Pubdate: Sun, 15 Dec 2002
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002 The Calgary Sun


Marijuana Cases Clog Courts And Cost Canadians Big-Time

The time has come to get off the pot and decriminalize pot.

At last, it looks as though this incompetent federal government is going to 
do something right for a change and proceed with implementing some of the 
recommendations released Thursday in the Commons Report of the Special 
Committee on the Non-Medical use of Drugs.

For too long in this country, the penalties for the possession of small 
amounts of marijuana have been out of proportion to marijuana's negative 
impacts and public opinion.

What that has meant is all of us -- even the majority of Canadians who do 
not smoke cannabis -- have been paying big-time for a policy that is out of 
step with reality and common sense.

Scarce police and court resources have been squandered on busting and 
prosecuting weekend tokers while more serious crimes go uninvestigated and 

Committee chair and Liberal MP Paddy Torsney made it clear that the report 
insists marijuana will continue to be illegal.

"We concluded that the possession of marijuana should remain illegal and 
trafficking in any amount of cannabis should remain a crime," said Torsney 
during a press conference.

"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," she added.

The report, that included members from all political parties in the House 
of Commons, recommends that people possessing and cultivating marijuana in 
amounts less than 30 grams (1.1 ounces) would be fined if caught rather 
than getting a criminal record as is now the case.

Every year, some 20,000 Canadians are convicted for possession or 
cultivation of marijuana, which clogs up our courts and judges and poses 
the risk of more serious cases being thrown out of court because of 
unreasonable delays.

But even as this very reasonable report was being released, U.S. drug czar 
John Walters started spouting alarmist rhetoric and even hinted that if the 
recommendations become law, tighter border controls to "protect American 
citizens" will be put into place.

Perhaps it's time the U.S. government -- so insistent that it is a 
government "of the people and for the people" start paying attention to 
those people and start loosening its draconian, punitive and costly battle 
with marijuana -- a relatively benign recreational drug and one that is 
increasingly being used as an effective medicine for some of the most ill 
members of our society.

In a CNN/Time poll released last month, fully 80% of Americans think adults 
should be able to use marijuana legally for medical purposes.

Fully 47% say they have tried marijuana at least once -- and that would 
include the country's last two presidents -- and 72% say people arrested 
for possessing small amounts of marijuana should be fined, not jailed.

In Canada, our Justice Minister, Martin Cauchon, has admitted to being a 
marijuana user in the past.

He has stated that decriminalizing possession of pot will become the law of 
the land early in the new year.

According to Torsney, 30% of Canadians admit to having smoked pot, which 
sounds like a low number to us.

But in a poll conducted a couple of years ago, fully four out of every five 
Canadians are in favour of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana.

Another positive spinoff from this new law will hopefully be that the 
production of hemp -- once the largest cash crop in Canada prior to the 
First World War -- will be allowed to occur and as a result, we can save 
more of our forests from needless destruction for production of paper.

We are also in favour of the report's recommendation to educate Canadians 
about risks associated with marijuana -- including that it is as hard on 
the lungs as cigarettes.

Despite what critics say, we do not believe that fining people instead of 
incarcerating them will increase cannabis use in Canada. What it will do, 
however, is increase the time our police and courts will have to go after 
real criminals.

The time for talk is over. The blue smoke has cleared.

It's time to get off the pot and decriminalize pot.

It's simply the RIGHT thing to do -- in every sense of the word.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart