The document currently has statements from 222 of 337 Members of Parliament (there is one vacancy) but Vekemans said he hopes to get better, more direct responses from MPs instead of the many auto-replies he’s been sent.
“The purpose of the document is to get the information out there and available in an ordered form so people can draw their own conclusions, and followup with MPs to get better statements,” said Vekemans, who said the project expanded in scope to also house all contact and social media information for MPs.
The vast majority of statements come from the Liberal Party, which has promised to legalize cannabis during their term in government.
Vekemans said the general Liberal position on cannabis was best summarized by MP Carolyn Bennett, who emphasized the dangers posed to youth by cannabis.
“Every day, our kids turn to dealers, gangs and criminals to buy marijuana, putting them in harm’s way. For them, buying marijuana is often easier than cigarettes,” Bennett wrote, in an email. “If we pass smart laws that tax and strictly regulate marijuana, we can better protect our kids, while preventing millions of dollars from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.”
Vekemans said his interpretation of the statement was “let’s tax and regulate so we can get the revenue from it, under the faux claim of ‘keeping it out of kids hands.'”
“My question for the Liberals would be, if cigarettes are so bad, then why not just put it under the [Controlled Drugs and Substances Act]?” Vekemans said. “Legalizing certainly has nothing to do with kids but ‘keeping it out of kids hands’ is something that a majority of MPs can agree on.”
Conservative MP Scott Ried also favours legalization, and has said he doesn’t think cannabis use is dangerous.
“The most significant gateway drug is cigarettes, and the drug that does the most damage is alcohol, and they are both legal, and should be in my view,” he said, in a news article.
Vekemans said out of all the responses he could find, only Niki Ashton of the NDP mentioned having cannabis controlled at the provincial level.
“Let’s put [cannabis] in the jurisdiction of the provinces, take it out from the national Criminal Code,” Ashton said in a Maclean’s interview. “Let’s leave it to the provinces to figure out what’s best for them.”
Vekemans said that while it isn’t a groundbreaking statement, the distinction is important.
“It seems that many MPs say ‘regulate like alcohol and tobacco‘ yet alcohol is provincial and cigarettes are federal,” he said, adding that provincial regulation will provide greater freedom for the industry.
Niagra-Falls Conservative Rob Nicholson had what Vekemans called a “really reefer-madness answer” to his position on cannabis reform and that it was fortunate he no longer served as the Minister of Justice.
“Marijuana is a psychoactive substance causing alteration of mental and physical function,” Nicholson wrote in an email. “The use of psychoactive substances raises issues of public health and safety, both for the user and for those in the broader society affected by the user’s conduct. The production and trafficking of illicit drugs is the most significant source of money for gangs and organized crime. It does profound harm to neighbourhoods, where homes are turned into grow-ops and crystal meth labs.”
Vekemans said Conservative MP Peter Kent had a surprising answer, as it seemed he supported legalization without directly coming out and saying so.
“Lib procrastination proves JT didn’t have policy behind promises. Delay allows proliferation of illegal sales,” Kent wrote in a Twitter exchange, going on to say that he’s had conversations with the Canadian Chiefs of Police who have said they’re being placed in an increasingly difficult enforcement situation.
Vekemans said his hope is that others will use the information he’s compiled, and add to it, creating an easily accessible document for MP positions on cannabis.