Pubdate: Tue, 01 Oct 2002
Source: Sooke News Mirror (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Sooke News Mirror
Author: Shannon Moneo
Bookmark: (Canadian Senate Committee on 
Illegal Drugs)


A federal senator thinks pot belongs in the same pot as booze.

Tory Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, involved in the September report 
recommending the legalization of marijuana, said prohibition is a cop-out. 
The Quebec senator has a compelling reason for making pot-smoking legal.

"Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is 
substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a 
criminal issue but as a social and public health issue," Nolin said. 
Canadians should be allowed to "choose whether to consume or not in security."

Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Don Brown said if alcohol was discovered today it 
would be illegal, so where does the line get drawn?

The organization representing Canada's law-enforcers doesn't buy the health 

Canadian Police Association executive officer David Griffin said pot 
combines the mind-altering effects of booze with the cancer risk associated 
with smoking.

Brown agreed, saying that legalization would lead to big health issues. 
"You don't see people with marijuana cigarettes with filters on them," he said.

Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin doesn't draw parallels between the 
hallucinogenic plant and booze. His aim is to eliminate punitive drug laws 
which result in piles of police paperwork and court tie-ups. In the process 
it would allow the redirection of money and resources spent on marijuana 

The way charges are dealt with now, it's almost like it is decriminalized. 
When RCMP discover less than 30 grams of the drug it can be a summary 
charge so the person is not photographed or fingerprinted. If convicted, 
they have a criminal record but it can be pardoned after two years.

Brown thinks issuing tickets would be more expedient. It would mean less 
paper shuffling and less court time going up in smoke. This is the approach 
Martin advocates, with the penalties being dealt with on a civil level 
rather than criminal.

Cpl. Ray Champagne, of the Sooke RCMP, said in the last year there have 
been only about eight search warrants executed for marijuana 
investigations. In previous years the detachment averaged about 30 to 40 
but because of other files, a staff shortage and different priorities, pot 
pickings have taken a back seat.

"We're still working at it," Champagne said. Climbing rates of cocaine and 
ecstasy use are resulting in stepped-up investigations locally.

In 1923, cannabis was first banned in Canada under the Opium and Drug Act. 
Since May 1997, illicit drugs like marijuana fall under the Controlled 
Drugs and Substances Act. In July 2001, Canada was the first nation to 
regulate the medicinal use of marijuana.

According to Martin, over 23 per cent of Canadians reported using cannabis 
at some stage in their life. About 20,000 people are arrested each year on 
pot-related charges and an estimated 600,000 Canadians have criminal 
records for marijuana possession.

Produced by the Senate's Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, the 
legalization report advocates that harm reduction, prevention and treatment 
should be the approach.

Report guidelines state marijuana use would be restricted to adults but 
criminal law would still apply for producers and sellers.
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