For those Canadians who favour the federal Liberals’ pledge to legalize recreational marijuana, the latest word is, don’t hold your breath.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press refer to the complexities involved at the international level because of treaties that Canada is a part of. A briefing note prepared for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes reference to these hurdles.
It’s highly unlikely the Liberals in announcing this policy believed that achieving it would be a slam dunk. Significant changes to laws seldom happen quickly and, in this case, let’s face it, we can expect some divided opinion. Some people, they’re just not ready yet.
According to the advice provided to the prime minister in the briefing note, Canada’s current stance on cannabis – making its possession and production illegal – is bound by three international conventions.
These include: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol; the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971; the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
The dates on those treaties, particularly the first two, will give some pause for thought. In the 1960s and ’70s, a lot of people really weren’t ready for legal marijuana. Mind you, that was a time when capital punishment was still legally on the books in Canada.
This country does, we must acknowledge, share a border with a nation where on the official level the war on drugs is still actively and vehemently waged. Revamping these laws would have implications for passage of people and goods from one to the other. But even the United States has a couple of states with legalized recreational marijuana, so the outlook is gradually changing.
A number of other countries, in South America, for example, are now reviewing strategies on the drug trade, where it has been accompanied by some vicious gang turf wars. Some of those are pondering legalization.
As Canada addresses the international framework on this, it will also have time to investigate a whole series of practical implications domestically, such as effective restrictions and how to detect pot impairment in motorists.
This could indeed take a while. In the meantime, the country will have little choice but to leave this trade with the criminal element.