After two days of sessions on the economy, health care, foreign policy, the environment and evidence based policy, the 3200 delegates who attended the Liberal Party of Canada’s 2012 biennial convention arrived at Canada Hall to debate and vote on priority policy resolution.
That Sunday morning 77% of voting delegates courageously voted “Yes” to policy resolution 117. “Legalize and Regulate Marijuana.” Without hyperbole, I would argue that this has helped fundamentally transform the crime debate paradigm in Canada.
For the first time a major Canadian political party has put legalization on the table:
The Liberal convention was an affirmation that the Liberal party is down but not out. With more delegates in attendance than the most recent NDP and CPC conventions combined and a full 1/3 of delegates under 30 years-of-age, the Liberal confirmed we are here to stay, which makes policy resolution 117 so much more potent. Finally, a major Canadian political party will be talking about how to attack the real roots of crime instead of haggling over how many years a teenager should spend in jail because they owned two pot plants.
Contrary to the view of many Canadians, the New Democratic Party does not support legalization. During the 2011 election the NDP buried any progressive crime policies that they allegedly support. In fact, drugs/cannabis were not even mentioned in their platform. The NDP has yet to respond to the Liberal legalization motion passing. When it comes to crime policy, the NDP has spent the last decade tacking centre. Jack Layton even refused to whip the vote to save the gun registry and did not campaign on reinstating it in order to preserve the NDP’s rural seats.
The pro-prohibition side has been put on defense:
After the Liberal convention concluded the National Post’s editorial board endorsed legalization and regulation of marijuana. They also published a poll showing that the majority of Canadians support legalization. In a free society, governments should have to have a reason for keeping a substance/action illegal, not making it legal. The Liberal Party has now forced PM Harper and the Conservatives to defend a failed drug war that has cost Canada hundreds of millions and actually creates more crime in the process. Policy resolution 117 also gives cover to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians who support evidence-based crime policy but are afraid of being labled “soft-on-crime.”
Bob Rae embraced the policy in his convention closing speech:
Bob Rae did not shy away from legalization in his speech at the end of the convention (a speech he knew would be watched and re-watched online by hundreds of thousands of Canadians.) Mr. Rae put out the complex argument that supporters of legalization have been making for years but have been ignored in the simplistic sham of a crime debate put forward by the Harper Conservatives. He acknowledged that alcohol and cigarettes are the most addictive substances facing the youth of Canada. By using the legalization and regulation motion as a symbol of “evidence based policy” (the theme of the convention), Bob Rae helped bring new energy to a debate that has suffered from so much inertia.
For years advocates for Legalization, like myself, have been waiting for something to explode the current non-debate on crime and finally bring an end to the stasis in this particular policy discussion. It is up to all Canadians, Liberal, NDP, Conservative, Green or nonaligned, to make sure that the crime debate in Canada is based on facts.
“Let’s face up to it Canada, the war on drugs has been a complete bust!” – Bob Rae