Election Issues 2015: A Maclean’s primer on marijuana

Maclean’s is your destination for the 2015 election. Start with our in-depth primers on the big issues, including marijuana



If there is one file on which Justin Trudeau has definitively put his stamp as Liberal leader, it’s marijuana policy. Back in 2013, Trudeau surprised many by speaking out in favour of legalization and regulation, then admitted he “took a puff” on a joint being passed around at a dinner party at his Montreal home—after he was elected an MP in 2008. Ever since, Tories have taken aim at him over the stance. Pro-legalization advocates say criminalizing pot clogs prisons and feeds organized crime. Defenders of the status quo argue that legalization would only give young people, in particular, easier access to dangerous drugs.


Marijuana policy is powerfully polarizing, yet also less consequential than the pocketbook issues that are typically expected to drive votes. Its impact turns on Trudeau’s pro-legalization position. The Liberal leader hopes the issue will attract younger voters who appreciate bold policy. Tories will portray Trudeau’s stance as proof that his priorities are wrong and naive. The pot debate may have significant real-life consequences, but the symbolism is potent: old vs. new, experience vs. innovation, tough vs. soft.


Conservative:  Harper beefed up marijuana laws as part of the massive Safe Streets and Communities Act, a bill that imposed harsher sentences—and mandatory minimums—on marijuana traffickers. The party opposes any attempt to decriminalize or legalize pot, and openly mocks Liberal calls for legalization in regularly released attack ads.

NDP:  The party has crafted a position between its main rivals. The party’s policy calls for decriminalization, not full legalization: “decriminalizing marijuana possession with the goal of removing its production and distribution from the control of organized crime.” The NDP has long hinted at decriminalization, but both the late Jack Layton and current Leader Thomas Mulcair have been criticized for a lack of clarity on the issue.

Liberals:  They want to legalize marijuana. The party features Trudeau and Toronto MP Adam Vaughan in a video that breaks down the party position: Legalization and regulation would make it harder for kids to access pot; the status quo enriches organized crime; and current laws lock up too many “petty” criminals. The Liberals are hoping the pledge reinforces what Trudeau claims is a so-called new, more inclusive approach to politics.

Green:  The party plans to confront complex social and legal issues with an independent law-reform commission that would produce balanced public reports on key issues. The party points to doctor-assisted death, sex-work laws and marijuana legalization as examples of the commission’s prospective files. Green Leader Elizabeth May has publicly supported the legalization and regulation of marijuana.





Sharing a small amount of marijuana with a friend or passing around a joint at a party makes you a drug trafficker. There is also a misconception that people are not charge or prosecuted for possession marijuana; they are – at an ever increasing rate. While many international jurisdictions have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, in Canada, during the life of the Conservative government, arrests for possession of marijuana have increased by 28%. The criminalization of marijuana has obvious – and not insignificant – financial costs. The criminalization of marijuana can also destroys lives; every year people are killed because marijuana is illegal, but even the imposition of a criminal record negatively impacts employment, travel, and housing. These impacts are felt more acutely by minority and individuals who are already socially and economically disadvantaged.
—Michael Spratt, criminal defence lawyer

We are with marijuana where we were in 1950 with tobacco research. The public is exposed to pressures from an ambitious emerging industry whose proponents have repeatedly shown themselves willing to deny solid science in their pursuit of profit and expansion. The result of the campaign to normalize marijuana in Canada is a public that is poorly informed about the inherent risks of harm linked with marijuana use. UNICEF reports that Canada has the highest rate of marijuana use by youth in the industrialized world. We clearly have a serious problem that warrants serious discussion.
—Pamela McColl, SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) Canada




Election Issues 2015: A Maclean’s primer on marijuana

    • Nothing is inevitable. Look at the push back in America. 7% drop in support for legalization in 2014. The state of Maine just last month rejected recreational marijuana legalization by a solid majority. California rejected recreational pot in 2010. In Colorado and California the majority of towns and cities have banned marijuana for medical purposes and in the case of recreational the same applies. The states that have voted in legalization amount to 5% of the American electorate.
      No country in the world has legalized recreational marijuana all be it Uruquay. There is nothing inevitable about legalization and it is just a talking point lobby and an attempt to con the public into going along for the ride. Inevitable is just a word.

  1. FYI

    Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is anything BUT an “EXPERT OPINION” on “marijuana” and its expertise is in spreading anti-cannabis misinformation, not factual education on the true realities of the negatives and benefits of cannabis use.

    Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is an anti-marijuana legalization group, led by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Kevin Sabet, and conservative columnist David Frum.[1][2]


    • Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada is a Canadian national organization with an advisory council made up of some of Canada’s most prominent scientists. Dr. Philip Seeman from the University of Toronto was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Science, Dr. Harold Kalant, Dr. Andra Smith, Dr. Meldon Kahan are renowned professionals. SAM Canada is 100% Canadian.
      The video you have posted on this comment page was obtained through fraud and it is both Matt Merghan and Lisa Campbell are being investigated by the FBI with the help of google for impersonating American officials. The actions of the pot lobby that try to discredit scientists and science is hurting the pot marijuana cause and is an insult to freedom of speech. SAM Canada does not engage in spreading mis-information and supports the implementation of the United Nations four treaties that 190 countries are signing parties to – one of which is The Rights of the Child. Marijuana use is a human rights issue – and children should be protected from the predatory drug industry, and the risks inherent with using marijuana.

  2. Last I heard, Pamela McColl (the author) was a fraudulent partisan with a hidden agenda who seems to take some sort of psychotic pleasure in having dispensaries shut down and medicine taken away from the suffering. In the attached video you will see her showing her true colors while speaking to a popular marijuana activist whom she believes is a fellow anti marijuana campaigner. It appears she had lied about one of the members on the board of her non-profit as he was deceased. If this is the type of stuff Mclean’s is staring to pump out I will certainly get my “information” from somewhere else. https://t.co/zawiOoTyDW

    • There is nothing fraudulent about our organization and there is no hidden agenda – to state that there is just illustrates the willingness of some individuals to do or say anything to advance their own position. We are evidence based and the reason we started over a year and a half ago was we did not feel Canadians were reaching the facts about marijuana. The pro pot lobby is showing their hand. No one has died in our organization however one board member did resign. Stop making things up and stop the personal attacks – some of us are trying to have a conversation and work out the issue of drug policy. The video you have posted was obtained through dubious means and is under investigation with possible charges pending to those associated. Stop the slander and stop the attack.

      • Pam, STOP the misinformation, Because of your call to Police and a Dispensary you have compromised the Health and and well being of 100’s of medical Cannabis patients, thank you Pam!!! FYI the Cannabis oil that that Dispensary was for dying patients, and your sad excuse that there is a government program has zero Cannabis oil for these dying patients, you and your Fake non-profit should stop harming sick Canadians, and STOP quoting US stats and Lobbies, This is Canada and Medical Patients want a local retail storefront industry, NOT a commercial over priced mail order Drug system. LADY JUST STOP YOUR B.S.

        From: a Patient that has a Court Protected Personal Production License – I grow in my Home that I have Paid for, Stay the Hell out of my Bedroom!!!!!
        P.S. I am a member for 2 Compassion Clubs, the Governments MMPR program can’t service Canadian Cannabis patients with their Failed Program, GET OF THE POT PAM!!!!

      • Really? You sure make a lot of money selling fear, Pam. How dare you drape yourself in social righteousness whilst diverting attention from your professional motivations. You’re one sick puppy dearie.

  3. I read this article with some interest, right until the “Expert Opinion”. Pam McColl is no expert and has clear bias and a history of ignoring science.

    • Our organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada is science and fact based. The pot lobby has shown itself to be anything but and is willing to deny the mountain of science that now exists that clearly establishes that marijuana is not safe for human consumption.

      • Defending yourself is an exigent imperative, isn’t it? Have you noticed you’re finding yourself on the defensive more often these days, Pam?

  4. Pamela McColl ( who admits to drinking alcohol and sees nothing wrong with the blatant hypocrisy ) is an uninformed nut bar that is funded/supported by a wealthy American prohibitionist, Kevin Sabot and Patrick Kennedy, a self professed oxycontin and alcohol addict. Come on MacLeans, you can do better than this!!!

    • Lie – we are not funded by Americans. We are self funded. Insults will not help your cause. Our organization’s advisory council consists of members of the legal community, law enforcement, academics from the world of science, medicine, addiction and recovery, and drug prevention. Members of our organization are often called upon to speak to the United Nations, and governments of the world. You know not what you speak.

      • Your advisory council is made up of individuals whose careers were dependent or enhanced greatly by cannabis prohibition. The fact these people are lobbying(lying to) our world leaders to protect their financial interests is the problem. There is a lot of money behind these groups buying political influence whereas there is little to no money behind our efforts to legalize other than individual donations. Our motivation is our personal health and liberty, not our pocketbooks or the budgets of the organizations sucking up our tax dollars. There is so much real science on the safety and efficacy of cannabis from independent sources with no financial motivation which I will chose to believe over the tripe that passes as science from the sources you quote. Please tell us how many people have died from cannabis use versus the number who have died from alcohol, tobacco or prescription drugs. If you are truly interested from protecting us from societal ills, aren’t there better places to focus your time and resources?

      • The frequency of Pamela McColl’s defensive rants in this comment section clearly demonstrates they true nature of this Maclean’s editorial. I’d be willing to place a significant bet that the entire article was created with intent as a showcase for Pam’s insanity.

  5. The science shows without doubt that marijuana is a very dangerous drug.


    The folks are becoming aware to the truth of marijuana’s serious mental health consequences.

    Several study’s have shown increased rates of depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia among those who abuse marijuana on a regular basis.

    The science also proves that those who abuse marijuana can permanently lose IQ points due to structural changes to the brain. (that’s why marijuana is called dope, because it makes you dopey)

    No one should ever take anything a pot head says seriously……everything they say is a total lie.

    Ronald L. Kirkish

  6. I want to state that the Smart Approaches to Marijuana ( SAM) is a legitimate organization that is not ANTI legalization but rather providing education that mainly focuses on for children and youth to understand the risks of marijuana. I shall illustrate this true story.

    One afternoon, I accidentally drank two ounces of a chocolate smoothie with THC in it. ( THC , the main chemical that produces a “high” ) The bottle itself wasn’t clearly labelled with THC nor stated what amount it had THC in it. As result, I was dealt with four terrifying hours of full blown delirium, shaking, constantly seeing blinking lights, unable to communicate clearly and so on. I landed in the ER of course.

    I later learned that I am not the only one who went through this scary experience with edible marijuana. There were many reports of children and youth landing in ER’s in Colorado after marijuana became legal.

    The truth is that edible marijuana is far more potent than smoking marijuana and it is not that simple to measure it in the right amounts to prove as “safe”.

    So is marijuana itself SAFE ? SAM is an organization formed by Senator Patrick Kennedy partially because he was a former user of marijuana and it made his mental illness a lot harder to manage.

    The marijuana issue is becoming too complex and there are many groups that have a stake in it. I would be glad to write an another commentary about that one.

  7. Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada is a national organization that is made up of Canadian scientists and medical professionals. We also have legal and academics from the areas of drug prevention, law enforcement and psychology on our advisory council. We launched in March 2014 with the objective of bringing a more balanced and evidence based approach to the raging debate over the use of marijuana. We support the position of the 190 countries of the United Nations who have collectively agreed to restrict the use of illicit drugs as they have been shown by scientific study to be harmful to users and to society at large. Canada is currently caught up in a heated debate over the restriction of marijuana for sale, distribution and use. There is a very vocal and aggressive pot lobby who show a willingness to do whatever it takes, including attacking their opposition to get their way. Canadians deserve to know the facts and our aim is to challenge the propaganda spilling out of the international pot lobby who have their tentacles in Canadian politics. We stand for an open and honest debate
    over marijuana drug policy and we will not be intimidated.

  8. https://canlio.com/blog/who-are-pamela-mc

    Article from about a month ago that tries to figure out what makes McColl and her organization tick. Another should be coming out in the next few days looking at the unfortunate incident with Mernagh.

    For all she talks about the many wonderful, qualified people who are involved with SAMC, I’ve yet to see anyone other than her speak on behalf of the organization. I wonder how committed to the cause all these doctors and scientists really are. Surely if it were them appearing in the media, SAMC would appear to be a more credible organization than Ms McColl on her own.

  9. “Marijuana policy is powerfully polarizing, yet also less consequential than the pocketbook issues that are typically expected to drive votes. Its impact turns on Trudeau’s pro-legalization position”

    Colorado state alone collected $53,000,000 in taxes in the first year.
    Washington state collected over $70,000,000.
    This is not of any significant consequence? Not even worth a mention?

    This statement disregarding significant revenue and attempting to contain the legalization issue to Trudeau’s personal election strategy clearly shows the editorial bias of Macleans.

  10. I work at a rehab center and we have an ever increasing number of young pot users voluntarily coming for treatment because their lives have become a shambles. 19% of the general population is prone to addiction and about 10 % become addicts. There is a large segment of the population who will not try an illegal substance. Legalizing pot will therefore just increase the number who try it and become addicted.
    Medical use is fine with me, casual use is not.

  11. We desperately need a Government that will stand up against ISIS. I am so tired of Canada being politically correct. Yes we need to help actual refuges fleeing from Syria and Canada does. However, what about Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Dubai, Egypt etc etc etc. These countries must step up to the plate and have not. Why?? Canada also needs a government that can manage a budget and that is not NDP as Thomas Mulcair can’t seem to manage his own financial affairs. Lastly we can not vote for a party that will legalize marijuana for all of the obvious reasons. That just leaves the Conservatives. They are not perfect but they will get my vote.

Sign in to comment.