Decriminalizing marijuana in advance of full legalization would only aid organized crime, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair told CTV’s Power Play on Tuesday.
“Decriminalization doesn’t achieve any of the public purpose aims of reducing the social or health harms of marijuana use,” the current Scarborough-Southwest Liberal MP added. “It makes it easier for kids to access. It facilitates the criminal market.”
Blair was responding to NDP calls to decriminalize cannabis. The NDP states that it is unfair for Canadians to receive criminal records for recreational pot use when full legalization is on the horizon.
Blair, who serves as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, has been tasked with implementing the Liberal government’s campaign promise to legalize pot.
On Tuesday, a federal task force released a framework report to help guide that process. Amongst its recommendations, the report suggests storefront and mail-order sales to Canadians over the age of 18. Marijuana is expected to be legal in Canada for recreational use in the spring of 2017.
“I’m really pleased with the work and the very comprehensive way in which they approached a very complex and challenging subject, and I think the recommendations will be very, very helpful to this government as we go forward,” Blair said of the report.
Blair underscored that the report consists of recommendations and is not a blueprint for legalization.
“We want to reduce and restrict the access that children have to marijuana and to take the profits away from organized crime and to take the steps necessary to protect the health of Canadians,” he said. “Right now, the decision to sell marijuana to kids is done by a criminal in a stairwell somewhere. It’s a lot easier for a kid to buy marijuana today than it is to buy tobacco or alcohol.”
Blair, who spent three decades as a police officer before serving as Toronto’s top cop between 2005 and 2015, says he fully supports his government’s stance on cannabis.
“Right now, Canadians, and particularly Canadian youths, use marijuana at higher rates than any other population anywhere in the world,” Blair said. “The current system of prohibition is not helping to keep it away from kids and it is facilitating enormous profits by organized crime – and organized crime is responsible for a lot of the violence and victimization that takes place in our communities.”