HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Decision Time For Marijuana
Pubdate: Wed, 02 Aug 2000
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2000 Hollinger Canadian Newspapers
Contact:  P.O. Box 300, Victoria, B.C. V8W 2N4
Fax: (250)380-5353
Section: Our View
Page: A10


LIKE THE ABORTION ISSUE, Canada's laws against marijuana are a sleeping dog
the federal government would prefer to let lie because, politically, it's a
no win situation.

On the one hand, do we really want to add another legal addiction to the
already long list that Canadians now indulge in, particularly a substance
that could cause some of the same health problems as tobacco and the pubic
intoxication problems as alcohol?

On the other hand, the laws against cannabis possession and sale aren't
working. a recent Statistics Canada report showed an overall decrease of
five percent in all types of crime - except marijuana possession and
cultivation. That was up an astounding 32 per cent, and that's with
increasing police reluctant to press charges against people caught with
small amounts.

The result is that thousands of people, mostly young, are turned into
criminals for smoking or growing a substance that many of their elders -
including lawmakers such as former Justice Minister, now Health Minister
Allan Rock, Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day and Newfoundland Premier
Brian Tobin, to name but a few - inhaled themselves without any obvious ill
- - effects.

So, in a sense, Ottawa's should be grateful to the Ontario Court of Appeal
judge who ruled Monday that Canada's laws on pot possession were
unconstitutional. The feds can finally take another look at these laws,
while saying it's at the court's behest, not theirs.

The Ontario appeal court judgment was one of those narrow, legalistic
rulings: the current laws are unconstitutional because they discriminate
against people who need marijuana for medicinal purposes. The case involved
a man taking pot to control his epilepsy who was charge with possession (
the same court upheld the conviction of a man using marijuana for
recreational purposes).

The judge gave Ottawa one year to revise its statutes, or the laws on
marijuana possession would be declared null and void in Ontario.

Marijuana has been approved for medicinal purposes; the written laws just
need to catch up, and it will. But this is a golden opportunity for the
federal government to review Canada's laws on possession and cultivation of
marijuana for recreational purposes as well. Do they make sense? D they
work? should they be changed?

Or, the feds could do nothing in the next year, leave the whole issue in
limbo as they've done with the abortion question, and let the people decide
for themselves whether they want to smoke or grow marijuana for medicinal,
recreational or any other purpose.

Either way, on the issue of the legality of marijuana, it's time for Ottawa
to get off the pot.
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