Trudeau’s Team Touts Benefits of Legal Pot Over ‘Failed System’

(Bloomberg) -- Legalizing marijuana will do a better job of curbing youth consumption than awkward television ads about the dangers of smoking up, according to Justin Trudeau’s pot czar.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair gave a law-and-order message about Canada’s newly legal market Wednesday, saying it allows police departments to focus on gangs that sell the drug to teens illegally. Past governments oversaw a “failed system” that didn’t engage youth, the former Toronto police chief said, referencing past U.S. commercials preaching fear and abstinence.

Trudeau’s Team Touts Benefits of Legal Pot Over ‘Failed System’

“The ‘Just Say No’ and your brain in a frying pan -- eggs in a frying pan -- wasn’t getting the message across,” Blair told reporters in Ottawa. “We have created an opportunity to have far more effective conversations with our kids.”

Canada has the second-highest youth consumption rate among 40 countries tracked by the World Health Organization, a trend the prime minister cited as his motive for the policy change. In a tweet Wednesday, Trudeau hailed legalization as a “promise kept” that will help protect young Canadians.

Still, the Liberal government’s move makes Canada the first Group of Seven nation to legalize recreational use of cannabis. The change has drawn criticism from the Conservative Party and the medical community, who warn the age limit of 18 is too low and sends a message that drug use is more acceptable.

Trudeau’s Team Touts Benefits of Legal Pot Over ‘Failed System’

Speaking alongside the ministers of health, public safety and justice, Blair said police who in the past were supposed to make criminal arrests for simple possession now have more options like fines and tickets, or simply taking teenagers caught smoking up home to their parents. Legal producers are better for everyone, he said, and “we begin the job today of displacing” the illegal ones.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, the justice minister, nonetheless urged citizens to obey the new rules around impaired driving. “There is no question that the world is watching Canada,” she said. “Under the previous approach it was easier for a teenager to gain access to a joint than a bottle of beer.”

The government also announced that Canadians will soon be allowed to apply for a pardon of past minor marijuana offenses.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.