Print Edition: January 25, 2012
“This is a great day. What started as an idea from a young Liberal in British Columbia has become a new policy of the Liberal Party of Canada. It shows you that one voice can make a difference,” pronounced Sangeeta Lalli, as a resolution to legalize marijuana was passed by the federal Liberal party earlier this month.
Lalli, a former Liberal candidate and BC co-chair at the recently concluded Liberal Biennial Convention, from January 13 to 15, where this motion passed, has a good deal of credit coming her way. She is the one responsible for assembling the votes from BC delegates which allowed for the motion to pass with a 77 per cent “yes” vote.
But with the only remaining major party to not support either legalization or decriminalization sitting in power, the Conservatives may be moving in the opposite way of the Liberals. As the omnibus crime bill is working its way through the House of Commons, stiffer sentences are on their way in the form of mandatory minimum and longer maximum sentences.
However, Jodie Emery from the Cannabis Culture magazine believes that “most Canadians agree that marijuana shouldn’t be illegal and this is an important issue because of the costs involved. And with the economy becoming the number one issue on people’s minds, it makes sense that we discuss how we can save money by ending prohibition and create revenue by having a legal market that reduces harm and promotes safe use.”
Emery may be onto something as a recent poll by Forum Research Inc. found that 66 per cent of Canadians favour reform in the law, by way of legalization or decriminalization, instead of punishment. In fact, the number of Canadians who would prefer to keep the status quo is at 20 per cent. Further, another poll, one conducted by Angus-Reid in 2008, had found that over the past 30 years in Canada, support for legalization had increased by more than two-fold.
When the next election does occur in 2015, however, this support may or may not find its way into the Liberals platform. Since the resolution is non-binding, it leaves the issue on the table for the Liberals to take up or leave. Legalization is now their stance, but they are also free to choose to act. Of course, the majority of Canadians are on their side with this. Emery noted, “The Liberal party is adopting an idea that isn’t a bad idea at all. And in fact is becoming more popular among presidents and leaders of countries around the world, including all levels of government.”
Bob Rae, interim Liberal leader, when speaking about the overwhelming support from within his party on legalization stated, “What exists in Canada today is not working and that we clearly need to move in a more positive direction.’’
It was the youth wing of the party – the Young Liberals of Canada, though, that had put forth the proposal itself at the convention. Among over 100 other policies that were up for voting, it proved to be the fourth most popular in terms of number of votes cast in approval.
It’s proposal number 117 and is titled “Legalize and Regulate Marijuana.” Among increased education on marijuana and a framework for working with provincial jurisdictions, it states that a new Liberal government will “legalize marijuana and ensure the regulation and taxation of its production, distribution, and use, while enacting strict penalties for illegal trafficking, illegal importation and exportation, and impaired driving;” and “that a new Liberal government will extend amnesty to all Canadians previously convicted of simple and minimal marijuana possession, and ensure the elimination of all criminal records related thereto.”