HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Senator Launches Drive To Make Marijuana Legal
Pubdate: Wednesday June 16, 1999
Source: Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
Copyright: 1999 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Tim Naumetz


Nolin Admits Being A Former 'Recreational' User

A Conservative senator who admits he once used marijuana as a form of
recreation launched a campaign yesterday to legalize the drug.

Conservative Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, repeating his view that
marijuana and possibly other drugs should be made legal, said the
subject should be aired thoroughly in Senate hearings.

Mr. Nolin, who has asked the Senate to establish a special committee
to study the issue, said he is not trying to push his own views on the

"Before going into the options, we need to look at drugs and the basic
scientific facts," Mr. Nolin told a news conference.

Mr. Nolin, a senator since 1993, when former prime minister Brian
Mulroney named him to the upper chamber, was asked if he uses
marijuana for "recreational" purposes.

"If you use the past tense, I would say yes," Mr. Nolin replied. "Not
any more."

While the senator insisted it is his personal view that marijuana
should be legalized, it was clear, from a study he released and from
the comments of an expert who accompanied him, that Mr. Nolin wants
other senators as well as MPs to reach the same conclusion.

"We do have a war on drugs; it's failing," said Eugene Oscapella, an
expert on legislative and public policy issues who has also lobbied
for legalizing marijuana.

"Surely we can't expect that ... what has not worked in the past will
work in the future," said Mr. Oscapella.

Mr. Nolin released a study he commissioned by University of Toronto
drug expert Diane Riley, a founding member of the Canadian Foundation
for Drug Policy who consults widely on the use and effect of drugs in

The 63-page report suggests the harmful social effects generated by
the criminalization of drugs, such as crime, violence and the
underground drug trade, are greater than the negative aspects of
personal drug use.

"The indirect harms and costs of illicit drugs by far outweigh direct
harms and are disproportionate to their level of use and are the
result of drug policy and legislation, not the drugs per se," the
report said.

The report recommended legalization along with other major policy
changes such as more education, health services and regulation of
legalized drugs. The document also cited a host of studies and
experiences in other countries to claim the negative consequences of
drug use are overblown.

It said the continued persecution of drug users, primarily for
possession of marijuana, is overloading the court and prison systems.

While politicians have been reluctant to tackle the issue, courts are
already recognizing a sea change in society's attitudes by lowering
penalties for simple marijuana possession, the report said. It claimed
Switzerland, where heroin is legally dispensed to addicts, and
Holland, where marijuana is legal in restricted areas, have succeeded
in reducing the harmful effects of illegal drug use.

Mr. Nolin's campaign drew an immediate negative response from a Reform
MP who is also campaigning for a new drug policy in Canada.

B.C. MP Randy White, Reform's House leader in the Commons, said
legalization will lead to wider drug use.

"It's the start of the slope," Mr. White said in an interview. "Those
who believe that legalization of one drug will solve any problems are

"We have to recognize that drugs are drugs and if you talk to any
addict, they will tell you that legalization is not the answer."

Mr. White said federal, provincial and municipal governments must act
jointly and address drug addiction as a health problem, while
continuing to fight criminal involvement in drug trafficking.

Mr. Nolin, however, noted that even the Canadian Association of Chiefs
of Police recently called for the legalization of marijuana, a
position he said was supported by the RCMP.

A recent RCMP report said drug trafficking remains the principal
source of revenue for most organized crime groups and estimated the
drug trade in Canada can generate criminal proceeds up to $4 billion
yearly at the wholesale level and $18 billion at the street level.

Mr. Nolin said if a majority in the Senate supports his request for a
special committee, the hearings could begin by December.
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