Source:   Victoria Times-Colonist
Contact:   February 13, 1998
Author: Sandra McCulloch, Times-Colonist Staff


"It's really highlighting the stupidity and injustice of the drug war." Ian
Hunter on Olympic marijuana scandal.

It would appear an outpouring of support by Canadians for embattled Olympic
snowboarder Ross Rebagliati has been a mind-expending experience for

Several federal politicians sniffed the wind Thursday and said they would
welcome a debate on the subject of decriminalizing marijuana use in the
wake Rebagliati's positive test for pot at the Winter Games.

The Whistler resident had his gold medal reinstated Thursday by the
International Olympic Committee to wide-spread applause in Canada.

Keith Martin, MP for Malahat-Juan de Fuca, has long supported
decriminalization of marijuana "which is very different from legalization
of marijuana."

Martin said from Ottawa that he expects Rebagliati will come home to Canada
"revelling in his gold medal and not his exploits with the demon weed.

"I hope the debate over decriminalization of marijuana continues to occur
so we can take this drain off our justice system which is prosecuting
people possessing small amounts of marijuana."

NDP Leader Alexa McDonough said Rebagliati's friendly association with pot
smokers highlighted the difference between marijuana use and hard drugs.

"It's a very different issue and I think Canadians are recognizing it,"
McDonough said outside the Commons.

"My colleague, the minister of health and I have both indicated we are
willing to look at the question of decriminalizing it for medical purposes
and that in fact our officials have begun that discussion," Justice
Minister Anne McLellan volunteered.

Solicitor general Andy Scott said he would welcome debate on decriminalization.

Reformer John Reynolds, whose riding includes Whistler, added his call for
a debate.

"I think marijuana could be looked at for medicinal purposes and I
certainly wouldn't mind a debate in this House so we could find out more
about it," he said. "But right now, I don't think we need another
mind-altering drug on the market."

In Victoria, marijuana proponent Ian Hunter called Rebagliati's ordeal
"quite the victory for the sides of liberty and freedom. It's really
highlighting the stupidity and injustice of the drug war."

The owner of the Sacred Herb, which has sold marijuana seeds, added, "What
it's done is once again put pot decriminalization on the front burner of
public discussion."

Victoria lawyer Jeff Green agreed.

Rebagliati's drug-test fiasco "presents a significant opportunity to the
debate in this country that marijuana is still illegal. It's been more than
20 years since the LeDain Commission recommended marijuana be legalized,"
said Green.

Rebagliati maintained he absorbed the small amount of marijuana through
second-hand smoke.

Green said it's unlikely the second-hand smoke argument would crop up as a
defence in court cases: "There's no way in Canada of compelling someone to
provide a sample of urine or blood to test them for drugs."

The exception is the impaired-driving section of the criminal Code, he said.

Staff-Sgt. John Smith of Victoria police believes people should take
another look at the issue once the smoke has cleared: "When the hype and
celebrations with this incident are all over, what message are young
impressionable minds going to be left with?  This should not be an
endorsement to legalize marijuana use.