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Where's the weed? Why marijuana wasn't in the Liberal budget

Smoking marijuana on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on April 20, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Marijuana advocates expecting some mention about legalized pot in Tuesday’s federal budget were left high and dry.

Despite being a cornerstone of the Liberal election campaign, there has scarcely been a mention about legalizing weed from the party since it took power five months ago.

And it wasn’t in Tuesday’s budget, despite the popular position that legalization could be a cash cow used to offset the government’s $30-billion deficit.

In fact, the drug isn’t factored into any Liberal projections and the word marijuana did not appear once in the entire budget document.

So what gives?

Well, it turns out legalization might not be as easy as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thought when candidate Trudeau first floated the idea during a visit to Kelowna, B.C., back in 2013.

First and foremost, the concept affects three major international treaties that Canada is a part of: The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

All three treaties require the criminalization of possession and production of cannabis, and Canada would need to show that legalizing marijuana actually helps reduce illicit drug use.

And at the same time, a Liberal plan on policing, selling and distributing weed isn’t quite fully-baked.

Under the leadership of former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, a federal-provincial task force is still consulting experts and creating a legalization plan. There is no timeline in place for when the proposal will be delivered.

Part of the problem is that the feds will have to work closely with each province on sales and distribution methods. While some provinces like Ontario have advocated selling weed through government-run LCBO stores, such a plan wouldn’t work in Alberta and Quebec where the sale of alcohol are very different. And there are no indications how local dispensaries and medicinal grow-ops would be impacted.

And finally, there’s politics involved – it is possible that the Liberals would prefer to hold off on pushing legalization through until they need a perk to give to the public, likely towards the end of their first mandate.

Until then, maybe hold off on buying that bulk order of Doritos.