Former Canadian Prime Minister and prohibitionist Brian Mulroney turned a new leaf this week by praising current PM Justin Trudeau's decision to legalize cannabis across Canada. That's a huge about-face for Mulroney, who once wanted to lump cannabis in with heroin as one of the most dangerous drugs in Canada.
Now Mulroney says legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis like alcohol and cigarettes is a major step forward for Canada.
"I'm saying the government's position that was taken yesterday is the way to go," Mulroney told CBC News on Thursday - one day after cannabis legalization took effect across the country.
He added that the historic change to Canada's drug policy was long overdue.
"It takes a while for certain people and certain things to catch up with reality and great social advances — as I've indicated — come in waves," Mulroney said. "And this is one of the waves that I think will have Canada showing the way for the rest of the world."
Mulroney, of course, was one of those "certain people" that delayed reform for years. As Canada's top lawmaker in the early 1990s, Mulroney tried to pass Bill C-85, which would have treated cannabis the same as heroin under federal law.
On top of that, his legacy as prime minister became a major obstacle in the way of Justin Trudeau's efforts to end the failed era of cannabis prohibition in Canada. Although Mulroney retired from politics in 1993, his influence remains in parliament today thanks to two sitting senators that Mulroney appointed decades ago.
Senator Raynell Andreychuk (Saskatchewan) tried to derail legalization by arguing that ending prohibition wasn't just bad for Canada but the entire world. While debating The Cannabis Act in the Senate, Andreychuk insisted that the bill would compromise "the international order" by defying drug-control treaties that Canada and the majority of other countries signed as a pledge to uphold marijuana prohibition around the world. Of course, Day One of legalization came and went without the collapse of international relations, so Senator Andreychuk's concerns may have been overblown.
That will also likely be the case with a prediction made by Senator David Tkachuk - the other remaining Mulroney appointee. Lat June, Senator Tkachuk said that 50 years from now, the government of Canada “will be apologizing to the Canadian people” for the “havoc” caused by cannabis legalization. Although legalization is less than a week old, we haven't seen any havoc yet - unless orderly lines of customers standing outside dispensaries are your idea of complete and utter mayhem.
While those senators probably still object to legalization, their former leader is now totally onboard with cannabis reform. Last Wednesday, Mulroney announced that he would be joining the board of Acreage Holdings - a New York-based cannabis company. And if that seems like outright hypocrisy to you, hold your outrage for a moment because Acreage has also brought former US Speaker of the House - and adamant legalization opponent - John Boehner into the fold.
Some will see the likes of Mulroney and Boehner changing their tune as a sign of progress, and others will see it as more fuel for their cynical view of politics. But one thing is certain: the more cannabis shifts from a contentious political issue to a surefire money-maker, the more you can expect to see former prohibitionists join the burgeoning industry.
And at this rate, we wouldn't be surprised to see Senators Andreychuk and Tkachuk working as budtenders next week.