Tag Archives: cannabis

Sunday, January 15h, 2012: The Day the Crime Debate Changed

“At a time when global competition is growing and our crime rate is falling, it is smarter to invest in education than jails. – Dalton McGuinty

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.

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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

Hot or Not: Liberal Biennial Convention Edition (Part 2)

Hot:

Peter Milliken: Canada’s longest-serving Speaker of the House can still silence a room with a stern look or wry turn-of-phrase , which is even more impressed when that room is filled with 3200 Liberal delegates instead of 308 MPS.

Cannabis: With 77% of the vote it looks like the policy motion put forward by the Team BC will ensure that 117 is the new 420.

HRH: By voting down a policy resolution that would replace the Canada monarch the Liberal Party of Canada said “You go girl!” to the Queen.

Stephane Dion: The author of the Clarity Act lit a fire on the convention floor when he spoke in support of a Preferential voting policy resolution. Dion proves that “smart” is the new “sexy.”

Not:

America Style Primaries: Liberals opened the doors to “supporters” voting in the next Liberal Leadership race but said “No/Non” to a staggered voting schedule. This means that “PEI” is not the New “New Hampshire.”

“Points of order”: If you want to debate a point at an inappropriate time, look like a jerk or you just like the sound of your own voice, then you probably tried a point of order. Too bad you don’t understand Roberts’ Rules of Order. Peter Milliken shut down so many fake PofOs that people started saying “Milliken’d” afterwards.

The War on Drugs: In the closing speech of the convention Bob Rae made it clear that  the Liberal Party will be the official party of “evidence based policy.” He declared loudly and proudly: “Let’s face up to it Canada: the war on drugs has been a complete bust!”

Ignatieff/Liberals receive some courage from the Wizard.

Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party have apparently grown a pair and they are valiantly/finally/thankfully standing up to the Conservatives on their regressive dumb-on-crime bill that would fill Canada’s prisons and costs us all $10 Billion. Canadians appreciate courage and abhor posturing. My message to Michael Ignatieff: Hold your ground. Debate the bill publicly. Courage > bravado.

Some thoughts:

  • 13 of the 16 witnesses who spoke before the justice committee during public hearings in the spring, denounced the bill.
  • Prime Minister Harper killed the bill by proroguing parliament. Keep that fact in mind any time Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says it is urgent that the bill be passed without any scrutiny or dissent.
  • The bill will cost an estimated $10 Billion. The Conservatives estimated the cost originally in the millions. It seems like the CPC is working on a bringing an American-style Prison Industrial Complex to Canada.
  • Mark Holland: “What is the impact going to be on other services at a time when the Conservatives are running a more than $40-billion deficit? These prisons become a giant vacuum that sucks up everything else.”
  • The bill would set a mandatory minimum jail sentence for anyone arrested with a certain number of marijuana plants (originally 5 then changed by the senate to 200 then reduced again) which would tie judge’s hands. Studies have shown that arresting non-violent offenders drastically increases the chance that when released they will commit another crime. Crime rates have been declining in Canada so it’s not as if this bill is desperately needed (Harper’s prorogation confirms that analysis.) The Conservatives know that their policy is merely posturing so they throw people who are in possession of a drug (cannabis) that is no more harmful than alcohol, forging them (in prison) into real hardened criminals, then releasing them into the general population. This costs taxpayers money but the cost to society in much higher than that.
  • The Liberals have switched on this bill and many Liberals are coming around on the A.G. audit. In the United States, President Obama and the Democrats have finally realized that the Republicans are going to oppose everything they do, no matter what. Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals need to learn that the Conservatives will scream, stomp, distort and deceive no matter what the Liberals do. If you are going to be attacked no matter what, do the right thing.

Some graphs on crime statistics in Canada:

Measure to legalize marijuana will be on the ballot in California

It takes a petition of 8% registered voters in California to get a measure on the ballot in that state. Recently, a ballot measure to legalize marijuana in the Golden State (with 694 248 signatures) which will be voted on in November of this year.

Canadian Senator Elaine McCoy‘s assessment is worth a close read:

California will vote on a proposition to legalize marijuana in November.  Proponents are touting it as a new source of government revenues, hoping to garner support from citizens who’ve resisted raising taxes to such an extent that their state is now bankrupt.  They also cite escalating violence in Mexico as a reason to remove marijuana from the list of prohibited drugs.

Canada should consider a similar move.  We’ve already legitimized marijuana for medical purposes.  However, licenced quantities are so minimal as to make a cat laugh.  Legitimate users therefore track other suppliers … as do the police.  A Toronto raid last week shut down a popular (regrettably unlicenced) retailer, for example.  Thousands of apparently authorized buyers are now looking for an alternative supplier.

Where will they go?  If they turn to sellers linked to criminal gangs, will their increased demand set off fierce competition amongst suppliers all too happy to enforce “franchise areas” through violent means?  If so, a vicious circle ensues – more police, more prisons, more costs all round.  A much more rational response would be to legalize marijuana, removing costs on the one hand and opening up a whole new revenue base on the other.  Unlikely to happen here, I agree, given the current state of politics in Canada.  But if California goes that way, others are sure to follow. “

Also in the world of Canadian cannabis:

Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Ross Landry has apparently been considering the merits of decriminalization. A case in the Supreme Court of N.S. ruled that their government is obligated to pay for medical marijuana. “I never have a problem if the medical community says this is the best remedy for a person’s health and well-being,” Landry said. “So on that basic principle, I support the medical community. If the court has made a decision, I respect the decision of the court and will look from an administrative perspective of how we move the interests of the court forward.” The reason for decriminalization would not be a traditional one (the failure of the war on drugs, potential tax revenue, focus on prevention, etc.) but because the cost of medical marijuana would add to Nova Scotia’s debt.

Remembering the interview Prime Minister Harper took part in on the youtube where the majority of Canadians polled disagreed with Stephen Harper/the Conservative Party of Canada’s objectively stupid stance on drugs with the proposition in California and Nova Scotia being forced into bravely leading the way on cannabis, perhaps it is time for a re-thinking of federal crime policy?

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s Mandatory Minimum of Hypocrisy

“In 1988, Mr. Nicholson vice-chaired a Parliamentary committee that released a report recommending mandatory minimum sentences not be used, except in the case of repeat violent sexual offenders. The committee found, based on testimony and the U.S. experience, that the law didn’t work and increases prison populations” reports The Hill Times.

That is a very sensible position. As sexual offenders of any kind do pose a threat to society mandatory jail sentences are necessary not only as a deterrent but also to remove those individuals from society. As drug addiction only harms society because prohibition raises the price of drugs allowing gangs to thrive and more than 2/3 of government funding of the “War on Drugs” goes to enforcement with very little going towards treatment/prevention mandatory minimums for drug offenses are ineffective and regressive.

Rob Nicholson of 2006-2010 has spent his time in government attacking the Liberal Party of Canada, falsely, for being “soft on crime” for opposing the same failed policies that Rob Nicholson of 1988 opposed. The Winnipeg Free Press and the Toronto Sun have both recently taken Stephen Harper’s do nothing government to the woodshed blaming Liberal Senators for the Conservative Government’s own “dumb on crime” approach.

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From “Record doesn’t support PM’s claim that Liberal senators have blocked crime bills” :

Nicholson insisted the record shows “the Liberals are soft on crime.” He accused Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff of making a show of supporting tough legislation in the Commons but then allowing Liberal senators to “obstruct, delay and gut some of our most important measures.”

But he could point to only three specific bills: C-15; C-26, a bill to crack down on auto thefts; and C-25, a bill to end the practice of crediting convicts with two days of time served for each day spent behind bars before trial.

C-25 is not, perhaps, the best example for the government to dredge up. After a mere 19 days in the upper chamber (compared to 36 days in the Commons), the so-called “Truth in Sentencing” act was in fact passed by senators last Oct. 21. It received royal assent the following day.

Yet, after all the badgering of supposedly foot-dragging senators, cabinet decided it could wait four months – until Feb. 22 – to actually bring the law into force.

“They could’ve made it effective the next day,” Liberal Senate leader James Cowan said in an interview.

“If ever there was an example of the facts differing from their rhetoric, that’s a pretty good one.”

On C-26, Nicholson complained the bill has been “stuck” in the Senate for six months.

But the six-month tally doesn’t take into account the fact that the bill was handed over to the Senate just before Parliament broke for the summer. By the Liberals’ count, the bill had actually been before the Senate for 38 working days by the time of prorogation – four days fewer than it took to get through the Commons.

Indeed, the Senate has regularly spent far less time examining and voting on bills than the House of Commons, which has taken as much as 95 days on some crime legislation that never got beyond second reading debate.

Given the government’s own foot-dragging, Cowan questions whether Harper is really serious about passing his criminal justice agenda, or simply wants an excuse to keep reintroducing measures that allow him to bash the Senate and accuse the Liberals of being “soft on crime.”

“It makes you wonder if they’d rather talk about it than actually do it.”

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From “Harper not so tough on crime“:

Of those, 11 were sitting somewhere on the Commons agenda, and only three bills were anywhere near the Senate at the time of their demise.

One of those three, one repealing the so-called “faint hope” clause for lifers, arrived in the Senate less than two weeks before the place went dark.

The second bill that died in the Senate when Harper prorogued parliament dealt with auto theft, and went to committee in the upper chamber the week before the Christmas recess.

The third piece of legislation lost in Harper’s official lights-out provided mandatory minimum prison terms for anyone caught with more than five marijuana plants.

That bill was so urgent that it first was introduced by the Conservative government in 2007, but was killed by Harper’s calling of the 2008 election. It was resurrected, debated and died again when Harper recently shut down parliament.

Thank goodness the prime minister has stuffed another five political pals in the Senate.

The world will surely be a safer place.

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Though Justice Minister Nicholson has had a change of heart on mandatory minimums, Canadians have more than enough evidence to be certain that Stephen Harper will be maintaining the mandatory minimum of hypocrisy required to be part of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Michael Ignatieff: For Decriminalization. Against Legalization. It’s a start.

Two Great Posts by bloggers who were at Michael Ignatieff’s event at the University of Victoria can be found at: Too Much Geography and Unambiguously Ambidextrous.

At the event Michael Ignatieff was asked about Marijuana usage and Ross Rebagliati to which the Liberal Leader responded:

I never make comments on the personal lifestyle choices of my colleagues and friends, and I’ve never felt that marijuana use or, for example, possession of small amounts of marijuana are to be criminalized or that anybody should suffer consequences for personal recreational uses of marijuana. But then I have to say to people who then ask me if I want to legalize marijuana, and I know you don’t want to hear me say this, but I’d say no.

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This has been a solid week for Canadians who support progressive drug policy. On Thursday a Toronto Judge Howard Borenstein announced he was preparing to declare marijuana laws unconstitutional (he is going to make his ruling official in two weeks) and on Friday Stephen Harper got pwned by the B.C. Court of Appeal who dismissed the federal government’s case against Insite which confirmed the injection site’s constitutional right to exist.

The fact that Michael Ignatieff has now publicly spoken in favour of decriminalizing cannabis is huge. When compared to Stephen Harper’s regressive crime policies this is a gutsy proclamation by the opposition leader.

I am disappointed that Michael Ignatieff is against legalization of cannabis. This was a brief answer so I will hold out for more nuance from Mr. Ignatieff before denouncing his support of prohibition.

The arguments in favour of legalization (cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, it has numerous medical benefits, casual use can actually be beneficial, prohibition funds gang while wasting taxpayer money on enforcement, legalization/effective legalization in Portugal/the Netherlands didn’t lead to increased usage,  the war on drugs has failed so badly, Stephen Harper is against legalization) are stronger than those in favour of prohibition. Hopefully Michael Ignatieff, a former professor, will be convinced by the logic/sensibility of legalization and change his mind.

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Post Script:

“The Equivocator” is looking expand “Liberals for Legalization.” I have a button on the side of my blog. Feel free to contact me if you are a member of the LPC and you believe in lobbying for progressive drug policy. If you want to add the button to your blog please feel free.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty Returns my e-mail

On January 8th I e-mailed Minister Jim Flaherty to express my opposition to the prorogation of parliament and give Canada’s finance minister some suggestions for the next budget. As I live in two worlds, Toronto and Whitby, he is one of my representatives in the House of Commons. Mr. Flaherty has been representing me since I was 8 years old.

My suggestions for the budget were as follows:
– There should be funding set aside specifically for high-speed rail. Bombardier is an excellent Canadian company and “bullet trains” would unite our country and make it much easier for labour to come to demand.

- There should be more funding for Kevin Page. The PBO is an important office and your government hasn’t given him the resources to do his job.

- In a perfect world your government would announce the planning of more nuclear reactors. Nuclear power is safe and environmentally friendly.

- There should be funding for safe-injection sites. Your government spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year fighting a failed war on drugs. If the Conservative Government legalized cannabis and taxed or sold cannabis you would gain more than a billion dollars (and save hundreds of millions by not having to enforce laws that don’t work.)

Today I received a response:

Thank you for your email.

Your feedback with respect to the proroguing of Parliament and the upcoming budget is important and I will be sure to bring it to Mr. Flaherty’s attention.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that during this period that the house will not be sitting, Mr. Flaherty will continue to represent his constituents in the Whitby-Oshawa riding addressing any concerns that arise.

In addition, Mr. Flaherty is travelling across Canada holding budget consultations allowing Canadians to input their concerns and ideas regarding the upcoming 2010 budget, giving them a more direct hand in the democratic process.

Should you have further comments or concerns, please do not hesitate contacting me at your convenience.

Thank you again for writing.

Best regards,

Thomas Coughlan

Office of the Honourable Jim Flaherty, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Finance and M.P. for Whitby-Oshawa/

Cabinet de l’honorable Jim Flaherty, C.P., député

Ministre des Finances et député de Whitby-Oshawa