties.

Would Canada receive a similar report upon legalization?  It will definitely depend on what the current government decides to do regarding marijuana.


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