Ignatieff Says Liberals Will Reintroduce Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

CANNABIS CULTURE – Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says his party will reintroduce legislation to “decriminalize” small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

On September 27 in Montreal, the first night of his cross-country Open Mike tour, the Opposition Leader told an audience of over 200 people that the Libs would bring back Martin Cauchon’s decrim bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of under 15 grams of cannabis and replace them with fines.

Liberal Critic for Justice, Montreal MP Marlene Jennings, who joined Ignatieff at the event, added that she will push for Health Canada to streamline the process of granting medical marijuana permits.

Introduced in 2003, the original Cauchon bill would have lessened or removed penalties for possession of small amounts or cultivation of under 25 plants, but increased penalties for growing more than 25 plants.

Here’s a breakdown of the original bill from a 2003 StoptheDrugWar.org article:

• Possession of 15 grams or less is no longer a crime but a “contravention” (similar in seriousness to a traffic violation) punishable only by a fine. Fines increase from the set minimum according to whether “aggravating” factors, such as possession while driving or near a school, are involved.

• Possession of 15 to 30 grams may be charged as either a contravention or a criminal offense at the discretion of the officer involved. The same aggravating factors may be applied in making the charging decision.

• Penalties are lowered for the cultivation of three or fewer plants to a maximum of 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. Under current law, all cultivation is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

• Penalties are lowered for the cultivation of four to 25 plants to a maximum of 18 months and a $25,000 fine, but prosecutors have the option of charging cultivation in this range as an “indictable offense” (akin to a felony) punishable by up to five years in prison.

• Penalties are increased for the cultivation of more than 25 plants. For 26-50 plants, the penalty is a maximum of 10 years in prison, plus fines, and for more than 50 plants, 14 years in prison, plus fines.

• Penalties for trafficking remain unchanged, with the maximum sentence remaining life in prison, although not even the largest hard drug trafficker has received more than a 20-year sentence in recent years. Canadian drug trafficking laws do not differentiate between marijuana and other controlled substances.

• There are no provisions regarding medical marijuana.

The article notes, “While the Liberal proposal decreases formal sanctions for simple possession, in those considerable portions of Canada where possession busts are now not worth the bother for police, it potentially could actually increase enforcement.”

Dana Larsen, former editor of Cannabis Culture, was quoted in the article (as the president of the BC Marijuana Party at that time) as tepidly supportive but skeptical: “Decriminalization is a small step forward, but this law will not make things easier for Canada’s marijuana people. Here in Vancouver, now the police pretty much leave you alone or they just hassle you and take your stash. With the fines and ticketing, you end up with more punishment.”

At the time, Cannabis Culture published an article critical of the bill called “Canada’s decrim deception”, where renowned Canadian pot-specialist lawyer John Conroy says “Decriminalization isn’t the right word for the government’s new pot legislation,” and criticized the bill for deceptively continuing criminal records for pot offences.

The 2003 bill was never passed but similar legislation has been batted around by Liberal MP Keith Martin, and has also been criticized by some activists in the marijuana community and supported by others.

Ignatieff, has opposed marijuana policy reform in the past, saying in March of 2010 that “legalizing marijuana would create problems” with the United States and making this bizarre statement at another town-hall-stlye meeting:

“If I had to tell you as a parent or as someone who has spent his whole life working with young people, the last darn thing I want you to be doing is smoking marijuana. I want you to be out there digging a well, digging a ditch, getting a job, raising a family … doing stuff, instead of parking your life on the end of a marijuana cigarette.”

The Liberal leader noted at the time that he enjoys an occasional drink and didn’t seem to mind if his anti-weed stance made him appear conservative.

At this point, it is impossible to say how future legislation from the Liberals will look, but now is the time to apply pressure for a better decriminalization bill. Contact Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff and (politely) tell him that you support the FULL decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, but won’t stand for sneaky, back-door legislation that may lead to increased enforcement – Email: [email protected] or call (613) 995-9364 for his office in Ottawa.

Though Ignatieff’s ideas for decrim may be just a small step forward or more of the same bad policies we already have, the Liberal’s picture of Canada’s future cannabis laws looks a lot prettier than Stephen Harper and the reigning Conservative government’s vision, which would bring mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offences to Canada for the first time.

Bill S-10, the proposed Conservative drug legislation, includes mandatory sentences of 9 months in jail for growing as few as 6 plants, and 18 months for making and sharing pot cookies, hash, or other extracts.

Join other activists, herb smokers, and lovers of liberty and freedom this SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2 at Member of Parliament’s offices across the country for Canada-wide rallies against conservative drug laws to call attention to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government’s Bill S-10.

Click here to put your MP’s office on the list at WhyProhibition.ca



  1. Anonymous on

    when I take a close look at what the original bill from the 2003 stop the drug war article said,I think that if Ignatieff reintroduce the same original bill it is worse than what we have now in 2012 with the conservatives

  2. Anonymous on

    Jon dont think you are alone.Theres plenty of people just like you out there who are experiencing the same difficulties.But thinking that sending a letter to a politician will change anything is very naive.
    You are out of time,you are not in the mood to play games and wait forever for an answer.

  3. Anonymous on

    I am really scared of those fascists who keep criminalising a plant.When will come the day when cannabis is left alone to grow freely in the supposedly land of the free.I am so sick to continually see lives broken by the stupid criminalization of cannabis.

  4. Jon on

    I just sent this to him. Do they actually read their e-mail?

    Dear sir,

    In a Town Hall meeting last year you said: “If I had to tell you as a parent or as someone who has spent his whole life working with young people, the last darn thing I want you to be doing is smoking marijuana. I want you to be out there digging a well, digging a ditch, getting a job, raising a family … doing stuff, instead of parking your life on the end of a marijuana cigarette.”

    My experience with cannabis, and please don’t send the cops after me because I’m doing this in an educational manner, is 43 years of smoking marijuana regularly. I am 56 years old. I have 2 wonderful sons who do NOT use marijuana. The two work with me today with one being a talented and promising musician. I have run my own small business since 1985 employing 7 people regularly since then. So as far as digging a well or a ditch, getting a job, raising a family or just doing something, you may not have all the facts.

    But my interest today is medicinal cannabis. We cannot ignore the research, posted by doctors and medical researchers, saying that cannabis can help people incredibly. People who have cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS report amazing improvement in their quality of life after starting to use cannabis. My sister-in-law has multiple sclerosis and the only medication she uses, because of an allergic reaction to Interferon, is cannabis oil (not Marinol or other synthetic drug, the real thing). She ingests it. She doesn’t get “high”. But she is leading a normal, painless, spasm-free life. Her neurologist even told her during her last visit that she would never guess that my sister-in-law has MS. And she was expecting to see her in a wheelchair by this time. Worth a look, don’t you think?

    Health Canada has a system in place where people, with a doctor’s prescription, can obtain a license to either grow their own cannabis or find someone who can grow it for them, which makes sense because some pleople are too sick to grow their own. But license emitting is slowing down and sick, otherwise law abiding citizens, are becoming criminals. Or, they can’t get their medecine anymore and their well-being declines.

    The system is in place and I wish to see it working normally so that my sister-in-law and all the other sick people in Canada receive their license to make medicine and get well. They have a right to health.

    Thank you

  5. Anonymous on

    The liberal party of Canada are terrorists

    Danny trandifilou wants to murder his wife for feminists in Israel and california with radiations
    We will murder off Christine when the son gets I’ll with cancer
    Chris’s money is not going to America, the roman Catholics murdered a Washington and Franklin young man in 1948 because he was a stud and Israelis/Jews/Romans are jealous
    The little people(Jewish) are the problem and everyone knows and they are targeting the innocent man and you all know
    I hate Quebec, they owe Washington and Franklin 5 billion or else see police die in public, soon
    The Jews want him dead because of his strong personality and everyone knows he has micro chips without permission
    51 division owes 100 000 or else, cops don’t assault civilians and get away with it,
    David Willmot pays to play
    Fuck you Americans, who helps police but a homo like segal and Willis, cops are losers

  6. Anonymous on

    I miss Chretien more and more every day.

  7. renney b. on

    there was never a problem with marijuana’s legality until the nineteen century… history is on the side of the cannabis culture for wanting the repealing of prohibition and emancipate this cannabis culture….

  8. Anonymous on

    Either legalize it or don’t. The wishy washy way they want to handle it is a joke. It should be based on science. And thats it. This is just politics at its worst.
    We know the world is round because science proved it, so you can’t say that its flat. But if your a politician you say, its a little round and a little flat.

  9. MFoster on

    A great deal of the problems after we tried to decrim in 2003 was pressure from the USA, with their war on drugs, If we had continued down the road at that time I could see them threatening us with a trade embargo.

    Now that they might be loosening the laws in Cali we shall see what the rest of the anti-pot middle america does, they will not let same sex marrige all over, but they might consider reducing problems for the marijuana user’s.
    Oh what a sad sad world we live in.

  10. PeyotePal on

    Politicians are liars and cheats.

    That is why I find it difficult to vote.
    They will say one thing one time … and then say the opposite JUST TO BE THE OPPOSITION.

    They don’t care.

    They don’t care that people suffer.
    They would rather wipe their hands and throw people in jail to be popular.

    Every politician should walk a day in the life of a person who is inflicted with the maladies listed on Health Canada’s site that is approved for treatment by cannabis.

    People try to deal with their suffering as best as they can, but are treated like murders and rapists because of a government that JUST DOESN’T CARE.

    Why does Health Canada list it as a medicine and yet those same patients are treated like criminals?

    It truly is sickening.

    Take care everyone.

  11. Anonymous on

    Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

    I have just read that your party is trying to pass the S-10 bill and I believe that you should rethink passing it.
    I know marijuana is not exactly healthy but I definately do not think that people should be incarcerated for those matters dealing with the plant.
    If marijuana is constatly bombarded with prohibition, all we will see is more and more people going to prison and thus you will need to take more tax dollars from the citizens of Canada.
    Also, if marijuana is illegal, why is’nt tobacco, or alcohol? The tax value is why they are illegal, right? I think as a nation we should follow suit as the Netherlands did. They seem to be doing very well with non prohibited marijuana.
    I’ am no politician but I think that if your party worked on legalizing it instead, you would probably get more votes next election. 10 million Canadians have used marijuana and I am sure at least a few of them would vote for you guys instead of your opposition.
    Marijuana is less harmfull than cigarettes and alcohol. No one has ever died directly from the plant and I think we should legalize it, tax it, and make a stronger economy.

    Here is a link to a reliable website showing some Myths and Facts about the plant. http://www.drugpolicy.org/marijuana/factsmyths/
    It might change some of your views on the plant.

  12. Anonymous on

    News flash to “Preservers Of The Status Quo”.

    The Green Party of Canada will win seats in the next federal election and even more seats in subsequent elections. It took 25 years of patient capacity-building and “pioneer” voters who understood that they were investing their votes in a longer term process of political transformation.

    If there was ever a time to abandon the failed strategy of so-called “Strategic Voting” for the lesser of two evils and vote “Sincere” this is the moment. Seize the day!

    Support Green Candidates across Canada and Vote Green with conviction.

  13. Anonymous on

    More unreasonable details from government!!!!! I can’t believe how retarded any government from Canada is being, you cheap ass pricks, waste all the money you have in the tax bank of unlimited amount… THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PAID PRICE. ALL THINGS ARE ON CREDIT AND LOANS THAT PUT IN DEBT. NO WONDER TALIBAN TORCHED THE WORLD TRADE CENTERS….. COMPUTER CRASH = POOR!!!!!!!!!!!! WAKE UP CALL. MAFIA PRINTS MONEY!!!!!!!!!!! DEBTS ARE ELECTRICITY!!!!!

  14. George lenard on

    That reality is the right wing ideology is very successfully running Canada into its largest deficit in history? That money is not being spent to spin start the economy if it does not directly benefit the Conservative cause! The problem is this is being done by a minority! Where is the majority opposition? Telling audiences of 200 he will reintroduce decriminalization! The Green Party is nothing more then a political joke, if the leader is not going to properly try to win a seat. Nothing is more important. If by fluke chance the Green party was to steal Conservative seats you would be accomplishing something. But for green Party to take any other seat at this point and time would only strengthen the Conservative grip. But, if the all parties had a little feast on Conservatives ridings it would give Harper the political slap in the face the neo con trash deserves.

  15. Pax on

    I agree with Brian entirely. The Green Party is the only party in Canada that has cannabis legalization clearly *written* in their platform. Jack Layton promised to do so in a PotTV interview with Marc many years ago but he never made good on his word. The NDP are seriously compromised because of their affiliations with organized labour. If you are serious about freedom for cannabis users in Canada, you will vote Green.

  16. Brian Kerr on

    I don’t care what Iggy pot says.

    I wont vote Liberal or Conservative or NDP. They are all PROHIBITIONIST PARTYS. As long as it is only reduced penalties
    the black market lives, the corruption lives and people die.

    Legalize the home growing and use of Cannabis.
    Legalize the transportation of cannabis.
    Legalize the gifting of cannabis to another person.


    Take all the restrictions off of HEMP farmers!

    Nothing less than making cannabis lawful to grow and use. Will be accepted.

    Iggy. Get with it, or drop dead!

  17. George lenard on

    The complete separation of marijuana from all other drugs is the only way to effectively eliminate the war on drugs. Marijuana does not have any of the same destructive side effects of heroin and cocaine or derivatives thereof! Licensing all forms of cultivation from personal to retail farming, taxing all profits made from retailing. Supporting the medical applications of marijuana with tax break incentives for supply and research. The positive changes to the economy resulting from legalization of the marijuana industry that currant flourishes underground, costing billions a year, with no positive results what so ever? How can any politician not be demanding legalization? Harper represents the worst of the right wing ideology that would be cured with an election!

  18. Anonymous on

    Dear Dr. Ignatieff,

    The Montreal examiner reports you as having said in your recent Montreal open-mike talk that your party proposes to reintroduce the marijuana decriminalization bill of the pre-Harper days. Thank you for opening your mind to this important issue.

    Decriminalization is a step in the right direction. I support a progressive approach to drug law reform and welcome the Liberal Party’s involvement in bringing about a saner approach to the question of drugs in our society.

    As a professional historian, you will no doubt appreciate how the way our society views marijuana today is deeply influenced by habits of thought and cultural norms that are more historical in nature than scientific. The prohibition against cannabis has no scientific justification on the basis of safety and security.

    For the origins of today’s cannabis prohibition, we must look at the relationship between drugs, imperial control, and the development of the nation-state. For further reading on the history of cannabis and imperialism, I would highly recommend the following scholarly book on the subject:

    James H. Mills, Cannabis Britannica: Empire, Trade, and Prohibition 1800-1928 (Oxford UP, 2005).

    You know full well how vital British control over the production, distribution and taxation of narcotics were to the empire. Today’s prohibition against cannabis is, in my opinion, a hangover from the imperial era and from the development of the nation-state.

    The impetus to control every aspect of human behaviour is encoded in the DNA of the state. But this same impetus lies uncomfortably alongside the democratic tradition. That is why we have a division of powers. That is why we have the parliamentary process. That is why we have the common law, England’s greatest gift to humanity. And that is why we have a constitution which ought to protect personal autonomy and liberty.

    Unfortunately our present government does not completely adhere to these values, and cannabis prohibition is one area in which we have failed miserably to live up to the democratic ideals of Enlightenment thought. In order to maintain a healthy democracy, we must keep the state from interfering in the lives of its citizens. In punishing cannabis consumers — people who pose no risk either to themselves or others — the state threatens the principles of justice and liberty upon which good government rests. Thus cannabis prohibition presents a moral hazard that cannot be tolerated by anyone who values justice and liberty.

    As a historian, you will appreciate the writings of John Stuart Mill and his influence on Western democracy. In On Liberty, Mill writes,

    “[T]he only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

    There is nothing that justifies the government’s use of violence and force in intruding into the lives of cannabis users and destroying their homes and families. Where a drug user is non-violent and poses no harm to others, government should stay out of that person’s life. As a citizen deeply concerned about the preservation of civil liberties, I support not just the decriminalization of cannabis but the full and immediate legalization of this substance. Only then will the state stop its unwarranted use of violence against peaceful citizens.

    In the coming months and years, I will watch how the Liberal Party deals with the question of drug law reform. Will the Liberal Party work to bring about a saner, more humane approach to drug policy in Canada? Will the Liberal Party help to preserve our civil liberties? Or will the Liberal Party continue to push existing policies which are outdated, morally bankrupt, and unjustifiable on every level?

    It is my hope that the Liberal Party will champion the cause of justice and liberty by pushing for the end of cannabis prohibition

    Yours truly,


  19. AnnieOakley64 on

    This article also spurred me to email him.

    Here is what I wrote:

    Mr Ignatieff,

    I note that on Sept27/10 you spoke of your intention to bring back Martin Cauchon’s Marijuana Decriminalization bill. It will take much more than that to get us to vote for you.

    This bill is severely flawed and will not serve to reduce sentences for marijuana overall. The legalization movement will NOT support this bill and it is growing every day. For a start, why don’t you try fighting Mr.Harper on Bill S-10? This bill will certainly cost us taxpayers millions in wasted money for no benefit whatsoever, save to incarcerate more non-violent marijuana users. *sigh*

    If you wish to get more votes or more public confidence, start acting like a Liberal instead of a Conservative.

    Right now, my feeling is, that the population will vote ANYTHING but Conservative, and the Liberals would have been back in power if it were not for your scattered, inconsistent leadership. The People do not have confidence in you. Your party should choose another leader and they may have a chance to get back inpower.

    85% of Canadians want Marijana legalized. That is the simple fact. Usage is NOT going to go down, just like Alcohol prohibition, and under current laws children have easier access to Marijuana than they would if it was legalized and regulated like cigarettes and alcohol.

    I am sick and tired of the police wasting my tax money chasing down Marijuana crops instead of chasing down pedophiles, murderers, child molesters and violent crime. Marijuana would NOT be involved with Organized Crime and funding their power base if it was legalized. Our country is currently ruled by Organized Crime because of the flawed (not fact based) legislation that keeps Marijuana illegal.

    Look at the Netherlands, and Portugal, wherein their crime rates drastically reduced because of their relaxing of Marijuana laws.

    Wake up and get with the times, Mr.Ignatieff.

  20. Anonymous on

    Here’s an email I just sent to Ignatieff;

    Mr. Ignatieff,

    Congratulations on actually doing something to differentiate yourself from Stephen Harper. Before I heard that you plan to reintroduce the Cannabis decriminalization bill I really couldn’t tell the difference. You supported the mandatory minimum sentences bill that would put average Canadians who don’t have a huge amount of money to buy black market Cannabis and so choose to grow enough for themselves into prison with real criminals. What the hell was that about, Mr. Ignatieff? That made you the enemy of every Cannabis user in the nation, which is a large percentage of the population. I thought you were an intellectual. Well, since when did Cannabis prohibition and mandatory minimums ever make sense intellectually? Both have been repeatedly decried by every expert and commission that ever investigated the issues. Are you trying to tell Canadians that you are as dumb and draconian as Stephen Harper? What would the point of that be, to cause Canadians to despair that they will never have a political leader who is anything other than a complete jackass who pushes their own deluded personal opinions onto the whole country? Well, that’s the current situation, with you, Harper and Layton. Harper introduces a bill which would give Canadians even more draconian Cannabis laws than the US and both you and Layton support it. What did you base that position on, Mr. Ignatieff? Did you just figure Harper knows best?

    In closing, please do more things to prove to Canadians that you are more than a Harper clone so we can actually have somebody to vote for in order to get rid of him. Right now, I have to vote for the Green Party even though they have no chance at all of winning. Prove that you will make Canada a progressive country, like the Netherlands and Portugal. Portugal has very liberal drug laws and they don’t seem to be in a state of chaos because of it. Same with the Netherlands. Why is Canada trying to go backward instead of forward like them? Is Canada forever to be as backward a nation as the US? God help us all then, Mr. Ignatieff.

    Yours Truly,
    A concerned citizen

  21. dan on

    He’s got to do better than that on the plants at the very least. 18 months in jail for 3 plants sounds pretty criminal to me. California’s got the right idea. 28 grams and 25′ feet of grow.

    And then create a municipal growing ordinance for more..

    I’m all for interim measures, but 7 years has passed since then…