Yesterday, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau spoke with and answered questions from students at a high school in Brandon, Manitoba. One of the students asked him his position on marijuana, and he answered.
No transcript is available, but here's how Brandon Sun reporter Jillian Anderson, who was there, describes it:
Austin said Trudeau started by saying that marijuana was dangerous for young people, because their minds are still developing, but that he believes regulating pot will make it safer for children.
This is consistent with what Trudeau has been saying on this issue all along: we need to keep marijuana out of the hands of young people, and the best way to do that is with government regulation and control through legalization. Today, with criminalization, it's so easy for kids to get their hands on it my high school had a separate designated smoking area for marijuana. (Sidebar: it was at the bottom of a chip trail, and at afternoon announcements we'd often be warned a bear had been spotted near the chip trail. I felt safe to ignore these warnings).
This isn't the best argument for legalization, however. The best argument is that marijuana is safer than alcohol, that the billions spent criminalizing the activity is a dismal failure, that criminalizing otherwise law-abiding Canadians for a recreational activity is wrong, that criminalization diverts police resources from more important areas, that criminalization forces Canadians to deal with criminals also selling far more harmful things, that legalization would allow for quality control and safety, and, most of all, that marijuana is the major cash crop for criminal biker gangs and fuels violence and other crime.
But back to Trudeau in Manitoba. He was asked a question by young adults actually showing some interest in the political process. He answered honestly, stating his position and delivering a firm condemnation of drug use by young people. Sounds good, right? Enter Sheriff Peter MacKay:
"He's directly delivering a message to children now that recreational drug use is okay," the statement reads. "These drugs are illegal because of the dangerous effects they have on users and on society. We need to protect our children, not introduce them to harm."
The Conservatives also issued a fundraising e-mail claiming that Trudeau is pushing pot on kids. Thing is, what MacKay is claiming is exactly the opposite of what independent observers there say he actually said: that young people should stay away from drugs. As Ed Broadbent once out it so eloquently: they lie. They pay people to lie.
Trudeau fired back with a statement of his own last night:
“A remarkable thing happened yesterday when I answered a question from a student from the Sioux Valley High School. The students in the room applauded a politician with a message to stay off drugs, and that the current system is not doing enough to keep it out of the hands of kids. That the Conservatives would put out a statement condemning the courage shown by those students is shameful. Peter MacKay should retract his statement.”
Indeed. Which part of what Trudeau did does MacKay condemn, exactly. The part where he respected a high school student enough to give him a serious answer to a serious question, the part where he told them not to do drugs, or the part where the students applauded a politician delivering a stay off drugs message?
The Prime Minister's Office even weighed in:
@jeffjedras @adamgoldenberg Did the parents of those young kids know that Trudeau promoted marijuana legalisation in front of their kids?Which brings us to the hypocrisy. Late last night this September article from the Frontenac News surfaced. It reported that not only does Conservative MP Scott Reid support the legalization of marijuana, he explained his position at length at a school. To students, who were young people and everything:
— Alykhan Velshi (@avelshi) November 14, 2013
When it came to his turn, Scott Reid bounded down to sit with those in favour of full legalization.
He then took the stage and asked the students to name two things that Barack Obama, George Bush Jr. and Bill Clinton have in common.
“They have all been US presidents, and they have all admitted to smoking marijuana, and they all oppose legalizing marijuana,” Reid said. “I’ve never smoked marijuana, or cigarettes, but I favour legalization.”
Reid went further, saying that drug policies in North America are illogical, wrongheaded, and inconsistent.
“Let’s talk about gateway drugs and dangerous drugs,” Reid added. “The most significant gateway drug is cigarettes, and the drug that does the most damage is alcohol, and they are both legal, and should be in my view.”
He pointed out that an attempt was made to make alcohol illegal, “and it was a disaster.”
On this issue, Scott Reid differed from not only the majority of the students in the room, but with his own Conservative Party as well, which he pointed out has toughened the penalty for possession of marijuana.
“I was the only one in my party who voted against that legislation,” he said.
I agree with Reid. He's certainly a Conservative, but his position is eminently logical, and is the one that should be taken by any liberatian-minded conservative that considers the issue honestly and logically. And I don't think he did anything wrong by speaking honestly to the students on the issue. He did the very right thing.
However, if MacKay and the PMO are not just bloviating fools trying to exploit Manitoba students for political and monetary gain, surely they will condemn Reid's remarks too. I'd suggest a fundraising e-mail asking for $5 to help them fight members of their own caucus.
Or they could apologize, and perhaps start treating younger Canadians not as background props for Stephen Harper press conferences, but as young citizens with opinions and views that should be engaged in the political process, and treated with respect.
Come to think of it, they should really start treating older Canadians that way too. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers