Pubdate: Fri, 12 Oct 2001
Source: Esquimalt News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 Esquimalt News
Author: Mark Browne
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


If Keith Martin had his way, anyone caught by the police with a small 
amount of pot wouldn't have to worry about facing a criminal charge.

The Canadian Alliance MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca addressed a House 
of Commons sub-committee on Oct. 3 and argued to have his Private 
Members Bill, which pushes for decriminalization of marijuana, voted 
on in the House of Commons.

If everything goes well, Martin will get the opportunity to have his 
bill debated in the House of Commons.

Martin's bill calls for the decriminalization of marijuana for anyone 
found to be in simple possession of pot.

If the bill were to ever become legislation, a person caught with a 
small amount of marijuana wouldn't face criminal prosecution. 
Instead, says Martin, they would be fined in the same way you pay a 
fine for a traffic violation. Fines would be $200 for the first 
offence, $500 for the second offence and $1,000 for the third offence.

Martin contends keeping people who are found with a small amount of 
pot in their possession out of the criminal courts will save the 
taxpayers a lot of money.

"It will enable us to save about $150 million out of our criminal 
justice system," he says.

The money saved could be used to go after drug traffickers and 
organized crime, says Martin.

As well, more money would be available for police to focus on more 
serious offences and for drug prevention programs.

Attempts at decriminalizing marijuana have a good track record in 
other countries.

Martin points out that in London, England authorities have 
experimented with fining people instead of charging them for being in 
possession of small amounts of marijuana. "And it's working out very 
well," he says.

Martin notes that since the Netherlands decriminalized pot, heroin 
use in that country has significantly dropped.

The time is ripe to decriminalize pot in Canada, he says, noting that 
75 per cent of Canadians polled support decriminalizing marijuana.

Martin says he's received little opposition from other Alliance MPs 
in his quest to have marijuana decriminalized.

There's another reason why Martin is trying to get his Private 
Members Bill debated in the House of Commons.

He says he's hoping if the bill receives debate it will pave the way 
for discussion on ways to address problems associated with the 
international drug trade.

For instance, says Martin, heroin addicts could be dealt with through 
a medical model rather than through a criminal model.

As well, Martin says changes to laws could make it easier to put 
large criminal organizations that sell drugs out of business.

Also, governments need to have the powers to prevent such 
organizations from obtaining chemicals used to manufacture illicit 
drugs, says Martin.
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