Pubdate: Thu, 12 Dec 2002
Source: Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs
Notes: The table of contents for the final report of the Canadian House of 
Commons Special Committee is at 

Footnotes linked to the text of the final chapter of the report below can 
be found at the webpage above.
Also: News items about this report have been (and will be as new stories 
are newshawked) linked from this webpage: 
(Cannabis - Canada)



As explained in Chapter 1, the Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of
Drugs was initially mandated to study "the factors underlying or
relating to the non-medical use of drugs in Canada" and to bring
forward recommendations aimed at reducing "the dimensions of the
problem involved in such use." That mandate was expanded on 17 April
2002 when the House of Commons, by order of reference, added the
subject matter of Private Member's Bill C-344, An Act to amend the
Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
(marihuana).299 This chapter will consider the provisions of the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) only as it relates to the
criminal prosecution of cannabis offences.300

Bill C-344 proposed to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
and the Contraventions Act, to make the offences of possession,
possession for the purposes of trafficking and trafficking in small
amounts of cannabis (one gram or less of cannabis resin and thirty
grams or less of cannabis (marijuana)) "ticketable" offences. The
available penalties would be a $200 fine for a first conviction, $500
for a second and $1,000 for a third. At present, possession of those
amounts is a summary conviction offence with a maximum penalty of a
$1,000 fine or six months in jail, or both. Today, trafficking of
anything less than 3 kg of cannabis resin or marijuana is exclusively
indictable and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years less a day
imprisonment.301 In support of his bill, Dr. Martin argued that it
would unburden the courts, save money, and free up police resources to
combat more serious offences.


The Committee heard a wide variety of suggestions respecting the legal
treatment of cannabis. Some recommended legalization, either regulated
or unregulated. Others favoured some form of decriminalization that
would create a non-criminal offence of possession, while still others
preferred a more cautious approach that would retain present
prohibitions, while introducing more and better diversion options as a
way of avoiding some of the harms associated with prosecution. There
were also those who favoured increased penalties, at least for
trafficking offences, and a renewed commitment to the goal of
abstinence. For their part, some health care professionals thought
that more research into the effects of cannabis should be undertaken
before amending the law, in order to bring better information to the
debate, while others pointed out that the illegal status of cannabis
has contributed to "a real resistance to conducting those sorts of

For the purposes of this discussion, the Committee defines
legalization as the removal of all criminal sanctions prohibiting the
production, sale or possession of a given substance. Legalization need
The Committee observed the following:

Smoking any amount of marijuana is unhealthy, because of its high
concentration of tar and benzopyrene.

The consequences of conviction for possession of a small amount of
cannabis for personal use are disproportionate to the potential harm
associated with that behaviour.

DECRIMINALIZING the possession of small amounts of cannabis for
personal use would not affect the penalties or consequences for
trafficking, or for the possession of any other controlled substance.

All orders of government must undertake to inform Canadians about the
potential harms associated with cannabis use and, in particular, the
heightened risk to young persons.


The Committee recommends that the possession of cannabis continue to
be illegal and that trafficking in any amount of cannabis remain a


The Committee recommends that the Minister of Justice and the Minister
of Health establish a comprehensive strategy for decriminalizing the
possession and cultivation of not more than thirty grams of cannabis
for personal use. This strategy should include:

Prevention and education programs outlining the risks of cannabis use
and, in particular, the heightened risk it poses to young persons;

The development of more effective tools to facilitate the enforcement
of existing Criminal Code prohibitions against driving while impaired
by a drug. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake