Ex-police chief Bill Blair to handle Liberals' pot legalization file

The Liberal government will appoint former Toronto police chief Bill Blair as its point man on marijuana legalization, CBC News has learned.

Toronto's former top cop assigned leading role in marijuana legalization plan

Marijuana legalization hurdles

7 years ago
Duration 5:07
Sunday Scrum panel talks about the Liberal government's high-profile campaign promise

As the Liberal government gets to work on its campaign pledge to legalize marijuana, the former police chief of Toronto will be taking a lead role.

Last month, Bill Blair was named as one of two parliamentary secretaries to the minister of justice. Sources tell CBC News he's been assigned to handle the pot file. 

Blair's new role fits with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's attempts to frame the issue during the election campaign.

The Conservatives tried to use Trudeau's legalization stance to paint him as a lightweight or even dangerous, with last-minute ads in Punjabi and Chinese newspapers suggesting Trudeau supported selling marijuana to children.

In contrast, Trudeau pitched marijuana legalization as a way of protecting children and stopping criminals.

"What is very clear right now is that Mr. Harper's current approach is making marijuana too easy to access for our kids and at the same time funding street crime, organized gangs and gun runners," Trudeau said at a campaign stop in Quebec City in September.

When he was police chief, Blair seemed to support at least one call to legalize the drug. In October 2014, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) came out in favour of legalization of marijuana, combined with strict regulation.

At the time, Blair told reporters that it wasn't up to police to make the law, but he was "very encouraged by the public health approach advocated by CAMH."

It seems that now he will get the chance to help make the new marijuana laws. There are many outstanding questions about how the Liberal plan would work, including where pot would be sold, how it would be taxed and what happens to the profits.

In their election platform, the Liberals said they would work with the provinces and territories, as well as public health officials, to design a system.

Blair may find himself at odds with some of his former colleagues. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has advocated ticketing marijuana users but not full legalization.


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