POLITICS

Jack Layton's Marijuana Stance Was Once Like Trudeau's (VIDEO)

08/26/2013 12:40 EDT | Updated 08/26/2013 12:48 EDT

Today the NDP and Liberals disagree about marijuana, but Jack Layton once sounded a lot like Justin Trudeau on the subject of legalization.

In a 2003 interview with marijuana activist Marc Emery, the then-NDP leader (though still not an MP) said he and the party supported a plan for pot that seems to closely resemble the platform of the Liberal party in 2013. (Watch part two of the video here).

"I'd like to invite you to support our party which is in favour of modernizing our marijuana laws and creating a legal environment in which people can enjoy their marijuana in the peace and quiet of their own home or in a cafe without having to worry about being criminalized," Layton said.

He then goes on to explain what potential NDP legislation might look like.

"Well, we'd like to see it to be the sort of legislation that essentially allows people to consume marijuana, particularly that they might grow themselves, but ultimately as well some technique that would allow them to be able to purchase it safely, knowing what the quality is, knowing what's there, and have that all be a legal activity."

Sounds a lot like the plan for legalization supported by Justin Trudeau and the Liberals today, though Layton did stress that the NDP was still working on what its policy would look like.

Trudeau stirred up a political firestorm last week after telling The Huffington Post Canada he smoked marijuana while serving as an MP. Trudeau has come out strongly in favour of full legalization of the drug.

The NDP was quick to attack Trudeau for his admission.

"I'm sure there will be kids saying, 'Hey if he does it, we can do it,'" said NDP justice critic Françoise Boivin.

Boivin added that Trudeau is trying to sound "popular and cool."

Trudeau's relationship with Emery, who is currently serving a prison sentence in the U.S. for selling marijuana seeds, also made headlines in the wake of the revelations about his pot use. Over the weekend, Emery apologized for saying that he had smoked marijuana with Trudeau four or five times, clarifying that he meant several times over the course of a single evening. Trudeau has denied ever smoking marijuana with Emery.

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Trudeau's 'Evolution' On Pot Legalization

Layton's exchange with Emery 10 years ago also made headlines, particularly Layton's statement that marijuana is a "wonderful substance." Layton would soon backtrack on his comments, saying that he was expressing his personal views and that pot is "wonderful" for medicinal users.

The NDP would later adopt decriminalization as its official position, one still maintained today. Currently, the NDP policy book says the party supports "decriminalizing marijuana possession with the goal of removing its production and distribution from the control of organized crime" and "adopting a harm reduction approach to substance abuse and permitting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes."

But some in the NDP still support a plan that sounds more like what Layton outlined to Emery in 2003. There was a push at the party's policy convention earlier this year to endorse full legalization.

"When it's not legal, we're creating the criminality and so we’re feeding into a flourishing black market," Oshawa NDP riding association president Christine McLaughlin told the Toronto Star.

Nathan Rotman, national director for the NDP, told HuffPost the legalization proposal never made it to the floor of the convention

The NDP actually briefly seemed to abandon support for even decriminalization in 2012 when newly-elected leader Thomas Mulcair said he did not support it. Mulcair's spokesman later clarified his position, saying the NDP leader does not think people should go to jail for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

After Trudeau admitted smoking pot while serving as an MP, Mulcair told HuffPost he has not smoked marijuana since being elected to office. During his time as leader, Layton said that he had smoked marijuana during his youth, but that it influenced him to urge young people "not to repeat the experience." Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he has never smoked pot.

Do you think the NDP should embrace full legalization of marijuana? Or have Justin Trudeau and the Liberals gone too far? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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