When Justin Trudeau won his stunning Liberal majority in 2015, it was partially on the campaign promise of a more open-minded view on drugs, particularly marijuana. Canadians who were fed up with hiding around corners to enjoy pot were deeply heartened to see a politician supporting logical cannabis reform.
To that end, ever since Trudeau became Prime Minister, he has taken steps toward legalizing adult-use cannabis in many ways, except for one. Despite calls from opposing parties, former Prime Ministers, and local citizens, the PM has been clear that Canada will not decriminalize.
Now, members of his party are calling him out on an issue larger than cannabis.
Liberal Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith recently wrote an editorial for VICE and stated in detail that the leader of the country should decriminalize all drugs. He cited that Canada should tear a page from the successful Portuguese model enacted in 2001. Portugal requires anyone caught with a banned substance to appear before a commission of legal, medical, and social welfare experts. More than 80 percent of these cases are dismissed; Portugal has not seen significant increases in drug use over the last sixteen years.
Erskine-Smith, the youngest Member of Parliament in the Greater Toronto Area, said that Canada “should treat drug abuse as a health issue, and not as a crime.” He praised Trudeau for a sensible, evidence-based approach to drug policy, particularly pointing out the effort to legalize marijuana and fund supervised injection clinics for much harsher substances.
The Toronto Member of Parliament then added that Canada’s “commitment to evidence” must go further by taking the step to decriminalize all drug use and possession. Erskine-Smith said that the only other option would be to continue “banging our head against the wall” through prohibition. He cited Nixon’s war on drugs as an “abject failure” that created a lucrative and violent black market.
This statement comes on the heels of the Globe & Mail feature piece on Canada’s deadly addiction to Fentanyl.
The Prime Minister has also not taken the advice of the 2011 report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which included members from Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Mexico and Switzerland. That report called for full decriminalization as well.
Regardless of Erskine-Smith’s call to decriminalize, Trudeau has been adamant about keeping drugs illegal. For the issue of marijuana, that has created significant turbulence in Canada. Perhaps more open letters to the PM by vocal advocates within his party will bend his ear far enough to change his mind on the issue. “It may not be an easy sell, but it’s the right answer,” concluded Erskine-Smith.
Cover photo courtesy of Allie Beckett.