Pubdate: Fri, 25 Sep 2015
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 Sun Media
Author: Alan S. Hale
Page: A1


Three of 4 candidates running in T-JB support decriminalizing

Recreational use of marijuana has been illegal in Canada since 1908,
but this has never really stopped people from using it.

According to a Statistics Canada study released this past spring, half
of all Canadian men and a bit more than one-third of women have used
marijuana before.

At the same time, however, the widespread availability of marijuana
has allowed 30% of youth under 18 to use it as well. That data is
self-reported, which has a problem of respondents giving what they
believe is the socially acceptable answer, so the number of people
using marijuana is likely higher than that for both adults and minors.

The Timmins Police seizes shipments with several pounds of pot
destined for Timmins users on a relatively regular basis. But the
police don't just arrest traffickers.

In 2014, the Timmins Police laid charges against 38 people in the city
for simple possession of marijuana, which is about as much as those
charged with possession of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other
controlled substances combined. Those convicted face being burdened
with a criminal record and all the consequences and restrictions that
come with that.

But after more than a century after it began, three out of the four
federal candidates running in Timmins-James Bay say they would seek to
end the prohibition of marijuana.

Liberal candidate Todd Lever said it is time that Canada follow the
lead of an increasing number of states in the U.S. and to fully
legalize recreational marijuana use for adults.

"Our policy is to legalize it but to regulate it heavily, keep it out
of the hands of children, and keep the criminal element out of it,"
said Lever. "(That) policy ... is based on the acknowledgement that
the war on drugs has really failed. In the last nine years, it has
cost the government $500 million. People are getting arrested and
charged for simple possession of marijuana, and it hasn't worked."
Full legalization is going too far, too quickly for the other parties.

Both the New Democrats and the Green Party are advocating that
marijuana possession be decriminalized, at least for the time being.

NDP candidate Charlie Angus said the criminal enforcement of marijuana
use is a waste of time and money, as well as being devastating for
those who are arrested for it.

"Criminal records stay with people for their whole lives, just for
having a joint," said Angus. "We have always supported
decriminalization. It would divert police resources towards where they
need to be: Going after hard drugs like fentanyl and crystal meth.
When we form the government, we will decriminalize marijuana." Green
Party candidate Max Kennedy said time needs to be taken to look at the
data from jurisdictions that have either legalized or decriminalized
it so that Canada can put in place a system that mitigates the risks,
especially keeping away from minors.

"Keeping it out of the hands of children is certainly my biggest
concern," said Kennedy. "But controlling it in a way that is closer to
tobacco or alcohol, seems to be much more effective. But I want to see
more data on this because I very much believe in driving policies like
these with real science as opposed to gut feelings.

"I would be pushing for getting that information as quickly as
possible so we can begin implementing programs that effectively get it
out of the hands of children sooner."

Conservative candidate John Curley argued there is simply no way for
Canada to legalize or decriminalize marijuana and not see the drug
being taken up by minors.

"There are already a lot of young people using marijuana illegally,
and if you legalize it, that just means their opportunity to get it is
even more so," said Curley. "The only way at this time is to say, 'No,
it's illegal, and we are not moving any further ahead on this.'"

legalization proponents often cite the fact it is nearly impossible to
have a fatal overdose on the psychoactive chemical in marijuana,
tetrahydrocannabinol (known better as THC), at least in its natural
state. In contrast, alcohol and drugs such as fentanyl, cocaine or
methamphetamine can kill people if they ingest too much.

Curley said just because there has never been anyone who has died from
simply smoking marijuana, does not mean that legalization or
decriminalization is not a dangerous policy.

"the only thing about marijuana is that it has taken lives," said
Curley. "People use marijuana when they go driving, or whatever the
case might be. So to turn around and say we should legalize it when it
actually takes lives. Well, no. you can't be above the law, and you
abide by it. I just don't want to see anyone lose their life, whether
it's drinking a beer or taking drugs."
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