Leading up to the Brandon-Souris federal byelection, the Brandon Sun will pose a weekly question to all five candidates. The goal is to address issues facing the Brandon-Souris riding, and allow readers to get to know their candidates so they can make an informed decision when they cast their vote for the next member of Parliament on Nov. 25.
Question 2: The issue of marijuana legalization has been a major topic of discussion across the country in recent months. Where do you stand on the issue?
Do you believe marijuana should be a) decriminalized b) legalized or c) illegal (keep the law the same)?. Please explain why. Have you ever smoked marijuana?
• Rolf Dinsdale, Liberal
Legalizing marijuana has been a hot topic since before Justin Trudeau confirmed his support for a new approach to keeping drugs out of the hands of our children, but that stance seems to have brought out more partisan attacks than thoughtful examinations of what is clearly a very broken system.
We must look at the evidence. That the World Health Organization found Canada has the highest teen usage of marijuana among the countries it surveyed for a recent report demonstrates quite plainly, the prohibition on marijuana is not working.
The same old broken policies are costing Canadian taxpayers more than an estimated $500 million with no sign whatsoever of increasing protection of our children.
Legalizing marijuana will allow us, in conjunction with our law enforcement professionals, to better protect our communities through regulation and taxation, much like with tobacco and alcohol.
New, evidence-based policies will go much further in protecting our communities and our families than what is in place now. There are those who will criticize this position and use the same old negative and misleading attacks, but families in Brandon-Souris know we cannot continue the same broken policy actions over and over and call it a success — it’s not helping anyone.
Some residents may have their minds made up already, but I would encourage all of you who want to help build a stronger Brandon-Souris as a safer community for our children to join us in having a grown-up discussion about fixing our broken drug policy.
And yes, I have smoked marijuana.
• Frank Godon, Libertarian
Eleven years ago Sept. 4, a Senate committee issued a major report recommending that Canada legalize marijuana, as well as explaining how to go about it.
"Whether or not an individual uses marijuana should be a personal choice that is not subject to criminal penalties, but we have come to the conclusion that, as a drug, it should be regulated by the state much as we do for wine and beer," committee chairman Pierre Claude Nolin said at the time.
Since only actions which violate the rights of others may properly be termed crimes, the Libertarian party favours the repeal of all federal laws creating "crimes" without victims.
According to Libertarian.ca, the party advocates for "the repeal of all legislation prohibiting the production, sale, possession, or use of any drug, and of all legislation requiring medical prescriptions for the purchase of any drug, vitamin, or other substance; the repeal of all laws regulating or prohibiting gambling; and unconditional amnesty for all those currently incarcerated for the commission of these ‘crimes.’"
I have never smoked marijuana, but I am interested in the health benefits of juicing the leaves as there is some very interesting results coming from studies in the U.S. from cancer reduction to maintenance of Type 2 diabetes (which I have) to pain relief of arthritis. Yes, I agree that cannabis should be decriminalized and legalized and the full potential of its health benefits realized.
• Larry Maguire, Conservative
I believe that marijuana should remain an illegal substance. The Liberals are sending the completely wrong message to the children and families of Brandon-Souris.
Their policy sends a message that recreational drug use is acceptable and that is not a message any responsible politician or political party should send. Having marijuana available for sale like alcohol and tobacco is entirely wrong.
I am committed to keeping this drug out of the hands of our children and off of our streets. Many studies have shown the potency and addictive qualities of marijuana available to today’s youth is much stronger than what it used to be decades ago, and increasing access will only increase addiction.
It surprises me that the Liberal party has decided to focus on this issue when it is simply not a priority of Canadians. My focus this campaign continues to be investments in new roads, creating high-paying jobs and pursuing policies that will increase economic growth in our region.
Those are the real priorities of Canadians.
Finally, to answer your last question, no, I have never smoked marijuana.
• David Neufeld, Green Party
Legalize marijuana. Take crime out of the picture. We can also reduce its habitual use by educating about its contribution historically as a healing, teaching plant. The Green party has given reasoned, researched leadership on this issue for more than a decade.
Canadians spend more than $50 million annually enforcing laws relating to marijuana. Yet, the decades-long war has not reduced use. It has criminalized youth and enriched organized crime. As with alcohol, regulation and taxation are more effective.
Canadians can grow small amounts of tobacco and brew alcohol for personal use. Soon individuals will be free to grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. As a priority, our laws should be designed to effectively curb drug trafficking to our children.
Medicinal users are generally unhappy with marijuana grown in large facilities. Individuals, treated by a doctor, should be allowed to find licensed small growers for quality medicinal marijuana. Sales to adults could also happen through licensed distribution outlets. Small business and local sourcing are preferable.
Our youth deserve wholesome, community-sponsored activities and honest education about the safe use of teaching plants throughout human history. This discussion gives us another opportunity to shift away from nagging our kids about their behaviour to teaching them about healthy relationships — including relationships with plants.
One of our teens asked me when it would be OK to try marijuana. "When you’re ready to understand it," was my reply.
And yes, like many of my generation, I’ve had various relationships with cannabis/marijuana.
• Cory Szczepanski, NDP
I support decriminalization of marijuana because I believe it is the most balanced, practical and smartest way to move forward. Certainly, this is a complicated issue, and the NDP has never backed away from having adult conversations on pot.
Yes, I’ve smoked it, and evidence shows that I’m not the only one, but what the NDP is saying is that no one should have a criminal record because they have gotten caught. Criminal convictions place unnecessary barriers on future travel, employment and citizenship. We don’t need to be tying up our police forces and court system further with pot possession charges.
There is important research underway, and health considerations to take into account when developing federal drug policy, particularly the effects that marijuana has on the brain development of adolescents. Decriminalization is the best way to make this a health issue instead of a criminal issue.
When pot is decriminalized we can better study policy openly and honestly. We can study the market — who is selling it, who is producing it.
It’s clear that Mr. Trudeau’s position is about political opportunism, not about what’s best for Canadians. He voted for mandatory minimums for marijuana production after having smoked as an MP. That does not make sense. How can we know what he really believes? Liberals are also ignoring how this issue could impact our relationship with the U.S., particularly managing the border.
Let’s decriminalize marijuana, proceed with caution, and get back to fixing the economy and creating jobs for Canadians.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 8, 2013