Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Marijuana: Liberal Canary In Coal Mine
An overwhelming majority, 77% of committed Liberal delegates voted to legalize marijuana. As well, if you do the math on the demographic delegate breakdown, you'll find that even if one assumes every young Liberals voted in favour, you are still left with almost 2/3rds of the remaining delegates in favour. In other words, no matter how your dissect this vote, Liberals of all subsets support this policy, creating a firm resolve. In addition, not only did our interim Leader resist shying away from the vote, Rae embraced it and placed legalization at the center of "war on drugs" debate.
Liberals rejected the idea of removing a leader veto over policy, so the future party structure philosophy remains unclear. However, I now view the marijuana issue as the canary in the coal mine so to speak, how this issue is treated heading into the next election will provide the clearest indication if a formerly top down entity has truly "renewed" and "reformed". The base have made their voices heard, a voice which is not out of step with progressive society as a whole. It is fair for EVERY Liberal to now have an expectation that marijuana legalization will be part of future Liberal policy, should that fail to transpire, people can rightly ask if members are nothing more than robotic bank machines, patted on the head, but nothing of real consequence in the affairs of party direction.
There has been some mention of actively soliciting "supporters", using this issue as a lure of sorts. I agree with an aggressive strategy, as Rob Silver pointed out this is a classic "wedge" issue, one the Liberals can use effectively to contrast crime strategies, as well as certain libertarian issues. The marijuana issue is larger than just pot itself, the tentacles of that approach resonate elsewhere. I think Liberals may well shock themselves at how many "supporters" can be attracted, simply based on this particular perspective. This is a way for non-partisan Canadians to say "hey Liberal Party, I agree with you, I SUPPORT your idea, I'll lend my name to the cause".
Moving forward, it is imperative to hold the Liberal Party to account, to push the envelope, to push our new executive to follow through on their commitments. How the Liberals manage the marijuana issue is now a central indicator that will demonstrate, in concrete form, if this has truly become a member-centric institution or remains a timid, top down affair, wherein the rank and file are dismissed in the ways that truly matter. I'm leaving the banner on the sidebar as symbolic of this potential future tension, the members who have kept this listing tub afloat have spoken, loud and clear.