Federal Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau says criminalizing recreational smokers of marijuana hasn't worked, and he supports recent Liberal Party policy shifts to decriminalize the drug.

Trudeau talks drug law reforms to Pickering crowd

Federal Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau hopes to bring a fresh perspective to a whole new generation of voters.

On issues such as reforming Canada’s drug laws, the Liberal MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau, and son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, told a packed gathering at Pickering’s Waterfront Bistro that he’s in favour of decriminalization of marijuana because “criminalizing large numbers of Canadians who are using marijuana … hasn’t worked.”

Justin Trudeau speaks to a packed hall in Pickering. (Elita Tsilo/Toronto Observer)

Speaking to a mostly-young audience, Trudeau was asked if he was prepared to honour the Liberal party’s decision, taken at its most recent biennial convention, to decriminalize marijuana as part of a wider effort to bring in smarter drug policies.

Those in support of marijuana legalization “are worried that it’s going to be swept under the rug, because it won’t be seen as ‘electable’,” one young man said.

Trudeau said criminalizing Canadians who use marijuana hasn’t worked, but has only enabled more gangs. However, Trudeau also weighed his words carefully, saying the wider case for completely  legalizing marijuana should be approached carefully, as several factors had to be considered.

Questions remain about the health effects of smoking cannabis, Trudeau said. However, he also noted that studies have shown marijuana to be less harmful to health than legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.

Canada also needs to consider how legalization would impact Canada’s relationship with the United States

“I’m all about evidence and data and good policy, Trudeau said. “I’m all about listening to people, listening to grass roots. All of those push me in the direction of saying, ‘yeah, we should try and figure out how to legalize marijuana.

“But I want to know and make sure that it is the right thing to do, and the right way to do it.”