Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2006
Source: Goldstream Gazette (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Goldstream Gazette
Author: Mark Browne


It's not a good time to get busted for marijuana possession now that 
Stephen Harper is the prime minister. When the Liberal Party held 
power in Ottawa, it drafted legislation calling for the 
decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. But the Conservative 
Party and Harper have indicated an intention to scrap planned legislation.

Harper recently expressed that position at the annual Canadian 
Professional Police Association conference in Ottawa. "Harper adheres 
to this notion that society should morally (penalize) people who use 
illegal drugs," said Keith Martin, the Liberal MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.

Martin has called for the decriminalization of marijuana since he was 
an MP for the Reform Party.

While he is concerned about people abusing marijuana, he doesn't 
believe they should be treated like criminals. Martin favours law 
enforcement agencies taking a tougher approach against organized 
crime groups involved in growing marijuana, rather than recreational 
pot smokers.

Prohibition only makes organized crime groups involved in the sale of 
marijuana rich, Martin said.

"Prohibition is like music to the ears of organized crime. The day 
that the government chooses to decriminalize the simple possession of 
marijuana is the day that organized crime gangs are going to have a 
big problem," he said.

Organized crime groups in the U.S. experienced major financial 
setbacks when the law concerning the prohibition of alcohol, which 
was established in 1920, was repealed in 1933, Martin pointed out.

Ted Smith, president of the Victoria-based International Hempology 
101 Society, said he doesn't support the draft marijuana 
decriminalization legislation introduced by the Liberals when they 
were in power.

Smith has long been an outspoken proponent of the outright 
legalization of marijuana.

"I'm glad they're not decriminalizing cannabis. It's the lawyers term 
for job protection. It still means that the police can take it away 
from you, harass you and still have the same powers under the old 
law," he said.

The draft legislation would have amounted to minor marijuana 
possession being treated like a traffic violation, for which people 
would be fined but wouldn't receive a criminal record.

If such legislation were to become law, Smith argued it could prevent 
marijuana from ever being legalized outright. "What we need is a 
temporary policy of non-enforcement. That's what's going to lead us 
toward legalization - not a system of fines," he said.

Aside from having a moral position against people smoking pot, Martin 
argued that Harper's tough stance is all about cozying up to U.S. 
President George W. Bush.

"He's trying to get on the good side of Mr. Bush," he said.

Smith agreed.

"The population (of Canada) could be 95 per cent in favour of 
legalization and they'll still stick with their position until the 
United States changes," he said.

Saanich-Gulf Islands Conservative MP Gary Lunn said that abandoning 
legislation decriminalizing marijuana is more about priorities.

"This is not one of our priorities, this is not one of our policies - 
so we're not going there," Lunn said.

The Conservatives are more concerned about such issues as the 
proposed federal accountability legislation, reducing the GST and 
justice reforms, he said.

Lunn acknowledges that the party's position on pot is about more than 
being concerned about other priorities. And he also has his own 
concerns about what might happen if marijuana was decriminalized.

"Do you send the right message out to young people by legalizing 
marijuana? Is it a stepping stone to harder drugs? I'm not convinced 
it's the right road to go down," Lunn said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman