Pubdate: Thu, 27 Apr 2006
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Victoria News
Author: Mark Browne, Esquimalt News
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


It's not a good time to get busted for marijuana possession now that  
Stephen Harper is the prime minister.

When the Liberals held power in Ottawa, they drafted legislation to  
decriminalize possesion of small amounts of marijuana. But the  
Conservative Party and Harper have indicated an intention to scrap  
that planned legislation. Harper recently expressed that position at  
the annual Canadian Professional Police Association conference in  

"Harper adheres to this notion that society should morally sanction  
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  
they shouldn't be treated like criminals.

Martin favours law enforcement agencies taking a tougher approach  
against organized crime groups involved in growing marijuana rather  
than against recreational pot smokers.

"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setbacks when the alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933, Martin  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 lawyer's  
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," Smith said.

The draft legislation would have treated minor marijuana possession  
like a traffic violation. Smith argued that such a law 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,  
Harper's tough stance is all about cozying up to U.S. President  
George W. Bush, Martin 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."

Saanich-Gulf Islands Conservative MP Gary Lunn said that abandoning  
legislation decriminalizing marijuana is more about priorities. The  
Conservatives are more concerned about the proposed federal  
accountability legislation, reducing the GST and justice reforms, he  

Lunn also has his own concerns about what might happen if marijuana  
were to be 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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