Justin Trudeau, so of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and current leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, came out in favor of the legalization of marijuana. Though he claims to have used it "five or six times," he says that his personal and family history has led him to this conclusion.
The Liberal leader and MP for Papineau in Ottawa was interviewed by Le Soleil on Thursday, after his public announcement the previous day. He said, "Yes, I smoked five or six times in my life. The last time was some three years ago. I was already an MP at the time. At a dinner with friends, at home, someone took out a joint, lit it, it was passed around, and I took a puff. This is not something very unusual for the vast majority of Canadians."
The key to his political career lies in part in his family's past. The Huffington Post reported on Thursday that Justin's younger brother, Michel, had been facing prosecution for possession of a small amount of "grass", the year he died in an avalanche in 1998. "My little brother Michel lived in Whistler [British Columbia], to be closer to nature, so he was more inclined to use."
"On a personal level, I also saw the impact of marijuana on my mother [Margaret Sinclair]. She suffers from bipolar disorder. At times, it made her mental condition worse. She herself admitted this to me."
Conscious of his image as a laid-back politician, Mr. Trudeau let it be known, "My personal and family history is similar to that of many Canadians. But personally, I'm not someone who like to drink or to be dependent on anything, not even coffee."
A full turn
On the other hand, Trudeau said, "It is only recently that I became convinced that the state should legalize pot." In 2009, he had voted in favor of maintaining minimum sanctions for citizens possessing marijuana. "My mind was changed," he said, "by listening to the arguments of the NORML Women Group", a Canadian women's organization for the reform of marijuana laws.
For the politician, aged 41, prohibition has had its day. "The reality is that we have a war against drugs that is not working. The fact is that our young people have easier access to marijuana than cigarettes or alcohol. Even police chiefs on Thursday acknowledged that the current approach is not working."
The statutory prohibition is a human and financial mess in his eyes. "We spend $500 million to prosecute and investigate possession," for which 475,000 people have bee arrested and given criminal records since 2006, the year the Conservative Stephen Harper took over as Prime Minister.
At the discussion stage
"Society has come to the point where it is ready to discuss decriminalization and even legalization of marijuana," argued the federal Liberal leader. "The reason why I do not like decriminalization is that, although it removes criminal penalties, which would be a good step, it keeps distribution in the hands of organized crime [...] and hundreds of millions of dollars end up in the pockets of street gangs and organized criminals. And that does not prevent our youth from accessing it."
The legalization of pot would go through a "system of substance control" which could be taxed. Though there is no plan in place as yet, but Mr. Trudeau suggested, "If it was sold at the SAQ [Liquor Quebec] or drugstores on showing an ID card, there would be no trafficking in the schoolyard."
Justin Trudeau does not accept the the argument that marijuana is a stepping stone to other drugs. "If we classified marijuana in the same category as nicotine and tobacco, it would be recognized as something in the same class."
"Does drinking a beer when you are 18 lead to becoming a bourbon-drinking alcoholic at 25? I doubt it," he said in disbelief. "The State, the Conservative government [Harper] has the responsibility to prove by facts, research, and examples from around the world, that prohibition works, it is desirable, effective and justified."