The Liberals shot down an NDP motion to decriminalize cannabis ahead of the government’s legalization program.

Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould said decriminalization would only fund the profits of organized crime.

“It would mean that marijuana would remain an illegal substance and that it would continue to be grown and distributed by organized crime networks,” Wilson-Raybould said in the House of Commons today.”Canadians, both adults and youth, would continue to purchase a product of unknown potency and quality.”

MP Bill Blair said it would be inappropriate to decriminalize cannabis before the government goes through its legalization process.

“It would be reckless in the extreme and perhaps create much greater risk for our communities to remove all control from cannabis,” said Blair, a former Toronto police chief and the government’s point man on legalization. “It would create opportunities for organized crime and put our children at risk.”

NDP justice critic Murray Rankin said the Liberal legalization process could take years, while in that time many Canadians will continue to accrue criminal records.

“To hide behind the status quo and do nothing, (which) is the government’s particular option until they finally have a law enacted, is not right,” Rankin said. “It creates a continuing injustice in this country, which is felt in different parts of the country in different ways, and we say on this side of the House that it’s time to fix that problem now.”

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith also spoke out in favour of the motion.

“Is not decriminalization a fairer option as a matter of scarce judicial resources and a matter of not affecting young peoples’ lives negatively for no reason at all when we are legalizing within one year?” Erskine-Smith said.