Cannabis amnesty makes headlines

A police officer stands outside a marijuana dispensary during a raid.  (Cole Burston / The Canadian Press)

A police officer stands outside a marijuana dispensary during a raid. (Cole Burston / The Canadian Press)

Last week's comments on possible amnesty for cannabis-related crimes by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale have captured the attention of opinion-mongers at Canada's two highest-circulation newspapers, spotlighting the issue for the general public in a big way.

On Monday, the Toronto Star editorial board and Globe and Mail health columnist André Picard both published opinion pieces in favour of government pardons.

"(It) seems the Liberals are starting to come to their senses — at least a bit," declared Picard, before taking a swing at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for saying cannabis prosecutions will continue until the new law is in place.

"The PM needs to be reminded that one of the principal reasons legalization makes sense is having a criminal record is a lot worse for a person's health than smoking pot," wrote Picard.

The Toronto Star'editorial praised the federal Liberals for addressing the "costly, dangerous mistake" of criminalizing cannabis users, only to slam them for taking so long to acknowledge the need for amnesty.

"The government is right to put a blanket amnesty back on the table," wrote the Star's editorial board. "However, in doing so, it has also underscored how silly is its opposition to another policy: the immediate decriminalization of possession."

Both editorials also referenced the fact that cannabis prohibition has been hardest on people of colour in Canada.

Canadian newspapers run editorials and columns daily, of course — but it's not every day that the two most-read broadsheets in the country present their readers with calls for amnesty and criminal justice reform related to cannabis. 

That's important, because a lot of Canadians — those who don't use cannabis, or don't have criminal records, or both — probably haven't given much thought to the idea of clemency for cannabis crimes.

High-profile editorials like these might help those Canadians understand the public policy arguments for cannabis amnesty, even if it won't benefit them personally.

New on The Leaf

  • Hopeful about harm reduction: Former B.C. minister of health Terry Lake, who now works in the cannabis industry, spoke to us about what he sees as "promising indicators" that cannabis could be a safer alternative to dangerous opioids.
  • Decriminalization debate: The federal Liberal party holds its national policy convention in April, and drug decriminalization stands a chance of making it on the agenda.
  • Cannabis of Green Gables: Prince Edward Island released new details on its approach to cannabis legalization today. Canada's smallest province will have four government-owned weed stores after legalization.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • High time to hire: It's a good time to be applying for jobs in the cannabis industry, reports Gemma Karstens-Smith for the Canadian Press.
  • The Big One: Ontario's upcoming legal cannabis retail monopoly is set to become the single biggest marijuana seller in the world, points out Toronto Star provincial politics reporter Robert Benzie.
  • The latest from the landlord lobby: B.C. landlords are lobbying the provincial government to ban home cultivation after legalization, writes Frank O'Brien for Business Vancouver. That would likely be an unpopular move in a province that, statistically speaking, loves cannabis.


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