Mulcair, Marijuana and the NDP

End Prohibition: NDP Against the Drug War

Hello my friends,

Here are some thoughts about the drug policy reform movement, the New Democratic Party, and Thomas Mulcair.

First off, I backed Peggy Nash’s leadership bid, and worked hard to elect her, along with End Prohibition Directors Nicole Seguin and Jacob Hunter – they set up her BC phone bank and database. During the campaign we made a lot of new friends and allies, we gained the gratitude and respect of an MP who could very well be Canada’s next Finance Minister, and we helped ensure that cannabis and drug policy issues had some solid voices of support among the leadership candidates.

Nash wasn’t the only one who said the right kind of stuff on pot and drug policy issues. All of the leadership candidates (except for Martin Singh) answered our End Prohibition questionnaire and said they supported harm reduction, they supported InSite, they opposed mandatory minimums, they called the drug war a failure, and they supported the idea that pot is best dealt with in some sort of non-criminal fashion. Mulcair said he supported NDP policy of decriminalizing possession for all purposes.

You can see the End Prohibition questionnaire and all the Leadership Candidates replies here: http://www.endprohibition.ca/2012leadershipsurveyresponses

Dana with Peggy Nash.

However, as most people are well aware, Mulcair gave a somewhat different answer when asked about marijuana decriminalization on Global News’ WestBlock. He said that he would like to have a commission like LeDain from 1971, to decide the best marijuana policy, and that to say in advance that we should decriminalize would be “a serious mistake.”

You can see the part of the WestBlock interview where Mulcair was asked about decriminalization here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggT1gFXu_Ng

I spent much of the convention talking about cannabis and drug policy with fellow NDP members. Mulcair’s WestBlock interview and his comments about decrim were brought up repeatedly in conversation. Several people who were Mulcair organizers and volunteers told me they didn’t like his answer to the “decrim” question posed. They said they would work on him, and that they felt he could do better in articulating our party policy on cannabis.

But let’s not overreact to a single interview by a leadership candidate. Yes Mulcair said he thought marijuana was more potent and harmful now, but he didn’t call for longer sentences, he didn’t say prohibition was wonderful. Yes sadly he repeated a silly pot myth, and he said that as PM he wouldn’t decriminalize marijuana without first having a commission or study to determine the best national drug policy. He could have done a lot better, but he could have been a lot worse.

Let’s not take that one interview in isolation. In repeated interviews over the past few years, Mulcair has repeatedly stated his opposition to the omnibus crime bill, his rejection of the Harper prison building spree, his disagreement with the Conservative view of prisons as the first resort instead of the last.

Mulcair has actively lobbied and worked to promote a supervised injection site in Montreal, he supports “harm reduction” and said he proudly voted for the InSite resolution we passed at the 2011 convention, which included support for a “non-criminal” approach to ALL drug use.

Because of the WestBlock interview, some people have recently been calling Mulcair a “prohibitionist” and saying that he’s as bad as Harper. That is not a fair or useful comparison in my opinion.

Some have pointed out that the Liberals now have an explicit policy on “legalization” of marijuana. That’s wonderful! But it’s not a reason for the cannabis reform movement to leave the NDP.

Let’s remember that the NDP has passed a variety of resolutions confirming their progressive policies on cannabis and drug issues over the past 13 years.

End Prohibition: NDP Against the Drug War

* In 1999 the NDP passed a resolution calling for marijuana decriminalization.

* In 2001 the NDP passed a national resolution backing the “harm reduction model for drug addiction and abuse” and calling for all drug policy to be moved out of the federal Justice Ministry and into the Ministry of Health.

* In 2001 the NDP also passed a resolution calling for the government to fix the medical marijuana program, and “make marijuana more easily available upon a doctor’s prescription.”

* In 2006, the NDP passed a resolution supporting the expansion of InSite and calling for all drug use to be treated as a health issue and not a criminal one.

* Over the past decade, provincial NDP conventions have also passed policy resolutions calling for things like marijuana legalization, expansion of InSite, support for harm reduction, and backing the decriminalization approach to drug use, in every province from BC to Ontario, plus the Yukon.

* Most recently at the Vancouver Convention in 2011, the NDP overwhelmingly backed a policy resolution supporting InSite and also calling for “a broad federal review of the impacts and harms caused by current drug prohibition policies, to select the best model for the government to implement a non-criminal, regulatory approach to substance use, based on reducing risk and harm, emphasizing prevention, public education, health promotion and safety.”

So in a way, in calling for the pot policy commission, Mulcair was articulating the party policy of a “broad federal review” of prohibition. I wish he had phrased it better, and I also wish he had mentioned the very real harms of cannabis prohibition in terms of tax dollars spent, justice system clogged, gang violence increased and criminalization of otherwise law-abiding youth.

Yet despite all of this, it should be clear that electing Mulcair as our next Prime Minister at the head of Canada’s first NDP government would give us the best chance to change and improve Canada’s pot and drug laws that we have ever had.

The Liberal’s new policy on legalization bodes well because it means we are developing a political consensus in Canada that we need to change the drug laws. In the past year both NDP and Liberals have passed significant anti-prohibition policies at convention. This means that an NDP government could move to change the pot laws without criticism from the Liberals.

I’m happy that the Young Liberals sent out a press release attacking Mulcair for being too strict on pot. What a change from Liberal governments of the past who passed stricter laws and refused to accept NDP amendments to their prohibitionist legislation!

(NDP MP Jim Fulton introduced a private members bill to legalize pot in 1993, but the Liberal government killed it. Then the NDP tried to get a few plants and a small amount of bud legalized under the Liberal’s new drug law in 1996, but the Liberal government rejected the proposal.)

It is way too soon to see how all of this will play out. We definitely need to keep the pressure on Mulcair, to educate and also empower him to give better answers on pot and drug policy.

Often it is in the phrasing of the message. Jack Layton used to say it was time for Canada to have an “adult conversation” about marijuana. Isn’t a national commission on marijuana essentially an adult conversation? (If Mulcair had said he wanted to have a national commission to best figure out how to decriminalize or legalize cannabis, without the comments on pot somehow being more dangerous now, that would have been a much better answer.)

I was heartened that Mulcair said in his first post-victory interview that Libby Davies will remain on as deputy leader. I hope he sticks to that. If he is smart, he will remember that he won only a narrow margin of victory, and that it took 4 ballots. For most NDPers he wasn’t their first or second choice. To succeed, he will have to bring together the factions of the party and be a uniting leader. I think he is well aware of this and will avoid divisive change.

Dana with Thomas Mulcair: Blurry victory party!

For me, my mission and political work in regards to End Prohibition and the NDP remains the same. End Prohibition will have a presence at several provincial NDP Conventions this year, working to pass resolutions, build alliances and make friends. The federal NDP will have another convention next year, and we will be out in full force, promoting better pot/drug policies and keeping the pressure on Mulcair and the federal cabinet.

Canada’s next election is 3 long years away. A lot can happen between now and then, but we cannot allow Harper to win the next election.

The NDP is in a strong second place, we have capacity for growth all across Canada, and there is every possibility that Mulcair will be our next Prime Minister, leading a cabinet more friendly to marijuana and drug policy reform than any our country has ever known.

Thomas Mulcair as Prime Minister, Libby Davies as Health Minister, Peggy Nash as Finance Minister, Nathan Cullen as Environment Minister, Jack Harris as Justice Minister… That is a government we could work with!

An NDP government is, I think, a very worthy goal for us to achieve. I for one will be working my butt off over the next three years to do two things: 1) elect Thomas Mulcair as Prime Minister of Canada’s first NDP government in 2015, and 2) ensure that Mulcair and the NDP are ready and empowered to change Canada’s cannabis and drug laws when they take power.

I hope that other drug policy reform activists across Canada share this vision, and will work to defeat Harper’s Conservatives by electing more New Democrats in 2015, so that we can have our nation’s first NDP government. That is the only path I can see that leads to ending Canada’s war on cannabis.

Thank you. For more about “End Prohibition: New Democrats Against the Drug War” check out http://www.EndProhibition.ca

Dana Larsen
Dana Larsen

Dana Larsen is the author of "Green Buds and Hash" and "Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone" and a well-known Vancouver cannabis activist, businessman and politician. He served ten years as editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, is the co-founder of the Vancouver Seed Bank, founder of the Vancouver Dispensary Society, and Vice President of the Canadian Association of Cannabis Dispensaries. Larsen was a founding member of the BC Marijuana Party and the Canadian Marijuana Party. In 2003 he joined the NDP, running as an NDP candidate in 2008. In 2011, he ran for the Leadership of the BC NDP. Larsen is also founder and director of Sensible BC, Canada’s largest grassroots cannabis reform organization.

Comments

32 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    Hi, I’m commenting almost a year to late but just found the article… Great writing.
    I especially noted “Prohibition will have a presence at several provincial NDP Conventions this year, working to pass resolutions, build alliances and make friends.”

    I think this kind of lobbying is especially important. I’m wriging an article regarding this here: http://socialpronow.com/blog/how-to-make-new-friends/

    It focuses on how important making friends is for lobbying purposes. Maybe that’s can be of value.

    Regards //Dave

  2. Anonymous on

    Those were different liberals and different times. The fact of the present situation is that the current NDP leader is interested in revisiting those times, and liberals are interested in legalizing.

  3. Anonymous on

    You’re dreaming in technicolor. Some of what you say is born in reality, particularly the past. That’s also where it is best left since it no longer represents current times.

    If NDP ever got power there is everything to believe they would be as corporate as all the other governming powers. Every indicator is already there, including mulcair speeding away from legalizing marijuana at lightspeed.

    The current situation is that liberals want to legalize and mulcair is siding with harper. As such, NDP may as well merg with conservatives, which will have the very same effect as if they don’t merge with liberals, and it’s called the status quo.

  4. Caber1 on

    What a snooze fest. The NDP are just a mamby pamby party hoping to make it to the public money/power trough so that they can help themselves.
    Same old tired policies, promises and pandering which will result in them always being a second class party.
    When will we finally get a real firebrand party/leader with new ideas, directions and a willingness to tell the ruling elite to go stuff it.
    By the time it happens I’ll be long dead and gone which considering how much hate and oppression is perpetuated by those in power it can not come soon enough.

  5. Brian Kerr on

    I think you are correct about this loosing the NDP votes and support.

    I think this issue lost the liberals the last election, since their last leader was a stupid prohibitionist and every thing he said abut cannabis was an insult to intelligence. That is why they are for legalization now, they now know they goofed. Too late liberals.

    I will not vote for the NDP unless the leader comes out for legalization and regulation of cannabis regardless of international treaties. He better say this loud and often. Or Screw the NDP.

  6. Brian Kerr on

    Not the liberals. Remember Mr. “Fuddle Duddle” promised to legalize weed in the 1970’s and nothing happened. Liberals last time could not even get a very weak decrim bill passed and had to go running to the USA to ask permission.
    SCREW THE LIBERALS !

  7. Anonymous on

    i myself will continue to support the ndp as the leader doesn’t solely govern party policy.

    i myself am EXTREMELY suspicious of the liberals suddenly championing legalization considering that they did nothing to accomplish that during their 13 years in power.

  8. Anonymous on

    Bye Bye NDP.
    Two steps back?
    Pretty hard to support the party that changes it’s sound policies on the will of an ignorant leader.

  9. Bud Grinder on

    Resolutions – shemesolutions… Doesn’t mean shit. The only meaningful thing is to introduce and pass legislation. Where the rubber meets the road, Mulcair has announced that he is NOT on-side with us. That’s all I need to hear to eliminate him from consideration for my support.

    Wake up and smell the coffee, Dana. You’re being “played” by politicians much more sophisticated and experienced than you at how this game is played. You’re being used and exploited by venal, self-serving POLITICIANS who are out to better their own positions, not yours or ours.

    The big lies is that you have to change the system from within. That doesn’t work and probably never will. What works is RESISTANCE. I’ll leave it to the readers to figure out what this means and to decide for themselves how much of this they’re going to take before getting “mad as Hell.”

  10. worldsofdarkblue on

    None of this matters. The United States will not allow the legalization – or even the decriminalization – of cannabis in Canada. Jean Chretien found that out right quick. We may be a sovereign nation, but the economic hardship inflictible upon us by the bully of the world is just too much for the average citizen to accept, and in the end NO politician or Party will suicide for our freedom to use the herb. The Conservatives would have a permanent majority after average Canadians find themselves suffering the vengeance of the U.S. for the sake of pot users.

  11. Anonymous on

    I wish we could vote for the person in our riding as well as the prime minister since then i could vote for the NDP but vote for the liberal leader as prime minister. Unfortunately i cant support a liar as prime minister and Mulcair is a liar. His future statements will strongly effect my decision of whether to vote liberal or NDP, unless he retracts his statement and supports FULL LEGALIZATION not this cop out “decriminalization” which solves nothing and still leaves it in the hands of organized crime.

  12. Anonymous on

    Well said Mr. Jeremy, well said. This is what the world looks like when your eyes are open and you aren’t bullshitting yourself.

    Dana is getting party politik fever and losing sight of his objective, losing perspective.

    Maybe he needs to take a few steps back and reconsider.

  13. Anonymous on

    No kidding. I wonder if dana even realizes that he just said, basically, that the reefer madness of kid killing kush and suicide skunk is of enough truth and concern that it warrants further study, as the means of justifying the continued status quo. We’re all really sure the evidence is in now, Dana. Don’t be too quick to paint lipstick on a pig.

    You said you would go with the party that would legalize, right now that’s the liberals.

  14. Anonymous on

    It was “gamed”, not “rigged”. It was gamed heavily, and easily gave him the edge he needed. Forming a coalition and uniting the right as a big part of that gaming. If the left did it, the only way they could possibly win is to rig it completely.

  15. Anonymous on

    What you’ve said is patently absurd. The NDP have NEVER been in power for you to be able how to judge how they lead when they get there.

    There is nothing to suggest they won’t fall to similar fates as the those who do find power, via corruption through all its forms, enticements and pressures.

    To award them the label of left leaning is no great feat. Round thing falls into round form… square thing falls into square form. We can’t have all square things and so there must also be some round things.

    No sense patting them on the back for being the just thing for just the place that had not room for anything else, any place else.

    What they can be judged on are their accomplishments and perhaps also their failures. Backing away from full legalization, even the slightest, is one such an utter failure.

  16. 420OldFart on

    I think you got it right Dana. Give him a chance to correct the statements he made. People have to realize the pressure he was under – lets give him a chance.
    Marc Emery will be back in Canada by the time the next federal election is held. Perhaps we could have a PM Marc – has a nice ring to it :-)

  17. Paul Blair on

    Socialism = collectivism, which requires conformity among the people. Wake up Dana.

  18. Anonymous on

    Trust me.
    You’re not the only one whose eyes have been opened.
    If the NDP doesn’t know it already, they’ll find out the hard way in a few years. Sad thing is, I don’t think they have the SLIGHTEST clue of how bad this is for them.
    Shame.

  19. Anonymous on

    I did really want to see drug policy reform in this country. That IS why I voted NDP. Now our leader shows his true colours. After cashing in on our votes, of course.

    Nope. I won’t be fooled again.
    Bye bye, NDP.

  20. Angry on

    Simply put, we’ve been had.
    Sorry you don’t yet realize this or just not ready to believe it.

    I always thought of Mulcair as an honest, decent and most importantly – intelligent person. He sure did show me how wrong I was with just one interview.

    Defend him all you want and defend the NDP all you want. Not going to change the fact that we’ve been had, we’ve been used and lied to once again. You may have a chance to feel better about yourself after leading so many of us astray, but I’m not feeling good about you at all.

    What DOES change is that it was the NDP of all parties, who did this. High and mighty defenders of the people. My ass.
    I regret not voting Liberal in the last election.. More and more every day. We fucked Canada.
    I have the balls to admit this, but I’m sure you’ll just post up some more amusing excuses.

    I’m out and so are about 50 of 70 supporters at work.
    Bye bye NDP. Hello Liberals.

  21. Daniel Johnson on

    No, that is not how he got into power. If you had been paying attention, you`d know that he got into power by breaking the law. Even if it had been legal, they didn`t have a majority of voters, so he one due to a technicality in a system that`s been designed to accomodate fraud. The election was rigged, pure and simple, no, we don`t have to `look inward` every damn time the right wing walks all over the rules they made for us to follow and them to ignore.

  22. Simon on

    I’m right there with Jeremy, definitely ready to jump ship and swim over to the Liberal boat. We live in the age of the internet where it’s very difficult to make a campaign promise and not stick by it without huge blowback. Mr. Mulcair has created waves and it’s not going to help him one bit!

  23. blindpig on

    I’m getting real tired of hearing desperate politicians make promise after promise, only to make an abrupt 180 when it suits them. Whether it’s the ridiculous prohibition of marijuana or cutting the oppressive tax rates that Canadians endure from coast to coast. The bottom line for everyone is, we are going to get fucked regardless, so why not vote for the fucker who will let us get high whilst getting fucked. It’s not about impiracle evidence or integrity, it’s about not pissing off the real establishment. And unfortunately for anyone who is a marijuana advocate, the real establishment includes billion dollar drug companies who absolutely don’t want anyone self medicating. It would mean the loss of billions over a long period of time. Marijuana is that good. Drug companies and politicians alike know this but unless the drug companies are the ones cultivating and selling it, I personally don’t think we will ever see it legalized. That would only happen in a perfect world, and ours is anything but.

  24. Jeremy on

    Bear in mind that I am speaking here as someone who struggled through all four voting rounds of the NDP nomination convention online.

    Thanks, Dana, but I’m not giving Mulcair “a chance”. He had his chance, and his choice has been to burn all the bridges that Jack Layton worked so hard to build. Unapologetically. Without looking back. Abd we both know that the minute he thinks that no one is looking, Mulcair is going to shuffle Libby so far to the back benches she’ll need a set of binoculars to see the back of his head. She deserves better than that.

    We’ll be going back there with her, and that was very much the point Mulcair was making in that horrific WestBlock interview. Once again, drug policy reform and those who support it are going to be tossed under the bus in the name of “reaching out” to a mythical block of voters who would vote for the NDP if they just could look a bit more “moderate”.

    Maybe my prediction is wrong, but I’m not giving Mulcair a “chance”. The Liberals are articulating sensible drug policy, and making no secret of it. They need support right now, and they’re going to get mine if Mulcair does not do an immediate about-face on this issue and come out strongly in favour of ending prohibition as soon as possible. I don’t need the god damned NDP, they need me, and if they don’t think I’m worth keeping around with my crazy idea that the war on drugs is an abject failure, the Liberals seem to.

    Mulcair’s only chance is to smarten up immediately, and prove he’s done so in both word and deed, or he will be shooting his party in the foot. Because I’m FAR from being the only NDP member who feels like jumping ship to the Liberals today.

  25. Cananbowen on

    this feels to me like politicians shuffling the cannabis community down the rope… after the liberals shit the bed and voted for the last Big Crime Bill S10 and then shrunk like my penis in a prison shower to assume position as the measliest party, they now endorse legalization; while after the NDP did there best ever being the most supportive platform for cannabis and became official opposition, they move toward the center to become like the old liberals.. i feel like we’re being shimmied down the rope here, and it’s a synthetic fibre rope that will burn our hands and break on us all. Aren’t we being pawned by politicians seeking to offer Joe and Jane tv viewer protection from drugs again? easier to control people who are in fear. Shameful game!

  26. Anonymous on

    It seems the only countries really tired of the american bull ride, are countries that are and have been war zones for this drug war. They are likely the first people to make a serious change and call the US are there fud. I guess my fellow canadians have NOT seen enough blood on the streets yet.

  27. Anonymous on

    Yes, let’s be clear. The NDP are the only major left-leaning party in Canada.

    Traditionally, the Liberals have campaigned slightly to the left to attract left-leaning voters who might otherwise have supported the NDP. Then, they would take power and govern on the right to keep their corporate allies happy. One might just as well ask the Conservatives to join with the Liberals because their policies and governing style are more closely aligned than those of the NDP.

    The NDP campaign on the left and, when elected, govern there. I’m glad Mulcair is refusing to look at any merger talks. The last thing the NDP needs to do is water down their platform by trying to appease the right-governing Liberals.

    As for our First-Past-The-Post electoral system, an NDP government would change that to proportional representation in short order.

    If you really want to see drug policy reform in this country, I urge you to support Dana and his efforts with the NDP. We only have three years to change the habits of a lot of Liberal (and former Progressive Conservatives) and help them see the NDP as the political champion to best Harper’s Conservatives.

  28. Anonymous on

    I tore up my NDP membership card immeadiatly. Obviously all their end prohibition talk is just lip servive for thoes of us who care. In my oponion, Mulcair is just another liar politician just like harper. BYE BYE NDP

  29. Anonymous on

    How many commissions are we gonna have? Would this not be like the third or 4th commission? what possible new evidence or conclusions can come from doing another that won’t come out the same as the other two! For fuck sakes Legalize and Tax it already! I swear all these people just play politics and its all about money and power. Majority of them must have their head up their asses most the time!

  30. Anonymous on

    One thing is clear in my mind and its not Mr.Larsen whos gonna make me change my mind on this issue: Canada does not need another commission like LeDain and more recently the senate committee report.Enough taxpayers money has been spent for reports that ended up being shelved and without consequences or major changes in marijuana politics.Today any educated politicians can surf the internet and have access to world wide reports on marijuana.Sure,marijuana can cause psychosis or mental problems in fragilized or predisposed individuals or adolescents or younger children.Thats not sufficient reason to look condescently at ‘potheads’ (God,I hate this term)as if they are outcast or on the verge of mental illness.The last thing we need from a politician is compassion.We only want our basic rights to be respected and acknowledged.Certainly,anyone in the NDP is much better as the prime minister of Canada than the hardline prohibitionist Harper and his team.
    Canada has lost so much the last few years in terms of marijuana social progress that its going to take decades of work before things go back as they were before. Keep on temporizing dear politicians, in the meantime there are people whose life well you know what patients out of time and patience are do you Mr.Mulcair. The urgency is now not tomorrow and dont wait too long Mr.Mulcair to look into that because you might just have been elected as leader but your appointment…well the timer has started….

  31. Anonymous on

    Let’s be clear:

    Nice waxing philosophic but it’s all pie in the sky unless and until there is a unification of the left of full ‘tard.

    Harper knew it. That is how he got into power, that is how he will maintain power. For the “left” parties to seemingly refuse to know it, that just tells me they don’t want power right now, or even in the near future.

    That’s just the present reality of our fptp electorate system. So while “the left” continue to refuse to unite, even on temporary but necessary grounds, with the feeble argument of not wanting to be a two party government which we typically are in a sense anyway, then harper continues to pillage and plunder, fashioning us into a carbon copy of the united states.

    So either they actually want the same things he does and are choosing a path of inconsequence for themselves, or they’ve simply lost perspective.