NDP Leader Tom Mulcair pledged Thursday to decriminalize marijuana immediately if the NDP forms the next government of Canada.

"I want to make sure that everybody understands that the NDP's position is decriminalization the minute we form government," Mulcair said in response to a question at a campaign event in Vancouver on Thursday. 

Asked why the NDP favours decriminalization as opposed to legalization, the policy favoured by the Liberals, Mulcair emphasized his party's longstanding commitment to decriminalization. 

"The NDP has had the same position for about 40 years," Mulcair said. "Decriminalizing marijuana is the position of the NDP, it's my position and it's something that we can do immediately."

Hot topic on campaign trail

Marijuana policy has been a hot topic in the months and years leading up to the election campaign, with the Liberals coming out in favour of legalization and the Tories launching ads criticizing such a policy

During an event Last week to announce new funding to combat drug labs, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said a majority of Canadians agree with his opposition on legalization

However,  a poll commissioned by the Department of Justice last year found that more than two-thirds of Canadians wanted the federal government to ease the laws regarding possession and use of cannabis.

Harper's comments were technically correct because 37.3 per cent of respondents supported legalization, while another 33.4 per cent supported decriminalization and fines for possession of small amounts of the drug. The survey found 13.7 per cent of Canadians wanted pot laws to remain the same and 12 per cent wanted penalties to increase.

While former Conservative justice minister Peter Mackay said last year the government was considering a more lenient approach on pot, including allowing police to issue tickets to those caught with small amounts of the weed, laws have remained the same.

Medical marijuana laws revised

The Tory government did overhaul the medical marijuana system last year. The previous regulations allowed patients to grow their own pot, designate someone else to do it, or order supplies from Health Canada. The new rules require patients to order from a licensed commercial producer. 

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the federal government and expanded the definition of medical marijuana beyond its dried form to include extracts and derivatives such as oils and edibles. Conservative candidate Rona Ambrose, the current health minister, said she was "outraged" by the decision.

Mulcair said it's time for a change.

"Mr. Harper's plan has failed so we've got to start doing things differently. I have been categorical that no person should ever face criminal charges or a criminal record for personal use of marijuana," Mulcair said.

Asked about whether the NDP would extend amnesty to those convicted under old laws, Mulcair said it would be something his party would "sit down and look at."