The leader of one of Canada's major political parties has come out publicly in favor of marijuana legalization. Justin Trudeau, the leader of Canada's Liberal Party, made the comment at a rally in British Columbia on July 23.
"I’m actually not in favor of decriminalizing cannabis – I’m in favor of legalizing it," Trudeau said after seeing a sign supporting decriminalization.
"Tax and regulate. It’s one of the only ways to keep it out of the hands of our kids because the current war on drugs... isn’t working," Trudeau continued.
“I have evolved in my own thinking,” Trudeau explained on July 25, two days after the rally, according to The Globe and Mail.
“I was more hesitant to even decriminalize not so much as five years ago," the party leader added. "But I did a lot of listening, a lot of reading, and a lot of paying attention to the very serious studies that have come out and I realize that going the road of legalization is actually a responsible thing to look at and to do.”
However, Trudeau made clear that he does not want to promote the use of marijuana itself. “Marijuana is not a health food supplement. It’s not great for you," he said, according to the Montreal Gazette. "But it’s certainly — as many studies have shown — not worse for you than cigarettes or alcohol.”
Trudeau announced his new position at a rally in Kelowna, British Columbia. According to a 2006 study by the University of Victoria, over half of British Columbians have tried pot and only 42 percent believes it should be illegal.
An Angus-Reid poll in late 2012 found that 57 percent of Canadians support legalizing marijuana.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is strongly in favor of retaining current marijuana laws. Since taking power, Harper's Conservative Party has pushed through mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug offenses. Harper also blocked a Liberal Party effort to decriminalize marijuana, according to CTV.
The Liberal Party, long a major force in Canada but out of power since 2006, has seen a boost in polls since Trudeau was elected leader in April 2013, according to the Toronto Sun. However, subsequent polls have seen Liberal Party support tail off somewhat, and the next federal election in Canada is not until October 2015.
Canada's third major party and current Official Opposition in the House of Commons, the New Democrats, endorse decriminalization of marijuana, according to The Globe and Mail.