Pubdate: Tue, 06 Dec 2005
Source: Compass, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2005 The Compass
Author: Averill Baker
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)

Cross Examination


The federal election is on and each political party is claiming to be 
different from the others. However, there are some laws that all 
three political parties agree on in principle.

It appears three new laws are bound to be passed after the election, 
regardless of which political party forms the government.

If you are a driver of a car and you take prescription drugs that 
affect your senses, or if you smoke pot, or if you're tempted to 
catch a cod illegally, read on.

Here's how each political party will deal with you after the election.

In the dying moments of parliament, although all parties supported 
them, three new laws just didn't make the final stages of passage. 
The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP supported the proposed laws in principle.

Last week I had the privilege to discuss and debate the content of 
the three proposed new laws while attending a Canadian Bar 
Association meeting in Vancouver in my position as Chair of the 
Criminal Law Section in this province.

You probably have heard about the first of the three - the proposed 
new law to stop drug driving by people who take prescription drugs, 
over-the-counter drugs and illegal drugs.

The three political parties agree that people who take prescription, 
over-the-counter, and illegal drugs should be tested at roadside if 
there is any sign of impairment.

How does the new law propose to do that on the side of the road? The 
police will have to give the driver mandatory physical co-ordination 
tests. If the driver fails on physical co-ordination, then the driver 
is asked to pee in a bottle.

Among the several physical tests administered on the side of the road 
is one in which the driver will have to hop on one leg without losing 
his or her balance. Another is to stand on one foot and touch the 
toes of the foot you are standing on without losing your balance.

If you fail the physical co-ordination tests (that I predict half of 
us couldn't perform cold sober), then you must pee in a bottle for 
testing of prescription and non-prescription drugs. If you refuse to 
do the tests or to pee in the bottle, you will automatically be found 
guilty of impaired driving.

The second bill is to legalize the possession of moderate amounts of marijuana.

The third bill is a reinforcement of the Fisheries Act.

Apart from requiring Aunt Susie in Nipper's Harbour or Uncle George 
in Joe Batts Arm to hop on one foot around a car if they are on pain 
medication, the fines imposed by the other two bills for breaking the 
law tell us a lot about today's politicians.

A person found with a moderate amount of marijuana on his or her 
person (less than a dozen joints) will face a fine up to a maximum of $100.

A fellow caught with an illegally caught cod or some other fish faces 
a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

So, a fellow found on the wharf in Harry's Harbour with some dope in 
one hand and a cod in the other will surely regret catching that cod.

Just imagine a $100-ticket for the dope and a $100,000 fine and a 
possible year in jail for the cod!

It's not that a person would actually get those maximum fines, but it 
identifies the importance each political party places on each 
offence. The intent of parliament in passing the law is considered in 
the fine and the sentence in court.

What do these proposed new laws say about our politicians in Ottawa?

One conclusion is obvious - while our political parties are against 
drug-impaired driving, they are surprisingly tolerant of whacky baccy.

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Averill Baker is a lawyer, whose practice is based in St. John's
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