October 22, 2020

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Cannabis policy low priority on federal party platforms

With less than a month until Canadians go to the polls, most federal political party leaders have stayed quiet about how they'd shape cannabis policy if they form government.

That includes Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, whose government was voted into power in 2015 after campaigning on legalizing and regulating marijuana. Four years later, none of the Liberal party's policy promises have mentioned cannabis so far.

An emailed statement from Liberal spokesperson Guy Gallant offered no new details on how a second-term Liberal government would approach cannabis policy. Gallant touted the Liberal government's achievement in legalizing cannabis last year, calling it an improvement over prohibition, which "allowed criminals and organized crime to profit, while failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian youth."

"In October, we’ve got a choice to make: Keep moving forward and build on the progress we've made or go back to the politics of the Harper years," Gallant wrote.

None of the Liberal party's policy promises made by Justin Trudeau have mentioned cannabis. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press files)

None of the Liberal party's policy promises made by Justin Trudeau have mentioned cannabis. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press files)

The Conservative party opposed cannabis legalization during the 2015 election under former leader Stephen Harper. Under current leader Andrew Scheer, the Tories attacked the Liberals' legalization policy shortly after it took effect, labelling it "Justin Trudeau's Hazy Marijuana Legalization" and promising that Scheer "will always protect the health and safety of Canadians."

Although the Conservatives haven't made any official policy announcements on cannabis during the campaign so far, Scheer told reporters he wouldn't outlaw the drug again during a campaign stop in Prince Edward Island last Sunday.

"I said in the past that we will not recriminalize, but we will work with the provinces to ensure that the unintended consequences of the Liberal legislation can be addressed," Scheer said.

"We want to focus on research, ensuring that Health Canada does its job in fully understanding the impacts of cannabis. This is a major change in our society, and like other types of products, has consequences, has health effects. So we want to make sure we fully understand that, and that we promote awareness campaigns to ensure that Canadians understand some of the risks that are associated with long-term cannabis use."

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said he wouldn't recriminalize marijuana. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press files)

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said he wouldn't recriminalize marijuana. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press files)

"We will have more to say about our platform commitments throughout the campaign," wrote Conservative spokesperson Simon Jefferies by email. He declined to say whether those future platform commitments would include anything cannabis-related.

The New Democratic Party platform so far makes one mention of cannabis, a promise to "proactively expunge criminal records for Canadians convicted of minor cannabis possession." (Outgoing NDP MP Murray Rankin introduced a private member's bill to that effect earlier this year, but it was voted down. The Liberal initiative to pardon Canadians convicted of simple cannabis possession is already underway, and requires those Canadians to apply for expedited pardons on their own initiative.)

An NDP spokesperson expanded on the party's cannabis policy ideas in an emailed statement, saying the party "believes that the federal government must provide the necessary resources that are required by provinces and municipalities for legalization to be successful," and accusing the Liberal government of not sharing enough resources to help provinces and municipalities manage the transition to the legal cannabis regime.

The spokesperson also criticized the Liberal government for applying the federal cannabis excise tax to medical cannabis, and said an NDP government would reverse that policy.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh would expunge criminal records for Canadians convicted of minor cannabis possession and get rid of a federal excise tax on medical marijuana. (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press files)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh would expunge criminal records for Canadians convicted of minor cannabis possession and get rid of a federal excise tax on medical marijuana. (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press files)

"The NDP also believes that cannabis edibles should be legalized now — the one-year delay by the Liberals was not necessary as Canadians may buy them through the black market," wrote the spokesperson. (Legal cannabis edibles are expected to go on sale as early as December, after new regulations take effect next month.)

The Green party's official platform devotes a whole page to cannabis policy, promising to "remove the sales tax on medicinal (cannabis) products" and allow hemp growers to produce hemp-derived CBD as a natural health product.

However, some Green party cannabis promises are premised on factual errors. For example, the party promises to "lower the federally set price for cannabis to make it competitive with illegal supplies," but the price of legal cannabis is not set directly by Ottawa.

The Green Party, led by Elizabeth May, wants to remove the sales tax on medicinal cannabis products and allow hemp growers to produce CBD as a natural health product. (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press files)

The Green Party, led by Elizabeth May, wants to remove the sales tax on medicinal cannabis products and allow hemp growers to produce CBD as a natural health product. (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press files)

The Green promise to "eliminate requirements for excess plastic packaging on legal cannabis" is similarly inaccurate. While federal regulations do establish requirements for cannabis packaging, such as being child-proof and preventing contamination, the regulations don't require cannabis packaging to be made of plastic. The Green platform also says the party would allow outdoor production of cannabis, which is already permitted under federal regulations. A spokesperson said the party currently has no further comment on its cannabis policy proposals.

People's Party of Canada spokesperson Martin Masse said the party wouldn't make any changes to cannabis laws in the near future, and would "continue to monitor the development of the industry."

"In the longer term, our main worry is to make sure that we see the illegal market significantly reduced and ideally disappear," added Masse by email.

"If it stays large, we would look at regulatory and tax changes to ensure the legal market is better served."

A Bloc Québécois press secretary did not respond to a request to share the party's cannabis policies.

Maxime Bernier and the People's Party of Canada wouldn't make any changes to the government's current cannabis policies. (Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press files)

Maxime Bernier and the People's Party of Canada wouldn't make any changes to the government's current cannabis policies. (Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press files)

solomon.israel@theleafnews.com   

Twitter: @sol_israel

 

 

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