10 January 2016
Mr. Bill Blair, MP
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Blair:
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada congratulates you on your appointment as the lead on cannabis legalization.
NORML Canada dates back to the mid-1970s, founded after the release of the Le Dain Commission recommendations for de-escalating the role of the criminal justice system in relation to illicit drugs. Our members turned out en mass to elect the Trudeau Liberals in the 2015 election. NORML Canada believes that cannabis prohibition was, at its inception, a racist-inspired act of moral panic. NORML strongly endorses the finding of the 2002 Senate report that “the continued prohibition of cannabis jeopardizes the health and well-being of Canadians much more than does the substance itself.”
While we applaud the government’s commitment to reversing this historic injustice, we are concerned at the silence surrounding the cases of persons currently under prosecution for cannabis possession or production. Surely this is a time to “stand down” on cannabis-related prosecutions until a new regime comes into force and amnesties for prior prosecutions can be negotiated. Many Canadians are facing mandatory minimum jail sentences for involvement with a substance that is soon to be legal – and should never have been illegal in the first place!
Additionally, as Canada’s oldest NGO dedicated to drug policy reform – and with deep knowledge of the culture and evidence on cannabis science – we expect to be consulted on the forthcoming regime. In particular, our members insist on the right to grow cannabis for their personal consumption or for gifting to others (subject to reasonable regulations concerning mold and pesticides). We see no justification for a government monopoly on cannabis vending – in fact we find it highly unlikely that jurisdictions like Vancouver will attempt to end the private vending of cannabis products thereby putting people out of jobs and wasting the knowledge and insight of persons employed in that sector.
But the immediate issue is a moral imperative: the government must end all ongoing non-violent cannabis-related prosecutions. There is no justification for one additional person to go to jail for an act that never should have been criminalized.