Less than a month after losing the federal election to Justin Trudeau's Liberals, the Conservatives have begun retooling the party by electing former Health Minister Rona Ambrose as interim leader. That means Ambrose will serve as the Leader of the Official Opposition - the chief critic of the government in Canada's parliament - for the time being.
It also means the party's position on cannabis won't likely change anytime soon. Despite support for legalization and/or decriminalization among Conservative voters, the party maintained a prohibitionist stance and Ambrose was an outspoken supporter of that policy.
Here are four incidents that define her position:
1. Science becomes a casualty in ad warfare
In November 2014, Ambrose and Health Canada launched a $7.5-million ad campaign that claimed marijuana damaged people's brains and lowered their IQs.
The Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada all refused to endorse the campaign because they saw the messaging as political rather than educational.
Unfortunately, access to the ad is now restricted on youtube. But this political parody captures the original visuals:
2. Taking potshots on Twitter
Even before the 2015 federal election began on Aug. 2, cannabis became a campaign issue as Conservatives attacked Trudeau for the Liberal Party's pro-legalization stance. Her Tweets did invite responses from legalization supporters:
3. Scolding the Supreme Court
On 11 June, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that medicinal cannabis treatment should include oils, extracts and edibles. Previously, patients could only get dried leaves, which weren't effective for some conditions and posed health risks through inhaling smoke.
While cannabis activists rejoiced, Minister Ambrose was outraged.
First, she deplored the use of marijuana as medicine: "Canadians [...] lost public health and safety ground over 10 years ago when a court ruled that smoking marijuana was 'a treatment.' "
Then, she rebuked the court: "Marijuana has never gone through the regulatory approval process at Health Canada, which requires rigorous safety reviews and clinical trials with scientific evidence. So, frankly, I'm outraged by the Supreme Court ... [for] normaliz[ing] a drug where there is no clear clinical evidence that it is 'a medicine.' "
Here's the full scrum:
4. Calling the cops on the 'gray market'
In Apr. 2015, the city of Vancouver decided to regulate, ' gray market' dispensaries that sold cannabis illegally. On Jun 24, Ambrose released an official statement condemning city council's decision and calling on police to enforce prohibition. Here are some highlights from the letter:
"Marijuana is neither an approved drug nor medicine in Canada and Health Canada does not endorse its use. While Canadian courts have required the Government to allow access to marijuana when authorized by a physician, the law is clear that this must be done in a controlled fashion to protect public health and safety."
"The evidence is clear that when youth smoke marijuana they have increased risks of mental health issues including psychosis and schizophrenia. The City's own medical officials predict that dispensaries will make marijuana cookies and candies more accessible to youth."