Canada holds its federal elections on October 19, and the results could determine how soon Canucks get to enjoy legal marijuana.
Current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, of the Conservative Party, opposes marijuana law reform and called cannabis “infinitely worse” than tobacco in a campaign appearance last week.
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, supports legalization and said recently that if his party wins the election it will get to work “right away” on ending prohibition and constructing a system of regulated and taxed cannabis sales.
In a new party platform released Monday, the Liberals say current policy “traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses. At the same time, the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs.”
If elected, the new Liberal government “will create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied,” the platform says.
Canada’s other major party, the New Democratic Party, supports decriminalizing marijuana possession but not legalizing and taxing sales. Party leader Thomas Mulcair has pledged to enact decriminalization “the minute we form government.”
The election looks like it will be a close one. The latest polling averages show the Liberals slightly ahead of the Conservatives, 32.4 percent to 31.6 percent, with the NDP bringing in 25.3 percent of the vote.
The latest riding projections show the Conservatives winning a plurality of 122 seats, but 170 seats are needed to form a majority government. Trudeau and Mulcair have both ruled out supporting a fourth term as prime minister for Harper, meaning that unless his party brings in an unexpected majority, the Liberals and the NDP could work together to stymie continued Conservative rule. And that could play out under several messy scenarios.
In any case, recent polling on marijuana shows that 56.1 percent of Canadians support legalization, 29.8 percent back decriminalization and just 14.1 percent want cannabis to remain a crime. Continued criminalization is an extreme minority position among respondents of all parties in the poll, conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
So it’s safe to say that no matter what happens in the election this month, the issue of marijuana law reform is likely to keep building until reforms are enacted. It’s obvious, though, that that day will in all likelihood come sooner under certain electoral scenarios rather than others.