When did Trudeau say he supports existing dispensaries?

Despite some claims, Trudeau and the Liberals continue to repeat their promise of a strict regulatory regime for legal marijuana.

There continue to be some claims floating around that Trudeau has now gone back on a promise to support existing dispensaries. These claims all point back to a campaign stop he made in Winnipeg in July, 2015.

A few mainstream media sources, mostly supplied by the Canadian Press at the time, claimed or implied that Trudeau said he supported an existing dispensary that had just recently opened down the street from where he was speaking.

The Globe and Mail ran the headline: “Justin Trudeau backs controversial medical marijuana shop in Winnipeg.” From the article:

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is speaking out in support of a controversial medical marijuana store in Winnipeg.

During a stop in the city on Wednesday, Trudeau said marijuana storefronts like “Your Medical Cannabis Headquarters,” owned by Glenn Price, should be allowed to operate.

The article contains no quote from Trudeau to substantiate these claims of support for this existing, unlicensed dispensary. If Trudeau made a statement in support of the dispensary, it was not quoted by the media in this article.

A request for further information was sent to the Canadian Press. Their reply is that they don’t keep raw tape from that far back, and all they have is what is in the story. What is in the story, however, does not support the headline.

CTVNews also wrote: “Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says marijuana storefronts, like the one selling medical pot on Main Street in Winnipeg, should be allowed to operate.”

As with the Globe and Mail article, it offers no quotes from Trudeau to support this claim, and only references ‘properly licensed dispensaries’, not any existing unlicensed ones. He even then refers to being informed by other systems like the US, which the recent Task Force report reflected. From the same article:

"We have to create an entire system that controls and regulates marijuana that will include medical marijuana and properly licensed dispensaries.  How we go about doing that will be deeply informed by the lessons learned by the United States and other places, so we build the right model for Canada," said Trudeau.

This is a theoretical support for future, regulated retail points, commonly referred to as ‘dispensaries’. To imply that this means he supported any existing, unlicensed retail shops operating outside the legal bounds is not accurate. Recall the Liberals’ campaign promise on legalization included creating “new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who... sell it outside of the new regulatory framework.” Not ‘remove existing prohibition laws and make all existing dispensaries legal’.

Cannabis activist Steven Stairs even posted a video with the title "Justin Trudeau Tells Steven Stairs & Glenn Price He Supports Dispensaries". In the video, Price, the owner of the dispensary in question, and Stairs ask Trudeau, point blank, about dispensaries. Trudeau answers with the usual vague comments about strict regulations, and even tells both of them ‘it’s not legal yet’.

In Part:

Stairs: What about dispensaries, are you okay with dispensaries?

Price: Are you okay with dispensaries?

(Cross talk)

Trudeau: “Let me speak. Let me speak…. You want to talk about the Federal government attacking you? Let’s talk about the Federal government attacking me. No no. Shhh. Calm down. Please listen. Please listen?"

“I have committed to controlling, regulating marijuana through legalizing it. Dispensaries, medical marijuana, keeping it out of the hands of our kids, keeping it out of the hands of criminals and the black market.”

So Trudeau says the word ‘dispensaries’. He doesn’t say he supports this existing dispensary, or any unlicensed one. To further affirm that point, Trudeau ends their conversation by pointing out it’s not legal yet.

Price: “I hope the Liberals will start standing up with me when I get crucified the next time the police come and arrest us.”

Trudeau: “Well, you know, that…. It’s not legal…. Sorry… It’s not legal yet.” (At this point Trudeau holds Price’s hands and stares into his eyes deeply to seemingly emphasize this point).

So nowhere in any of these existing sources that are making these claims is there actual evidence of Trudeau saying he supports this specific dispensary, or any existing unlicensed ones. And even the dispensary owner in question, who asked him point blank if the Liberals will support his dispensary, is told “It’s not legal yet”.

If there is evidence of Trudeau saying he supports this specific dispensary, or any as yet unlicensed ones, it has yet to surface. The Liberals promised and are so far delivering on a careful, methodical, strict regulatory regime. Not a free-for-all, not a total legitimization of all existing illicit operators.

Featured image via Flickr

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  1. Maxcatski Reply

    Nice balance in your article, David. We all want dispensaries but they are not legal yet. Some municipalities tolerate them - and Montreal does not. We do not want a patchwork of regulations like in the US. The government has been consistent on their promise to legalize. We may be impatient but legalization will take time - and we are moving forward! Peace, Maxcatski

  2. Charlie Reply

    I thought that article said that there was a place in the regulations for Dispensaries. The public is overwhelmingly in favour of them. And it was a large reason as to why he got elected by us.

    1. Profile photo of David Brown

      David Brown Reply

      The Task Force report discusses, as does Trudeau, the need for regulated retail points of sale like dispensaries. The issue being explored here is claims of Trudeau making statements supporting existing unregulated ones and if this is then a promise he has gone back on.

  3. Paul Pot Reply

    Trudeau has no real understanding of why prohibition has to end.
    The only damage ever done was by the law.
    Continuing to enforce the law can only cause harm to the community.