Pubdate: Fri, 06 Sep 2002
Source: North Bay Nugget (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 North Bay Nugget
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


EDITORIAL - A Senate committee appointed by the government to study Canada's
marijuana laws shocked many in the nation this week by recommending sweeping
changes to the country's drug laws.

The committee, headed by Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, recommended legalizing
pot smoking for any resident older than 16 - a move that goes beyond what
many were expecting - simple decriminalization.

The report was enthusiastically endorsed by marijuana activists and severely
criticized by organizations such as the Canadian Police Association. The
report certainly opens an avenue for vigorous debate in the country,
especially in the halls of government. It states the current system of
prohibition doesn't work and should be replaced by a regulated one similar
to alcohol distribution.

It was also interesting to note the committee views marijuana use as much
less harmful than alcohol, citing scientific evidence, and recommending
marijuana use be treated as a social and public health issue rather than a
criminal one.

Canada's Justice Minister Martin Cauchon reacted carefully Wednesday stating
the government will study the committee's findings and won't reveal its
position until early next year.

The House of Commons is expected to complete a report on illicit drugs by

It's doubtful the federal government will move quickly on the issue - at
least until it gets a feel for public reaction to the Senate report. Recent
polls have indicated Canadians' position on the decriminalization of
marijuana has softened to the point where a majority are willing to accept a
fine for possession of small amounts of the substance with no criminal

Legalization, with pot being sold like liquor from neighbourhood stores to
youth as young as 16, will be a hard sell, especially when you have to be 19
to buy liquor in Ontario.

Cauchon wouldn't comment on the legalization issue, but agrees Canada's
marijuana laws are "outdated."

It's likely the government will move slowly, starting first with
decriminalization and proceeding on other issues as public opinion and
necessity warrants.

In other words, don't expect a bag of weed and packs of joints to be
available at your local convenience store or liquor outlet any time soon.
The Senate report is a bold statement. The main argument for legalization
over decriminalization is the latter leaves production in the hands of
organized crime.

The Senate committee believes the country is ready for a new attitude toward
marijuana use and, at the same time, eliminating a source of money for
organized crime.

One thing is for sure, Canada's marijuana laws have failed to curtail use
and the proliferation of criminals willing to grow and sell it. Maybe it's
time we started talking openly and putting the hyperbole behind.

It's certainly worth debate.
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