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Cannabis Control Policy: A Discussion Paper

Our Thanks to Mike Bryan

The foreword below was written in 1998 by Mike Bryan, who served as Special Assistant and Editor with Canada's Le Dain Commission of Inquiry Into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs (1969-73).  Over the past few years, Mr. Bryan has donated enormous time and effort, first to obtain this important and previously unpublicized 1979 report, Cannabis Control Policy: A Discussion Paper, under Canada's access to information law. He then spent many hours scanning, reviewing and preparing this material so that it could be added to the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy web site.  For this extraordinary effort to bring to light a hidden chapter in the history of Canada's cannabis policy, and much useful information beyond that, the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy (and many Canadians interested in drug policy reform, we are certain) offers Mike Bryan its sincere thanks.

(Please note that the glitches in presenting Mr. Bryan's work on this web site (links that don't work, missing graphics, etc.) are those of the Foundation, and not Mr. Bryan.  We will continue to work to eliminate our glitches.)

Cannabis Control Policy: A Discussion Paper
Health Protection Branch
Department of National Health and Welfare
January 1979

Foreword (prepared by Mike Bryan, 1998)

In the spring of 1978 Dr. Alex B. Morrison, then Assistant Deputy Minister, Health Protection Branch (HPB), was advised that the Government was prepared to make a major shift in cannabis control policy.  Before taking that step, however, the responsible Cabinet Ministers, led by the Minister of Health, required a thorough briefing on cannabis and the legal issues and options surrounding its control in Canada.  At that time I was a Policy Analyst in HPB's Planning and Evaluation Directorate.  I had also served as Special Assistant and Editor to the Le Dain Commission of Inquiry Into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs (1969-1973).  Dr. Morrison called me to his office and explained the Government's desire to address cannabis policy.  By the end of our meeting I was given carte blanche to assemble a team of leading researchers in drug pharmacology, epidemiology, the law and law enforcement and to coordinate the preparation of a briefing document.  That I did; and this Cabinet Discussion Paper is the culmination of that team's efforts.

The key members of the research team and the drafters of this paper were also former members of the staff of the Le Dain Commission:  Mel Green, LL.B., a Research Associate; Ralph D. Miller, Ph.D., the Commission's Director of Research; Prof. Judith Blackwell of Brock University, a Senior Research Assistant; and Prof. Robert Soloman of the University of Western Ontario Law School, a Contract Researcher.  Dr. Leo E. Hollister of the Veterans Administration Hospital, Palo Alto, California and Patricia Erickson, Senior Scientist, Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario were among other noted specialists who contributed background research for the paper.

For the past thirty years the federal Government has been telling the Canadian public that it has taken steps to prevent imprisonment and the imposition of criminal records for persons tried for possession of small amounts of cannabis. This it has never done — not even with the special cannabis provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act enacted last year. Every person prosecuted for cannabis possession today faces the possibility of imprisonment and will definitely have a criminal record for the offence, regardless of the quantity involved or the sentence imposed — a criminal record that will be entered, even if for a limited time, on the RCMP's  automated information retrieval system (CPIC) and will, therefore, be accessible to public and private organizations in Canada and officials of the United States and other allied states.

The cannabis control policy debate in this country remains wide open; and for that reason this Discussion Paper is as relevant today as it was when written 20 years ago. It provides a thorough analysis of the major health and safety issues related to cannabis, one that has not altered substantially in the intervening years. In terms of the breadth and depth of its examination of the legislative options available to the federal and provincial Governments, there is nothing on the Canadian scene to compare to it. It is an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to take a serious look at where we can go from here.

I obtained a copy of this briefing paper through the Access to Information Act in January of this year and am pleased to have had a hand in sharing it with you through the good offices of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy.

Mike Bryan
Richmond, British Columbia
October 3, 1998

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Updated: 25 Jul 2001 | Accessed: 25421 times