Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on police across the country to enforce cannabis prohibition - even while his government works toward legalizing recreational marijuana. The move has left cannabis activists wondering if he's a puppet, poser or closet prohibitionist.

In a recent interview with The Toronto Star's editorial board, Trudeau lashed out against the nation's gray market dispensaries - illegal storefronts selling marijuana across the country. Right now, the only people who can legally buy cannabis are medical marijuana patients. And the only legal way for them to buy it is through Health Canada's mail-order system.

But storefronts offering consumers in-person service have been around for decades. Their numbers recently exploded after Trudeau pledged to legalize cannabis nationwide - much to the prime minister's dismay. 

“It’s a situation that is frustrating and I can understand people’s frustration on this,” he said. “People are right now breaking the law. We haven’t changed the laws. We haven’t legalized it yet. Yes, we got a clear mandate to do that. We’ve said we will."

But they're not doing that to please cannabis consumers.

"The promise we made around legalizing marijuana was done for two reasons," Trudeau added, "One, to better protect our kids from the easy access they have right now to marijuana; and, two, to remove the criminal elements that were profiting from marijuana...So, I don’t know how much clearer we can be that we’re not legalizing marijuana to please recreational users. I mean, that will be a byproduct. We recognize that that is something that’s going to happen when it happens, but it’s not happened yet.”

Activists react

Meanwhile, Abi Roach - founder of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association - thinks that Trudeau might suffer an unpleasant byproduct of his stance on dispensaries: losing his position of power. Roach argues that Trudeau is turning his back on the will of the people - and his own base.

"The cannabis consumers of Canada, both patients and adult users have been speaking with their dollars and feet," Roach told Civilized via Facebook. "They want an open & inclusive market. The Liberals are on the wrong path to legalization. By enforcing stricter prohibition then any government before them, towards the people who got them a majority in the first place. They are not only leading the way to a failed policy. But losing support and votes in the process."

In contrast, Craig Jones - Executive Director of NORML Canada - wonders if Trudeau might just be posturing on the issue.

"They want historians of prohibition and of Canada to record that they went about it in 'the right way' … dotting every ‘i' and crossing every ’t,’ " he wrote in an email to Civilized. "He also wants to get the optics right for Canadians so that people who oppose legalization will at least acknowledge that they followed a rational path to a (for them) undesirable outcome. The PM knows that the tide is coming in and he wants to position Canada as the mature democratic polity that it aspires to be - so he wants get this right so that other countries may follow Canada’s example."

But that's just one way of reading the situation. Jones added that if he were sceptical, he'd say that "the LPs [government-licensed medical marijuana producers] are pressuring him to close down dispensaries until the new regs are in place because they will then have an advantage in meeting the requirements of those regs."

And it he were downright cynical, he'd say, "Trudeau has caved to the LPs and is preparing to hand over the market to them, lock, stock and barrel."

So we'll have to wait until the government puts forward its legalization bill next spring before we know who the real Justin Trudeau is when it comes to cannabis. 

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