Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jul 2004
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The Toronto Star
Author: Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
(Canadian Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs)


OTTAWA -- The federal government is committed to marijuana
decriminalization and will reintroduce legislation to make it happen,
Prime Minister Paul Martin said in his first statement on the issue
since winning re-election.

The Liberal government will bring back a bill that died with the
election call and re-table it after Parliament resumes sitting in
October, he said today following a meeting of his new cabinet.

"The legislation on marijuana -- the decriminalization of minor
quantities of marijuana -- that legislation will be

According to the original bill, anyone caught with 15 grams of pot or
less would receive a ticket instead of criminal charges. But those
caught trafficking more than 15 grams would receive harsher penalties.

Critics say the bill could lead to more cases of intoxicated driving
and cause traffic snarls at the Canada-U.S. border while American
customs agents intensify their search for drugs.

They also bemoan the 15-gram ceiling for non-criminal use, calculating
that it would become legal for someone to carry more than 30 joints at
a time.

Detractors have already successfully lobbied the government to drive
down the initial maximum amount from 30 grams. Some felt the original
limit was so high that it practically made drug-dealing legal.

Today's announcement came on the same day as a study concluded that
the number of Canadians who have used marijuana or hashish nearly
doubled in 13 years.

In 2002, an estimated 12.2 per cent of Canadians admitted to smoking
marijuana -- up from 6.5 per cent in 1989, Statistics Canada reported

But Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, sworn into cabinet just one day
earlier, dismissed the suggestion that decriminalization would lead to
greater use.

"I'm not so sure whether that argument has any validity. I don't know
what the correlation is," he said after attending his first federal
cabinet meeting.

"My view is that, if you make something illegal, some people are more
attracted to it. . . If you allow people to possess it in small
quantities for personal use, the allure kind of disappears for some

Martin had also said while campaigning for the June 28 election that
he planned to reintroduce the marijuana bill.
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