HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Relaxed Marijuana Laws To Be 'Explored'
Pubdate: Tue, 01 Oct 2002
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Randy Boswell
Note: Randy Boswell, with files from Tim Naumetz The Ottawa Citizen; with
files from Reuters


In the clearest sign yet that the federal Liberals may be moving toward 
relaxing the country's most controversial drug law, yesterday's throne 
speech indicated the Chretien government "will act on the results of 
parliamentary consultations with Canadians" and explore "the possibility of 
the decriminalization of marijuana possession."

The strong whiff of reform follows several years of renewed debate about 
the merits of continuing to press criminal charges against those caught 
with cannabis.

Although the use of marijuana for medical use was recently approved by the 
federal government and a Senate report recommended in September the full 
legalization of marijuana, the throne speech suggested the government plans 
only to reduce the charge of marijuana possession to a misdemeanour so that 
those caught with the drug would no longer carry a criminal record.

"It's time to start talking about that as a concern in our society," said 
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who pledged to move quickly on the issue 
following a House of Commons review of drug laws.

"We can't have legalization," he said, noting that "it will be almost 
impossible to move ahead in that direction, in the sense that we're part of 
some international conventions and we have to respect our commitment on 
that side."

But he added: "That doesn't mean we can't decriminalize."

The Senate report had argued that marijuana use does not lead to addictions 
to more serious drugs and that the sale of cannabis should be permitted 
according to government regulation.

However, reaction to the throne speech from two Toronto-area Liberal MPs -- 
both strong backers of the party's top leadership contender Paul Martin -- 
made clear there is no unanimity within the government caucus on the 
question of decriminalizing marijuana possession.

"The issue of decriminalization, not on, I'm sorry," said Toronto MP Dan 
McTeague, voicing concerns echoed by fellow MP Albina Guarnieri. "Anybody 
who believes that that is going to happen has to very clearly take into 
account my view, (the views) of the constituencies they represent, and the 
cold hard facts."

The throne speech also said the government will "implement a national drug 
strategy to address addiction while promoting public safety. It will expand 
the number of drug treatment courts."
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