JANE LYTVYNENKO — CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief
OTTAWA (CUP) — Over 35 campuses across the country are seeing posters promoting the legalization of marijuana as a part of a Young Liberals campaign. Tied to the Liberal party’s own agenda to legalize pot, the campaign seeks to educate and promote the policy.
Despite widespread criticism from both the New Democratic and Conservative parties, David Valentin, vice-president of communications for the Young Liberals, said legalizing pot is “a conversation in which everyone need to be involved.”
The Young Liberals have chapters on campuses across Canada, all of which have signed on to the campaign of promoting marijuana legalization. Posters have been put up, pins handed out and fliers with information have been made available.
“We’re working hard to have a presence everywhere in preparation for 2015,” said Valentin, alluding to the next federal election. He said since the legalization policy was passed at the Liberal Convention by the membership, the Young Liberals have been working hard to promote “a conversation about [the] legalization of marijuana.”
Valentin said while there are a lot of issues in Canadian politics, the Young Liberals are focusing the conversation on marijuana legalization because of how important it is to both the younger population in Canada and the leader of the Liberal party Justin Trudeau. Valentin said current policies on marijuana possession are not working and desperately need reform.
“Real lives are impacted as a result of this” current policy, he said. “Young people are getting criminal records and their entire lives are being impacted as a result.”
Another issue according to Valentin is the content of pot currently being sold on the streets. While legal substances are subject to regulations, marijuana sold on the streets could contain other potentially harmful chemicals.
Valentin also said the current system is expensive and unnecessary — a sentiment NDP MP for the district of Gatineau Francoise Boivin echoes.
The NDP’s own policy advocates decriminalization, not legalization, of pot. In a phone interview with the Canadian University Press, Boivin said the Liberals need to think of the specifics of legalization policy before pushing it to the public.
“It sounds good in theory but the devil’s always in the details,” said Boivin. “I think it’s an easy catchphrase but it’s not going to be realistic.”
Boivin said throughout the years the Liberals have been supporting the Conservatives on pot policies. As recently as 2009, Trudeau voted in agreement with the Conservative Party of Canada for tougher sentences when it comes to possession of marijuana. Despite Trudeau changing his mind, the Tories continue to oppose the legalization of marijuana.
“We have been clear on our opposition to illegal drugs because of the harmful effects they have on users and society,” said Paloma Aguilar, Attorney General of Canada Peter MacKay’s press secretary, in an email to CUP. “While the Liberal party is encouraging the use of drugs on campuses across our country, our government is focused on job creation and standing up for victims of crime.”
Despite criticism, Valentin said the campuses he visited are welcoming the pot legalization conversation.
“People are happy we’re being honest and talking about this,” he said. ”Promoting a conversation about legalization is not the same as promoting marijuana consumption.
Photo: Unai Mateo/flickr