CANNABIS CULTURE – Despite newly crowned NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s recent comments to the press that the decriminalization of marijuana “would be a mistake”, party Deputy Leader Libby Davies said she will continue to advocate for drug law reform.
In a statement to Cannabis Culture, Davies, the NDP’s health critic, said that though new critic areas will likely be assigned in the future, “continuing to speak about drug policy reforms is important and I look forward to hearing what decisions will be made.”
Davies, MP for Vancouver East, has been an outspoken critic of Canada’s Drug War and an advocate for harm reduction strategies and the legalization of drugs.
“I’ve been one of the people in Parliament who’s been speaking out and saying that the drug laws we have in Canada – not only are they not working but they’re actually harmful,” Davies told the crowd from the stage at Vancouver’s last 4/20 rally. “So I say ‘no’ to the war on drugs.”
Davies was also the NDP MP who presented Parliament with thousands of signatures gathered by supporters of imprisoned marijuana activist (and former publisher of CC) Marc Emery, calling for an end to his extradition proceedings.
At the NDP’s National Convention in Vancouver in 2011, party members voted overwhelmingly to back a policy resolution supporting InSite and 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.”
In a shock to many members of his own party, Mulcair told Global News reporter Tom Clark he thinks the decriminalization of marijuana “would be a mistake because the information that we have right now is that the marijuana that is on the market is extremely potent and can actually cause mental illness.”
Mulcair instead suggested the re-creation of “something along the lines of the famous Le Dain Commission on the non-medical use of drugs that tabled its report 40 years ago. Get the best medical experts, the best legal experts, and the best law enforcement experts around the table to see what’s realistic.”
“A lot of people will say ‘well it’s like prohibition’,” he continued, “but that’s a bit of an easy answer. You actually have to look at what it can affect on peoples lives, find out the effect of some of these new drugs that are sometimes called recreational drugs that can prove extremely harmful.”
What Mulcair didn’t say was that the Le Dain Commission recommended cannabis be removed from the Narcotic Control Act and its use governed more like alcohol.
A more recent study by Canada’s Senate in 2002 produced a report calling for the complete legalization of marijuana.
“Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol, and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public-health issue,” said the committee’s chair, Senator Pierre Claude Nolin.
Mulcair’s statement was particularly surprising to members of End Prohibition, a group of New Democrats advocating for an end to the War on Drugs, who recently published a survey of NDP leadership candidates’ positions on drug laws that included comments by Mulcair supporting the decriminalization of marijuana.
“I also support the party’s existing policy on further decriminalising the possession of marijuana,” he said, “for any use with the goal to eliminate the influence of organised crime on the production and distribution of marijuana.”
Dana Larsen, former editor of Cannabis Culture and the driving force behind End Prohibition, published a blog post on CC today highlighting the NDP’s history of supporting progressive policies on cannabis and drug issues over the past 13 years, and pledging his support for Mulcair – but saying his group will be “keeping the pressure on Mulcair and the federal cabinet.”
“It is way too soon to see how all of this will play out,” Larsen wrote. “We definitely need to keep the pressure on Mulcair, to educate and also empower him to give better answers on pot and drug policy.”
End Prohibition is asking NDP members to contact Mulcair and encourage him to support party policy and advocate for a non-criminal approach to drug policy.