Pubdate: Thu, 29 May 2003
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2003 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Kendall M. Cox


Paul Samyn refers to Canada as "a country where possession of small
amounts of pot will soon be subject to fines and not jail time."
That's one intent of Justice Minister Martin Cauchon's proposed
legislation -- paradoxically, it also increases penalties for larger
amounts -- but one needs to take a look at the Canadian court system
to see the big picture in the recently very turbulent world of
Canadian marijuana laws.

This past week an Ontario court affirmed a lower court's decision that
Ontario's marijuana laws are not valid. This is because of a decision
a few years ago that gave Ottawa one year to provide medical access,
or there would no longer be any laws about marijuana at all. Ottawa
tried, with miserable results: one crop was grown in a mine shaft in
Manitoba, but none of the patients who applied to the program ever saw
any of it. This recent Ontario court ruling throws things into a state
of chaos -- the federal government is appealing again, but so far it's
0-2. If there are no laws on marijuana in Ontario, and possibly soon
the rest of Canada, then Mr. Cauchon's proposal becomes not
decriminalization but REcriminalization -- and unconstitutional, which
the judges would undoubtedly point out if this new law makes it into
their courts after they've thrown out the old one.

What does it all mean? For one thing, it means that Mr. Cauchon's
proposal is the only alternative for Canada's future where a war on
marijuana continues. Drug gangs will still be the ones in control of
the supply, and there will still be shootouts between gangs and drug
agents. Why does Cauchon want to continue this insanity? Is it for the
jobs the war on drugs provides? Is it because he hopes to raise money
with the new proposed fines? Is it because U.S. Attorney General John
Ashcroft and the Bush administration threatened something really
severe if he strays too far from their idealistic crusade?

At this point, who can tell? Stay tuned; it's bound to get more and
more interesting.


Shorewood, Ill.
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