Pubdate: Thu, 27 Aug 2015
Source: NOW Magazine (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Matt Mernagh
Page: 14


When asked about doobies during his VanCity whistle stop, the NDP
leader didn't bring up legalization, but Toronto candidates assure
that it's party policy

Thomas Mulcair has promised to decriminalize the possession of small
amounts of marijuana "the minute we form government." He made the
announcement during a campaign stop in Vancouver on August 20.

But the NDP brain trust is not going to dirty its hands with the weedy
subject of outright marijuana legalization, which the Liberals have

During its time in opposition, near daily fundraising emails
highlighted the NDP's legislative efforts in Parliament, but none was
about pot reform, or even medpot!

And that's strange because several New Democrat MPs spoke
intelligently in the House of Commons about taxation and regulation
during a June debate on the Standing Committee on Health report
Marijuana's Health Risks And Harms.

The NDP members of the committee, including former deputy leader Libby
Davies, drafted a minority report. It recommends an independent
commission "to consult Canadians on all aspects of the non-medical use
of marijuana and to provide guidance to Parliament on the institution
of an appropriate regulatory regime to govern such use." There's even
a suggestion that some cities could have different regulatory
approaches than others.

When asked about doobies during his VanCity whistle stop, Mulcair
didn't bring up the NDP report, but Toronto candidates assure me it's
party policy. Mulcair would only promise to immediately decriminalize
pot for "personal use." Under the present Controlled Substances Act,
simple possession of marijuana is defined as 30 grams or less, so that
might be the cut-off point. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police (arguably closet Conservative supporters) passed a resolution
in 2013 in favour of issuing tickets for small amounts of weed, but
that would be left to an officer's discretion. Does it make sense to
call it decriminalization but still issue tickets? What is the
possessor being ticketed for?

During his West Coast swing, Mulcair also promised to hire 2,500 more
frontline police officers at a cost of $250 million.

Mulcair used Surrey, BC, the scene of drug-related gunfire on August
22, as a backdrop for his police funding announcement, but more cops
is not a new promise. Jack Layton campaigned on hiring more police,
also in Surrey, back in 2011.

The NDP's stated goal is reducing street violence and organized crime,
but experience shows that increased police enforcement tends to
exacerbate the violence associated with the drug trade, according to
the Toronto-based International Centre for Science in Drug Policy,
which recently issued a report debunking a number of marijuana myths.

The NDP's stand on marijuana is frustrating for long-time grassroots
activists, particularly in BC, where pot is not only a
multi-billion-dollar industry but also a significant vote getter. "I
don't like seeing that stuff," says Dana Larsen, a former NDP
candidate who was dumped by the party in 2008 after a video appeared
on YouTube of Larsen perhaps enjoying himself a little too much while
smoking weed. Back then, Larsen's former employer, Marc Emery (yes,
the Prince of Pot), accused the NDP of knuckling under to the
Conservatives' propaganda war on pot.

But Larsen remains optimistic. As head of End Prohibition, he has
strenuously lobbied the party to adopt drug policies based on science.
"If we pressure them, an NDP government will do what we want. They
will be progressive," he says.

Larsen points to the NDP's 40-year history fighting for marijuana
reform. MP Jim Fulton introduced a private member's bill advocating
legalization back in 1993 that seems rather appropriate today.

"They've said all the right things in the House of Commons," says

My rep, NDP MP Andrew Cash, has spoken out on the party's opposition
to mandatory minimum sentences. But while the party studies marijuana
regulation, its position risks putting more non-violent people in
prison for pot. The offences of trafficking, possession for the
purpose of trafficking, and production of marijuana plants currently
carry mandatory minimum sentences of six months to a year. Justices
are doling out mandatory six-month jail sentences for growing as few
as six plants on a balcony.

Certainly, six plants can't be considered organized

Canadians are ready for an NDP government to create an appropriate
regulatory approach to legalized marijuana. It'd be awesome to hear
Mulcair publicly say as much.

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Matt Mernagh is a long-time pot activist and unabashed NDP supporter.
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MAP posted-by: Matt