Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to dismiss questions about decriminalizing cannabis as an interim step toward legalization, saying it would leave kids more vulnerable to the drug and keep the sector in the hands of organized crime.
"If you decriminalize it, you make it easier for kids to access it," said Trudeau in a recent interview with Ben Mulroney of CTV's, Your Morning. "Decriminalize it, you continue to have organized crime controlling marijuana. That is counter to why we want to do it. That is why decriminalization has never been interesting to us.”
Since last year's federal election campaign, Trudeau has not moved off these key talking points, even in the face of a recent report that showed organized crime only plays a small role in the trade of illegal marijuana.
Researchers from the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) came to that conclusion by reviewing current research, including a 2011 study that found the involvement of organized crime in Canada's marijuana market is minimal.
"A 2011 federal Department of Justice report studied a random sample of 500 marijuana production cases, drawn from Crown prosecutor case files and RCMP criminal history files over an 8-year period. Only 5% of the files yielded any indication that the offender was affiliated with organized crime or street gangs."
According to the CDPC, most illegal cultivators in Canada are small-scale growers who aren't primarily interested in profiteering. Instead, they generally grow cannabis for the sake of supplementing their income, controlling the quality of the marijuana they consume and, somewhat paradoxically, "avoiding the illegal market."
The CDPC also found that most growers want to be part of a legal framework. And the research group believes that seasoned growers and dispensary owners are important parts of their community who could provide the government with invaluable advice about marijuana.
"Cannabis producers, both small and large, are an important part of the economy and should be considered as valuable contributors to the policy process. These are, generally speaking, individuals who want to participate in a legal market premised upon thoughtfully constructed regulations. We recommend that the new regulations be informed by and incorporate this representative segment of the pre-existing market in order to benefit from their insights and experience."
But most importantly, the CDPC is calling on the government and media to tone down the rhetoric on the black market.
"Erroneously painting current industry participants as organized criminals, with predatory actions and intentions, could lead to unfounded restrictions on participation in this emerging legal market," researchers wrote. You can read the full report here.
You can also watch the full interview between Mulroney (son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney) and Trudeau (son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau). They have a wide-ranging chat on a picnic table in a a park about trade with China, Donald Trump, and of course cannabis (that part of the conversation begins at the 5:15 mark):
Banner image: Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau during his official visit to Kiev, Ukraine (Drop Of Light / Shutterstock.com)