Pubdate: Tue, 29 May 2001
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Province
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


OTTAWA - The debate over decriminalizing marijuana heated up 
yesterday with the Canadian Police Association coming out strongly 
against the idea and an Alliance MP saying it's the way to go.

MP Keith Martin, a medical doctor, introduced a private member's bill 
- - which has virtually no chance of becoming law - that would remove 
criminal penalties for simple possession of grass and replace them 
with fines of up to $1,000.

But the police association, representing some 30,000 officers across 
the country, warned legalization would have disastrous social 

"When illicit drugs are legalized, drug usage increases, the demand 
for chemical drugs increases and crime increases," Dale Orban, the 
group's spokesman, told a news conference.

"The costs of drug liberalization will be astronomical."

Experts balk at such claims, and even other police groups disagree.

In 1999, the Association of Canadian Police Chiefs recommended 
decriminalization, and the RCMP has said the option is worth 

This month, the House of Commons voted to create a committee to 
examine non-medical drugs, and several MPs said it will study 

Prime Minister Jean Chretien said the issue has been debated for 30 
years and the fact Canadians are discussing it again is healthy.

"Should we go into decriminalization and so on? It's not part of the 
agenda at this time but there is a public debate, it's all right," he 

Decriminalization in the Netherlands has not led to an increase in 
pot use there, a Senate committee on marijuana was told Monday.

Peter Cohen of Amsterdam University said about 16 per cent of Dutch 
residents have tried marijuana, a level much lower than in the United 
States. Under the Dutch system, people can buy up to five grams of 
marijuana or hash at coffee houses.

He said the U.S. prohibitionist approach to drugs is based on moral 
concepts rooted in the 19th Century, not on scientific evidence. He 
called the United States "the Taleban of drug policy."
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