Sunday April 24, 2016

If the government plans to legalize marijuana next spring, should it be decriminalized now?

A young man smokes a marijuana joint during a rally in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 20, 2011.

A young man smokes a marijuana joint during a rally in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 20, 2011. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Listen to Full Episode 1:52:59

The Trudeau government says it will legalize marijuana next spring. The NDP says if that is the plan we should decriminalize it now. What do you think?

Legal marijuana is coming to Canada, and it's coming soon. Some say, if that's the case, then we should decriminalize it now to avoid wasting the time of the police and the courts, not to mention hobbling people with criminal records.

But which issues will have to be worked out before pot possession is no longer a criminal offence? Who will have access to it? Who will grow it and sell it, and where? Should there be an age limit? Is it possible to keep marijuana out of the hands of children? What kind of penalties will be applied to people who break the regulations, once the rules are no longer in the criminal code? How will the new regulations be enforced?

It was appropriate that the government's announcement came on the same day of the 4/20 demonstrations where groups gather in public places such as Parliament Hill to marinate in marijuana smoke in a show of how well-behaved pot smokers can be. Police stand by at these events but usually they do not make arrests. If it's okay on that one day, why not on the others leading up to the day when pot will be legal?

Our question: If marijuana is going to be legalized next spring, should it be decriminalized now?


Bill Blair is the Liberal MP for Scarborough Southwest and parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and attorney general. He is the Trudeau government point person on marijuana regulation and legalization. 

Thomas Mulcair is the MP for Outremont, Que. and leader of the NDP.

Rachael Harder is the Conservative MP for Lethbridge, Alta. and deputy health critic and youth critic. 

Anindya Sen is professor of economics at the University of Waterloo and author of the report, Joint Venture: A Blueprint for Federal and Provincial Marijuana Policy, for the C.D. Howe Institute.



Globe and Mail

National Post


Toronto Star

Policy Options magazine

C.D. Howe report

U.S. National Library of Medicine