Pubdate: Wed, 30 May 2001
Source: Kimberley Daily Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Cranbrook Daily Townsman
Contact:  Hubert Beyer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


VICTORIA - When Joe Clark, the Conservative leader, starts calling 
for the decriminalization of marijuana, the time has definitely come.

Alan Rock, the Justice Minister, doesn't go quite as far but he, too, 
says it's time for a frank discussion about whether Canada's 
marijuana laws are outdated.

This sudden preoccupation with the question of whether the possession 
of marijuana ought to be legalized or just decriminalized has a 
reason: Last year, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that an outright 
ban on marijuana is inconsistent with the principles of justice.

The court didn't strike down the law, but allowed for one year to 
appeal its decision, rewrite it or scrap it altogether.  Lack of 
response will strike down the law.

Some argue in favor of outright legalization.  They can point to 
strong public support.

In a recent poll by Reginald Bibby, a sociologist with the University 
of Lethbridge, 46 per cent of the respondents favored legalization of 
marijuana.  Not surprisingly, in B.C.  that number rose to 56 per 

Yet, prudence may dictate a less drastic change.  Legalization would 
necessitate detailed preparations.  Like with alcoholic beverages and 
tobacco products, somebody's would have to be given the green light 
to grow the stuff.

Next comes the question of who should sell it.  Liquor stores might 
be an obvious choice, but would any government, provincial or 
federal, want to wade into that minefield?

And last but not least, Canadian politicians will undoubtedly keep an 
eye on American reaction.  Outright legalization would enrage the 
U.S.  government, which is determined to continue the war on drugs 
that was lost a long time ago.

And nobody has even been able to convince the U.S.  Drug Enforcement 
Agency that there is a difference between marijuana and crack 
cocaine, when all they have to do is ask the former and current 
presidents to explain it to them.

When all is said and done, the more rational choice for Canada is 
decriminalization which has been supported in other polls by close to 
80 per cent of respondents.

There is also increasing evidence that marijuana use is far less 
harmful than those pushing the buttons in the war on drugs would have 
had us believe.

It is estimated that more than 600,000 Canadians have received 
criminal records for simple possession of marijuana, most of them in 
the past 20 years.  In the sixties it was not uncommon for people 
caught with one marijuana cigarette to go to be sentenced to five 
years in prison.  In the States they still do.

It doesn't happen in Canada anymore, but still, it is ludicrous at 
best and obscene at worst that people still get criminal records for 
doing what 80 per cent of the Canadian public says should be 

It is encouraging that recently the House of Commons unanimously 
passed a motion to create a committee to examine the use of 
non-medical drugs in Canada.  All five parties have indicated they 
will raise the marijuana issue at those meetings.

Committee members would be well advised to consider how marijuana 
came to be first demonized and then criminalized in Canada.

It was in 1920 that an Edmonton woman, writing under the pen name 
Janey Canuck first warned Canadians about "marahuana." Seven years 
later, Canada outlawed its use.

Janey was a prolific and sensationalist writer, not only on the evils 
of marijuana, but on the dangers of non-white immigrants.  She wrote 
of "the lowest classes of yellow and black men," and "this sallow, 
unsmiling Oriental." What a broad.

Canadians may know her better as Emily Murphy, the first woman judge 
in the British Empire, and one of the "the famous five." In 1929, 
these women won a judgment from the British Privy Council that 
declared women were indeed persons under the British North America 
Act, and therefore entitled to sit in the Senate.

Researchers for the LeDain Commission on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs 
reported in 1973, "Her writings were extremely influential in shaping 
Canadian drug laws," and many of her "original proposals are still 
reflected in our narcotics legislation."

I say it's time to revisit the law that Janey Canuck inspired with 
her mean-spirited and sensationalist writings.  With the majority of 
Canadians nodding approval, it shouldn't be too difficult even for 
those politicians who always have one eye on re-election to come out 
in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.

And maybe if people are allowed to grow a few plants for personal 
use, it will even make a dent in the criminal distribution of 
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