Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s federal New Democratic Party, spoke to Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery about his strong support for legal marijuana, in an October 26 interview on Pot-TV.
The New Democratic Party (NDP), is Canada’s fourth largest political party, and the only party with a formal policy to support legal marijuana.
The left-wing NDPcurrently have 14 seats in Canada’s federal Parliament. Although they have never formed Canada’s government or Official Opposition, they have often had a major influence on government policy, and have sometimes been called the “conscience” of Canadian politics.
In his 20-minute interview with Emery, Layton was very explicit in his support for ending the war on cannabis. At one point, Layton called marijuana a “wonderful substance.”
“Do you think anybody should go to jail for having anything to do with marijuana,” asked Emery, “whether it’s selling, buying, growing, or any of those things?” Layton responded, “No, I don’t.”
“There’s millions of Canadians who have tried or are using marijuana, either regularly or from time to time,” added Layton. “They don’t consider themselves criminals, and neither do their friends, neighbors or family members.”
Layton said that the NDP are “in favor of modernizing Canada’s marijuana laws, and creating a legal environment where people can enjoy their marijuana in the peace and quiet of their own home, or in a cafe, without having to worry about being criminalized.”
Layton couldn’t spell out the details of the NDP’s proposals to legalize marijuana in Canada. But he assured Pot-TV viewers that it would be a part of a comprehensive update to the NDP platform, which would appear on their website “in the next two or three months.”
Layton pointed out that, during the NDP’s last leadership convention, every leadership candidate had expressed support for liberalizing Canada’s cannabis laws. “This is pretty ingrained in our party,” said Layton.
Layton also criticized the Liberal government’s proposals to “decriminalize” cannabis possession without allowing people to grow or purchase the herb. Layton said that the NDP supported a system “that allows people to consume marijuana, particularly marijuana they might grow themselves, but also for there to be some sort of technique that allows them to purchase it safely, knowing what the quality is, knowing what’s there, and to have that all be a legal activity.”
When Emery pressed Layton for specifics, Layton said that his party was still “thinking through” the details, adding that “we’re certainly open to advice.”
During the interview, Layton also mentioned that, during his father’s army days, his dad’s best friend had been Gerald LeDain, who went on to be appointed by Pierre Trudeau to a Royal Commission study on marijuana in the early 1970’s. Layton pointed out that the LeDain Commission had recommended decriminalization of marijuana 30 years ago, but that there had been no action on the part of successive governments.
“There’s going to be a federal election in Canada next April or May,” Emery told Cannabis Culture, after the interview. “This election will be very pivotal for the cannabis community. My feeling is that the cannabis community should consider supporting the NDP with votes and money, and running as NDP candidates in the next federal election; but only if they show their steady support for our movement.”
Emery outlined what he saw as the necessary requirements for cannabis Canadians to support the NDPinstead of the Canadian Marijuana Party. “First, the NDP website must be updated to include very specific anti-prohibition statements regarding marijuana. Plus, Jack Layton needs to continue talking about this issue as often as possible, so that it becomes a top-five issue for the NDP. Finally, if we can get some past Marijuana Party candidates to become NDP candidates, then we can ensure that they do not abandon our message.”