The New Democratic Party of British Columbia has officially endorsed the legalization of marijuana. The BC New Democrats are the leading opposition party in the province, holding 33 of the 79 seats in the provincial legislative assembly. The governing party, the BC Liberals, hold the remaining 46 seats.
The endorsement came Sunday, when the BC NDP's provincial council passed a resolution pushed by Dana Larsen, a former editor of Cannabis Culture magazine in Vancouver who now heads the NDP's anti-prohibitionist wing. Larsen is calling on NDP activists in other provinces to use the BC resolution as a model to win similar support from other provincial NDP parties. While the national NDP under Jack Layton has adopted a progressive drug policy platform, the independent provincial parties have not been as forward-looking.
Once Larsen was able to navigate the provincial party process and actually get the resolution discussed, passage came easily, he reported. "It wasn't easy getting this debated and voted on at the council meeting, but once we got it to a vote it passed with about 85-90% support," he wrote.
The BC NDP council also passed a resolution calling for harm reduction, the expansion of the Vancouver safe injection site program, and the creation of "safe inhalation" sites for crack and heroin smokers. This puts the provincial party squarely at odds with the national Conservative government of Prime Minister Steven Harper, who has said he does not think federal funds should be spent for such programs.
The resolution on marijuana reads as follows: "Be it resolved that the BC NDP formally establish an explicit cannabis policy based upon a non-punitive, regulatory approach, including support for a legal supply of cannabis, elimination of all penalties for personal cultivation and possession, and amnesty for past cannabis possession convictions."
This means that the BC NDP must now develop a provincial policy statement explaining how a legal supply of cannabis in the province could be created and regulated. It also commits the BC NDP to lobbying the federal government to eliminate all penalties for personal cultivation and consumption and to enact an amnesty for past marijuana possession convictions.
The move only further cements British Columbia's reputation as a pot-friendly province and Vancouver as a mecca for marijuana pilgrims. The province is already Canada's largest marijuana producer, with an annual crop estimated at somewhere around $5 billion.