Pubdate: Thu, 12 Sep 2002
Source: Goldstream Gazette (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Goldstream Gazette
Author:  Mark Browne


Keith Martin Agrees With Much Of Senate Report

It's not surprising that Keith Martin, the Canadian Alliance MP for 
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, has something to say about the Senate's 
just-released report recommending the legalization of marijuana.

After all, Martin has been vocal on his position that marijuana should be 
decriminalized (where someone found in possession of marijuana would 
receive a fine but no criminal record).

Martin said last week that he welcomes the report, from a Senate special 
committee chaired by Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, as it contains some 
recommendations he supports. However, he doesn't support the report's 
position that marijuana possession should be fully legalized.

The report argues that legalizing marijuana would be a major blow to 
organized crime as it would put the illegal large-scale marijuana trade - 
that is so prevalent in B.C. - out of commission. Criminal organizations 
that traffic marijuana would be out of business as the report calls for the 
sale and distribution of pot to be regulated for sale under licence for 
legal use for anyone 16 years of age and older.

Martin argues that legalizing marijuana would actually increase the level 
of trafficking of pot from Canada to the U.S. The level of marijuana 
growing operations would increase in Canada if pot was legal and more of it 
would make it across the border, he says.

"Legalizing marijuana in Canada would make us a bigger haven for organized 
crime," Martin said.

However, Martin hinted that organized crime would suffer a major blow if 
the U.S. ever decided to legalize marijuana.

"If it was legalized in the U.S. you would have a situation that changes 
everything," he said.

That said, Martin supports the special committee's view that Canada should 
encourage the U.S. to ease off on its war on drugs.

Martin says he strongly agrees with the report's recommendation that the 
federal government should erase the criminal records of all Canadians who 
have been convicted of marijuana possession.

The report recommends that rules concerning access to marijuana for 
medicinal purposes be loosened (the current rules governing access to 
marijuana for medicinal purposes have received a lot of criticism from 
activists who say the rules make it too difficult for ill people to acquire 

Martin, a trained physician, says he fully supports people having easier 
access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. He points out marijuana is 
considered by many as an effective method of dealing with painful symptoms 
from such illnesses as AIDS.

"My personal view as a physician is if we can't relieve the suffering, they 
should be able to do whatever they can to relieve their suffering," Martin 
said about his belief people should be able to access marijuana for 
medicinal purposes.

The report argues that a position shared by many that marijuana use leads 
to addiction to harder drugs like heroin is groundless. Martin couldn't 
agree more.

"There's not one iota of evidence that marijuana leads to heroin 
addiction," he said adamantly.

The brain chemistry in some people is "hard-wired" in such a way they 
require instant gratification which can be found in all kinds of substances 
ranging from caffeine to heroin, Martin said. Rather than blaming marijuana 
for causing people to become addicted to hard drugs, the focus should be on 
the people themselves who need to have their addictive tendencies treated, 
he said.

Martin unsuccessfully tried to have a private member's bill, calling for 
the decriminalization of marijuana, addressed in Parliament earlier this 
year. The Liberals, at the order of the Prime Minister's Office, quashed 
the bill in the House of Commons. Martin responded by grabbing the 
ceremonial mace, and breaching parliamentary decorum in the process.

Under Martin's private members bill, the fine for a first offence of 
marijuana possession would be $200; while those guilty of second and third 
offences would get fines of $500 and $1,000 respectively.

Martin's position was that decriminalizing pot would allow the government 
to save money from no longer having to penalize people for marijuana 
possession through the criminal justice system. The money saved could be 
well spent in treating addiction and going after organized crime.
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