Thomas Mulcair’s flip-flop on cannabis is disappointing but not surprising

On January 25th, 2012, a survey was released on (a pro-NDP anti-prohibition website) where Thomas Mulcair’s campaign stated that he was in favour of decriminalizing cannabis and was very much in favour of medical marijuana. On March 18th, 2012 Mulcair was doing a t.v. interview with Tom Clark (see the video above) and he declared that he was opposed to decriminalization and that cannabis needed more study.

This may come as a shock to Canadians and those who voted NDP in the last election but it didn’t surprise me at all. The NDP, under Jack Layton and now Thomas Mulcair, has always masqueraded as Canada’s progressive political party but when it comes to the war on drugs they have always refused to take a bold stance in favour of drug legalization (as the Liberal Party did at the beginning of the year during our biennial convention.)

Jack Layton favoured decriminalization* (when he was forced to give his views) but he never really emphatically campaigned on the issue. With overly-harsh sentences and a dumb-on-crime agenda being one of the major pillars of Stephen Harper’s agenda, the opposition can’t afford to be tepid in our response to the PM’s evidence-free policies. Mulcair is taking a position that will let Stephen Harper muddy the waters and undercut the progressive approach to crime that the opposition parties should be putting forward during the next election. I hope that Mulcair is shamed into changing his position (once again) when he realizes that he is to the right of the Liberal Party on this issue.

*Decriminalization is usually what politicians support when they want to punt on the issue. Legalization provides the federal government with a source of revenue and would allow the RCMP/police to go after real criminals.

9 responses to “Thomas Mulcair’s flip-flop on cannabis is disappointing but not surprising

  1. I recently learned of the discrepancy between Mulcair’s previous and current positions on decriminalization and was disappointed as well. Too support the staus quo on this issue, as you suggest, is regressive, and renders hollow both opposition’ parties’ rhetoric about Harper’s reactionary approach to criminal justice.

  2. Critics of Mulcair’s “flip flop” need to remember that neither the party leader, nor anyone else in the New Democratic Party, can unilaterally change party policy. Within the NDP, policy is developed and voted on at policy conventions, with delegates democratically elected by their local constituency associations. While Mulcair can say whatever he wants, he alone cannot change NDP policy. He can SUGGEST changes, or voice his own opinion, but that does not constitute duly formed policy, which can only happen at policy conventions.

  3. Notice that you never hear Bob Rae say the word “legalization”? That’s because he doesn’t believe in it. In fact, he fought AGAINST (and lost) the resolution mentioned in the clip above. What’s more, he said after the adoption of the resolution that he didn’t feel bound as Liberal Party leader to pursue it!

    While I agree that Mulcair has dropped the ball on cannabis legalization, it’s worth noting that Liberals have held power for 24 of the 39 years since the Le Dain commission wrapped up (20 of them with majority governments). And, as pointed out by commenter Rosemary Buchanan, the New Democrats aren’t a top-down party; Mulcair is DUTY BOUND by party policy, which includes legalization. With the Liberals, party policy is merely a suggestion. Usually pending opinion polls, focus groups, etc.

    Liberals didn’t even TRY to change the laws when they help power, and they never will. This is just a ploy to weasel their way into government…again. Don’t fall for it.

  4. Tweeting Ninja doesn’t know the basic facts. When Paul Martin was in power he introduced legistlation to decriminalize possesion for small amounts. Rae was against it, but then supported the party consensus. He’s not going to pursue it because the leadership is still an issue, their the third party and even if they got in gov’t the Senate would block it. In modern politics when the leader contrdicts the party the leader wins or the party expresses disloyalty, NDP included. What would the media say if he’s still against it, but party attempts other wise. He’ll turn the NDP into a normal party yet just you wait and see.

  5. Clarification on Mulcair and the NDP’s policy on this issue:

  6. I can only hope that when the ndp win their majority in 2015 they’ve arrived at an evidence-based conclusion… Marijuana is safer than alcohol and other physically addictive drugs. When the Netherlands legalized it they saw a decrease in usage of heroin and cocaine. The fact that it is illegal makes it lucrative for organized crime. Legalization would remove the ability for drug dealers to charge a premium, and age restrictions and taxes would reduce access for minors. People could still grow it as with tobacco but the quality and the variety would sway most people to buy from government approved resellers and pay taxes. People growing it for resale would have to get certified and pay taxes. Legalizing marijuana at this point when more than two thirds of college graduates have tried it at least once isn’t a radical notion, it’s smart politics.

  7. Pingback: The Liberal Party: A Substantial Heritage, a Future of Substance (Co-written with Joseph Uranowski) » What Have You Done For Democracy Lately?

  8. Pingback: The Liberal Party: A Substantial Heritage, a Future of Substance (Co-written with Theresa Lubowitz) | The Equivocator

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