Pubdate: Fri, 13 Dec 2002
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Dan Palmer


Decriminalization of marijuana urged

Current penalties for pot possession are too stiff, a parliamentary
committee said yesterday, recommending fines rather than criminal
convictions for having small amounts.

But an Edmonton cop says committee members are way off if they believe
curbing penalties for people growing marijuana will somehow put a dent in
organized crime.

"Hogwash," said Sgt. Peter Ratcliff, president of the Edmonton Police
Association. "It won't slow things down." That's because the bulk of the
marijuana grown in the Edmonton area goes to the U.S. anyway.

"They're just going to direct the pot somewhere else," said Ratcliff.

The special parliamentary committee on the non-medicinal use of drugs
recommended possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana should be treated as a
regulatory offence and not land someone a criminal record.

"Smoking any amount of marijuana is unhealthy, but the consequences of
conviction for a small amount of marijuana for personal use are
disproportionate to the potential harm," said Liberal MP Paddy Torsney,
chair of the committee. The Commons committee was clear, however, that pot
should not be legalized. It excluded hashish and other cannabis-based
products from the 30-gram leniency provision.

But for small amounts of pot - including plants cultivated at home - "fines
would be paid without a court appearance and enforcement would not result in
a criminal conviction," said Torsney. The idea of permitting smokers to grow
their own would reduce the demand for dangerous grow operations, he said.
"We would prefer that you have your (own) one plant if you're a Saturday
night smoker." The committee report, which was not unanimously endorsed,
also maintains that trafficking in any amount of marijuana remain a crime.

Marc Emery, who sells marijuana seeds from Vancouver, said he expects a few
more customers if the recommendations are acted upon. "It'll help business a
little bit," he said. Emery added he doesn't expect a boom in business if
Canadian laws are changed since Canadians only represent about 25% of his

Jim Hole, co-owner of Hole's Greenhouses and Gardens in St. Albert, said if
the federal government legalizes pot, people may start asking him flat-out
about growing marijuana.

"If the government chooses to legalize it, people would be more comfortable
asking about it. I'm in no way endorsing legalization," said Hole.

Occasionally, he suspects he gets the odd inquiry about growing marijuana
when people call and are guarded about what specific plant they want advice
- ---
MAP posted-by: Josh