The politics of pot: Winnipeg candidates weigh in on weed
Winnipeg federal election candidates from the Liberals and the Greens said they agreed with their party leaders to legalize marijuana, while the Conservatives and the NDP said they did not have time for an interview.
CBC News approached local candidates after a CBC investigation found police in Winnipeg laid charges for possession of marijuana at a lower rate than most other Canadian cities in 2014, ranking 28th out of 34 Canadian cities tracked by Statistics Canada.
- Police report a pot possession incident every 9 minutes in Canada
- Where Canadian political parties stand on marijuana
Federally, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has said he would decriminalize weed. Tory Leader Stephen Harper has said he would further ramp up enforcement.
- Mulcair pledges NDP will decriminalize pot 'the minute we form government'
- Conservatives push anti-pot message, vow funds to combat drug labs
- Justin Trudeau doesn't want pot sold at corner stores
- Criminilization of weed "has utterly failed," Green Party says
The campaign manager for the New Democrat running in Winnipeg North, Levy Abad, said it wasn't an issue in the riding, nor one the Abad's campaign "wanted to touch."
But Winnipeg North Liberal Kevin Lamoureux said it was a significant problem in the riding, and that legalization is the only way to get the drug problem away from high school kids.
"There's a significant element of criminal activity based on marijuana in Winnipeg's North End and other pockets of Manitoba," Lamoureux said. "[Legalization] will take money out of the pockets of criminals."
- In Winnipeg there were 33 people charged per 100,000 population — well below the Canadian average of 79.
Lamoureux said he smoked pot as a teenager "and I did inhale," he said laughing. He said up until recently his position has been against legalization, but that has changed.
"At one point, a couple of years ago if you would have told me that this was going to be the party's position, I would have told you I'm very nervous about that," he said. "But today, I look at it as something that really needs to happen, because it will in fact make a difference, a positive difference, in our communities."
Winnipeg Centre Green candidate Don Woodstock also agreed with his party's national position on pot.
"Legalize it, tax it, and get it out of the hands of what it is now, a criminal enterprise, because as it is now, the criminals are making millions if not billions of dollars," he said.
Critics say legalization or decriminalization of marijuana may increase the prevalence of kids smoking pot or will be a slippery slope that will lead to the legalization of other drugs.
"That is the fear factor with politics," Woodstock said referring to that criticism. "Politicians drive these wedges and fears into people."
Woodstock also said he smoked pot as a teenager.
Winnipeg South Conservative Gordon Giesbrecht was unavailable to do an interview, but responded to CBC with the following statement:
"Our Conservative government wants to stop kids from smoking marijuana and we are outraged by any measure that increases the availability of this illegal and dangerous drug. Unlike Justin Trudeau, who wants to make marijuana available in stores, just like alcohol and cigarettes, our Conservative government believes the drug's harmful effects on the development of health and welfare of children in particular, are reason enough to continue discouraging Canadians from its use."