Pubdate: Mon, 23 Jun 2003
Source: Gulf News, The (CN NF)
Contact:  2003 .


Eighty years ago, if you brought up the notion of smoking a plant called
marijuana, you were looked at as if you slithered up from the cesspool of
drug dens located in dark alleyways. Thirty-five years ago, you were
dismissed as a bandwagon jumpin', free-thinking, commie hippie.

Today, you're probably a retiring politician.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien has a lot of Canadians wondering what he has
been smoking by bringing to the table the issue of marijuana laws. It wasn't
that long ago that even bringing up the idea of reviewing pot legislation
was taboo -- it was political suicide in a small-C conservative society.

Even the legislation that allowed the use of medical marijuana, that is
smoking pot for medicinal purposes to ease serious pain, was considered
somewhat radically way out there.

Some felt it was the first toke that would lead to the decline of modern
civilization as we know it. It may not be the end of the world, but it did
lead to broader steps.

The PM, in fact, has taken a huge leap -- no surprise now that he's on his
way out the door -- with his ambitious bill to decriminalize possession of
small amounts of Mary Jane and her offspring hash.

The threshold seems to be 15 grams -- or about a couple dozen joints -- of
pot. Oddly, unlike alcohol laws, the legislation would be more punitive to
adults than youth who indulge in the weed.

Those 18 and younger would get a fine for $100 if caught with less than 15
grams. Adults would have to pay $150. If you possess pot while you are
behind the wheel, committing a crime or around a school, you would pay $250
if a youth, and $400 if an adult.

Many of the prime minister's own Liberal backbenchers, police associations,
and advocacy groups have spoken out about this wacky 'baccy bill. The public
sentiment seems to be a little less inflamed. Could it be Prime Minister
Chretien has connected with a silent, mellow majority, which has relaxed its
stance on pot smoking?

Or is the protege of the quintessential groovy '60s politician, Pierre
Trudeau, laying down a scorched earth policy for his bitter internal rivals
that will burn out the Liberals' future?

Many have talked about Prime Minister Chretien now trying to leave a legacy.
No matter of his intent, it seems that legacy might be closer to Leary than

He does seem to have the ear of youth. In a national radio program about the
issue, an informal poll of high school students had them talking about the
abundance and availability of pot in the school like it was Pez candy. And
they felt it was time to light up a little more openly.

This might be disturbing to someone who had a utopian vision of schools void
of drugs, or any other social problems. The fact is, they are out there.

But like the PM jovially warned when he announced his controversial plan for
pot, many should take heed about the weed -- don't go reefer mad. Health
issues aside -- and that's another editorial -- possession is still illegal
today. Having a stash, in any quantity, is still a criminal act. Get caught
with it, charged and convicted, and you will have a criminal record.

Don't have your future and potential positive contributions to the community
go up in smoke, or at least to pot.
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