Canada's recreational marijuana regime will be short-lived if Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch gets her way. Prime Minister Trudeau hasn't introduced his legalization bill , but Leitch is already vowing to repeal it.
“I don’t think that we should be legalizing this drug," Leitch - a former pediatric surgeon - said during a roundtable interview on Tuesday. "This is a dangerous drug and I don’t want it in the hands of children.”
Neither does Prime Minister Trudeau. That's why he's legalizing marijuana with regulations and restrictions geared toward keeping it away from children - as is the case with alcohol and tobacco regulations. Getting marijuana off the streets and putting it in stores could keep it out of the hands of children since licensed dispensers will have to check ID's, but street dealers don't have to card their clientele.
Or to use the words of Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair - who has become Trudeau's point-man on pot - legalization means, "you can make sure the decision to not sell it to a 14-year-old is left to a responsible adult, not some gangster in a stairwell.”
There's no guarantee that the experiment with legalization will work, but there's reason to believe that it will at least be more successful than cannabis prohibition has been. A United Nations study released in 2014 "found that Canadian adolescents (aged 11 to 15 years) have the highest rate of cannabis use among the 29 advanced economies of the world." Approximately 28 percent of youths had used cannabis at least once in the last year, according to the study.
Prime Minister Trudeau's government sees legalization as one way to reduce those stats.
“This is a way of responding to the reality of the fact that rates of use are extremely high in young people and we need to take an approach that acknowledges public health, acknowledges the approach of criminalization has not deterred young people from using it,” Health Minister Jane Philpott said on Tuesday.
In fact, criminalization is often more harmful to young people than cannabis, according to former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Last year, he wrote an essay endorsing cannabis legalization efforts in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Annan's essay noted that criminalizing drugs not only fails to keep them away from kids, but also victimizes many of them with criminal records.
"A criminal record for a young person for a minor drug offence can be a far greater threat to their well-being than occasional drug use," he wrote.
So if Kellie Leitch is serious about the health and welfare of children, she should research the harms that prohibition poses to Canadian youths. Or she should at least read Trudeau's legalization plan before vowing to repeal it.