Pubdate: Wednesday, June 16, 1999
Source: Halifax Daily News (Canada)
Copyright: 1999 The Daily News.
Author: Jim Brown, The Canadian Press


OTTAWA - The war on drugs isn't working and it's time to study
alternatives, including possible decriminalization of some substances,
says Conservative Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin.

"The repressive approach leads nowhere," he told a news conference
yesterday. "We have to examine it from another angle, the angle of
public health."

Nolin is trying to drum up support, from Liberals as well as Tories,
to form a special Senate committee to review the country's drug laws.

"My personal opinion is to have in future a much more conciliatory
approach toward users of any drug," he said.

"When you prohibit the use of drugs, you only perpetuate the black

Nolin, best known as a backroom operative for former prime minister
Brian Mulroney, admitted to "past tense" recreational use of
marijuana, but said he doesn't smoke it any more.

He suggested decriminalizing possession of "non-harmful" drugs but
cautioned that more study is needed on which ones are

He also insisted his personal opinions are less important than
creating a forum to air public views.

Two-year mission

Nolin envisions a committee that would spend two years gathering data
and holding hearings in Canada and overseas before reaching any

Sharon Carstairs, the deputy Liberal leader in the Senate, expressed
support for the idea, as did Liberal colleague Colin Kenny.

"I think it would be an excellent study for the Senate," Carstairs
said in an interview. "I think we should go into it without any
foregone conclusions."

She likened the exercise to the work of the LeDain commission, which
studied non-medical drug use more than 25 years ago.

Its best-remembered recommendation was decriminalization of simple
possession of marijuana, though the government never acted on the proposal.

Kenny, who has crusaded against tobacco use, said he wants a more
realistic approach to drug laws, but wouldn't say if that includes

He observed he's learned from his anti-smoking efforts that
adolescents don't respond well to authoritarian initiatives.

"The very essence of being an adolescent is rebelling against
authority figures. If you want to make progress on the drug front ,
there may be some parallels with smoking."

No decision will be made by the full Senate until the fall on whether
to form the committee sought by Nolin.
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