Canada’s NDP: Forty Years of Fighting to End the War on Marijuana

Some highlights from four decades of work by the New Democratic Party to end Canada’s war on marijuana.

1971: NDP introduces bill to decriminalize marijuana possession after Liberals ignore the recommendations of the LeDain Commission Report.

1978: NDP Convention passes policy resolution calling for decriminalization of marijuana.

1980: NDP Leader Ed Broadbent calls for decriminalization of marijuana during the 1980 election campaign.

1993: NDP MP Jim Fulton introduces a bill to legalize marijuana in Canada. Liberal government votes it down.

1995: NDP tries to remove fines for possession of marijuana from the Liberals “decriminalization” bill. Liberals insist on large fines for possession, then fail to pass their own bill.

1996: NDP fights against the Liberal government’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The new law increases penalties, makes it easier to seize homes, and eliminates jury trials for marijuana trafficking.

1997: NDP Leader Alexa McDonough tells media “It is madness for young people to end up with criminal records for the simple possession of marijuana.”

1998: All NDP MPs send a letter to the head of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, calling for an end to the global drug war.

1999: NDP Convention again passes policy resolution calling for decriminalization of marijuana.

2001: NDP Convention passes policy resolution calling for marijuana and drug policy to be treated as a health issue and not a criminal justice issue.

2001: NDP Convention passes policy resolution to fix the medical marijuana program, and make marijuana more easily available upon adoctor’s prescription.

2003: NDP Leader Jack Layton appears on Pot-TV in an interview with Marc Emery. Layton says “Our party is in favour of modernizing our marijuana laws,” and calls upon Pot-TV viewers to join the NDP.

2003: NDP calls upon government to fix the medical marijuana program. “The current regulations of the program are very restrictive, overly bureaucratic and severely limit access by Canadians who have a legitimate need for medical marijuana.”

2004: Jack Layton tells media: “I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from those who are tackling catastrophic illnesses and who are seeking support for medical marijuana use.”

2004: NDP calls on Liberals to re-introduce their abandoned marijuana decriminalization bill. Liberals let the bill die.

2006: NDP Convention passes resolution calling for all marijuana and drug use to be decriminalized, and treated as a health issue and not a criminal one.

2007: Deputy NDP Leader Libby Davies receives “Justice Gerald Le Dain Award for Achievement in the Field of Law” for her work on drug policy reform.

2008: NDP calls on Conservative government to support community-based cannabis dispensaries and compassion clubs, and to fix the broken medical marijuana access program.

2009: NDP votes against Conservative bill with mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana. Liberal Party votes to support it.

2008 – 2010: NDP repeatedly calls on government to stop the extradition of Canadian seed-seller Marc Emery.

2010: Canadian comedian Tommy Chong joins the NDP to fight against marijuana prohibition.

2011: NDP Convention passes policy resolution 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.”

2003 – 2012: Provincial NDP Conventions in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Yukon pass policy resolutions calling for marijuana legalization, harm reduction or non-criminal drug policies.

2011 & 2012: Deputy NDP Leader Libby Davies speaks at Vancouver’s huge 4/20 Cannabis Celebration.

2012: NDP uses every tactic possible to stop or delay the Conservative’s Omnibus Crime Bill which includes mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana.

2012: NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair reaffirms the party’s support for decriminalizing marijuana, and calls for “a national discussion that will focus on a non-punitive, regulatory approach to marijuana use.”

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.