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What's New Archives ( 1998-99)
(click here to see current (2000-2001)
December 1, 1999: Injection Drug Use and AIDS: Global Network on
the Reduction of Drug Related Harm details the growing problems with the
spread of AIDS among injection drug users and the reluctance of governments,
including governments in Canada, to take appropriate measures to reduce
the risk of spread of HIV/AIDS. For Global Network press release, click
November 24, 1999: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network releases report,
Drug Use and HIV/AIDS: Legal and Ethical Issues. The Legal Network's
report argues that Canadian drug laws and policies contribute to the difficulties
of reacting adequately to the HIV epidemic among injection drug users.
Dr David Roy, author of the ethical component of the report, explains:
"The criminalization of drug use does not achieve the goals it aims
for. It causes harms equal to or worse than those it is supposed to prevent.
. . It is ethically wrong to continue policies and programs that so unilaterally
and utopically insist on abstinence from drug use that they ignore the
more immediately commanding urgency of reducing the suffering of drug users
and assuring their survival, their health, and their growth into liberty
and dignity." Here are the press
release, the full
report, the executive
summary of the report and the background
papers on legal, ethical and policy issues.
From the executive
summary of Injection Drug Use and HIV/AIDS: Legal and Ethical Issues:
"The criminal approach to drug use has several effects on drug
users, health-care professionals, and society at large, and may increase
rather than decrease harms from drug use:
Because drugs can only be purchased on the underground market,
they are of unknown strength and composition, which may result in overdoses
or other harm to the drug user.
Fear of criminal penalties and the high price of drugs cause
users to consume drugs in more efficient ways, such as by injection, that
contribute to the transmission of HIV and hepatitis.
Because sterile injection equipment is not always available,
drug users may have to share needles and equipment, which further contributes
to the spread of infections.
Significant resources are spent on law enforcement, money that
could instead be spent on prevention and the expansion of treatment facilities
for drug users.
The most pronounced effect, however, is to push drug users
to the margins of society. This makes it difficult to reach them with educational
messages that might improve their health and reduce the risk of further
spread of disease; makes users afraid to go to health or social services;
may make service providers shy away from providing essential education
on safer use of drugs, for fear of being seen to condone use; and fosters
anti-drug attitudes toward the user, directing action toward punishment
of the "offender" rather than fostering understanding and assistance. Alternatives
to the current approach to drug use and drug users in Canada are possible.
Alternatives within the current prohibitionist policy that would not require
any changes to the current legal framework could include the de facto decriminalization
of cannabis possession for personal use, medical prescription of heroin,
explicit educational programs, etc. Alternatives to the current prohibitionist
approach may require that Canada denounce several international drug-control
Here are previous reports and analyses on how Canada's drug laws and policies
contribute to the spread of disease:
October 6, 1999: Medicinal marijuana. Minister of Health announces
14 further successful applications for access to medicinal marijuana. For
news story, click here.
For the government's own press release, click here.
August 9, 1999: Report
of October 1998 national consensus conference on Hepatitis C (report
dated June 1999) calls for comprehensive harm reduction approach, including
safe injection sites and treating drug use as a health issue rather than
as a criminal justice issue. To see only the sections of the report relating
to injection drug use, click here.
Report endorses the 1997 recommendations of Canada's National
Task Force on HIV, AIDS and Injection Drug Use, which called for specific
exemptions under criminal laws to allow physicians to prescribe narcotics
(e.g., heroin, cocaine) to drug users AND also called for decriminalizing
the possession of small amounts of currently illegal drugs for personal
August 6, 1999: Censorship of drug policy discussions on Internet? Proposed
U.S. bill would ban Internet discussions of the use of unapproved drugs
and links to such sites and make such actions a criminal offence. For details,
June 9, 1999: Medicinal marijuana: Minister of Health announces
clinical trials program, and procedure for exempting from criminal prosecution
individuals who successfully apply to Health Canada for access to medicinal
marijuana. To see the story in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and the
June 9 statement by the Minister of Health in the House of Commons, click
To see the government press release, including the proposed research plan,
To see a detailed explanation of recent developments in Canada relating
to medicinal marijuana, click here.
Here is the site
where you can find information and application forms to apply for access
to medicinal marijuana. To see a 1998 Health Canada document
on regulating medicinal marijuana, click here.
To see the Health Canada status report on a research program for medicinal
marijuana, click here.
May 25, 1999: Final debate and vote held Tuesday, May 25, 1999 on medicinal
marijuana motion proposed by Quebec MP. Original motion M-381
(March 25, 1998 - Mr. Bigras (Rosemont)) reads: "That, in the opinion of
this House, the government should undertake all necessary steps to
legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes." House of
Commons passes amended motion: "That, in the opinion of this House,
the government should take steps immediately concerning the possible legal
medical use of marijuana including developing a research plan containing
clinical trials, appropriate guidelines for its medical use, as well as
access to a safe medicinal supply, and that the government report its findings
and recommendations before the House rises for the summer." For transcript
of the debates on this motion, click here.
To see the web site on medical marijuana established by Mr. Bigras, click
May 10, 1999: Medicinal marijuana -- Court challenge by AIDS patient
Jim Wakeford succeeds. Judge grants interim constitutional exemption to
Mr. Wakeford: "Pursuant to S. 24(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
Mr. Wakeford is hereby granted an interim constitutional exemption from
the applicability and operation of sections 4 (possession) and 7 (production
and cultivation) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This interim
exemption shall remain in force until such time as the Minister of Health
decides upon the application for exemption by Mr. Wakeford presently before
the Minister, and made pursuant to s.56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act." For further details, including news reports and the text of the judgment,
April 28, 1999: Heroin maintenance -- House of Commons
debate on motion by Libby Davies, MP "That, in the opinion of this House,
the government should, in co-operation with the provinces, implement clinical,
multi-centre heroin prescription trials for injection to opiate users,
including protocols for rigorous scientific assessment and evaluation."
For transcript of debate, click here.
To see the background materials prepared by Libby Davies, MP, please click
April 27, 1999: Reform
MP introduces private members' bill (Bill C-503) to decriminalize possession
of small amounts of cannabis; Ontario NDP and Liberal leaders call
for similar measures. For story, click here.
Ontario premier says he preferred alcohol,
wants zero tolerance for cannabis.
April 23, 1999: Strip searches for drugs -- monitoring the "alimentary
canal" in the name of the War on Drugs. Supreme Court of Canada addresses
and the legality of "bedpan vigils" and "drug loo facilities" to search
suspected drug smugglers. Court says that subjecting travellers crossing
the Canadian border to potential embarrassment is the price to be paid
in order to achieve the necessary balance between an individual's privacy
interest and the compelling countervailing state interest in protecting
the integrity of Canada's borders from the flow of dangerous contraband
materials. For newspaper report on case, R. v. Monney, click here.
For complete judgment, click here.
See stories about alleged racism in selecting passengers for drug
and other searches at Toronto's Pearson airport, and alleged racism
in US airport
April 23, 1999: Supreme Court of Canada criticizes RCMP
for breaking law during drug sting. "Police illegality that is planned
and approved within the RCMP hierarchy and implemented in defiance of legal
advice would, if established, suggest a potential systemic problem concerning
police accountability and control." For news story on judgment, click here.
For the full Court judgment, click here.
April 22, 1999: National Post report confirms
that board of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police wants to decriminalize
possession of cannabis. Earlier (April 21) National Post story had
suggested that chiefs wanted to decriminalize all drugs. For both
stories and other related stories, click here.
House of Commons Debates: Minister
of Justice agrees to review chiefs' position.
April 14, 1999: Medicinal marijuana debate continues in House of Commons.
For details, click here.
For an analysis of recent political and legal developments in Canada relating
to medicinal marijuana, click here.
April 10, 1999: Description of current and planned heroin
maintenance programs in several countries (report from the 10th
International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm - Geneva,
21-25 March, 1999). For other reports from the conference, click
April 9, 1999: Survey
shows Canadians overwhelmingly support medicinal use of marijuana --
78% said they support the federal government's plan to consider the use
of marijuana as a possible treatment for various medicinal conditions.
March 23, 1999: Parliament may amend controversial bill allowing U.S. border
officers in Canadian airports -- on Canadian soil -- to search and have
detained travellers they suspect of trying to take drugs or other illegal
substances into the United States. Bill raises Canadian sovereignty
issues. For news report, click here.
March 17, 1999: U.S. Institute of Medicine Releases Marijuana
and Medicine, Assessing the Science Base. For details and
the executive summary of the report, click here.
March 9, 1999: Statistics Canada releases 1997 drug offence statistics:
"During the 1990s, cannabis offences have been increasing while cocaine
and heroin offences have been declining. In 1997, cannabis offences
accounted for 72% of all drug crimes, compared with 58% in 1991. In
contrast, cocaine accounted for 17% of all cases in 1997, down from 28%
in 1991, and heroin accounted for about 2% of all cases, down marginally
from 1991. Possession of cannabis alone accounted for almost half of
all drug offences." For further details, click here.
March 4, 1999: Canda's House of Commons begins debate about medicinal
marijuana motion proposed by Quebec MP. Motion M-381 (March 25, 1998
- Mr. Bigras (Rosemont)) reads: "That, in the opinion of this House, the
government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use
of marijuana for health and medical purposes." For transcript of the debate,
click here. To see the web
site on medical marijuana established by Mr. Bigras, click here.
March 3, 1999: Medicinal marijuana (Canada): Federal Minister of Health
announces that the federal government intends to start clinical trials
with medicinal marijuana. For details and press coverage of announcement,
click here. To see research and
policy materials on medicinal marijuana, click here.
February 28, 1999: New York Times -- The
War on Drugs Retreats, Still Taking Prisoners. "More people are
behind bars for drug offenses in the United States -- about 400,000 --
than are in prison for all crimes in England, France, Germany and Japan
combined.. . . Every week, on average, a new jail or prison is built to
lock up more people in the world's largest penal system." See also
the accompanying March 1, 1999, NYT article, Soldiers
of the Drug War Remain on Duty.
February 27, 1999: Premier of Victoria, Australia,
supports starting heroin trials, including the provision of heroin
February 23, 1999: Britain's The
Independent newspaper reports that the illegal drug trade
[fostered by prohibition - ed.] is the third biggest economy in the
world today. "Like any other business, organised crime has gone global,
and the drugs trade is its most profitable sector."
February 7, 1999: American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section study
concludes that increased drug arrests and longer prison sentences have
not slowed illegal drug use.
November 26, 1998: Supreme Court of Canada decision allows drug search
by high school vice-principal in presence of police. To see the decision,
v. M. (M.R.), click here.
November 18, 1998 --Germany -- heroin
maintenance: The trial of a state controlled distribution of heroin
to sick addicts will begin in Hamburg and Frankfurt.
November 14, 1998: UK Lancet
qualifies its 1995 opinion on cannabis, and now concludes that, "on the
medical evidence available, moderate indulgence in cannabis has little
ill-effect on health, and that decisions to ban or to legalise cannabis
should be based on other considerations." See also the November 17,
1998 editorial in Le
Monde (Paris) in support of the Lancet article.
November 15, 1998: Medical marijuana: United Kingdom House of Lords committee
recommends legal access to medical marijuana; see report from The
Guardian and chapter
8 and appendices
to the House of Lords report. The
Times reports that UK government rejects recommendation, but that
government says doctors might be allowed to prescribe the drug after extensive
November 5, 1998: Medical marijuana initiatives succeed in United States
mid-term elections; Oregon votes NOT to recriminalize cannabis. Congress
prevents disclosure of vote results on medical marijuana initiative in
Washington, DC. For details, see the DRCNeT
(Drug Reform Coordination Network), DrugSense
and Lindesmith Center
discussions of these events.
Opposition to United Nations "War on Drugs" at UN Special Session on Drugs
(UNGASS), June 8-10, 1998. International coalition, including several present
and former leaders, call on UN Secretary General for an honest appraisal
of drug control efforts, saying "we believe that the global war on drugs
is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself." To see a copy of the
letter sent to the Secretary General, and the signatories to the letter,
click here. For background
about the UN Special Session on Drugs, click here.
For Canadian press release and list of Canadian signatories, click here.
are other events related to the 'Global Days Against
The Drug War', June 5-10, in response to United Nations Special Session
May 26, 1998 -- The Australian Drug Law Reform
Foundation: A Ten Point Plan for Effective Drug
March 5, 1998: Is the United Nations attempting to increase censorship
of the drug policy debate? UN International Narcotic Control Board's 1997
annual report criticizes those who speak in support of changes to drug
laws. Report also criticizes media for allegedly showing favourable images
of drug "abuse" and calls for criminal penalties and restrictions on freedom
of expression. See the relevant portions of the annual report by clicking