Pot Legalization Looks Certain for Canada
Carrying a torch for marijuana legalization, the Liberal Party of Canada emerged like a phoenix from Monday’s parliamentary election, rocketing from near irrelevance to win an absolute majority in the country’s House of Commons.
And now, supporters and political scientists say, the party likely will make good on a campaign pledge to make the Great White North the world’s next country to allow cannabis for recreational use.
“When can Canadians expect you to legalize pot if you’re elected?” a reporter asked Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau in September. “We’re going to get started on that right away,” he said.
Trudeau takes office next month, and his government is expected to deliberate on the precise outlines for legalization before offering a proposal to Parliament.
“Oh, it’s going to happen,” Canadian Sen. Larry Campbell of the Liberal Party, a former mayor of Vancouver, tells U.S. News. “Certainly within the next four years, but I suspect a closer time frame is two [years].”
A Liberal Party majority in the lower house of parliament nearly seals the deal for marijuana legalization, experts say. Opposition is possible in Canada’s appointed Senate, which still has a Conservative Party majority, but the upper chamber rarely blocks legislation.
Unlike the highly political U.S. Senate, Canadian senators are appointed on the advice of prime ministers to serve until they reach age 75 and are expected to provide a detached review of legislation.
“Given a majority in Parliament, the Liberal Party should have no trouble decriminalizing or even legalizing the possession of marijuana,” University of Toronto political science professor Peter Loewen says.
Loewen expects greater debate on how to regulate sales, perhaps slowing the process. “I don’t think it will be a first priority, but I imagine they will make some initial moves around consultation and study,” he says.
Jamie Lawson, a political scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, says the Senate could conceivably emerge as a roadblock, though he doubts it will. The risk may be even lower if the new Liberal government moves quickly, as the Conservatives are in a state of disarray, he says.