Pubdate: Thu, 13 Apr 2006
Source: Esquimalt News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Esquimalt News
Author: Mark Browne, Esquimalt News
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


According to Statistics Canada, more than 4.5 million  Canadians
smoked marijuana in 2004.

The Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen  Harper intend to
scrap legislation decriminalizing  marijuana. 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 Martin has concerns about people abusing  marijuana he said he
doesn't believe that 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was established in 1920,  was repealed in 1933, Martin pointed out.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 where 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

Martin argued that Harper's tough stance is all about  cozying up to
U.S. President George W. Bush.

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

"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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