The Liberal federal government is facing pressure from an unlikely source to quickly legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana: the Conservative Party of Canada.
At a news conference on Monday, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said the growing number of illegal dispensaries is increasing the risk that children will get access to pot. As such, she said, the pressure is on the government to present and implement its plan to legalize marijuana.
"[Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] said he will legalize writ large, which will make pot much more available, but he will protect kids, he will keep it out of the hands of kids," Ms. Ambrose said. "I think he needs to move quickly on that, because we already know that this is happening across the country."
The previous Conservative government, including Ms. Ambrose in her role as the health minister, was a strong opponent of the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. Even in terms of medical marijuana, the Tories were openly skeptical of the drug's potential health benefits and enacted strict regulations that limited its access to the population.
However, Ms. Ambrose said the Liberal election victory on Oct. 19 was widely interpreted as the arrival of a new marijuana regime in Canada.
"When this new government was elected, there was a clear message sent that marijuana is legal, marijuana will be legal," she said. "The problem there is it sent a message to all of those who want to profit from this industry. We see the proliferation of pot dispensaries all across the country, and the concern there is that there is some evidence that some of them are selling to young people."
Ms. Ambrose added that her position on marijuana has not changed. "I've never been in favour of the legalization writ large, the way Mr. Trudeau envisions this industry moving forward, but it's incumbent on him to come forward with a plan to show how he will keep it out of the hands of kids," she said.
On July 31, 2015, when she was still the minister of health, Ms. Ambrose ordered a crackdown on groups that illegally advertise marijuana and restated the Conservative Party's pledge to keep storefront dispensaries illegal.
"Today, I directed Health Canada to create a task force to crack down on illegal marijuana advertising," she said in a statement just a few days before the election was called. "This task force will ensure that those who engage in such illegal activities are stopped, and should these illegal activities continue, promptly referred to law enforcement."