Pubdate: Thu, 2 Apr 2009
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Times Colonist
Author: Katie DeRosa, Times Colonist
Cited: Vancouver Island Compassion Society
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Lucas, Philippe)


Keith Martin wants the federal government to decriminalize possession
of small amounts of marijuana.

The Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP will submit a private member's bill in
the House of Commons today that recommends fines instead of criminal
charges for anyone with less than 30 grams of marijuana or two
marijuana plants.

Decriminalizing simple possession will sever ties between casual drug
users and organized crime, Martin said in an interview yesterday. "If
a person is growing a couple of their own plants, they won't have to
go out and purchase it from illegal sources, which are usually linked
to crime gangs and illegal grow-ops."

He pointed to the bloody gang struggle for control of the Lower
Mainland's drug trade as an example of the "abysmal failure" of the
war on drugs.

Martin has twice proposed similar private member's bills -- in 2002
and again in 2007 -- but failed both times. What's different now,
Martin said, is the move to decriminalize possession of two marijuana
plants, which would deter people from going to dealers to get their

The move would save hundreds of millions of dollars in police
enforcement and court costs, said Martin, adding the money could
instead be spent on substance-abuse-prevention programs.

One drug-legalization advocate said the bill will do little to
diminish the multi-billion-dollar illegal drug market. The only way to
eliminate gang control of the black market is to legalize and regulate
marijuana, said Philippe Lucas, a Victoria city councillor and
executive director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, a group
that supports medical use of marijuana.

"I'm supportive of the bill but I hope that it leads to dialogue about
the harm prohibition is causing Canadians, exemplified by the gun
violence we have seen in Toronto and Vancouver," Lucas said.

Though he admits private member's bills virtually never pass, Martin
said raising the issue will push his larger goal of making substance
abuse a medical issue rather than a judicial one. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake