HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Cauchon Might Relax Canada's Marijuana Laws To Do Away
Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jul 2002
Source: Canadian Press (Canada Wire)
Copyright: 2002 The Canadian Press (CP)
Author: Isabelle Rodrigue
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


OTTAWA (CP) - Justice Minister Martin Cauchon is considering relaxing 
Canada's marijuana laws to make possession punishable by a fine instead of 
a prison sentence, The Canadian Press has learned. But Cauchon's plans do 
not include making the drug legal, said highly placed sources in the 
Justice Department.

While fines would be imposed for possession of marijuana, trafficking would 
continue to draw harsher punishments, the sources said. Cauchon might 
address the issue at a meeting of the Canadian Bar next month in London, 
Ont., they added. The report comes the same week that Britain announced it 
will virtually decriminalize cannabis to give police more time to fight the 
use of hard drugs.

Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, chairman of a Senate committee looking at 
illegal drugs, dismissed the idea of imposing fines on marijuana-users.

"Most of those who are caught are young people and poor people," Nolin 
said. "But they don't pay their fines. And what happens when we don't pay 
fines? We go to prison."

Nolin is expected to table his report on Sept. 4.

In Canada, more than 250 people have clearance to smoke marijuana provided 
by the federal government. Ottawa amended drug laws last year to allow such 
clearance for patients with conditions such as HIV, cancer and multiple 

Proponents of decriminalization dismiss the war on drugs as a waste of time 
and money.

Marijuana leaves no long-term effects on most users, and an estimated 30 to 
50 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 24 have used the drug despite its 
illegality, critics say.

Meanwhile, Canadian federal agencies spend about $500 million each year to 
fight drugs and more than 30,000 people are charged with simple possession 
annually, the Senate committee said in a preliminary report issued a few 
months ago.

But opponents of decriminalization note that most addicted hard-drug users 
start with marijuana.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Ariel