Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's bill to legalize recreational marijuana use is at least a year away, but one candidate for leader of the Conservative Party has already said she would repeal it.
During an interview with London's AM 980 on April 26, Ontario Member of Parliament Kellie Leitch was asked, "Would you criminalize recreational marijuana once again as prime minister?"
"Yes," Leitch said, adding that she is concerned about the effects legalization could have on children.
"We know this is a dangerous drug that has a huge impact on the developing child brain and adolescent brain," said Leitch, who is also a paediatric surgeon. "I don't want to see any child put into harm's way by having access to a dangerous drug."
Of course, as former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan noted, prohibition has failed to control the drug trade and keep harmful substances away from minors. And the World Health Organization found that marijuana consumption was prevalent among Canadian teens despite prohibition. So banning marijuana is likely more harmful than legalization.
Her remarks are strikingly similar to the position of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whom Leitch hopes to succeed as Conservative leader. During the 2015 federal election, Harper refused to alter Canada's marijuana laws, claiming that cannabis had been proven to be "infinitely worse" than tobacco.
Following his defeat, there was hope that the party might take a more progressive approach to marijuana when interim leader Rona Ambrose expressed support for decriminalization. But Leitch has vowed to put the party back in line with Harper's stance, which was unpopular with most Conservative voters according to a 2015 poll conducted by the CBC.
Leitch would also tighten access to medical marijuana
Leitch's stance would also impact medical marijuana patients. In the same radio interview, she said she would allow, but tightly restrict access to medical marijuana. "The only provision that I would make for its access is to have it available in a pharmacy for those who require it or need it."
That would be bad news for stakeholders in the current medical marijuana regime, in which patients receive their medicine from licensed producers through a mail-order system. Recently, the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) drew criticism from LP's by calling on the federal government to allow pharmacies to manage access to medical marijuana, even though they declined to take part in the industry when Health Canada offered them a major stake years ago.
Leitch's comments suggest she would also oppose home growing, a right that patients recently fought hard in federal court to regain after the previous Conservative government banned home cultivation for medical use in 2013.
But does Leitch have a chance of becoming the leader of the Conservative Party, let alone prime minister? Time will tell as we draw closer to the leadership election in May 2017.
Right now, her biggest challenge isn't selling Canadians on prohibition. It's distancing herself from her other, even less progressive positions as part of the former Conservative government.
One of the more prominent examples: being the face of the previous government's aborted plan to launch a hotline for Canadians to report "barbaric cultural practices," which was seen as a veiled attempt to discriminate against Canadian Muslims. Leitch apologized for not conveying the program properly, but she didn't admit that the program itself was ill-conceived.
h/t National Post
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