Pubdate: Sun, 8 Mar 1998
Source: Edmonton Sun (Canada)
Author: Kerry Diotte


The LeDain Commission was set up by the federal government in 1969 as the
Commission of Inquiry into the Non-medical Use of Drugs. It issued four
reports including one in 1971 on cannabis, which recommended that simple
possession of cannabis and cultivation for personal use be permitted, but
importation and trafficking remain a crime.

The man who headed a Canadian royal commission which recommended marijuana
be decriminalized, is as proud of the study today as he was when it came
out more than a quarter of a century ago.

"We worked like hell," commission head Gerald LeDain tells the Edmonton Sun
when reached at his Ottawa home. "We really did our homework."

"The heart of the study was, why should cannabis be treated so harshly
compared to tobacco and alcohol?" says LeDain, who was one of three on the
five-person commission who wrote the majority opinion.

Virtually none of the commission's recommendations were made into law,
something LeDain blames on politicians.

"It was a hot potato for all the parties and they didn't want to run any
risks," says the man who was dean of law at University of Toronto's Osgoode
Hall when he headed the commission.

"The position adopted by the politicians was to do nothing."

LeDain says the commissioners were just recommending what the public wanted
concerning pot.

"We saw at the hearings the public was worried about their kids. The public
saw those current laws as a tremendous injustice."

LeDain recalls the extensive media coverage his royal commission received.
Not only was it front-page news in every major daily Canadian paper, many
came out with special supplements detailing the cannabis study.

Penguin books published the report dealing with cannabis and it became a
top-selling title in several countries.

LeDain is particularly proud the commissioners demanded there be no
interference from the government while they compiled their studies. There
wasn't, he says.

"I knew Pierre (Trudeau) well at the time and I made it my business to be
assured from him our independence would be respected."

The commission's findings proved to be a political bombshell for the Grits.

"It cost him and it caused the government embarrassment before the 1972
election. Our report had created a public demand for a change in the law."

Today, LeDain's life is markedly quieter.

He retired for health reasons from the Supreme Court 10 years ago and lives
alone in Ottawa.

His wife died two years ago and LeDain putters around making his own meals,
paying bills and worrying about slipping on the ice in the winter. Breaking
a hip at age 74 can be a big problem, he says.

He also maintains a family cottage in the Laurentians for his four grown
children and 10 grandchildren, and is busy writing his memoirs.

"I live a simple, low-profile life now. I'm content."

A filing cabinet in his basement is still filled with commission
transcripts. "I'll leave them behind for someone. I can't bring myself to
throw them out."

One thing, however, hasn't changed with LeDain.

He still believes in his commission's findings.

"Those conclusions stand. I stand by them."