Where Canadian premiers stand on cannabis legalization

Looking at public comments of current Canadian premiers as it relates to cannabis and cannabis legalization.

Assuming the Liberal Party fulfills their promise to legalize cannabis, a national discussion on how to regulate the substance will be required. The outcome of such a conversation will probably include a combination of federal, provincial and territorial cannabis regulations that are similar to those already in place for alcohol and tobacco.

In establishing a collective plan that permits the sale of adult use cannabis in Canada, there will likely be some legislative overlap on issues such as driving, quality assurance, and advertising. However, regional governments will almost certainly be tasked with crafting their own provisions in relation to licensing, age requirements, and taxation (a separate federal tax will undoubtedly be levied as well).

As a national symposium on cannabis policy appears to be pending, the stances of Canada’s regional leaders could have a significant impact on the debate and eventual framework that is adopted. Along with other stakeholders, the premiers will need to assess how Canada can transition from prohibition to a viable legal industry that minimizes the harms and enhances the benefits associated with cannabis.

Below is a rundown of cannabis-related comments made by some of our current premiers. While the available sample is relatively small at the moment, we can expect an increase once the federal government officially starts the policy process. And let’s hope that happens soon, because the process will likely take a long time.  

Christy Clark (British Columbia)

  • In 2012, Premier Clark hinted that she had tried cannabis while in high school but was reluctant to discuss the drug, citing that she wants to be a good role model for her children.
  • When asked about cannabis policy in 2013, Premier Clark avoided the issue and instead stated that the BC government needs to focus on ways to grow the economy.
  • On October 20, 2015, a day after the federal election, Premier Clark indicated a willingness to work with the federal government on cannabis policy but was reserved in terms of providing an actual position on legalization.

Rachel Notley (Alberta)

  • On October 20, 2015, Premier Notley affirmed that she had not fully discussed cannabis policy with her caucus.
  • In stating that cannabis is not a top priority, Premier Notley noted that it is a federal matter that the Alberta government will address “if it becomes a pressing issue.”

Brad Wall (Saskatchewan)

  • In 2007, Premier Wall admitted to infrequent cannabis smoking during university but then said “it didn’t really do anything for me.”
  • In asserting that he did not support legalization, Premier Wall noted that he was “lucky” the drug had no effect on him, “because for some it does lead to other things.”

Greg Selinger (Manitoba)

  • Premier Selinger recently declared that in most circumstances cannabis should be sold in government liquor stores
  • Citing that some rural areas in the province only have private liquor stores, he said that those entities should be permitted to sell cannabis under the same authority as their government counterparts.
  • In either scenario, Premier Selinger advocates for “well-trained” staff who can “inform the public of any ... potential health (and) safety risks.”  

Kathleen Wynne (Ontario)

  • In 2013, Premier Wynne confessed to past cannabis use and favoured having a discussion about the pros and cons of cannabis legalization.
  • On October 20, 2015, she reiterated that the time has come for a national discussion on how to regulate cannabis.

Philippe Couillard (Quebec)

  • On October 20, 2015, Premier Couillard indicated a preference for discussing legalization rather than decriminalization.
  • Premier Couillard also specified the need to have strong cannabis regulation at the provincial level.

Stephen McNeil (Nova Scotia)

  • In 2013, Premier McNeil opined that cannabis should be decriminalized and that “it doesn’t make any sense that there are ... Canadians with criminal records for small portions of marijuana.”
  • Premier McNeil also said that although there are uncertainties in terms of how to legalize cannabis, he believes it will eventually be done.
  • Notwithstanding his public endorsement for cannabis law reform, Premier McNeil claimed that he never tried the drug.

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  1. Steve Reply

    So, why write this and claim to know what the Provincial Premiers feel and yet skip provinces?
    New Brunswick is one of the founding provinces of Canada. Several MP's are in the inside circle to Trudeau and yet ... It does not seem to count as a province to this writer's eye. Sheesh.

    1. Profile photo of David Brown

      David Brown Reply

      The Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant, has made no public statements about legalization.