Recently the newly elected leader of the Federal Liberals, Justin Trudeau, said at a rally in Kelowna that he doesn’t support the decriminalization of marijuana. Instead, he clearly and excitedly stated, “I’m in favour of legalizing it, taxing it and regulating it.” In an interview later he clarified that is indeed his stance on the issue, despite his stance against legalization up to this point.
Well, that’s a curveball.
In response, Conservative Minister Peter MacKay stated, rather predictably, the CPC party line and unpopular opinion against legalization; despite overwhelming evidence supporting that the legalization and regulation of marijuana limits adolescent use, significantly disrupts organized crime and reduces health related risks from consuming the currently illicit substance.
Now, here is where it gets weird. In response, Megan Leslie, Deputy Leader of the Federal NDP, and a woman whom I have met multiple times and have the utmost respect for, stated that Justin Trudeau is merely “pandering” to young voters with this new stance and that he “doesn’t fully understand the consequences” of legalization.
To Megan and the party I hold dearest, I would say stop being so silly.
Instead of standing with the majority of Canadians – as proven in multiple national public opinion polls – in supporting the legalization of marijuana, the New Democrats have positioned themselves in an unusual position that’s not helpful for them or the country.
Now the NDP are saying in the media they support decriminalization, which is a really nebulous policy stance that makes almost nobody happy. Those on the right of the issue, that like the war on drugs as it is – a war – are never going to support their stance of decriminalizing the substance. Yet, those on the left of the issue would rather stand with the Liberals in supporting full legalization, because from an objective perspective, decriminalization makes little logical sense when compared with legalization.
Under decriminalization, people wouldn’t be punished for possessing or consuming cannabis, but organized crime would still be its primary distributor. It would not be federally regulated to ensure that the substance is not laced with far more damaging substances, and the government wouldn’t receive tax revenue from the sale of marijuana.
Decriminalization doesn’t make sense from any perspective, and seems to be an option made from a point of indecision or abstention between two clear choices: legalization or the status quo.
It’s shocking to me as a longtime member and supporter of the NDP that my party would, instead of standing with the majority of Canadians in support of legalization, chose to seemingly abstain from the argument following Mr. Trudeau’s sudden policy change.
In speaking with NDP members and MPs it’s clear to me many of their heart stands with legalization. So why this sudden bout of uncertainty? If New Democrats want to be elected, they need to be decisive and clear about their policy stances. We’re not fooling anyone – we’re New Democrats, not Liberals.
On this issue, the Liberals have maneuvered themselves exactly where they need to be. The majority of the Liberal base either supports legalization or doesn’t care either way. Now, if they want to win the next election, Liberals are better positioned to make converts out of New Democrat voters, rather than Conservatives, who are prone to not voting for any progressive candidates. By standing clearly in support of legalization, they’ve certainly won a few already, and the rest of the NDPs core supporters are left scratching their heads.