Newspaper article The Canadian Press

MacKay Unmoved by Addiction Centre Call for Marijuana Legalization

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

MacKay Unmoved by Addiction Centre Call for Marijuana Legalization

Article excerpt

Tory opposition to pot legalization unshaken


OTTAWA - The Harper government's resolve to enforce the law against marijuana use is unshaken by a call to legalize pot from the country's largest mental health and addiction treatment centre.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Thursday the Conservative government has no intention of heeding the call of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Indeed, the government remains committed to going in the opposition direction, said MacKay: finding ways to actually increase enforcement of marijuana laws, including potentially making it a ticketing offence to possess small quantities of dope.

But Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has been championing legalization for more than a year, said CAMH's endorsement of the idea shows he's on the right track while the Tories are ideologically bound to a war on drugs that has proven a total failure.

NDP health critic Libby Davies, whose party supports decriminalization of marijuana, said the Conservatives are becoming increasingly isolated on the issue as more and more public health groups refuse to back their tough-on-pot message.

In a policy statement released Thursday, CAMH said cannabis should be legalized and strictly regulated, sold through a government-controlled monopoly with limited availability and an age limit. The centre concluded that the current legal prohibition on pot has failed to prevent use or reduce the harm it can cause.

That pretty much echoes the arguments that have been made by Trudeau, who has been pilloried by Conservatives for allegedly wanting to make pot more easily available to children.

"Yes, it's nice to see a world-class organization like CAMH come out and agree with (us) and demonstrate that we're on the right track," Trudeau said in an interview.

By contrast, he said CAMH's position shows the Harper government is "trapped in policies based on ideology rather than policies based on evidence and that is harmful to Canadians and to Canada."

MacKay, however, was unmoved.

"It surprises me, quite frankly, because there are just as many respected organizations and credible reports that say the opposite," MacKay said on his way into a committee meeting. …

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