Note to Liberals: please stop talking about marijuana


One says he’s “a proven advocate for members.” Another says he’ll remove “obstacles to grassroots engagement.” A third wants the policy process to be “an effective tool for grassroots members.”

The people running to be the Liberal party’s next National Policy Chair are all preaching to the choir. Their fate is in the hands of Liberal delegates who took a day or two off work to fly to Ottawa to debate Liberal policy resolutions with other Liberals who took a day or two off work to fly to Ottawa to debate Liberal policy resolutions.

This is not exactly a representative sample of Liberal members, to say nothing of the voting public. But they’re the ones with the votes, and to them, “grassroots engagement” matters.

“Your vote counts just as much as mine,” Bob Rae told them this afternoon, during the convention’s opening ceremonies. It’s a lovely sentiment, but it’s not exactly true. Party members vote on policy resolutions, but party leaders write election platforms. That’s as it should be. Otherwise, the whole enterprise would swiftly go to pot.

And so it has. Liberal delegates will soon vote on whether Canada should “legalize and regulate marijuana.” But even if that resolution passes, The Other Green Shift may yet be excluded from the next Liberal platform. Just because it’s good policy doesn’t make it good politics; the Leader’s Office, not convention delegates, will have the final say.

The reason is simple: the grassroots speak for themselves, but the party has to speak to the whole country. We elect party leaders to reconcile the two.

None of this is to say that party policy processes don’t matter. They do. Debates about policy can engage voters who might never otherwise consider getting involved in a political party. Bring an issue to a national political convention and it will vault onto the national agenda, if only for a moment. Were it not for one of this weekend’s Young Liberal policy resolutions, for example, the chattering classes would not be chattering about the future of the monarchy—though perhaps that would have been for the best. If the timing is right, raising an issue can make a real difference; the Paul Martin government refused to join the U.S. missile defence program after a Young Liberal policy resolution urged them to do so.

Unfortunately for the grassroots, the timing is rarely right. Marijuana and the monarchy will almost certainly exit stage left after this weekend’s convention, destined for the same obscurity as their Liberal, NDP, and Conservative predecessors—proposals long forgotten, hopes left unfulfilled, paths not taken. The road to electoral disaster is paved with their good intentions.

Besides, I doubt you’d find a single delegate this weekend who sincerely believes that big-L Liberals can win an election by becoming small-R republicans. The harsh realities of politics are what will save the Queen.


Note to Liberals: please stop talking about marijuana

  1. Going after the Queen is bad politics.  No way you’d get 10 provinces to sign on, let alone the House.  Will and Kate did their best PR work. :p

    But is legalizing marijuana bad politics?  I mean, that’s the position of an absolute majority of Canadians, and has been for at least a decade.  Somewhere near 4/5ths of Canadians support decriminalization.  (I don’t support decriminalization.  Outright legalization is only choice that doesn’t continue to encourage disrespect for the law.)

  2. ‘Were it not for one of this weekend’s Young Liberal policy resolutions, for example, the chattering classes would not be chattering about…’

    Which is exactly what the Young Liberal resolutions are meant to do. Every time.

  3. If the Liberals want to win they must retgurn to the center, and support both right policies and social policies. Canadians want Balance.

  4. Marijuana is to valuable a plant for Food, cloth, medicine, oil to not be fully legalized. We debated this in the 1960’s, the Ledain Commission, and decided to legalize it but Governments have not listened to the People, and kept it illegal. Shameful

  5. In the midst of a global economic crisis, Young Liberals want to smoke pot.

    Geez…the problems of the children of the 1%, the children of the Annex, of Rosedale, and Forest Hill.

    • Oh…you mean there is some golden time when there are no problems in the world…when we can smoke pot?

      Pot has a lot of good uses….that people can use anytime.

      Try to control the envy eh?

    • I’m absolutely certain they’re already smoking pot, along with their young friends from the Tories and the NDP.

      What they WANT is to not be criminalized for doing so.

    • I think it’s probably more like “the economy is taking a beating and the Young Libs want to take advantage of the billions in tax revenues, economic spinoff, and savings in law enforcement.”

  6. If it’s not about decriminalization, make it about availablity for those in need suffering in pain. The medicinal marijuana issue needs to be reformed!

    More Adam, so much less Jordan please?!

    • nah man, medical marijuana is a laughable joke. it doesnt work whatsoever, when you have people that want to get high,but people saying you have to be a medical patient, they will walk out to the street to grab a bag. needs to be available for all 19+  dont get rid of MM though, it is the cure to cancer and alot of other terrible things as well

      • that’s not true. Marijuana has myriad proven medicinal uses and is more effective than pharmaceuticals for some conditions. There are reams of studies showing what an effective plant medicine cannabis is. You should read some. Google medical marijuana to start. We have a federal medicinal marijuana program for patients, you should know about it, it is not about “getting high”, it is about helping those with serious and terminal illness. It should be legal anyway for adults, cannabis is safer than coffee, not to mention booze and cigarettes.

  7. If you want to stop hearing about legalizing cannabis, you have to legalize cannabis. Until that day, just forget about not hearing about.

    If it’s really such an unimportant issue then what’s the problem?

  8. Like others here, I don’t think I understand why advocating a policy that is both the preference of the (substantial) majority of Canadians AND which doesn’t even bother any but the most vociferous of opponents very much is, or would be “bad politics”.  Actually centring a campaign around legalization would be bad politics of course, as it’s almost no one’s priority, but simply advocating for it?  What’s the problem?

    Governments have been elected after championing far worse policies supported by substantially smaller numbers of Canadians.  Hell, governments have ENACTED many worse policies that were supported by a smaller number of Canadians.

    • I suspect that, while a supermajority of *Canadians* supports legalization, I’d be willing to bet that it’s not clear that a majority of *voters* does. Though it would be unfair to categorize all older voters as opponents, they’re more likely to be. Perhaps the optics of the legalize movement is changing with the featuring of cancer patients and so forth, but it’s still for the most part composed of obnoxious university students and some fairly strange people, who can be a bit of a political turnoff for many outside of that world. 

      Also, given that the vast majority of anyone who wants it has no trouble getting it, the passion of the legalization folks doesn’t seem match the reality on the ground (heck, I know one person ever who received a citation for smoking it in a park. Otherwise I’ve not personally known anyone ever who ran afoul the law). I would imagine that this makes for more of the lack of interest in bothering with it.

      I still agree though: just insert it into the platform, be open and honest about it, but don’t make it part of the core collection of talking points.

      • Fair enough (especially on that last point… I know people who have smoked joints in public IN FRONT OF POLICE OFFICERS who were never cited. Hell, they never even had their joints taken away, lol). That’s kinda the point too though. Millions of Canadians smoke pot regularly. Even the police don’t think it’s a big deal. So, it’s somewhat incongruous that on the one hand, this is a law that is observed infinitely more in the breach than in it’s prosecution, but somehow having a policy of eliminating said law might effect a Party’s elect-ability? It seems to me that many people seem to be arguing that on the one hand, no one has to worry about ever being charged with this law, yet on the other hand, eliminating said law would be problematic.

        • Yes it’s true.  Talking about legalizing it and getting people to vote for that are two different things.  Bob Rae’s argument that the “two most dangerous drugs…alcohol and nicotine” are already legal is kind of assinine.  Hey, we are already selling cancer in a stick and liver cirrohisis in a drink, let’s go further afield and legalize some more of these substances that are apparently not quite  as bad for you…..
          I am all for decriminilization but do we really want to legalize it and deal with the headaches of companies growing it and various provincial governments deciding where to sell it.   I think people who are all for legalization might be gobsmacked when they find out how expensive the product is after the government gets finished taxing the crap out of it…they might want to go back to buying it on the blackmarket.

          • Bob Rae’s argument that the “two most dangerous drugs…alcohol and nicotine” are already legal is kind of assinine.

            I think I take your point, but the logic is not flawed, imho, and I think “asinine” is a bit of an overreaction. After all, we’re talking about curtailing the freedom of Canadians here. If we agree that substances X and Y are insufficiently dangerous to an individual for the government to use the force of law to curtail an individual’s right to consume those substances, by what reasoning are we curtailing the rights of individuals to consume a less dangerous substance???

            As for the second point, so long as people were able to grow their own, for their own personal use, I really wouldn’t care much how the government regulated the commodification, distribution and sale of marijuana. It’d be interesting to see how much the price would go up (you’re correct, I think, that it would) but barring an ASTRONOMICAL rise in price, I think most Canadians would be willing to pay the extra money for the security of it being legal, the convenicence of not growing their own, and the benefit of cutting organized crime out of the mix.

            Decriminalization does seem the easier fix, but not without it’s issues. If you make it like a speeding ticket or a parking ticket, but it’s still not “legal” one runs the risk of it becoming a cash cow for municipalities or provinces, as police officers who routinely ignore pot smokers today begin to issue citations to fill quotas and increase revenues.

  9. Sorry Adam, you know we love you, but you’re wrong on this one. Putting pot into the platform would be exceptionally good policy. Bold and risky, while at the same time having the support of the majority of Canadians, legalization (or even decrim) would put the Cons (and the NDP) on the defensive as they try to defend the indefensible. The war on drugs is over, Adam. The drugs won; the authoritarians lost. It is only a matter of time now before a leader is elected in one of the parties who recognizes and deals with that reality. It might come from the left wing of the NDP, it might come from the radical civil libertarian wing of the Cons when they next pick their leader, but if we as Liberals make it our policy now, we get ahead of the game, and take the issue to the people on our terms. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who wasn’t a cop or a hard-core Conservative who didn’t genuinely believe in some form of decrim. Its about bold policy, and we have to be making the case, but with the facts, and the majority of Canadians on our side, I don’t understand how the party can still be afraid of this issue. Are the old guard in the back rooms really so out of touch?
    As a bonus, of course, adopting new and bold civil libertarian policies would engage a new generation of young Canadians like no other policy could.
    The time for business as usual in the party is over. If you aren’t willing to take some risks when it comes to policy (and this would be a very safe, calculated risk, while at the same time appearing bold) then just get out of the game. Politics as usual has failed Canadians across the political spectrum.

  10. It is amazing how little you were able to say within 9 paragraphs. After reading it twice, the article doesn’t give a single reason as to why the party should not debate it; instead – I parphrase, it says “it shouldn’t because it shouldn’t and it won’t get real attention”. What drivel!

    This debate needs to happen. The one correct thing said here is that the Young Liberals can be responsible for just – just as the were during the missile crisis. The first party to realize the opportunity at hand, by simply taking their youth party’s comment seriously, will truly do some damage on the political landscape and will win votes across the country. 

    The problem with Canadian politics is, that out of the three parties, not one of them represents the majority of Canadians. Instead, they all represent our parents and their dated views.

    The first party to listen to the youth vote will receive the youth vote. Until it is represented, the younger generations won’t feel obligated to vote. 

    I guarantee someone will rebut this with the argument that if this is how the youth feel then the youth should vote. I think this argument mistakenly moves on the premise that people will vote for the party that doesn’t truly represent them. It is the party’s platform that has to represent the youth before the youth will vote for it. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. 

    The first party to realize this and take contemporary issues into their consideration – such as the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana – will find surprising support from an age group that no other party reaches. 

  11. Whether you agree or do not agree with it, I think it is a worthwhile conversation to have. Attempts to simply write off the discussion, as you have done here, only hurt the party, the country and those whose views truthfully are not represented.

    In politics, dismissing any discussion as not worthwhile simply undermines true political reform.

    The standard definition by today’s government of democracy is – Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.

    Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. –> this is where Canadian politics should be. Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to and complacent with the former phrase under the present government.

    *Quote by Benjamin Franklin

  12. RE: Prohibition Related Violence
    It is impossible to successfully combat a problem which is legislated
    to exist and persist. Instead of helplessly combating a problem of our very own creation, would it not be better to not create it in the first place and look for real solutions?
    That single policy development will reduce crime; refocus crime
    spending to other areas; create revenue; and improve health outlooks for
    millions given the opportunity for proper education and regulation.The choice is even clearer than its was with alcohol, prohibition on cannabis hemp (marijuana) must be repealed.

  13. There is strictly no need to speak about marijuana for the LIberals, since come the next election all the Canadians who are herb-friendly will be in the conservatives newly build prisons serving their times.Stupid liberals and conservatives…all alike….

  14. government have just no idea how many people out there are already smoking…Canadians are way beyond prohibition…They have unanimously decided that THEY DONT NEED THE PERMISSION OF POLITICIANS to smoke their drug of choice MARIJUANA. So liberals stop wasting your time…

  15. From a long time conservative, the liberals moving to legalize is brilliant. Taxes would go way up, enabling massive budget spends, tourism would go up, more jobs. Brilliant. For conservatives to use this as a counter platform is silly. If this is a ‘true’ offering – i will by this alone vote liberal. Lets end prohibition.

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