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.



  1. Anonymous on

    The only link with this drug schizophrenia in children and teens that are already prone to having this psychosis. This is why their would be an age limit set on it that falls inline with out alcohol and tobacco laws. The growth of marijuana will not contaminate the air anymore than that of growing tobacco, at the end of the day it’s a plant not some biohazardous material. Just like alcohol their would need to be designated spots where it is tolerable to be used and places where it is not permitted. If you do not desire to drink, you don’t go to a bar. Much would be the same with marijuana.

  2. Anonymous on

    I’m as doubtful as you are, but if you’re going to vote at all isn’t it just as well to vote for the ones most likely to create a promising future?

  3. Anonymous on

    I would like to begin my response by pointing out that your opening statement is contradictory and makes no sense. First, you say that we don’t need politicians, then you say we do…because they need to make money somehow…huh?
    All that aside, have you ever spent even 1 second researching this plant? There is MUCH information to back up the following link, I provided this one because it sums everything up nicely
    To address your comment about it polluting our air: the chemicals released are minimal compared to anything else our society is pumping into the environment, such as cigarettes, cars or the insane amount of natural resources being used to turn on your oven or TV (all of which are perfectly legal). But unlike all of those carcinogen-releasing abominations, a burnt marijuana plant releases chemicals that help your body fight mutated cells and preserve healthy ones. LUNG CANCER PATIENTS USE IT! Most started using it to alleviate their symptoms but after prolonged use found that it was actually slowing and often regressing the spread of their cancer. This is how it works or Side note: You may be interested to learn that breast milk is SATURATED with cannabinoids. They are the building blocks of our immune system (amongst other essential systems) and cannot be synthesized in a lab. It is a known fact that formula-fed babies suffer from countless ailments due to the fact that they did not receive mother’s milk.
    Back to the debate: Even the process of growing the plant removes CO2 from the air. And here’s another perspective: cannabis does not need to be smoked! In fact, that method is the least beneficial way to use it. It can be vaporized, which only heats the plant enough so that the medicine can be released into a container and made available for inhalation. It can also be eaten or taken in pill form. If we were legally allowed to produce the concentrated form of this medicine, called hemp oil, we would be able to treat our own symptoms and illnesses, without the use of expensive and harmful prescription drugs which contain much more dangerous substances than marijuana ever could. We could grow it in our own back yard for free, and not be worried about whether anything harmful has been added to it. We could also tailor it to our specific needs, so that if you are a person who is prone to specific types of psychiatric disorders, you could produce a strain that fights those symptoms. Do some research on the differences between sativas and indicas.
    Also, if we were legally allowed to grow our own plants, we would not even need to use the methods mentioned above. The raw plant is beneficial in more ways than you can count…and is 100% NON-PSYCHOACTIVE. If you take a raw marijuana plant and eat it without ever subjecting it to heat, it does not produce the high that can cause the psychosis you’re so concerned about
    Lastly, cannabis is not a “drug”. It is a plant. A drug is something that is created by humans. Cannabis is a plant that has been around for countless millennia and has been used medicinally for just as long. I’m sick of the stigma surrounding it, which was only created in the first place by people who feared its ability to deal a devastating blow to the medical, pharmaceutical, clothing and countless other industries
    Do yourself a favor. From now on, refuse to remain ignorant. Before you condemn something solely based on your own uninformed stigma, read something.
    Cannabis is capable of preventing, treating and curing any ailment you can think of besides cancer, it’s just “the big C word” attracts the most attention. Here is a video that I found very informative I don’t really like how it comes off as an infomercial and there are a few gaps in the info, but I urge you to ask me or challenge me with as many questions as possible. I’m very eager to provide clarification to as many people as possible, no matter how long it takes.

  4. Anonymous on

    Another ludicrous statement made by ignorance.

  5. Anonymous on

    Do you know the type of people inherit psychosis from marijuana? People who have a predisposition for it in their genetics. Instead of ranting about the air we breath and all that think about the differences between marijuana and all other drugs. It’s natural and not nearly as addictive as something as harmless as coffee. I think everyone needs to stop worrying about this and start worrying about alcohol and hard drugs like cocaine or ecstasy. Because all in all those are what is harming people’s innocence by controlling minds with addictions. At least MOST people will not lose their right mind on marijuana. Where as alcohol and drugs change your morals and values. You would do things drunk you would never do sober.

  6. Anonymous on

    Barbecuers barbecuing on their balconies five feet away from their next door neighbors windows in densely populated area should also think of other citizens as the fumes contaminate the air.Maybe thats why the neighbors smoke marijuana

  7. Anonymous on

    What Mulcair said was “many more studies are needed”

    We all know, cannabis has been studied for decades.

    It is harmless.

    Legalize it.


  8. Anonymous on

    psychosis is only linked to marijuana use for people whose family have a history of psychosis. if the family doesn’t have a history of it, chances are, they wont develop it. also, i don’t hear you complaining about cigarettes, dog shit, trash bins, etc. contaminating the air. marijuana contaminates the air less than vehicles and cigarettes do, that’s for damn sure. (and it doesnt cause cancer or brain cell damage! unlike fumes from natural gas and nicotine!) and I really hate to point out character flaws but it really seems like you care more about yourself than your neighborhood, im sure you could care less if the smell of pot came wafting into someones house 4 doors down from you, as long as you couldn’t smell it. on that note, try taking a real good look at the world beyond your own comforts and see what people have to deal with before judging them for using something to relieve their stress and pain. have a great day! =)

  9. Anonymous on

    The New Democratic Party is trying to clear the air on leader Tom Mulcair’s position on pot after the Young Liberals, hoping to score with younger Canadians on a day celebrated in marijuana culture, questioned his commitment to decriminalization.

    Mulcair had created confusion about his party’s position on March 18 when he said decriminalization would be “a mistake” because of the health risks associated with marijuana currently on the market.

    But NDP spokesman George Soule said Friday that Mulcair was actually talking about legalization and said the NDP leader doesn’t believe anyone should go to jail for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

    Mulcair has also suggested having the issue reviewed by a royal commission.

    I want to hear from Mulcair (not his spokesman) about his stance on marijuana, before I even think about supporting the NDP.

  10. Anonymous on

    The world could be a better place without either one of them.

    Politicians we need, these people have to earn a living somehow; but he/she, who thinks needs to smoke marijuana should think twice. This drug is linked with psychosis……………

    And growing (producing) this drug in neighbourhoods would be an assault on other citizens as it will contaminate the air.

    If anyone feels that the have to smoke this drug for medicinal or other reasons; then this should be done within their very-own premises behind closed windows and doors as not to contaminate the air other people need to breathe. Marijuana users should think of their neighbours before they commit to this drug and so should politicians……. Because there are Canadians who wish to stay away from this drug – but we do participate in elections.

  11. Anonymous on

    like I said…

  12. Anonymous on

    Marc was simply wrong in his comment above, and since then he’s repeatedly campaigned for the NDP and encouraged people to join the NDP and work with them.

    In 2010 NDP Deputy Leader Libby Davies actually interviewed Marc Emery and published it at

    Read Libby Davies excellent interview with Marc Emery here:

    Libby has also spoken at the last two 420 rallies in BC, which no other political figures have ever done.

    Yes of course there’s been ups and downs and challenges over the years, but the fact is that the NDP stood by Marc Emery, they fought hard to keep him in Canada, and they gave him political support like no other party in Canada.

    I personally know many of the federal NDP caucus and I assure you that they are people who believe in the legalization of cannabis.

  13. Anonymous on

    To Quote Marc Emery….
    “But in the 2004 campaign and each election afterward, he virtually renounced his 2003 video and statement to me and Canadians. While Jack was leader, Dana Larsen and his eNDProhibition campaign were banned from NDP conventions, and Dana and Kirk Tousaw were pushed out as NDP candidates in the 2008 federal election. Jack tried to distance himself from me and my organization even though we had brought him so much support over the years – support that he came and sought from us.”
    Don’t believe a word any politician says.

  14. Anonymous on

    If history has taught me anything, it’s that politicians can’t be trusted. My strong suspicion is that the NDP will take this stance until it actually becomes the ruling party and then will do the usual back pedal justified by comments like, “it’s a complicated issue that must be further studied” and “we have to consider Canada’s international obligations”, etc., etc..

    I hope I’m proven wrong. I doubt that I will be. I also believe at this time that if the NDP gain national power they will morph into the orange flavour of what we currently have in blue flavor. Again, I hope I’m proven wrong but history has taught me to not get my hopes to high when it comes to trusting political leaders at the provincial and federal level. ALL federal politicians have a serious credibility issue at this point brought on by their own history of lies, broken promises and duplicity.

  15. Anonymous on

    Thank you for putting together this list! It will be a great resource for debunking myths people have come to believe about the NDP and marijuana.