HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Smoked Out
Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jul 2002
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002 The Calgary Sun
Author: Roy Clancy


Federal Minister of Justice Martin Cauchon admitted smoking marijuana in 
his youth yesterday.

The way he's been acting lately, you might be forgiven for thinking he's 
still indulging in the occasional toke.

On Monday, Cauchon suggested he's considering decriminalizing the illegal 
substance -- even though Senate and Commons committees investigating the 
issue have yet to release their reports.

Cauchon's comments represent a radical departure from his earlier position 
on marijuana, which was that society isn't ready for decriminalization.

If the neophyte minister hasn't been firing up the odd doobie, it's hard to 
figure exactly what his motivation might be. Perhaps he merely wanted to 
raise his political profile.

If that was the goal, he succeeded. A whole bunch of people are perturbed 
with him and the smoke hasn't even begun to clear.

Solicitor-General Lawrence MacAulay has some reservations about the notion.

The Canadian Police Association vowed to fight any moves towards 
decriminalization -- claiming it would hamper their efforts to stop 

Even the leader of the federal Marijuana Party was left gasping at 
Cauchon's suggestion.

The pot party folks are worried that fining people for cannabis possession 
will become too attractive a source of revenue for the state.

"It is very nice of Mr. Cauchon to think of us cannabis consumers, but my 
major problem ... is that we could see an increase in police stopping 
people for cannabis," said Marijuana Party leader Marc-Boris Saint-Maurice.

The pot proponents make it patently clear they're not interested in 
decriminalization -- where marijuana is illegal, but not a criminal offence.

The stoners won't rest until it is out-and-out legal.

They've been fighting for it long enough. The U.S. based North American 
Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been active for 

A survey by the University of Lethbridge last year revealed support for 
legalization has doubled in the last 25 years.

A change in Britain's laws last week to decriminalize pot got the spliff 
and hookah set excited. Now with Cauchon's pronouncements, they can barely 
contain themselves.

There's more organization than you would think behind the legalization 
movement. Any mention of the subject by a news outlet draws dozens of 
e-mails from all over the continent.

Just yesterday, I was sent copies of editorials from two major Canadian 
newspapers supporting decriminalization. After this column appears, I'll 
get dozens of e-mails -- most of them indignant and angry at my callous and 
intolerant attitude.

I'll admit decriminalizing marijuana makes some sense.

Roughly 30,000 Canadians are charged with simple possession every year. The 
harm done by saddling people with criminal records often exceeds the damage 
done by using the drug.

Most unfair of all, police in different parts of the country enforce the 
law differently.

The pro-dope advocates make some compelling arguments, such as the impact 
of organized crime and relatively benign nature of the substance.

Their ultimate pipe dream is to see marijuana fully sanctioned and 
available for sale at the corner store. The decriminalization and medical 
marijuana issues are mere bandwagons for them to ride on their way to 
achieving their goal.

While I back the regulated use of medical marijuana -- like any other 
medically prescribed drug -- I personally believe blanket legalization 
would be a tragic mistake.

Anyone who has known a chronic, heavy user can attest to the substance's 
side effects -- lethargy, inability to concentrate, memory lapses.

A study published this spring in the Canadian Medical Association Journal 
concluded that pot use drives down the IQ by four points. Fortunately for 
the druggies, the same study revealed the IQ bounced back after use was 

The researchers warned that multi-drug users and those who'd been toking 
for decades couldn't count on the same recovery.

That's really the point here. Even though many Canadians have tried 
marijuana during their lives, only a small percentage now use it regularly.

Even those sympathetic to pot smokers would have to admit this isn't such a 
bad situation.

Right now marijuana use remains on the periphery.

To keep it that way, we must retain penalties that send a strong message 
that drug use is harmful and not accepted by society.
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