Despite vowing to “legalize” and “regulate” marijuana as prime minister, Justin Trudeau has disappointed Canadian legalization supporters in statements to the Toronto Star in which he encourages police to “enforce the law” against medical marijuana dispensaries and supports a recent string of raids against vendors.
“People are right now breaking the law. We haven’t changed the laws,” Trudeau told the Toronto Star editorial board. “We haven’t legalized it yet. Yes, we got a clear mandate to do that. We’ve said we will.” Until his Liberal government does legalize marijuana, however, he endorsed raids against marijuana dispensaries which have largely operated publicly in many urban Canadian centers: “the current prohibition stands.”
The Star notes that Trudeau had a short response to a question asking what “municipalities could do to deal with the scourge of such pot shops” which sell to recreational users: “You can enforce the law.”
“I don’t know how much clearer we can be that we’re not legalizing marijuana to please recreational users,” he added, instead insisting legalization would keep minors from more liberal access to marijuana as well as limiting opportunities for criminal organizations to profit by cultivating cannabis.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party platform supports legalizing while “limiting access to” marijuana — legalization not intended to expand options for consumers, but rather to put a government stranglehold on the marijuana market. Potential legalization has nonetheless galvanized the market in Canada, though full legalization is expected in mid-2017 at the earliest.
Police have hit cannabis dispensaries with a string of raids in recent months; seven Ottawa dispensaries were raided in one week in November alone. “It’s a situation that is frustrating and I can understand people’s frustration on this,” Trudeau acknowledged.
These dispensaries offer products to legal users, however, and some doctors have protested the measures. “For me as a medical professional who’s trying to guide patients to a solution, the issue is one of access,” Dr. Marc Engfield told the Ottawa Citizen.
Recreational users, who believe the cannabis community in Canada played a pivotal role in Trudeau’s election, feel betrayed. “All we’ve seen is raids and arrests and more criminal records and more issues and more problems,” Abi Roach, a director with the Cannabis Friendly Business Association, told the Toronto Sun. “When Trudeau was elected, I cried… We campaigned our butts off for Trudeau because we wanted him to win so bad because we believed what he was saying… Wow, was I cheated or what. I think that’s the way most cannabis consumers feel.”
Trudeau’s support for cannabis dispensary raids before the Toronto Star also raises concerns regarding what The Globe and Mail has referred to as “cash-for-access fundraisers” in which Trudeau accepted money from special interest representatives and, in a potentially related development, publicly supported their cause. Among those causes is the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada.
The Globe and Mail reported in late November that Roach, the advocate quoted in the Toronto Star article, attended one of these fundraisers, her organization donating hundreds to the Liberal Party. The Liberals announced they would return the money to the Cannabis Friendly Business Association less than two weeks before Trudeau issued his statement calling for the police to “enforce the law.”
The cannabis “cash-for-access” incident was revealed after The Globe and Mail found another questionable connection between special interests and the Liberal Party: Trudeau attended a fundraiser with Chinese businessmen shortly before one of these businessmen donated $1 million (Canadian) to the Trudeau Foundation, named after the Prime Minister’s predecessor in office and father Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau told reporters he had attended the fundraiser to “draw in global investment,” which he apparently succeeded in doing.
In addition to accepting Chinese millionaire funds, Trudeau has been notably uncritical on China’s human rights abuses, comparing them to Canada’s. Similarly, Trudeau has said little about oppression of women in Saudi Arabia, despite his promise to “keep saying loud and clear that I am a feminist until it is met with a shrug.” Instead, the Liberal Party leadership approved a $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia as “a matter of principle.”
Amnesty International has condemned Trudeau’s arms deal. “Canada must stop applying a double standard and ensure that its action matches its words when it comes to human rights violations in countries with which it wishes to maintain economic relationships,” Amnesty spokesman John Tackaberry said in a statement.
Canada’s conservatives have accused Trudeau of violating at least three lobbying laws with his attendance at the aforementioned fundraisers and are seeking to open an investigation into them.