April 20, 2016 - 11:00 AM
UNITED NATIONS, United Nations - Canada's legislation to begin the process of legalizing and regulating marijuana will be introduced next spring, Health Minister Jane Philpott announced Wednesday at the United Nations.
During her impassioned speech at a special UN session on drugs, Philpott acknowledged the pot plan "challenges the status quo in many countries," but she said the Liberal government is convinced it's the best way to protect youth, while enhancing public safety.
Canada must do better when it comes to drug policy, she added, saying the government's approach will be rooted in science and will address the devastating consequences of drugs and drug-related crimes.
"I am proud to stand up for our drug policy that is informed by solid scientific evidence and uses a lens of public health to maximize education and minimize harm," she said.
"As a doctor, who has worked both in Canada and sub-Saharan Africa, I have seen too many people suffer the devastating consequences of drugs, drug-related crime and ill-conceived drug policy. Fortunately, solutions are within our grasp."
Philpott began her speech with an emotional recounting of a story she recently heard from a mother who lost her daughter to substance abuse.
The woman described watching her daughter die as she sought help that should have been available to save her life, Philpott said.
"She described watching her daughter slip away as she struggled to access the treatment and services that should have been available to save a beautiful, fragile life," she said.
"Stories like this are far too commonplace. Countless lives are cut short due to overdoses of licit and illicit substances. Today, I stand before you as Canada's minister of health to acknowledge that we must do better for our citizens."
Philpott's address happened to coincide with 4-20, the annual day of celebration for cannabis culture lovers, which takes on greater significance in Canada this year, with the government planning to green-light recreational marijuana use.
The UN General Assembly is holding a special session on global drug policy. Officials from around the world have gathered for the meeting that has been billed as the first of its kind in nearly two decades.
Other countries and cultures will pursue different approaches, Philpott noted.
"I believe that if we respect one another's perspectives and seek common ground we can achieve our shared objective: protecting our citizens," she said. "Better yet, we can improve their lives."
In 1998, the assembly adopted an action plan that emphasized the need for law enforcement and a "drug-free world." Critics have argued the so-called war on drugs has been ineffective and has undermined public health efforts.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016