Drugs

Justin Trudeau Criticized for his Response to a Black Man Facing Pot Possession Charges

“It just makes me feel like the legal system is more corrupt,” Malik Scott says.

by Manisha Krishnan
Apr 25 2017, 7:37pm

Justin Trudeau talks to Malik Scott after VICE Talks Weed. Photo by Anthony Tuccitto

While tens of thousands of Canadians are arrested on pot charges every year, few of them have the opportunity to directly address the prime minister.

But at an exclusive VICE event Monday night, Malik Scott, a 22-year-old black man who has been charged with pot possession, asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed questions that illustrate the unfairness of prohibition.

"If convicted, I'm really afraid I won't be able to travel to my other country to see my family," said Scott. "In addition to that, how am I going to become the next prime minister, if I can't get a decent job because of these charges?" He continued, "What would you say to someone in my position?"

In response, Trudeau offered up an anecdote about his brother Michel, who died in an avalanche accident in 1998.

Six months before his death, Trudeau said Michel was driving across the country from the west coast and got into a "terrible, terrible car accident."

When police were helping him, they found his Sucrets box with a couple of joints inside, Trudeau said, and charged him with possession.

"When he got home to Montreal, my dad said 'OK. Don't worry about it.' Reached out to his friends in the legal community, got the best possible lawyer, and was very confident that we were going to be able to make those charges go away. We were able to do that because we had resources, my dad had a couple connections, and we were confident that my little brother wasn't going to be saddled with a criminal record for life," he said.

Trudeau then acknowledged the obvious—that people of colour or those who don't have the money and power his brother did, including a father who was prime minister, aren't going to be able to do the same thing. People like Scott.

"That's one of the fundamental unfairnesses of this current system."

Scott answered by asking Trudeau "after you change that law, what happens to the people that were previously affected by it?"

"We will start a process where we try and look at how to make things fairer for those folks, and for you," Trudeau said.

However, when pressed by VICE, he said he would not commit to a moratorium on pot possession charges until the legal system comes into play, nor will he decriminalize possession, because he believes that will benefit allow criminal organizations.

VICE circled back with Scott today to ask how he felt about Trudeau's responses.

"As much as I'm sorry to hear about your brother, telling me you guys got off charges 'cause you have connections doesn't really help someone in my position," he said. "It just makes me feel like the legal system is more corrupt."

However, Scott said he respected that the prime minister owned his privilege.

"We get another person's perspective who is in the position of power and what they can do to get around the law," he said.

Asked what he wants from the government, he said he doesn't believe there's much that can be done for the people who've been harmed by prohibition.

"I consider time and freedom the most valuable thing in anybody's life. When they put people in jail, they're robbing them of their time and their freedom," he said. "I personally think they should somehow be reimbursed for that, but it's not realistic."

He said he hopes his charges will be dropped, along with the offences of those in similar situations.

But Scott also had another piece of advice for Trudeau, who was up front about being the "boringest partier" when it comes to weed and other drugs.

"I think he needs some marijuana knowledge," said Scott. "If he knew more about it about..maybe he would come up with more solutions."

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