Pubdate: Tue, 01 Oct 2002
Source: Sault Star, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Sault Star
Author: Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin


Letters to the Editor -

The response to the report of the Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs has, in 
many ways, been just what we hoped for: informed discussion, debate and 

However, some of what the committee said in our report either was not heard 
or has been misunderstood.

First, we do not endorse recreational drug use. We would prefer to see a 
drug-free society just as we would love to see world peace, but we are 
realistic enough to know that we will not likely see it in our lifetime.

The premise of our report is that in a free society such as ours, citizens 
should have the right to make informed decisions on their own behaviour as 
long as it does not inordinately harm others.

We found that cannabis falls into that category.

It is less harmful to individuals and to others than tobacco or alcohol, so 
let's treat it in a similar way.

We found no good reason for Canadians to have a criminal record for 
personal recreational use of marijuana.

There has also been a lot of controversy around our report regarding the 
legal age limit. The committee recommended an age limit for legal 
consumption at 16 as an absolute minimum age based on scientific findings 
that the human brain is developed enough by then not to be physically harmed.

We recommend that the authorities not legalize cannabis for use below the 
age of 16.

There may be good reason to determine that another age above 16 would be 
best. That's why we want the federal and provincial players to meet with 
other health and community stakeholders to determine an acceptable age.

This report is not about comparing the merits of cannabis to other 
substances, but about whether otherwise law-abiding Canadians should be 
persecuted, prosecuted and penalized for consuming a substance proven to be 
relatively benign.

We believe that education, treatment and prevention are the ways to deal 
with any problems use of tobacco, alcohol or cannabis may cause, not 
prohibition and criminalization.

Just as disturbing have been the attacks from some of the organizations 
that represent the police community.

We consider their advice carefully but don't completely agree with them.

At the same time, our report addresses specific issues raised by police 
such as calling for a national drug policy, a national advisor and 
effective research coordination, and recommending that the legal blood 
alcohol level be reduced to .04 from .08 when in the presence of cannabis.

Finally, there is the notion that our report promotes or advances criminal 
activity or terrorism.

Currently, organized crime enjoys vast profits from the sale of illicit 
drugs. Legalization takes the production and distribution of cannabis out 
of the hands of organized crime.

Profits would go to shareholders, not terrorists or gangs.

Buyers would not be purchasing cannabis from someone who is also selling 
crack cocaine or heroin.

If there is any gateway effect that can be attributed to cannabis, it's the 
fact that buyers are exposed to dealers who stand to gain more from pushing 
much more highly addictive substances than they do from selling cannabis.

It is clear that Canadians are more than willing to debate this issue.

I hope our report continues to provide the information and ideas to help 
Canada to a new policy of healing and dignity, rather than the degradation 
and despair created by our current prohibitionist policy.

Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin


Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs

Ottawa, Ont.
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