EDMONTON – Thousands of people converged on the Alberta Legislature grounds Wednesday as they do every year on April 20, but this year, the massive pro-cannabis rally came on the same day the Liberal government laid out a framework for when it hopes to introduce legislation to legalize recreational marijuana use.
The Liberal government’s announcement appears to have been timed to occur on April 20, otherwise known as “420” by pro-pot activists who organize events around the world to promote the legalization of marijuana, to protest the arrests of marijuana users and to provide information about cannabis.
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While at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly, Health Minister Jane Philpott said her government plans to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana in the spring of 2017.
“I think this is one of the most enthusiastic 420s I’ve ever been at,” Aaron Bott, a rally attendee, said. There’s been a lot of activists that have stepped up in the Edmonton area, brought forth this 420 to the people to educate.”
“Lots of things are happening in the cannabis industry with Justin saying legalization.”
Bott also referenced other recent legal gains for cannabis users as additional cause for excitement at this year’s 420 rally. In February, a Federal Court judge struck down government regulations that limited the rights of medical marijuana users to grow their own cannabis in a case known as Allard vs. Canada.
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“They (federal government) have until 2017 to do it- that’s only one year away,” Bott said. “A lot of these people here are really excited about legalization.”
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Donna Mackenzie, another pro-pot activist at the rally, said she used marijuana as medicine when she had cancer and that while she is glad to hear the federal government’s plans, she had hoped the move would come sooner.
“A year is too long,” she said. “There’s people dying every day and everyday that it’s not legal and accessible for everyone all the time.”
Melissa Finlay said she and other pro-cannabis advocates are hopeful after hearing about Philpott’s announcement, but she would like to learn more about what the government has in store.
“Is it going to be over-regulated and are we going to be infringing on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the government has in the past with the medical regulatory systems?” she asked. “I’m really interested to see how Trudeau proposes that but currently he’s continuing arrests and prosecution for cannabis.”
“If you’re going to promise legalization than you need to at least decriminalize in the meantime until you implement your regulations,” Finlay added.
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Sietse Sowan suggested he was confident the federal government will come through with legalization because of the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Mr. Trudeau has kept a lot of promises so far of things he said he was going to do,” he said. “If that pattern repeats, then it will be legalized.”