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Canada: Trudeau urges police to 'enforce the law' on marijuana
Robert BenzieQueen's Park Bureau Chief
Saturday 03 Dec 2016
A frustrated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants police to “enforce the law” and criminally charge illegal marijuana dispensaries — even though weed legalization is looming.
“People are right now breaking the law,” Trudeau told the Star’s editorial board on Friday.
“We haven’t changed the laws. We haven’t legalized it yet. Yes, we got a clear mandate to do that. We’ve said we will. We’ve said we’re going to do it to protect our kids and to keep the money out of the pockets of criminals.”
But the spread of storefront “dispensaries” — scores of which have popped up on Toronto streets this year — is clearly a concern to the prime minister.
“It’s a situation that is frustrating and I can understand people’s frustration on this,” Trudeau said.
“The promise we made around legalizing marijuana was done for two reasons … that I was very, very clear about: one, to better protect our kids from the easy access they have right now to marijuana; and, two, to remove the criminal elements that were profiting from marijuana,” he said.
“We believe that a properly regulated, controlled system will achieve both of those measures. But we haven’t brought in that properly regulated, controlled system because it’s important that we do it right in order to achieve those two specific goals.”
That new regime will be unveiled next spring. The blueprint for the legislation is a report by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan’s task force of medical and legal experts, which be released within days.
Until the new law is enacted some time in 2017, Trudeau stressed “the current prohibition stands.”
“So, I don’t know how much clearer we can be that we’re not legalizing marijuana to please recreational users,” he said.
“I mean, that will be a byproduct. We recognize that that is something that’s going to happen when it happens, but it’s not happened yet.”
While Trudeau said he had not yet pored over the McLellan panel’s report, he has clearly been thinking about the age limits for recreational marijuana use.
“It’s been highlighted many times that the effect of cannabis on the developing brain is particularly problematic,” the prime minister said.
“I’m not going to venture too much further into the science but I think there is a consensus that, yes, perhaps up until 21 or 25 it’s not as good as past that age. But I have a sense that the worst damage is in the 12-, 13-, 14-year-old range,” he said.
Trudeau emphasized Ottawa would “work hand in glove with the provinces,” which suggests there could be different age limits across the country.
“The federal drinking limit is set at 18 but if provinces want to make it 19 — as a few have — it can be 19.”
Currently, marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes with a prescription from a medical doctor.
It can only be supplied by the 36 Health Canada-licensed producers and delivered by registered mail or homegrown in small amounts.
Storefront dispensaries that claim to be supplying medicinal marijuana are not federally licensed and are breaking the existing law.
Asked what municipalities could do to deal with the scourge of such pot shops, Trudeau did not mince words: “You can enforce the law.”
Police, however, have been trying to do that in places like Toronto and Ottawa, with raids of dispensaries, but with middling effect.
Because the federal law will eventually be amended, some entrepreneurs appear willing to risk fines as a cost of doing business before outright legalization.
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