Rae's legalization digression: a clip some might find worth saving

I’m going to venture a wild guess that certain Conservative party operatives might be taking a close look at the video of Bob Rae’s final speech at the Liberal party convention today, particularly the part where he cracks a joke by way of introducing the touchy subject of legalizing marijuana.

“If you want to be part of a group of free-thinking, innovative, thoughtful, pragmatic, hopeful, positive, happy people, come and join the Liberal party,” Rae said, then couldn’t help adding, with a grin, “And after the resolution on marijuana today, it’s going to be a group of even happier people in the Liberal party.”

Good one, Bob. The line went over well in the room, and it wasn’t the first weed joke crack after the Liberals voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion that read, in part: “BE IT RESOLVED that a new Liberal government will legalize marijuana and ensure the regulation and taxation of its production, distribution, and use, while enacting strict penalties for illegal trafficking, illegal importation and exportation, and impaired driving.”

In his speech, Rae framed this is a no-brainer. “Do you really think it makes sense to be sending another generation of young people into prison when you realize that the most addictive substances that are facing Canada today are alcohol and cigarettes? Let’s face up to it Canada—the war on drugs has been a complete bust.”

That’s a sensible starting point for a policy discussion, but only a starting point. Would marijuana be sold like prescription drugs? Or like cigarettes? Or more like liquor, maybe in provincial monopoly stores? Or like herbal tea? This is a case where clearing the first hurdle—deciding in principle that legalization is the way to go—hardly matters unless you’re able to jump all the policy and regulatory hurdles that must follow.

And then there’s the matter of Rae’s seemingly harmless joke about Liberals getting happier. Let’s say they were up against a stern, family-values, law-and-order party in the next election. Might such a party not incorporate a smirky one-liner like Rae’s into an attack ad? Who’s taking this issue seriously, mom and dad Canada? It hardly mattered that Rae played it straighter at his news conference later, remarking that before the Liberals put legalizing and regulating marijuana into an election platform they will have to consider “some practical questions.”

I should think so. In fact, Rae might have been better advised to consider those questions before digressing from his prepared text to have some fun celebrating and highlighting the legalization resolution from the podium.

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