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Voting Today? Here’s What Canada’s 6 Political Parties Say About Cannabis

Today, Canadians head to the polls to elect a new leadership, only six years after cannabis legalization appeared for the first time in the platform of a major political party. So where do our political parties stand now? Here’s a quick rundown:

The Liberal Party

This is Canada’s oldest party. It was responsible for introducing prohibition in 1908, and strengthened it in the 1920s. This is also the party that toyed with decriminalization in the 1970s before bowing to U.S. pressure. In 2001, court decisions forced the government to begin regulating medical cannabis. In 2003 and 2004, they failed to decriminalize cannabis and spent the next 11 years out of office.

In 2013, Joyce Murray successfully pushed cannabis legalization onto the official Liberal platform (though both interim leader Bob Rae and subsequent leader Justin Trudeau voted against it.) The first election they contested with this as part of their platform, they won a majority government. In the 2019 election, with cannabis legalization unfolding, they won a minority government. Now, in 2021, cannabis is… nowhere to be found in their 89-page platform. It isn’t mentioned a single time, not even in their list of accomplishments. We are also still waiting for a promised review of the medical cannabis program, but it doesn’t appear to be on the radar.

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In 2015, the Liberal party campaigned on the promise of legal cannabis. Photo by Amanda Siebert.
The New Democrat Party

The NDP is Canada’s third oldest party (after the Communist Party of Canada). This party has never taken a strong stance on cannabis, and it isn’t about to start now. In 2015, in an effort to differentiate between the pro-legalization Liberals and prohibitionist Conservatives, they offered decriminalization as a third option. At a whopping 115 pages, the NDP platform did manage to include a single reference to cannabis: a promise to expunge records for small possession amounts. That’s it, that’s all.

The Green Party

Our fourth oldest party with seats in parliament is perhaps the most disappointing. Founded in 1983, cannabis has never been a part of their environmental plans, and their 2021 platform is no different. Nowhere in their 97-page platform is either cannabis or hemp mentioned. This is the one party that should have been strongly behind industrial hemp at the very least, and they are completely silent on the issue.

The Bloc Quebecois

Our fifth oldest party with representation in the House of Commons isn’t really a fan of legalization. They voted against it, then in 2019, made some disparaging comments about legalization (though their former leader was in favour of a nationalized cannabis marketplace). With a uniquely Quebec powerbase, it isn’t surprising this is the party that has been the strictest with cannabis. Still, politically, it isn’t even worth a mention in their 2021 platform.

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Kirk Tousaw: An Open Letter To Health Canada on Personal Medical Cannabis Production, Part 1

The Conservative Party

This incarnation of the party was founded in 2003, and successfully removed the Liberals the next year, killing any hope of cannabis decriminalization under them. They were the stewards of Canada’s medical cannabis system and made many revisions under duress because of various court cases. Despite this, they remained adamantly prohibitionist under Stephen Harper. So much so, that a number of B.C. cities began regulating the sale and distribution of cannabis in spite of the federal government a full six months before the election that would see them lose on the issue.

In 2019, they hinted they might try and undo legalization, but after this was roundly dismissed in the media, it didn’t appear on their election platform. Politically, the party used its MPs and sitting senators to try and be a wet blanket, but these efforts also produced little fruit (though they will ever be remembered for the beauty of the ‘toaster bud’ incident). In 2021, this proudly prohibitionist party’s platform has nothing to say on cannabis.

The People’s Party

One of our youngest political parties was founded in 2018 by Maxime Bernier, a former Conservative who lost his bid to be elected leader of that party. As Marijuana Moment reported in 2019, “When running as for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2016, Bernier welcomed an endorsement from Marc Emery, the so-called Prince of Pot” who has since faced allegations of sexual misconduct.”

Before you get too excited however, the story goes on to reveal that, “Emery said at the time, I dont even know what his position on marijuana is and I dont care.” Now, in 2021, they still don’t seem to care. While their platform isn’t in a single document, perusing each point shows that cannabis isn’t even worth a mention.

So, six years after the historic election that set cannabis legalization on the path to reality, it’s a non-issue. Only one of the six leading political parties even mentions it, once. For the other five, it is a complete non-issue. By way of comparison, milk and dairy is mentioned at least nine times by 50 percent of the political parties. After a century of cannabis prohibition, with only six years of legalization under its belt, legalized milk is a bigger issue.

Who says Canadian politics are boring?