Pubdate: Fri, 14 May 2004
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2004 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Janice Tibbetts, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


OTTAWA -- A bill to decriminalize marijuana has gone up in smoke, failing 
for the second time in six months and prompting criticism the Martin 
government deliberately killed the proposal.

"As we speak, it doesn't look too good," Mario Lague, a spokesman for the 
Prime Minister's Office, said as the House of Commons wrapped up its last 
voting day before an anticipated election call this month.

Critics contend the Liberals lacked the political will to pass the 
controversial legislation proposing to decriminalize possession of less 
than 15 grams of pot, making it an offence punishable with a fine rather 
than a criminal record.

The bill also called for harsher penalties against marijuana grow operations.

The legislation had been languishing in limbo for two months after the 
Conservatives, trying to block passage, introduced amendments during 
Parliamentary debate.

The Liberals then moved on to legislation they considered more pressing -- 
including redrawing electoral boundaries, reforming political donations and 
providing AIDS drugs for Africa -- leaving the pot bill to die.

"They never really intended to go with it," said Conservative MP Randy 
White. "If a majority government in this country wants to make a bill go 
through, that's a piece of cake."

The bill has been fiercely criticized by groups who say that what Canada 
really needs is a new national drug strategy to deal with the country's 
multi-billion-dollar illicit drug problem.

The latest reincarnation of marijuana legislation was proposed in February, 
reviving a Jean Chretien bill introduced last spring.

Its death means the next Parliament will have to start all over again on an 
issue that has been debated for more than 30 years.

The House of Commons is on a break next week and Prime Minister Paul Martin 
is expected to call an election the following weekend, so Thursday was 
believed to be the last day to vote on legislation.

Several other government bills have also failed, including whistle-blower 
legislation that would protect civil servants who report government 
misdeeds, a law to enable police to take saliva, blood and hair samples 
from people suspected of driving while impaired by drugs, and another to 
expand a data bank that stores the DNA samples of people who have committed 
serious crimes.

Legislation to toughen laws against child pornography collectors, ocean 
polluters and people who are cruel to animals are all on their deathbed in 
the Senate, which is not expected to sit next week. 
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