PMO, Jason Kenney slam Justin Trudeau over his new pot policy

Justin Trudeau did an odd thing earlier this week while on tour in British Columbia.

Without being asked (he responded to a sign) he advanced his party's policy on marijuana saying that he would like to legalize it to keep it out of the hands of our kids.

In response, the pro-prohibition prime minister's office release this statement:

"These drugs are illegal because of the harmful effect they have on users and on society, including violent crime, our government has no interest in seeing any of these drugs legalized or made more easily available to youth."

Employment Minister Jason Kenney tweeted this:

Trudeau has indeed opened himself up for attacks like this; he becomes the first major party leader to support legalization.

Was it the wrong move?

The fact that Trudeau made this announcement in British Columbia — should help his numbers in B.C. — the pot capital of North America.

But it could also be viewed as strategic for what seems to be Trudeau's 'target market' for 2015: Canada's youth and, in particular, the 1.8 million young people who didn't bother to vote in 2011.

The polls indicate that the majority of Canadians — 54 per cent — now support legalization. That number increases dramatically for the 18 to 25 crowd.

[ Related: New poll finds majority of Canadians and Americans support marijuana legalization ]

Experts say the low youth voter turnout is a result of young people not being engaged by politicians.

Well — legalizing pot is an issue that engages them, and for a lot of them an issue that is important to them.

[ Related: Happy Cannabis Day: B.C. group ramps-up petition drive to decriminalize marijuana ]

During the 2012 presidential election in the United States, three states -- Colorado, Oregon and Washington — had a referendum on legalizing marijuana. According to Governing, that buoyed the youth vote.

"Exit polls suggest voters ages 18 to 29 accounted for a noticeably greater share of voters than four years ago in Colorado, Oregon and Washington – all of which voted on marijuana measures," notes the magazine.

"By contrast, this age group made up roughly the same percentage of the electorate nationally this year as it did in 2008."

Age 18-29 Vote201220082004
U.S. Total19%18%17%
Colorado20%14%15%
Oregon17%12%13%
Washington22%10%12%

The same thing could happen here in Canada with the majority of those new votes going to the Liberals. Couldn't it?

Abacus Data pollster David Coletto, throws cold water on that theory.

"I don't think it will drive voter turnout up alone because young Canadians are worried about more personal issues. If a politician can tap into the frustration that exists among many Millennials, they could be successful. Millennials have been told their entire lives that the world is their oyster - that there will be plenty of jobs for them and they will be able to do what they love. Well that promise is not turning into reality," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"If Trudeau explained how he was going to help young Canadians do those things he might see a swing in youth support to the Liberals, higher youth turnout, and maybe even a few of our parents' votes," he said.

"In a survey we did in October 2012, only 4 per cent of Millennials aged 18 to 30 we surveyed ranked decriminalization of marijuana as one of the most important issues facing youth today in Canada. Finding a job, student debt, and affordable housing were far more likely to be ranked as top issues."

Insights West pollster Mario Canseco, suggests that Trudeau's new policy could actually help the Conservatives.

"Federally, you may be handing the Tories a weapon, and boosting their credentials as the 'law and order' party with older voters," he told Yahoo!.

What do you think? Will the pot issue help or hurt Trudeau?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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