Pubdate: Sun, 27 Apr 2003
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Kathleen Harris


OTTAWA -- Born in hysteria, Canada's pot laws have survived decades of 
attempts to reform, toughen or quash them. The folllowing is a chronology 
of the nation's cannabis law:

- - 1908: The Opium and Narcotic Act prohibits the import, manufacture and 
sale of opiates for non-medicinal purposes. This act serves as the basis 
for subsequent Canadian laws dealing with the use of illicit drugs.

- - Parliament first bans the use of cannabis in 1923, after Judge Emily 
Murphy announces that people under its influence "become raving maniacs and 
are liable to kill ... "

- - As smoking pot becomes more mainstream with the hippies of the 1960s, the 
perceived threat diminishes. Politicians appear poised to relax -- or even 
abolish -- existing laws.

- - In the early 1970s, the exhaustive work of the Le Dain Commission, 
directed by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, recommends a new public 
policy that addressed problems in how courts deal with possession charges. 
But it wasn't to be. Proposed legislative changes die on the order paper.

- - 1992: Marijuana activist Umberto Iorfida is charged with glamourizing and 
promoting the use of illicit drugs. The case is thrown out of court two 
years later by a judge who rules it an infringement of free speech

- - 1992: Conservatives introduce a bill to double penalties for marijuana 
possession, but it dies when they are defeated in the 1993 election.

- - 1997: Marijuana is covered under Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

- - 2000: Ontario Court of Appeal strikes down a federal law prohibiting the 
possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. It says the legislation 
violated the rights of sick people who use pot for medical reasons; the 
case centres on Toronto epileptic Terry Parker.

- - 2001: Canada becomes the first country to legalize the use of marijuana 
for medical reasons.

- - 2002: The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs reviews Canada's 
policies and concludes pot should be treated more like tobacco or booze.

- - 2003: An Ontario judge rules that Canada's law on possession of small 
amounts of marijuana is no longer valid. Windsor Justice Douglas Phillips 
makes the decision as he dismissed two drug charges against a 16-year-old 
local boy and said Parliament has failed to address problems with Canada's 
marijuana laws.

Eugene Oscapella, a lawyer with the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, 
today says Canada's pot laws were ill-conceived on junk social science. 
"This ( pot law ) was a solution without a problem, based not on science, 
but on hysteria and racism," he said. "There has never been a rational 
justification of why we prohibited cannabis."

While weed made the criminal books early, Oscapella notes the first 
conviction didn't come until 14 years later -- proof, in his view, that 
prohibition wasn't addressing any real problem. It wasn't until 1966 that 
there were more than 100 convictions for possession a year.
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