Andrew Coyne: All in all, the Liberals got it right on pot legalization

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Perhaps the federal Liberals were hoping to be congratulated for moving forward with legislation to permit the recreational use of marijuana in Canada. It was, after all, the fulfillment of a signature election promise, and these days that’s news.

If so, they were destined to be disappointed. Those opposed to legalization before were just as opposed to it after, while those in favour, which would include most of the press corps, found the Liberal approach, with its emphasis on how heavily regulated the legal marijuana market would continue to be, unspeakably square.

They were only doing it, some complained, because they had to — because they couldn’t afford to break yet another campaign promise — not because they actually believed in it. It was “the most grudging piece of legislation since the Paul Martin Liberals legalized same-sex marriage,” wrote one. Some saw the timing of the press conference, on the afternoon just before a long weekend, as betraying a certain lack of enthusiasm.

One had the distinct feeling that some of my colleagues would only have been satisfied had the assembled ministers put on a Bob Marley record, sparked up a nation-sized spliff, and confessed they were already “lit af” by virtue of a mid-morning bong session. If the Liberals really believed that marijuana was so dangerous, asked one, why on earth were they making it easier to obtain? Surely they had imposed so many restrictions that the bulk of the trade would continue to be in the black market.

Others complained that the rules on advertising were too restrictive, or that it was folly to try to regulate the growing of marijuana plants at home. As if that were not enough, there were all those “unanswered questions,” like how it would be taxed, or who would distribute it, and so on. Hadn’t they just punted all the hard questions to the provinces?

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