Open Letter to the Senate Liberal Open Caucus

Canada Senate Chamber

Canada Senate Chamber

19 February 2016

Dear Senators:

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada (hereafter NORML Canada) is this country’s oldest NGO advocating for drug policy reform – reform that brings drug policy into compliance with scientific evidence and best practices.

NORML Canada worked hard to elect the Trudeau Liberals on the basis of the government’s promise to legalize cannabis – to, in effect, undo the 1923 policy error of prohibition. NORML Canada has never endorsed, nor condemned, the use of cannabis by any person for any reason. NORML’s raison d’être is succinctly captured in this passage from Senator Pierre Claude Nolin’s 2002 report: “the continued prohibition of cannabis jeopardizes the health and well-being of Canadians much more than does the substance itself.”

NORML Canada’s membership includes recreational and therapeutic cannabis users –– and many advocates for policy reform that reaches beyond cannabis to roll back the influence of both organized crime and law enforcement. But our long advocacy for undoing the error of cannabis criminalization – a stance amply substantiated since at least the Le Dain Commission – is reason enough for us to have a voice in all deliberations on this topic.

NORML Canada advocates for the following principles in the new legal regime of regulation:

Ensuring the right of home production – subject to reasonable regulations to control for mold and pesticides and to ensure the safety of property, NORML Canada believes that Canadians should be able to produce their own strains of cannabis as they already do with beer and wine. This would enable persons to cultivate their own specialized strains for therapeutic purposes, strains the market may not find profitable to produce. Policy makers should understand that, in any event, the democratization of knowledge on how to produce high quality cannabis is irreversible and that the policy costs of enforcing against home production would be as effective, intrusive and harmful as prohibition.

Immediately ending existing criminalization for cannabis offenses – NORML Canada believes that the government of Canada should “stand down” on existing cannabis prosecutions unless these involve violence or other criminal code offenses, that no person should have the distinction of being “the last person incarcerated in Canada” for cannabis offences.

Ensuring that the existing knowledge base is not squandered by the new regime – the persons currently working in dispensaries across Canada have accumulated wisdom and insight on what strains benefit what conditions, and this knowledge should not be squandered in the new regime. Thus the government should permit a hybrid model of vending that takes advantage of the existing knowledge base while enforcing against trafficking to minors.

NORML Canada looks forward to attending the February 24th open caucus and to answering your questions and contributing to this long overdue conversation.


Craig Jones

Craig Jones, PhD

Executive Director | NORML Canada

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada