Newsbrief: Canadian New Democratic Party Calls for Regulation of Marijuana 3/5/04

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Canada's current third national party, the New Democrats (, is now calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, although in its new issue statement on marijuana it dares not actually use the L-word. The party's repositioning was foreshadowed by NDP head Jack Layton, who in a November interview on Pot-TV ( called for legalization of the weed, and in party social critic Member of Parliament Libby Davies' critique last month of the ruling Liberals' marijuana decriminalization bill.

"Canada should move marijuana out of the criminal legal framework and eliminate punitive measures for responsible adult marijuana use," reads the party's new position on marijuana, announced Monday. "The NDP believes the federal government must move beyond decriminalization and examine and introduce a non-punitive, rule-based, approach to adult marijuana use with an emphasis on prevention, education and health promotion."

The position statement on marijuana also hints at a broader anti-prohibitionist approach to drug policy. "It is not necessary to use the criminal law to discourage harmful forms of drug use," the statement said. "In many cases it is counterproductive."

Marijuana regulation should be based on a strong system of rules about age, impaired driving, and "disruptive illegal industrial grow-ops," the statement elaborated, and should have a strong public health component. But Canadian marijuana policy should not follow the lead of or bow to pressure from the US, the statement said. If the US is to be an example, said the NDP, it is "an example of a country with a disastrously failed drug policy -- a failed policy because of its perennial reliance on prohibition."

The party has been attracting marijuana activists since Layton spoke out in November, telling Pot-TV viewers they should join the party to help create "a legal environment in which people can enjoy their marijuana in the peace and quiet of their own home or in a cafe." Activists from around Canada have formed an anti-prohibitionist wing ( within the party, whose social democratic and trade union bases are not necessarily as sympathetic to or interested in marijuana law reform as the leadership. And the British Columbia Marijuana Party (, headed by Vancouver pot seed entrepreneur Marc Emery, is urging its members to get involved with NDP's nomination process for federal elections to ensure that anti-prohibitionist candidates win nominations, Emery told DRCNet.

Currently, with only 14 Members of Parliament, the federal NDP is a distant fourth behind the ruling Liberals, who hold a commanding majority, the Conservatives, and the Quebec-based Bloc Quebecois. But most political observers expect Prime Minister Paul Martin to call parliamentary elections within the next two or three months, and the Liberals have been sinking in the polls because of corruption scandals. While the Conservatives have been the primary beneficiary of the Liberals' woes, the NDP has also seen its numbers rise. Some enthusiasts dare to envision a federal election result where the Liberals lose an outright majority and are forced to seek the NDP's support to form a government. Could Canada have a government one of whose member parties supports legalizing pot? Stay tuned.

To read the NDP position statement on marijuana online, visit:

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