On February 19, the Provincial Council of the BC NDP passed a resolution calling for legalization of marijuana. This means that the BC NDP now formally supports a legalized marijuana regime, including regulated access to marijuana, no penalties for personal cultivation and use, and amnesty for all past convictions for marijuana possession.
As the founder of eNDProhibition, the unofficial anti-prohibition wing of Canada’s NDP, I was the primary backer of this resolution. 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.
The Council also passed another resolution calling for harm reduction, expansion of the safe injection site program, and the creation of “safe inhalation” sites for users of smokable cocaine and heroin.
This makes the BC NDP Canada’s first provincial party to officially adopt a policy of marijuana legalization while holding opposition status. (The BC NDP also has a very good chance of forming government after the next provincial election scheduled for 2009.)
How it Happened
For months before the 2005 BC NDP Convention, I had worked with others to promote the marijuana policy resolution, and got it passed by four Constituency Associations, more than any other resolution. During the Convention, the resolution received further backing from eight delegations, to move it further up the agenda to give it higher priority.
Nevertheless, the marijuana resolution was only put in the number five spot on the agenda, and the result was that the resolution was not debated at the convention.
Under the rules of the BC NDP, all resolutions brought forward to the convention which did not get debated during the convention must be dealt with by Provincial Council within 120 days. The meeting this weekend was the only opportunity for the Council to deal with the many undebated resolutions.
The Council went through most of the resolutions in clumps, with virtually all resolutions being dealt with as had been recommended by the policy committee. Some were recommended to be passed, some were recommended to be rejected, and some were recommended to be sent to the policy committee for further work. There was a little debate here and there, but very little overall, with most people just wanting to work through them all as quickly as painlessly as possible.
The marijuana resolution was recommended to be sent back to the policy committee, which is where it would have gone to die.
I was not an official Council member or delegate, but I had a couple of friends at the meeting, including a Young New Democrat who has been very helpful and supportive. He rose to introduce a motion to separate out the marijuana resolution from its cluster so it could be debated and voted on separately.
There was some debate, including the question of whether this is only a “federal” issue. However, no-one stood up to oppose the principle of the resolution. When it came to a vote we had about 85% support.
The marijuana resolution was the only one that was recommended to be sent back to the policy committee, but was instead passed after debate.
This is the actual text of the marijuana policy resolution that was passed:
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 official policy of the BC NDP is now that “a non-punitive, regulatory approach” is the right one for cannabis, and that the party will have to develop a provincial policy explaining how the province would help to create and regulate a legal supply of cannabis, plus lobby the federal government to eliminate all penalties for personal cultivation and possession, and create a legal amnesty for past cannabis possession convictions.
The next steps will be to entrench and expand this policy within the BC NDP, and also to encourage other provincial NDP parties to adopt the same policies.
eNDProhibition will now be working on promoting resolutions in related policy areas, so that we can now say “since the BC NDP supports legal pot, we should also support…” a) dumping the DARE program, b) redirecting police resources, c) expanding med-pot access, d) licensing pot cafes, and so on.
The other step is to go to the NDP in other provinces, and get them to show solidarity with the federal NDP on this issue, like the BC NDP and the Ontario NDP have done. We will be going into Saskatchewan and Manitoba and pressuring the NDPers there to formally adopt these same kind of non-punitive cannabis and drug policies.
You can find out more about eNDProhibition on our website: www.eNDProhibition.ca
You can discuss the resolution and eNDProhibition’s upcoming activities here: