HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html PM Says 'No' To Looser Drug Laws
Pubdate: Tue, 29 May 2001
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2001 Southam Inc.
Contact:  (416) 442-2209
Authors: Joan Bryden and Elizabeth Levine
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Despite mounting pressure from his own MPs to reform Canada's drug 
laws, Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister, has ruled out the 
decriminalization of marijuana.

Mr. Chretien told reporters yesterday he supports the federal policy 
of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. But he gave a blunt, 
succinct "No" when asked if his government intends to go any further. 
He later said he welcomes renewed public debate on the issue, but 
suggested it will not change his mind.

"We've made a move on the question of using marijuana for health, and 
the Minister of Health has done it. Should we go into 
decriminalization and so on? It's not part of the agenda at this 
time. But there is a public debate. That's all right."

Mr. Chretien shrugged off suggestions the push for decriminalization 
has gained unprecedented momentum in recent weeks, noting the issue 
has been debated for 30 years.

The Prime Minister's statement comes only two weeks after all five 
federal parties agreed to strike a special committee to examine 
Canada's drug laws. The creation of the committee has reignited 
debate over the possibility of removing possession of pot as an 
offence under the Criminal Code.

A study released yesterday by the University of Lethbridge suggests 
more than 50% of Canadians favour not only decriminalization but full 
legalization of marijuana.

Joe Clark, the Tory Leader, has said he favours decriminalization, as 
has a smattering of MPs from all parties. Anne McLellan, the Minister 
of Justice, has said she is open to debate on the issue, while Allan 
Rock, the Minister of Health, has said he favours reform, and would 
"participate with enthusiasm" in the ongoing Senate hearings.

Late last year, the Senate special Committee on Illegal Drugs 
undertook a two-year study of Canada's drug laws, and has since heard 
primarily from groups that favour decriminalization of marijuana.

But in a departure yesterday, the Canadian Police Association warned 
the Senate committee that decriminalizing possession of even small 
amounts of marijuana would weaken both the public perception of "harm 
in drug use" and the "moral disapproval of drug use."

"We are against the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana," 
said David Griffin, the CPA's executive officer.

"Marijuana is internationally recognized as the gateway drug for 
other drug use," he said, but "people don't want to accept that 
marijuana is dangerous. There is no safe use of it in moderation."

The CPA also argued "the cost of legalization will be astronomical," 
noting countries with more permissive drug laws have experienced an 
increase in health care costs and violent crime.

The CPA did not mention the costs incurred by the criminal justice 
system when marijuana possession charges come to court. About 500,000 
Canadians have received criminal records for marijuana possession in 
the past 30 years.

The CPA's opposition is at odds with the Canadian Association of 
Police Chiefs and the RCMP, both of which have endorsed 
decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
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