NDP calls on feds to decriminalize marijuana before legalizing it

Opposition day motion calls on House to recognize contradiction in creating criminal records for something the government said should not be a crime

A protester lights a joint during a 4-20 marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, April 20, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

A protester lights a joint during a 4-20 marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, April 20, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

OTTAWA — The New Democrats are urging the Liberal government to decriminalize pot before they legalize it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana, and his government plans to get started next spring.

Meanwhile, the existing criminal law remains on the books and police are expected to enforce it.

The NDP is introducing an opposition day motion Monday calling on the House of Commons to recognize there is a contradiction in giving people criminal records for something the government has said should not be a crime.

Related: Why it’s time to legalize marijuana

The motion also calls on the government to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana for personal use immediately.

“Canadians thought they were voting for a Liberal government that would act quickly to stop the arrests and subsequent criminal records for those who smoke pot,” NDP MP Murray Rankin said in a statement.

“But instead we see a government that has not moved on this issue and worse, they have encouraged law enforcement to crack down on marijuana users, further wasting resources and bringing greater confusion to the legal system,” said Rankin, the justice critic for his party.

Related: Canada’s out-of-control marijuana business

Health Minister Jane Philpott formally announced the federal government’s plan to legalize and regulate marijuana in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem,” Philpott said April 20 in the speech at a special session on global drug policy as she revealed the promised legislation could come in spring 2017.

That same day, Trudeau argued it would be irresponsible to decriminalize marijuana in the meantime.

“We believe in the legalization and regulation of marijuana because it protects our kids and keeps money out of the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs,” Trudeau told the House of Commons.

“The fact of the matter is that decriminalization, as the member proposes, actually gives a legal stream of income to criminal organizations. That is not what anyone wants in this country,” Trudeau said.

Liberal MP Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief and parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, confirmed in February that police should continue enforcing Criminal Code provisions on marijuana.

“Quite frankly, until those laws are repealed by Parliament through the appropriate processes, they should be upheld, they should be obeyed,” said Blair.

He was responding to members of the police community who had said the discussion surrounding legalization had created confusion, especially for officers on the front lines tasked with enforcing the law.

On May 26, Toronto police along with city municipal licensing and standards officials raided 43 marijuana dispensaries.

They arrested 90 people, including shop owners and employees.

A coalition of marijuana dispensaries in Toronto said police and city officials made a “major mistake” in targeting the pot shops and called for the charges to be dropped.

Some Torontonians denounced the operation — called Project Claudia — as a waste of police resources, while others questioned the timing.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders dismissed the criticism, saying the raids were prompted by health concerns and complaints from the community.



NDP calls on feds to decriminalize marijuana before legalizing it

  1. The NDP is so correct on this that it’s not funny. While the LPC government is taking its slooooow time to move on this file, Canadians are potentially being given life-altering criminal convictions for acts that will be 100% legal in the (hopefully!) not-too-distant future. It makes no sense whatsoever.

  2. Decriminalization is the worst possible option and the NDP knows it. They’re just playing politics with an issue that they otherwise would run from. The legal process of enacting decriminialization would waste valuable time that’s currently being used to construct a functional regulatory framework. It’s going to take some time to untangle the legal mess that 8 decades of prohibition has brought to society. The only reason to jump the gun with decriminalization is to gain short term political points or to get stuck with decrim which would further fund the black market while making it even easier for the police to persecute cannabis consumers. Decriminalization allows the police to confiscate your cannabis and fine you without doing all that time consuming paperwork. Prohibition actually protects the cannabis consumer from the type of cash-grab ticketing that decriminalization enables. Best be patient and wait for the real change of legalization rather than opt for the prohibition-lite of decriminalization.

    • YMMV, but IMO it’s better for 100 people to get the equivalent of a parking ticket than for one person to get a criminal record for possession of a couple of joints.

      • To personalise my point, I’ve had a criminal record for simple possession for 45 years and the federal NDP has done absolutely nothing to change that or protect 70,000 Canadians per year from suffering the same fate. The NDP is just playing politics with this issue in an attempt to stay in the news and to appear relevant. Legalization is the Liberals baby and the NDP whining for decriminalization at this point is simply disingenuous. Also a lot more than 100 Canadians would get a ticket, the police would go on a last minute no-frills busting spree and although their victims wouldn’t get records they would always have the status of “Known to Police.” Decrim is a red-herring and the NDP under Mulcair is desperate to call for it.

        • Is it too much to ask why you didn’t apply for a pardon on your simple possession charge? Graham James was awarded one on his child sexual conviction of Sheldon Kennedy, allowing him to continue to target youth in other countries. Canada has always been willing to hand out pardons. What the Libs aren’t saying is that they could decriminalize pot and then Bill Blair could ask police departments to put a moratorium on tickets for simple possession of a certain amount of cannabis for persons over a certain age. That way, no adults who are carrying a small amount will be targeted for tickets either. Criminals selling it won’t be given a free ride and the children will be safe.

    • Perhaps you are not aware of the boondoggle going on with the physician assisted suicide bill and the fight between the HOC and the senate. This cannabis legalization could take years to iron out. I have some ideas about how decriminalization can work with specific and simples rules, just like speeding tickets. The person has to be a certain age, with a certain amount to be exempt from a ticket. Criminals (sellers) will still be prosecuted and kids won’t be eligible to buy.

  3. they can not legailized pot causes canada sign a accord in geniva conferwrens in 1954 trudeu liad to all the pot heads

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