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Liberal Convention 2012: Federal Grits Vote To Legalize Marijuana

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The Liberal Party of Canada has voted to legalize pot at their policy convention in Ottawa.
The Liberal Party of Canada has voted to legalize pot at their policy convention in Ottawa.

The Liberal Party of Canada has voted to legalize pot.

Seventy-seven per cent of delegates at the Liberals' biennial convention told their party's leadership Sunday morning that they want a future Liberal government to legalize marijuana.

Their interim leader Bob Rae acknowledged the war on drugs hasn’t worked, but told reporters the party's caucus would have to study the implications of the resolution.

"Frankly, the status quo doesn't work and that's what needs to change,” Rae said. “The Liberal party is saying that the current laws do not work and that we need a new direction.”

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“It’s now up to us to take that resolution and see exactly what it will mean in terms of policy, because there are some practical questions that we have to look at,” Rae added, noting in French that one such issue would be how to control the supply of legalized pot.

Rae insisted he was at ease defending the principles of the resolution and that he would work with the membership on the issue in the months and years ahead as the party drafts its next election platform.

“I accept that it is the will of the party that was expressed and as leader we will continue to work together,” Rae said.

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During a debate on the floor of the Ottawa convention hall, one Liberal delegate, a police officer, told the crowd Canada’s drug policy was misguided.

“This country does not need more prisons, it needs less criminals,” he said.

The resolution, which was brought forward by the party's youth wing, calls upon a Liberal federal government to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana production, distribution and use while enacting “strict penalties for illegal trafficking, illegal importation and exportation, and impaired driving.”

The resolution also calls for significant investments in prevention and education programs on the harms of marijuana and amnesty for Canadians convicted of simple possession in the past.

Samuel Lavoie, the president of the Young Liberals of Canada, said he wasn’t sure the resolution would make it into the Liberal party’s next election platform, but that he hoped it would not be ignored.

“I think everyone in the party, not only the interim leader (Rae), but everyone in the party, recognizes that there were 3,000 Liberals here this weekend and that this is a motion which, however controversial, passed with more than 75% of support, so I think it would be difficult for anyone to just ignore the result and the will of the membership,” he said.

Liberals should stop being scared of any soft on crime label the Conservative party might give them, Lavoie added.

“The Conservative staffers in the Prime Minister’s office will never vote for the Liberal party,” Lavoie said. “We are talking to Canadians, the fact is this is a sensible policy, an evidence-based policy that is very easy to defend and polls show that we have a majority of support amongst Canadians. There is a cross-partisan support amongst non-conservative voters for this. So we feel like this is something that will get us votes not lose us votes,” he said.

More than 1,400 delegates took part in the vote. If Liberal members re-affirm the motion in two years during another policy process, the Liberal leader will still have the right to veto any part of the election platform under current rules.

Like Huffington Post Canada's Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj's reporter page on Facebook and follow her onTwitter for all the latest news from Parliament Hill.

althia.raj@huffingtonpost.com

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