HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Pot Breakthrough Overdue
Pubdate: Fri, 04 Aug 2000
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Contact:  #250, 4990-92 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, T6B 3A1 Canada
Fax: (780) 468-0139
Author: Mindelle Jacobs
Bookmark: MAP's link to cannabis items:


The government's recently released annual review of crime in Canada
provides yet more ammunition for the growing number of people who
believe marijuana should be decriminalized.

The story of the day, when the Statistics Canada report came out
earlier this month, was that crime fell in 1999 for the eighth
consecutive year, resulting in the lowest crime rate in 20 years.

There was lots of good news.

All major categories of crime dropped last year, including homicide,
attempted murder, assault, sexual assault and robbery.

There were also declines in property crime (like break-ins and car
theft) and youth crime.

But one category stuck out like a sore thumb - drug crime - and it
didn't get much play in the media.

Bucking the trend, drug offences have actually increased 32% since
1993, primarily due to increases in possession and cultivation of marijuana.

Although cocaine arrests fell by 3% and heroin offences dropped
slightly by 1% last year over 1998, cannabis-related charges jumped a
whopping 16%.

In fact, offences involving marijuana accounted for three-quarters of
the almost 80,000 drug-related incidents in 1999.

Of more significance is that two-thirds of the marijuana charges laid
last year were for possession (as opposed to 17% for trafficking, 15%
for cultivation and 2% for importation.)

Is anybody shocked?

You shouldn't be.

Pot use has been steadily growing for the past decade despite all our
drug awareness education programs and police enforcement.

It's been sort of a rite of passage since the flower-power days of the
1960s. Everyone from your plumber to your MP has probably smoked it
and who cares?

Certainly not the majority of Canadians who have repeatedly said in
polls that they favour the decriminalization of pot possession for
personal use.

The stats show 19% of those charged with possession of marijuana were
youths, so the anti-drug message isn't getting through to large
numbers of young people.

But look at the bright side.

It's safer than what your kids could be taking - like ecstasy, cocaine
or heroin.

And as Ontario's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has pointed
out, most pot use is sporadic and not likely to have negative

The centre is the latest professional body to call for the removal of
criminal sanctions for personal pot possession.

Other groups supporting such a move include the Canadian Association
of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (The
Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission has not taken a position on
the issue.)

Let's hope they're not just cries in the wilderness.

Based on evidence from other jurisdictions, decriminalizing marijuana
possession won't lead to increased use.

And we already know that criminal sanctions aren't working, so the
police are wasting resources that could be better used hunting down
real criminals.

An RCMP drug report released in March noted that pot is the most
popular illicit drug in terms of both consumption and trafficking and
that most of the large growing operations are run by outlaw bike gangs.

Independent growers are sometimes even coerced into working for the
bikers, according to the RCMP.

Simply legalizing pot for those over 18 would take a huge bite out of
the proceeds of organized crime.

Canadians may not be ready for such a move.

But they clearly want to give pot users a break.

The Senate committee now reviewing our drug laws has a three-year
mandate though. So don't expect the smoke to clear for a while.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake