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Editorial

Experiment with drugs, Mr Bush

May 3rd 2001
From The Economist print edition

America’s drugs policies don’t work. Alas, the Bush administration seems to want more of
the same

 BY ANY reasonable measure, America’s “war on drugs” is a disaster. At home, ferocious
“mandatory sentencing” laws are the main reason for the country’s huge prison population.
Almost one in four of the country’s 2m prisoners are there for drug offences, with only a
limited chance of becoming productive members of society when they are released (see
article). Abroad, America is being sucked into domestic conflicts, notably in Colombia; and
recently its forces shot down a “drugs” plane in Peru that turned out to be carrying
missionaries. Meanwhile, drugs have never been easier to get in the United States, with prices
lower, purity higher and experimentation among schoolchildren as rampant as ever.

 The Economist has long argued that drugs should be decriminalised. Few politicians will go
that far, but many have edged in that direction. Back in January, George Bush, who was once
busted for drink-driving and has always danced around the question of whether he took drugs
in his misspent youth, seemed to be one of them. He argued that long minimum sentences for
first-time drug users were not the best way “to occupy jail-space”. He also worried about the
disparities between the sentences handed down for possessing crack and those for powdered
cocaine—disparities that help explain why so many more blacks go to prison than whites.

 The distant hope that a pragmatic conservative might yet change policy in a way that a
liberal Democrat might not dare have now been dashed. First, Mr Bush announced that he
would enforce a law that will deprive drug offenders of federal grants or loans for college
education (one of the better ways of getting them back on the straight and narrow). Now the
White House is strongly hinting that it will appoint John Walters as the new drugs “tsar”.

 Mr Walters is to the drugs war what first world war generals were to trench warfare. He does
not lack experience (he was a deputy drug tsar under Mr Bush’s father), but his basic reaction
to the heavy losses sustained so far seems to be merely to increase the size of the attack. Mr
Clinton’s drug policy, in his view, was too soft. The idea that American sentences are too
harsh is “among the great urban myths of our time”. He points out that only 8.8% of those in
state prisons are there for possession (which is true, but ignores the fact that many of the
11.3% who are there for drug-trafficking are there for being little more than lowly mules in
the production process). Another “urban myth” is the idea that the “criminal justice system is
unjustly punishing young black men.”

 In policy terms, Mr Walters opposes the idea of distributing syringes to drug addicts as a way
of controlling the spread of HIV. He dislikes even the thought of limited legalisation and
various sorts of treatment. “If anything,” he wrote recently, “the trend of anti-drinking and
anti-smoking efforts today is to criminalise certain aspects of use and to attack availability.”

 It would be hard for Mr Bush to claim that he had no choice other than to be a hardliner.
Voters have passed eight state ballots calling for marijuana to be legalised for medical
purposes since 1996; Californians have also voted for an initiative requiring treatment instead
of incarceration for a person’s first two drug offences. Tommy Thompson, Mr Bush’s
secretary for health and human services, and several prominent Republican governors, have
suggested that America should rethink its drugs policy. The shooting down of the aircraft in
Peru, which killed an American missionary and her baby (and may have delayed Mr
Walters’s appointment), has served as a powerful reminder to Americans of the cost of the
overseas drug war.

 Of course, Mr Walters may change his views once he is in office. But a policy of increased
repression will surely result in thousands of people being thrown in prison for sins that are
little worse than those alleged of the youthful George Bush: being young and irresponsible.
An older and more responsible Mr Bush should reconsider his choice.


*****
Coming to a neighbourhood  near you

May 3rd 2001
NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition

A small hitch with America’s policy of imprisoning more  people than any
other country on the planet: most have to be  released at some point

 JOSE VASQUEZ has a scar on his right cheek and a conviction for accidental manslaughter.
Arrested at the age of 16, he was convicted as an adult and locked up for seven years in an
upstate New York prison. He should have been released earlier, but the prison authorities
dished out “disciplinary sanctions” for a series of fights. At first that meant solitary
confinement; then, for several months, being locked in his cell for 23 hours a day. The parole
board twice put off his release. Now Mr Vasquez is 25 years old, has been free for two years,
but must do at least two more years of parole. Still, he counts himself “pretty fortunate”.

 He was lucky because prison, eventually, turned his life around. “Prison made me realise I
made a mistake, it really moulded me.” Inside, he passed a high-school exam, then a college
degree. In solitary confinement he read “poetry, novels, spy stories, a lot of stuff, some
Freud,” and started to write. After a couple of years of casual jobs, he now works at the
Osborne Association, a New York group that helps ex-inmates to find jobs and homes. Last
year it placed 1,162 ex-prisoners with local employers—not bad, considering that its average
client is 33 years old, has only a sixth-grade education and has done four years behind bars.

 Few are as lucky as Mr Vasquez. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people leave
America’s prisons, but only a few thousand get help from groups such as Osborne. Most are
ill-prepared for life outside, educated in little else but how to commit crimes more efficiently.
Outside his job, Mr Vasquez unsurprisingly avoids cellmates who might lead him into “shady
ways”.

 States seem to put far more effort into locking up people than trying to reform them. In New
York, Governor George Pataki has made a point of cutting prisoners’ education and other
services. Today, Mr Vasquez would be unable to “mould himself” with a college degree in
prison. And, although vastly more criminals are jailed for drug offences than in the past,
many states have cut efforts to rehabilitate inmates. The number of inmates in drug
programmes dropped from 201,000 in 1993 to 99,000 in 1998.

 As the economy turns down, jobs will be harder to get; and there is an ever-rising number of
ex-prisoners chasing them. An estimated 614,000 people will leave prison this year, says the
Bureau of Justice, compared with 423,800 in 1990 and 156,400 in 1980. In all, there are now
nearly 4.5m people on probation (served instead of detention) or on parole (served after
detention).

 This army of ex-cons is the final, perhaps unforeseen, stage of the country’s love affair with
mandatory sentencing. Ever since the mid-1980s, politicians have won votes by promising to
get tough with criminals. The most prominent effect has been in the law courts: limiting the
discretion of judges to make the punishment fit the crime, and imposing harsh minimum
terms. Between 1986 and 1997, average prison sentences (in federal prisons) increased from
39 months to 54 months.

 California’s “three strikes” rule, which enforced a prison sentence for anybody caught
committing a third felony (no matter how small), drove more into prison. Punishments for
drug offences have been particularly severe. Drug-dealers can expect five-year or ten-year
terms if caught. And the definition of drug-dealing is a harsh one, sweeping in spouses of
dealers, whose crime may be simply failing to shop their husbands. Drug convictions are the
reason for the massive growth in prison numbers.

 Once behind bars, inmates find it increasingly difficult to get out early. Parole boards are
stricter than ever, quickly returning criminals to complete their sentences if, for example, they
are found to be taking drugs. And, since prisoners are less likely than before to get time off
for good behaviour, they have less incentive to behave well.

 The result: America’s prison population has boomed, to roughly 2m. One person in 142 is
behind bars, up from one in 218 a decade ago. America not only has more people in prison
than anywhere else, but a higher incarceration rate (it recently passed Russia). It now spends
$40 billion a year, roughly $20,000 per prisoner, on keeping offenders behind bars.

 What is the effect of having so many people passing through the prison system? Some argue
that prison has helped to reduce the country’s crime rate, which has been dropping steadily
for a decade, by as much as 8% a year. James Wilson, a criminologist at the University of
California in Los Angeles, points out that the median number of offences committed each
year by those going to jug is now 12.

 Others, such as Alfred Blumstein, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, say that locking people up
only partly explains the drop in crime. The rest is accounted for by changing economic
fortunes, by shifting demography (when there are fewer young people, there is less crime),
and by new fashions in drug abuse (crack cocaine is out of vogue, so the violence associated
with its sale has declined).

 Either way, with more people leaving prison, there are more ex-convicts in society. Just as
enthusiasts for tough sentences once sought to tie the prison population to lower crime rates,
now opponents argue that it is spells in prison that are helping to increase criminal behaviour.
Recidivism rates have not changed for decades, but there are far more ex-convicts: roughly
two-thirds of the ex-cons are likely to be rearrested within three years, and 40% will probably
go back behind bars.

 This debate will rumble on—not least because it is impossible to prove the deterrent effect of
tougher sentences. But two things are happening. First, the crime rate has begun to edge up
again in some places. In all, crime dropped by only 0.3% last year, much less than in recent
years. In bigger cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, violent crimes such as murder
(which tend to lead the way for other crime trends) are beginning to rise again. Some of that
may be explained by a demographic bulge in young people, but it could also be explained by
the large number of ex-cons in society.

 Second, in a delayed reaction to the generally lower crime rates of the past decade, the prison
population is beginning to peak. Having risen on average by 5.6% for the past decade, last
year it grew by only 2.3%, the lowest annual increase since 1971. In several states, including
New York and Massachusetts, the number of people coming out of prison already exceeds
the number going in.

 How this will affect public opinion remains to be seen. For most of the past decade,
Americans have believed (wrongly) that the crime rate has been rising. They have generally
supported building more prisons, partly because this brings jobs, but also because of their
punitive effect. The reintroduction of chain-gangs, or dressing inmates in pink uniforms and
giving them mind-numbing work, are all popular.

 In a new book on prisons, “Going up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation” (Random
House), Joseph Hallinan cites surveys showing that, 30 years ago, most Americans saw the
purpose of prison as rehabilitation. Now they say it is punishment. Among the fruits of that
policy are the bulging penitentiaries across the country—and the flood of ex-cons now hitting
the streets.



 

Meeting of the Americas sparks drug debate on CPAC
(Cable Public Affairs Channel) [CPAC press release]

(Note:  The listings below may change.
Check http://www.cpac.ca/english/listings/ for the most current
listings.)

On Wednesday March 7, 2001, the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas brings
together delegates from more than 40 countries to discuss their most
pressing issues, including drugs.

The Fight Against Drugs is a two-night CPAC Special about Canada’s drug
trade  from the legalization of marijuana, to law enforcement initiatives,
to communities besieged by drug abuse.

CPAC kicks off the special on Wednesday night with a LIVE phone-in at 9 pm
ET where host Martin Stringer and his expert panel address the question
“Are We Winning the War on Drugs?” Join the discussion by calling toll-free
1-877-296-2722 or send us an e-mail at questions@cpac.ca.

At 10 pm ET, CPAC presents Drugs for a New Generation, a look at the rave
drug Ecstasy, followed at 11 pm ET by a trip to Vancouver’s East Side where
drugs are common, crime is rampant, and HIV infection among users is the
highest in the western world.

Thursday night’s line-up includes reports on Toronto’s Drug Court at 7 pm
ET followed at 9 pm ET by a LIVE Forum where panellists address the
relevance of Canada’s drug laws.

At 10 pm ET, CPAC presents Addiction and Society with visits to two
effective, yet very different, drug treatment centres for youth. The
evening closes with Going to Pot, a look at the most controversial of all
illegal drugs, marijuana. CPAC talks to undercover police officers, health
officials, pro-legalization groups and users who smoke pot with increasing
defiance.

CPAC is funded by over 100 cable companies across Canada and is provided
free of charge to almost 8 million households in the interest of increasing
awareness and understanding of Canadian public policy issues.
 
 

For more information:           For complete listings or to watch us
LIVE:
Susan Kay                                               www.cpac.ca
(613) 364-1139
skay@cpac.ca
 
 
 



Ottawa Citizen, September 19, 2000

Day seeks free vote on drug legalization

MPs from all parties back controversial proposal

Tim Naumetz
The Ottawa Citizen

Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day has called for a Commons debate over the legalization of drugs
followed by a free vote for all MPs on the controversial issue.

Supported in differing degrees by MPs from all parties, Mr. Day said it's time Parliament tackled the
relationship between illegal drugs and organized crime.

"I think that debate on legalization of drugs should take place and it should take place in the House of
Commons, and it should go ahead with a free vote," Mr. Day said in response to questions at a news conference
in which he addressed a range of topics.

"The Canadian Alliance position is clearly to allow for that legalization related to the alleviation of pain and for
medicinal purposes," added Mr. Day.

MPs from other parties, reacting in part to a series of Citizen stories exploring the cost and effect of the war on
drugs led primarily by the United States, agreed it is time Canadian lawmakers debated what only a few years
ago might have been considered unthinkable by mainstream politicians.

"One thing is very clear, the intensification of the effort to deal with organized crime and shut down illegal
drugs has not been a success in the U.S. and it makes no sense for us to just simply go down the same road,"
said NDP leader Alexa McDonough.

"We're willing to debate whatever will get us through a solution here and that means needing to have sound
initiatives put forward by the government, and it means having the evidence to guide us in decisions we make,"
Ms. McDonough added.

Organized crime and the related question of illegal drugs, which the RCMP says are the main source of revenue
for most crime groups, were central to much of the activity on Parliament Hill yesterday when the Commons
resumed after its summer recess.

The Bloc Quebecois, in response to the gangland-style shooting of a Montreal crime reporter last week,
successfully steered a motion calling for a new law against criminal gangs onto the Commons floor for a special
debate.

In the Senate, Conservative and Liberal members of a special committee struck to study drug legalization held a
planning meeting for hearings that are to begin Monday. Tory Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin, who persuaded the
Senate to launch the inquiry, is on record as saying the law that makes marijuana possession a criminal offence
should be withdrawn.

MPs who were interviewed about the question of drug legalization avoided taking a stand, but said the topic
should be aired.

"Any time that we have an opportunity to discuss something as topical and as serious as drug use, particularly
the perpetration of organized crime in dealing drugs, we should certainly do that on the floor of the House of
Commons," said Conservative MP Peter MacKay, the party's justice critic and a former Crown prosecutor.

Liberal MP Paul Szabo, who chaired a Commons committee that five years ago studied drug laws in Canada,
flatly dismissed the idea, saying: "This is a non-starter, it's a non-starter for me."

Mr. Szabo said the committee he led in 1995 heard arguments in favour of drug legalization but "the evidence,
not just anecdotal evidence from people and how they feel, but rather from health experts, from social experts,
were in total consensus that this would be a terrible direction to go in and consider. The government agreed and
I'm sure the government still agrees."

Government House Leader Don Boudria was unwilling even to discuss the idea of a debate. Asked whether he
thought the Commons should take it up, Mr. Boudria replied "not particularly," and quickly walked off.

Ottawa Centre Liberal Mac Harb, however, who has tabled a private member's bill calling for legalized
prostitution in designated red-light districts under government control, agreed a debate should be held.

"Absolutely," said Mr. Harb. "I have my share of problems (with drugs) in downtown Ottawa, and I think it's
the same situation all across the country."

Bloc MP Yvan Loubier, who sought police protection last year because of threats from underground marijuana
growers in his riding, said he supports a debate and is willing to entertain drug legalization if the benefits can
be shown.

"If the proof is given that it would contribute to crack the criminal organizations, I think I would support it, but
at the moment, I don't have the proof," said Mr. Loubier.



Vancouver Sun

 Tue 21 Nov 2000 News A1 / Front

   `This is an international crisis': Mayor Philip Owen unveils today his sweeping plan for city's drug crisis

Mayor Philip Owen says the city must adopt a new strategy. ``What we've been doing so far is not working,'' he said.

Safe-injection sites for drug users and providing free heroin for hard-core addicts on a trial basis are among the strategies the
city of Vancouver is recommending in a new drug policy that is the first of its kind in North America.

The plan, to be made public today, also includes drug courts that would put users into treatment instead of jail, special
treatment beds for young people, day centres for drug users outside the Downtown Eastside, testing of street drugs to help
prevent overdoses, and more police to target upper-level drug dealers.

The plan is the city's response to what Mayor Philip Owen calls an unprecedented drug crisis in which people are dying by
the hundreds, while many more are getting hepatitis C and HIV through intravenous-injection drug use.

``These trends must stop,'' Owen said. ``We cannot ignore this issue. We cannot incarcerate our way out of it and we cannot
liberalize our way out of it. This is an international crisis that is scaring an awful lot of cities.''

Added the mayor: ``Doing nothing is not an option. What we've been doing so far is not working.''

The report accompanying the recommendations notes that Vancouver spends more money per person on dealing with illicit
drugs than any other place in Canada.

In 1997, the estimated direct costs of law enforcement and health care related to drug use was $96 million a year.

The new plan, a copy of which was obtained by The Vancouver Sun, contains 24 recommendations intended to emphasize
equally strategies for prevention, treatment, legal enforcement, and harm reduction, a strategy used in some European cities
that is known as the four-pillar approach.

Like European cities that pioneered it, Vancouver is also taking the position that it has to act even if others are not willing to
yet. And, like them, it is also clearly shifting to a position that says drug addiction is a health issue, not a criminal issue.

The plan does not commit the city to spending any money or to undertaking any immediate, controversial action.

All but two of the recommendations are labelled as the responsibility of other agencies: the federal and provincial
governments, the Vancouver/Richmond health board and the Vancouver police department.

The report restricts city actions to creating a ``Drug Action Team'' to coordinate responses to neighbourhood drug issues, and
to supporting some kind of process that improves local neighbourhoods' ability to fight back against drug problems.

But Owen said the city already spends $10 million a year on programs meant to deal with the drug issue, such as housing and
service centres in the Downtown Eastside. As well, he said, the federal and provincial governments, which have the money
and authority to actually do something, are looking to the city for leadership and a plan that they can throw themselves behind.

``The onus is on us to deliver that to them,'' said Owen.

The policy is only a draft so far. It will be circulated to the public for comment until the end of January, with the final report,
reflecting public reaction, due in the spring.

But the policy, which sets out a multi-pronged approach that contains some elements that are relatively radical for mainstream
politicians, is sure to draw both praise and fire from all sides.

Some will say it caters to drug users and perpetuates the problems by suggesting the city consider safe injection sites, a
heroin-maintenance experiment, and clinical trials for other medications that could substitute for heroin and cocaine.

Others will say the city has backed away from doing anything concrete to start tackling the problem immediately and has
caved in to conservative forces by recommending drug courts.

Owen says that, while public reaction is important, the city will not agree to a final strategy that doesn't have all four pillars in
place.

``We're going to be very open, but we're not going to go without the holistic, comprehensive approach. It's going to be
controversial, but there's no turning back.''

Owen said other cities are looking to Vancouver for leadership.

``Everyone has a drug problem, all the big-city mayors have talked about this. Every single one is looking for solutions. But
nobody is prepared to stand up to the plate.''

Vancouver's problems have been highlighted because the drug scene is so open, Owen said, but everyone is struggling.

Owen said he's already been contacted by the mayors of Yokohama and Seattle for a copy of Vancouver's drug strategy.

``We see it all around the Pacific Rim. As soon as you get a prosperous economy, the drug dealers move in.''

VANCOUVER'S DRUG STRATEGY AND HARM REDUCTION PLAN

The city's four goals with its drug strategy:

- Push the federal and provincial governments to act.

- Restore public order, particularly at Main and Hastings.

- Tackle the drug-related health crisis.

- Establish a single co-ordinator who can pull everyone together to get things done

Its 24 recommendations:

ENFORCEMENT

- Increase police drug and organized-crime squads to target mid- and upper-level dealers

- Start a senior-level ``drug action team'' to co-ordinate response to neighbourhood drug issues

- Start a pilot drug treatment court with a range of options for treatment

- Look for legal changes that would help police and courts go after new trends in the drug industry, like dial a dope, public
drug consumption, and youth prostitution

- Redeploy police officers in the Downtown Eastside to increase their visibility in the neighbourhood

HARM REDUCTION

- Provide short-term shelter and housing options for active drug users on the street

- Set up a task force to look at the possibility of a scientific, medical project to develop safe injection sites

- Set up street-drug testing so that people can get quick information about changes in quality in order to prevent drug
overdoses

- Start an overdose-death prevention campaign

TREATMENT

- Start a 15-bed treatment unit just for women, women with children, and pregnant women

- Set up 20 treatment beds for young people outside the Downtown Eastside

- Expand support services for families of children who become users

- Set up six medical detox beds at St. Paul's for those with serious medical problems

- Take steps to start clinical trials of drugs like buprenorphine as possible substitutes for heroin and cocaine addiction, to
increase the options for treatment for people who are methadone resistant

- Proceed with the proposed North American research trial into giving heroin to hard-core addicts

- Put needle exchanges into all primary health care clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and relevant non-profit group sites in the
region

- Make methadone easier to get, expanding it by 1,000 clients in the next two years

- Provide different kinds of housing for users and people trying to go clean

- Pilot day centres for addicts outside the Downtown Eastside to help prevent users, especially young people, from getting
involved in the inner-city drug scene

PREVENTION

- Start a community process that gives neighbourhoods more power to combat drug abuse

- Develop a pilot citywide school curriculum on drugs and drug abuse

There are also three recommendations urging provincial ministries, the provincial government and the federal government to
act in the areas they control.




Vancouver Sun, Wednesday 6 December 2000

Prescribe drugs to addicts, Dosanjh  suggests:  Premier backs
Vancouver's new drug strategy but says it  neglects hardcore
addicts' needs

Frances Bula
Vancouver Sun

Prescribing drugs for addicts  -- not just providing  safe-injection sites -- has to  be part of any
comprehensive plan to  tackle Vancouver's drug  problem, Premier Ujjal  Dosanjh said
Tuesday.

 Dosanjh said even if  safe-injection facilities were  available, addicts would still  need to
steal to get the  money for drugs and would  still have to buy an illegal  substance in an illegal
transaction.

 "Safe-injection sites per se won't do the job," the premier told The  Vancouver Sun's editorial
board. "If there are people who can't be  stabilized or cured or dealt with satisfactorily in any
other way, then we  should look at medicinal prescription of the drugs that they might be
dependent on under safe conditions."

 He said politicians -- and newspapers -- need to have the courage to  speak out for what's
right, not just what's politically saleable.

 But, he said, "it takes more courage than I have so far seen."

 Dosanjh, like everyone else who has ever recommended giving drugs to  addicts, said it's
something that should only be done after all other options  have failed, including drug courts,
methadone treatment services, and other  programs that try to get people off drugs.

 But he said politicians and bureaucrats tend to shy away from advocating  even that
restricted form of drug prescription because they fear it's not  politically saleable.

 "I think at some point, political expediency has to end and the real concern  has to take
hold."

 Dosanjh said the failure to come out clearly and say hardcore addicts need  drugs, not just
safe-injection sites, is a soft spot in Vancouver's proposed  new drug strategy, but otherwise,
he said, he fully supports the city's  proposal.

 The city's 31-point plan, announced Nov. 22, says Vancouver's drug  problem should be
tackled through a "four-pillar approach," common to  some European cities, that would
improve enforcement, treatment,  harm-reduction and prevention. That means everything
from more policing  to drug courts to more treatment beds to a consideration of safe-injection
sites.

 The most public attention has gone to the proposal's cautious  recommendations to consider
safe-injection sites and to endorse a North  American scientific experiment now in the
planning stages that would  prescribe heroin to a select group of addicts -- an experiment that
is  unlikely to begin for at least a couple of years, if at all.

 Dosanjh said the city's plan is largely a reiteration of ideas in the  Vancouver Agreement.

 The Vancouver Agreement is a joint city, provincial and federal program to  tackle the city's
crime, drug and poverty problems, which are heavily  concentrated in the Downtown
Eastside.

 The three levels of government recently announced the first phase of  action, which included
more health-treatment centres for drug users in the  Downtown Eastside, more policing, and
some economic-renewal  programs.

 However, Health Minister Corky Evans confirmed that Tuesday's  announcement of
substantial new money for health care doesn't mean any  dollars for more treatment beds,
since the addiction-services department is  part of the children and families ministry.

 And Dosanjh said that, although he's had several suggestions in the past  three weeks that the
department be moved to health so it could benefit  from the almost $8.6-billion health budget,
he wasn't prepared to start  shifting departments in an editorial board meeting.

 But he did say the province is ready to move, with the proviso that the  federal government
has to come to the table with some dollars as well.

 The province has managed to put $1.8 million into new health and  addiction services
through the Vancouver Agreement, but that's a long way  from the $20 to $30 million the city
has said needs to be spent on its  comprehensive drug strategy.

Return to Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy home page



Edmonton Journal  Tue 12 Dec 2000
A1 / Front
 

Marijuana cultivation law suspended: Second province tells Ottawa to change pot law

An Alberta judge has struck down a portion of federal law that prohibits the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes,
saying it's unconstitutional.

Justice Darlene Acton struck down Section 7 (1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act Monday, but stayed the
decision for a year.

That time, she said, would allow the federal government ample opportunity to correct the breach of the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms she ruled has been against marijuana crusader Grant Wayne Krieger.

Acton, as part of the decision, also stayed cultivation charges against Krieger, 46, who has multiple sclerosis, and granted him
an exemption under Section 56 of the act so he can now legally grow the illicit drug for his own personal use.

The judge said exemptions permit citizens who require cannabis marijuana for health reasons to possess the drug, yet what
``triggers the absurdity'' is that there is no legal source for them and they are forced to grow it or purchase it illegally off the
street.

This is the second blow to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act this year.

Last summer, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared the section of the law dealing with possession to be unconstitutional and
gave Terry Parker the right to ingest marijuana to fight his severe epilepsy.

The Toronto man claimed pot eliminated up to 80 weekly seizures.

In her decision Monday, Acton noted that as of Oct. 2, Health Minister Allan Rock has granted 72 exemptions nationally. He

also turned down one person and intended to refuse five other applications. Krieger has not applied.

``It would be inhumane to not grant Mr. Krieger an exemption to grow marijuana for his own medical use,'' the judge told
court in reading her decision.

``He has proven to court he needs it and, although he hasn't tried every available option, no other conventional drugs have
been successful for him.''

However, the judge did not go quite as far as Krieger and his lawyer had hoped.

She dismissed a second application that would have permitted Krieger to sell the marijuana he grows to others who also
require it for medical reasons but may not have a Health Canada exemption.

The judge said she did not find such a limit unjustified and added society would not be protected adequately if anyone could
distribute otherwise illegal drugs to whomever they chose.

Krieger says he doesn't profit from selling marijuana to sick and dying people. His customers, members of his Universal
Compassion Club, are required to have letters from their doctors outlining their illnesses.

He has been to court more than 30 times in his battle to legally grow, smoke, eat, and supply marijuana for medicinal
purposes. In his last court appearance, Krieger was fined $350 after pleading guilty to two charges of violating court orders.
He had been ordered to report to a probation officer monthly as part of an 18-month suspended sentence imposed in Regina
earlier this year for trafficking.

In 1996, Krieger drew international attention when he was arrested in Amsterdam for trying to transport a kilogram of
marijuana back to Canada.

He was jailed for two weeks in August 1999 when he refused to stop growing and supplying marijuana to ill people.

He was fined twice for possession for the purpose of trafficking.

The appeal court said federal law fails to recognize that pot can be used for medicinal purposes by those suffering from
chronic illnesses.

The court gave Parliament one year to rewrite the drug legislation so that sick patients can get medicinal cannabis. Otherwise,
there will no longer be any law prohibiting marijuana possession in Ontario, the judges said.

Krieger's defence lawyer, Adriano Iovinelli, said Acton has made it ``very clear'' that if the government doesn't react she'll
strike down the section of the act and allow cultivation in Alberta. ``I'd be very surprised if the government doesn't react,''
Iovinelli said. ``She anticipates she'll get a reaction.''

******
Toronto Globe and Mail Tuesday, December 12

                    Judge suspends law against cultivating
                    marijuana

                    Canadian Press

                    Calgary — A law that prohibits the
                    cultivation of marijuana is unconstitutional because it doesn't allow for
                    medical use of the drug, an Alberta judge ruled Monday.

                    Justice Darlene Acton threw out a charge of cultivating marijuana against
                    Grant Krieger, who grows and ingests pot to alleviate the symptoms of
                    his multiple sclerosis.

                    "Today is a great victory for Mr. Krieger," said defence lawyer Adriano
                    Iovinelli.

                    "It's another message to the government of Canada that they have to
                    address this issue more thoroughly and Section 56 exemption just
                    doesn't cut it."

                    Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act allows the
                    federal health minister to exempt Canadians from being charged with
                    growing and possessing marijuana for medical use or research.

                    But the problem with the exemption is that there isn't a legal marijuana
                    supply, a fact that "triggers the absurdity," Judge Acton told court.

                    "The irony is that there is no source in Canada for marijuana at this time,"
                    she said in her ruling.

                    Judge Acton gave Parliament 12 months to change the drug legislation
                    so that sick patients can get medicinal cannabis.

                    But Mr. Iovinelli doubts the government will take a year to rewrite the
                    law, because if it doesn't Judge Acton's ruling means it would then be
                    legal to grow marijuana in Alberta.

                    "I'd be very surprised if the government doesn't react to this," he said.

                    Mr. Krieger, 46, was charged with trafficking and cultivating marijuana.
                    He argued the charges should be tossed on the grounds that growing
                    and distributing pot for medicinal use is guaranteed under the charter
                    section that provides for liberty and security.

                    He maintains smoking and eating marijuana helps control his symptoms
                    of multiple sclerosis, a progressive, chronic disease of the nervous
                    system that causes tremors, paralysis and speech defects.

                    "It's more beneficial than any kind of pharmaceutical I've put in my body
                    to date," Mr. Krieger said outside court.

                    "It allows me the ability to function as normally as I can with
                    progressively chronic multiple sclerosis."

                    Judge Acton did not dismiss trafficking charges against Mr. Krieger. He
                    will be arraigned on those next month.

                    Mr. Krieger says he doesn't profit from selling marijuana to sick and
                    dying people. His customers, members of his Universal Compassion
                    Club, are required to have letters from their doctors outlining their
                    illnesses.

                    He has been to court more than 30 times in his battle to legally grow,
                    smoke, eat, and supply marijuana for medicinal purposes.

                    In his last court appearance, Mr. Krieger was fined $350 after pleading
                    guilty to two charges of violating court orders. He had been ordered to
                    report to a probation officer monthly as part of an 18-month suspended
                    sentence imposed in Regina earlier this year for trafficking.

                    In 1996, Mr. Krieger drew international attention when he was arrested
                    in Amsterdam for trying to transport a kilogram of marijuana back to
                    Canada.

                    He was jailed for two weeks in August, 1999 when he refused to stop
                    growing and supplying marijuana to ill people. He was fined twice for
                    possession for the purpose of trafficking.

                    Last summer, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared Canada's cannabis
                    law to be unconstitutional and gave Terry Parker the right to ingest
                    marijuana to fight his severe epilepsy.

                    Health Minister Allan Rock has exempted more than 70 ill Canadians
                    from being charged with possessing and growing pot under section 56 of
                    the federal Controlled Drugs and Substance Act. Five applicants for
                    exemption have been rejected.




 Vancouver Residents Soften Views On Drugs

      Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jan 2001
      Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
 

      VANCOUVER RESIDENTS SOFTEN VIEWS ON DRUGS

      Public support for decriminalizing marijuana has grown while an exceptional number back
      city's proposed strategy on drugs, poll shows

      Softer on marijuana legalization but heroin unchanged Vancouverites' views on addiction.

      Vancouver residents have become tired of the traditional war on drugs.

      In just three years, support among city residents for decriminalizing marijuana has grown
      from 47 per cent to 57 per cent.  An unusually high 61 per cent say they support the
      medical use of heroin for drug treatment.

      And an exceptional number support the city's proposed new drug strategy, even endorsing
      the plan's most controversial recommendation -- setting up a task force to consider setting
      up safe drug-injection sites.

      Those were the results from a $14,000 public-opinion survey conducted for the city of
      Vancouver in December to give city staff and politicians information about public reaction
      to the proposed drug strategy announced in November.

      The strategy emphasizes a "four-pillar" approach, with improvements suggested for
      enforcement, treatment, harm reduction and prevention that would help save lives, keep
      people healthier, reduce drug use, and improve public order in the open drug markets of
      Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

      Pollster Joan McIntyre, whose company Joan McIntyre Market and Opinion Research
      conducted the survey in conjunction with McIntyre/Mustel, said the overwhelming support
      for the city's strategy was unusual for her to see in polling.

      "The results are very dramatic.  It's rare to see results that are so positive."

      Many contentious social public-policy issues produce polarized results in B.C.  polls, she
      said, with the public often splitting 50-50.

      But she said the kind of responses people gave to the poll's several dozen questions about
      various aspects of the city's policy showed support at a level equal to the kind usually seen
      for issues such as universal access to health care or wildlife preservation.

      Even the recommendation that has been the most controversial part of the 30-point plan, to
      set up a task force to consider developing safe-injection sites, got unusual support, although
      it got less support than other parts of the plan, she said.

      Thirty-eight per cent of people strongly supported the idea -- significantly more than the 26
      per cent of those who both strongly or somewhat opposed it -- and another 33 per cent
      supported it generally.

      The only other city strategy that got a similar lukewarm response was the proposal to
      expand and decentralize needle-exchange services.

      Again, although support was lower than for other parts of the strategy, it still got 68 per cent
      support.

      Simon Fraser University Professor Bruce Alexander, author of Peaceful Measures:
      Canada's Way Out of the War on Drugs, says he isn't surprised by the survey's findings.

      "It's no shocker," said the professor, who sees similar trends in the opinions of the students
      he teaches.

      "People are willing to listen to both sides of the argument," he said, noting that public fear
      often prevents rational discussion of the social costs and actual danger of drugs like
      marijuana and heroin.

      "The public is becoming less knee-jerk about it."

      McIntyre agreed, citing the results of a survey she did for the city three years ago to gauge
      public attitudes to drugs, when the mayor's coalition on crime and safety was just
      beginning.

      At that time, the city was polarized on the issue of marijuana, with 47 per cent supporting
      decriminalization and 41 per cent opposing it.

      That has now shifted, so that 57 per cent of the city residents surveyed supported or
      strongly supported decriminalization, while opposition dropped to 31 per cent.

      People are still as opposed to legalizing heroin as they were three years ago, with 74 per
      cent still opposed, and only small increases in those supporting it.

      But the new poll showed considerable support for using heroin for drug treatment.
      Thirty-two per cent of those surveyed strongly supported it, another 29 per cent somewhat
      supported it, and only 23 per cent were opposed.  The issue of giving medically prescribed
      heroin to long-time addicts has received a significant amount of media attention in
      Vancouver over the past three years, as the city and community groups have looked around
      the world to places like Switzerland and Germany for solutions to the city's drug problem.

      The survey comes at a critical time for the city.  It is currently holding forums to get public
      response to its plan, with the intention of finalizing its drug strategy by April.

      The strategy has deeply divided council, with Councillors Lynne Kennedy, Don Lee and
      Daniel Lee opposed, and rookie Councillor Sandy McCormick showing signs of
      sympathizing with the opposition.  On the other side, Mayor Philip Owen has championed
      the strategy, staking his political career on it some say, with Councillors Jennifer Clarke,
      George Puil and Sam Sullivan from his own party in support, along with Councillors Tim
      Louis and Fred Bass from the opposition party.

      A coalition of business owners and residents in neighbourhoods surrounding the Downtown
      Eastside has been militantly opposed to the city's strategy, saying it puts too much emphasis
      on harm reduction and not enough on prevention, treatment and enforcement.

      In response to questions from councillors, McIntyre said the poll wasn't detailed enough to
      allow her to say how attitudes varied from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.  She also
      couldn't say what percentage of the respondents came from Vancouver's high number of
      ethnic minority households where English is a second language.

      A few questions in the survey showed some slight regional differences.

      For instance, people east of Main were the most in support of a task force to look at
      establishing safe-injection sites, with those from the downtown showing the highest level of
      opposition, and west siders in the middle.

      The survey did not, however, indicate that people do not believe in enforcement.  Questions
      about increasing enforcement, instituting mandatory treatment for repeated criminals who
      are addicts, and setting up drug courts all got extremely high levels of support, in the high 80
      per cent range.

      The pollsters surveyed 300 residents and said the results are considered accurate within plus
      or minus 5.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
 
 

Editorial: Support Signals A Time For Action On Drugs

      Pubdate: Thu, 01 Feb 2001
      Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
            There's no excuse for governments to delay funding.

      Seventy-seven per cent of Vancouverites, according to a public opinion survey
      commissioned by the city, favour Mayor Philip Owen's specific plan to tackle the problem
      of illegal hard drugs.  Wow! With this level of public support, we expect some real action in
      the anti-drug crusade.  And we expect it soon.

      Premier Ujjal Dosanjh has already voiced surprisingly forceful support, and Mr.  Owen
      should not, in our view, have much difficulty getting both the Victoria cabinet and the one in
      Ottawa to get behind his four-pillar strategy to curtail illicit drug use, to prevent hundreds of
      drug-induced deaths, to reduce crime and to generally make our city more livable.

      The first three pillars -- prevention, treatment and enforcement -- embody common sense
      approaches that virtually everyone can get behind.  So there is a broad consensus about the
      wisdom of preventing drug use through education and awareness programs, treating addicts
      through a mixture of detox centres, outpatient counselling and residential treatment facilities,
      and enforcing the law in the Downtown Eastside.  Related is the support for setting up drug
      courts to deal much more swiftly and effectively with addicted criminals.  The support for
      mandatory drug treatment for those found guilty of crimes is also high.

      The fourth pillar, harm reduction, requires more of a leap of faith, and we're pleased at how
      many Vancouver residents have considered evidence that it works well elsewhere and have
      thrown their weight behind it.  It recognizes that some people will remain addicts, and it
      proposes to help them remain healthy by providing needle exchanges and even safe
      injections sites.

      Premier Dosanjh has, to his credit, not only supported needle exchanges and safe injection
      sites, but he goes further to endorse the idea of providing addicts with drugs to feed their
      habit.  This is the most controversial approach of all, but it is a proven way to undercut the
      criminals that drive the drug trade.

      It's immensely encouraging to have two levels of government on-side already, and to see
      them given the endorsement of so many voters represented by the polls.  But, without
      Ottawa's participation, effective action will likely be stalled.

      The feds have, encouragingly, already signalled their intention to set up drug courts.  We
      hope this happens sooner rather than later, and that Ottawa does not stop there, but joins its
      municipal and provincial partners in a comprehensive and coordinated strategy.

      Of course, even this broad level of public endorsement doesn't mean everyone's happy with
      Mr.  Owen's plan.  The Community Alliance, a coalition of business owners and residents
      of the Downtown Eastside, are staunchly opposed.  They say putting emphasis on harm
      reduction means not enough on prevention, treatment and enforcement.

      While the concerns of the Community Alliance should be heard during the public forums
      being held throughout the city, we don't think this opposition is any excuse to abandon the
      plan.  If opponents raise valid questions about some component of the strategy and are
      backed up by facts, the points they make should be taken into consideration in the final
      design and implementation of the program.  But Mr.  Owen and his team have shown real
      leadership, and they have the backing of the majority.  We urge them to pursue the broad
      goals of their plan vigorously and quickly.

      While the drug problem is visible mainly in the Downtown Eastside, it is by no means
      confined to this small area.  Out of of the average of 147 deaths that occur each year due to
      drug use in Vancouver, only 62 are in the Downtown Eastside.  The West End has 30
      deaths a year, and others occur in Kitsilano, Point Grey and Mount Pleasant, among other
      areas.  Indeed, few if any Vancouver neighbourhoods are immune from the devastating
      effects of drug use.  And it costs this province about $96 million each year to deal with the
      problem.

      At this juncture, neither the city, the province nor feds have committed any money for this
      plan.  With Vancouverites signalling such a strong support, it's time they did.




CN BC: Cop Gone Bad Gets Two Years

      URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n185/a08.html
      Newshawk: Herb
      Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jan 2001
      Source: Daily Courier (CN BC)
      Website: http://www.ok.bc.ca/dc/index.html
      Address: 550 Doyle Ave., Kelowna, B.C. V1Y 7V1
      Contact: Ross.Freake@ok.bc.ca
      Copyright: 2001 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
      Author: Don Plant

      COP GONE BAD GETS TWO YEARS

      A Penticton Mountie who accepted money from drug dealers in exchange for police
      information was jailed for two years Tuesday.

      Former Const.  Mark Webb, who pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana for the purposes of
      trafficking and obstructing justice, put himself at the mercy of the court and asked for house
      arrest by way of a conditional sentence.

      But Judge Brian Weddell said RCMP officers "face a different yardstick" than ordinary
      citizens and imposed the jail term.

      "( RCMP ) officers are people of integrity and trustworthiness.  When such a person
      engages in criminal activity, it strikes at the very fabric of this country," the judge said.

      "A conditional sentence is inadequate to express the heinousness of this offence."

      Webb's former partner Const.  Terry Jacklin said incarceration is the deterrence Webb
      needed.

      "You trust your life with your fellow officers," he said.  "You try to achieve the same goal.
      After he leaves the office, the goal is changed."

      Webb's wife tearfully handed him an overnight bag before he joined the sheriff to go to the
      courthouse cells.  The couple has a young child.

      Jacklin said it's "interesting" that Webb's wife became pregnant soon after his arrest in 1999.
 

      "It may entice the court to be lenient," Jacklin said.

      Webb, 32, was a member of the RCMP's plainclothes division in the summer of 1998 when
      he took part in a charade with Penticton drug dealers so he could confiscate 30 pounds of
      marijuana and return it later for cash.

      He arranged with Norman Melcoski to steal the pot from Ryan Brown in a gas station
      parking lot.  Brown showed up with three garbage bags of pot in his car trunk as Melcoski
      carried a bag of paper that Brown believed was $90,000 cash.

      When Brown popped open his trunk, Webb drove up in an unmarked police car, flashed his
      badge and ordered Brown into his car.  He sent Melcoski away before he seized the three
      bags of pot and put them in his vehicle.  He told Brown he'd give him a break in exchange
      for information in future and let him go.

      Webb stored the pot in his Summerland home and gave it days later to Shaun Sunduk.

      Brown, desperate to make amends with his supplier, unknowingly bought the same pot for
      more than $50,000.  Sunduk gave Webb $11,000 for his help in the theft, which he
      deposited in his bank account and used to pay down a debt.

      Brown later learned of the rip-off and blew the whistle on Webb when arrested for an
      unrelated drug offence.  The charge was dropped in exchange for his evidence.

      A few months later, Webb tipped off Sunduk that police were about to raid his marijuana
      grow operation on Naramata Road.  When officers moved in, they found pot-growing
      equipment but no plants, which had been moved out in a hurry.

      In April 1999, he told Sunduk police were about to use an infrared gun that traces the heat
      generated from marijuana grow lights, and suggested turning them off.  Police found nothing
      and Sunduk paid Webb $1,000.

      Like Brown, Sunduk received immunity from prosecution in return for his evidence.

      Webb's motive was greed, said Crown counsel Duncan Campbell.  He planned his crimes
      over a long period, betrayed his fellow officers and thwarted police efforts.

      Webb apologized to his former colleagues and the court.  He has quit the RCMP and is now
      making $19,000 a year , a third of his former salary, said his lawyer David Martin.

      Webb will be incarcerated in a secure facility that will keep him away from the general
      prison population.

CN BC: Ex-Mountie Sent To Jail For Betrayal

      URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n191/a01.html
      Newshawk: Herb
      Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jan 2001
      Source: Penticton Herald (Canada)
      Copyright: 2001 - Horizon Operations (B.C.) Ltd.
      Contact: mike.turner@ok.bc.ca
      Address: 101-186 Naniamo Ave. West Penticton, B.C., Canada, V2A 1N4
      Fax: 1-250-492-2403
      Website: http://www.ok.bc.ca/PH/index.htm
      Author: Don Plant

      EX-MOUNTIE SENT TO JAIL FOR BETRAYAL

      Former Penticton cop handed two-year term for role in theft of marijuana and for helping
      drug dealer avoid police raids

      KELOWNA - A Penticton Mountie who accepted money from drug dealers in exchange for
      police information was jailed for two years Tuesday.

      Former Const.  Mark Webb, who pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana for the purposes of
      trafficking and obstructing justice, asked for house arrest by way of a conditional sentence.

      But Judge Brian Weddell said RCMP officers "face a different yardstick" than ordinary
      citizens and imposed the jail term.

      "( RCMP ) officers are people of integrity and trustworthiness.  When such a person
      engages in criminal activity, it strikes at the very fabric of this country," the judge said.  "A
      conditional sentence is inadequate to express the heinousness of this offence."

      Webb's former partner Const.  Terry Jacklin said incarceration is the deterrence Webb
      needed.

      "You trust your life with your fellow officers," he said.  "You try to achieve the same goal.
      After he leaves the office, the goal is changed."

      Webb's wife tearfully handed him an overnight bag before he joined the sheriff to go to the
      courthouse cells.

      The couple has a young child.  Jacklin said it's "interesting" that Webb's wife became
      pregnant soon after his arrest in 1999.

      "It may entice the court to be lenient," Jacklin said.

      Webb, 32, was a member of the RCMP's plainclothes division in the summer of 1998 when
      he took part in a charade with Penticton drug dealers so he could confiscate 13.5 kilograms
      of marijuana and return it later for cash.

      He arranged with Norman Melcoski to steal the pot from Ryan Brown in a gas station
      parking lot.  Brown showed up with three garbage bags of pot in his car trunk as Melcoski
      carried a bag of paper that Brown believed was $90,000 cash.

      When Brown popped open his trunk, Webb drove up in an unmarked police car, flashed his
      badge and ordered Brown into his car.  He sent Melcoski away before he seized the three
      bags of pot and put them in his vehicle.  He told Brown he would give him a break in
      exchange for information in future and let him go.

      Webb stored the pot in his Summerland home and gave it days later to Shaun Sunduk.
      Brown, desperate to make amends with his supplier, unknowingly bought the same pot for
      more than $50,000.  Sunduk gave Webb $11,000 for his help in the theft, which he
      deposited in his bank account and used to pay down a debt.

      Brown later learned of the ripoff and blew the whistle on Webb when arrested for an
      unrelated drug offence.  The charge was dropped in exchange for his evidence.

      A few months later, Webb tipped off Sunduk that police were about to raid his marijuana
      grow operation on Naramata Road.  When officers moved in, they found pot-growing
      equipment but no plants, which had been moved out in a hurry.

      Police were outraged when they found out Webb had leaked news of the drug raid.

      "We could have been set up," said Jacklin.  "He could have put himself in a position so he
      wouldn't go in the door.  There are many ways to booby-trap a marijuana grow op."

      When Webb later investigated a Crime Stoppers tip that Sunduk was growing pot at another
      residence, he cancelled it, suggesting there was nothing there.

      In April 1999, he told Sunduk police were about to use an infrared gun that traces the heat
      generated from marijuana grow lights and suggested turning them off.  Police found nothing
      and Sunduk paid Webb $1,000.

      Like Brown, Sunduk received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his evidence.

      Webb's motive was greed, said Crown counsel Duncan Campbell.  He planned his crimes
      over a long period, betrayed his fellow officers and thwarted police efforts to crack down on
      the growing number of marijuana operations in Penticton.

      Webb apologized to his former colleagues and the court.  He has quit the RCMP and is now
      making $19,000 a year - a third of his former salary, said his lawyer David Martin.  He's a
      "kind young man," but naive, Martin said.

      Webb will be incarcerated in a secure facility that will keep him away from the general
      prison population.




Strange Death For A Drug Cop

      Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jan 2001
      Source: National Post (Canada)

     STRANGE DEATH FOR A DRUG COP

      Constable Barry Schneider Preached The Anti-drug Message To Kids In The Comox Valley
      With A Missionary's Zeal.  That's Why News That He Died Of A Heroin And Cocaine
      Overdose, Not A Heart Attack, Raises So Many Questions

      COURTENAY, B.C.  - Not long before he was killed by a speedball -- a heady mix of
      heroin and cocaine so powerful it can overwhelm even a hard-core addict -- the handsome
      RCMP officer stood at the front of a meeting room and took questions from children.

      Barry Schneider, a 23-year veteran of the force who was such a straight arrow he skipped
      parties in high school, was renowned in the community for his high energy, his sense of
      humour -- and his sincerity.

      He connected with kids who were at risk for drug use, people say, because he spoke from
      the heart.  He spoke to them with respect, with a sense of authority and with an inspiring
      sense of passion.

      He was a cop.  A drug cop.  But there he was, in blue jeans and an open shirt, talking to a
      roomful of kids about marijuana, cocaine and heroin as if he were just an ordinary guy --
      who knew a lot about drugs.

      "Believe this ..." he would say.  And they did.

      Nobody would ever question his honesty, until an autopsy found lethal levels of heroin and
      cocaine in his body.  Now the community is in shock, uncertain of what Constable
      Schneider was really all about.

      That afternoon, facing a group of skeptical teens in a local school, Constable Schneider
      handled the usual questions with aplomb.

      Then a boy tossed him a curve ball.

      "Have you ever tried drugs yourself?" asked the kid point blank.

      Some cops would bristle at a smart ass question like that.  The badge should be answer
      enough.  He was an honoured member of one of the world's most respected police forces.
      He busted drug dealers.

      He could have said, "I won't even dignify that question with an answer."

      But Constable Schneider smiled, and with a nod acknowledged that it was a fair question,
      taken without insult.

      "I have never in my life used drugs.  I've never even smoked a joint," he said.

      Those who were there say it wasn't so much what he said, as the way he said it -- that the
      words had such resonance, you could almost feel the message sinking home with the
      audience.

      "It was so heartfelt, and the way he looked that kid straight in the eye, you didn't for a
      moment doubt that it was true," recalled Ray Crossley, an outreach worker who was
      watching from the sidelines with a sense of admiration.

      When Barry Schneider took the stage, youth counsellors and front-line drug workers like
      Mr.  Crossley just stepped back and watched with a sense of awe.

      "I mean, the guy was good," said Mr.  Crossley.  "He could perform in front of a crowd like
      you wouldn't believe."

      Constable Schneider, he said, was able to reach jaded kids who have grown up in a world
      saturated with drugs.  He could reach kids armoured with teen cynicism.  He could get to
      kids who are dying to be cool, and who could pick up a tab of coke between classes if they
      wanted.  Somehow he could convince them that saying "no" showed strength and character.
 

      "He was just great at connecting with kids.  Just great ..." Mr.  Crossley's voice trails off.

      Last November, Constable Schneider, the father of two girls aged nine and 12, was found
      dead at home.  He had a history of heart problems, and at first everyone thought that is
      what killed him, suddenly, at 43.

      His memorial service was the biggest anyone can ever remember in the Comox Valley.  It
      was so big they held it in a cavernous hangar at Canadian Forces Base Comox.

      More than 600 people attended.

      "Wow.  What a testimony to Barry," Inspector Dave Zack, head of the Courtenay RCMP
      detachment, said as he scanned the crowd that day.

      Spread out on a table were some of the things that Constable Schneider loved in life.  His
      fishing gear.  His golf clubs.  And everywhere you looked there were newspaper articles and
      pictures about DARE -- the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program that he had started
      in Courtenay and which had spread to other communities on Vancouver Island.

      As a special memento people were given a gold lapel ribbon with the DARE logo, a Mountie
      emblem and the initials: BS.

      BS.  There is an irony to those letters now that nobody in the Comox Valley wants to
      contemplate.

      Ten days after the community gave him a hero's send off, the Coroners Service notified
      Courtenay RCMP that toxicology findings had detected a lethal concentration of heroin and
      cocaine in Constable Schneider's body.  The initial post-mortem conclusion, that he had
      died from coronary disease, was wrong.  Constable Schneider had died from a speedball --
      a glamorous, potent cocktail of the kind that killed comedian John Belushi and that a few
      years ago nearly killed Dave Gahan, the singer for Depeche Mode.

      Two days later, with rumours flying, Inspector Zack called a press conference and released
      the information.

      Since then Courtenay has been reeling, while four senior investigators have been trying to
      answer the questions everyone has.  What happened? How did Constable Schneider get the
      drugs that killed him? How did he manage to keep his addiction a secret? How long did he
      use drugs? And why did the devoted father and dedicated anti-drug crusader end up taking a
      speedball?

      Constable Schneider grew up in the Comox Valley.  Friends say that during the party-hearty
      teen years, Barry was the guy who was always missing when there was a wild bash.

      "He just wasn't there," says Mr.  Crossley.  "He wanted to be a cop.  He was straight."

      But in the Comox Valley, where woodlots and farms slope down from the heights of
      Forbidden Plateau to the blue Pacific, being straight is not as easy as it looks.

      The Comox Valley seems at first glance to be an idyllic setting.  A place where you can
      raise kids in an environment that offers the healthy distractions of snow sports in the winter,
      and hiking, fishing and swimming in the summer.  You can play golf all year round in the
      valley.

      But the local needle exchange suggests there is a darker side.  First, you wonder why a
      small town like Courtenay even needs a needle exchange -- then you look at the statistics.

      The health van delivers 9,000 needles a month to its clients, who need only place a call to
      get alcohol swabs, bleach, condoms and fresh needles brought to their door.

      The day I am in town talking to people about Constable Schneider's death, the Comox
      Valley Record unwittingly captures the dichotomy of the community on its front page.

      Under the headline, "Another day in Paradise," runs a picture of a man snowboarding while
      two others are seen playing golf.  Next to it is the top news story: "Crack cocaine factor in
      murder."

      A counsellor is asked, "What gives? Why does such a sweet little town have to give out
      9,000 needles a month and deal with crack murders?"

      He sighs, and then explains the drug subculture.

      In the 1960s and '70s, hippies discovered the Comox Valley.  They flocked in, drawn by
      the natural wonders.  And they brought with them a relaxed attitude about drugs.

      Marijuana cultivation has long been a big business in the valley.  And to some, family values
      mean being there to share that first joint with your kids.

      "In Vancouver," says the counsellor, "I know maybe four people who regularly smoke
      grass.  Here, you can't turn around without seeing somebody lighting up a joint."

      The community's casual attitude about soft drugs has attracted harder users, too.

      Nearby Campbell River used to be known for its salmon fishing.  But now people call it the
      heroin capital of Canada.

      Mr.  Crossley, who spends most of his working day out on the streets, says what scares him
      about the Comox Valley drug scene is the way kids go straight to hard drugs.

      "OK.  When I was a kid, there were gateway drugs.  You tried grass, and then you stopped,
      or you went to the next level, like cocaine.  That was another gateway.  You might quit
      then, after experimenting, or you might go on to heroin.  There were ways out.

      "Nowadays, I find kids going straight to coke.  Or heroin.  Or crack.  I work with kids who
      don't drink or smoke marijuana -- but who use heroin.

      "It's really shocking."

      So that was the hometown Constable Schneider came back to.  For 11 years he worked the
      drug beat, first in Burnaby, which took him into Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside,
      where you see people stumbling out of back alleys and collapsing from drug overdoses, and
      then in remote Bella Bella -- where a lack of road access hasn't kept crack or heroin from
      ravaging the community.

      When Constable Schneider came home to Courtenay, he knew all about the evil of drugs,
      and convinced his commanding officers to fight back with DARE.  Until last week everyone
      thought he was winning the war against drugs in his own way.  Nobody knew he was losing
      his own battle.

***

      Pubdate: Fri, 05 Jan 2001
      Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
 

      VETERAN DRUG-ENFORCEMENT OFFICER DIES OF HEROIN, COCAINE
      OVERDOSE

      COURTENAY -- He was the local drug expert, the man who coordinated the RCMP's
      drug-awareness programs on much of Vancouver Island.

      Constable Barry Schneider spoke to school children, regularly lectured local audiences and
      planned the drug exhibits at community events.

      But shocked police officers in this small community revealed Thursday what they hadn't
      thought possible: the 43-year-old Schneider, a 23-year veteran of the force, died in
      November of a drug overdose.

      "We were completely devastated by this news," Courtenay Inspector Dave Zack said.
      "Barry had a tremendous knowledge as to all aspects of drug abuse."

      Schneider died Nov.  29 after collapsing on the kitchen floor of his home around noon.  His
      panicked nine-year-old daughter Rachel ran next door to the home of another police officer,
      but efforts to revive him were in vain.

      Of the 600 people who attended his funeral, almost all believed Schneider had died of a
      heart attack.

      But a toxicology report done after the autopsy revealed the presence of a lethal dose of
      heroin and cocaine, forcing the RCMP to reopen the investigation into Schneider's death
      and the police handling of drugs.

      The initial toxicology report was delivered to police Dec.  15 and a special investigations unit
      from Vancouver was assigned to the case.  When the toxicology results were confirmed
      Tuesday, officers decided to make the findings public.

      The 55 RCMP officers in Courtenay were told Wednesday and a news conference was held
      Thursday to inform the public.

      "Foul play is considered remote," RCMP Corporal Grant Learned told reporters.  "Any one
      person, regardless of status in the community or position in the community, may be the
      victim of the power of seduction of drugs."

      Police admit Schneider may have got the drugs through his job as a police officer, but they
      still don't have all the answers.  They can't say conclusively where he got the drugs,
      whether he was a regular user or whether anyone else was involved.

      Superintendent Jim Good, who is in charge of the RCMP on Vancouver Island, has
      assigned four senior officers to conduct a complete investigation of the death and answer all
      outstanding questions.

      While police officers said they were still numb, his family was devastated a second time by
      the news.

      "Hearing that drugs were involved in Barry's death comes as a complete shock to everyone
      and is devastating news to the entire family," said friend Greg Phelps, who refused to
      answer questions from reporters.

      Learned asked reporters to leave the family alone.

      "They have been hurt twice in perhaps the most difficult of ways." he said.  "First, losing a
      [family member] and having such tragic news invade upon them."

      Members of the community were shocked by the news that a man who spoke so
      passionately about the perils of drug use could have fallen victim himself.

      "I listened to him give a talk to parents three years ago," said Jill Lane, the recently
      appointed chairwoman of the Courtenay school board.  "It was very intense.  He really
      wanted to get the message out."

      Lane acknowledged that the news will affect the children who take part in the
      drug-awareness programs, known as DARE, that Schneider worked to organize.

      "When the children hear of this .  .  .  they'll be concerned," she said, adding that she does
      not yet know how the issue will be addressed in the schools.

      Jim Senior, a member of the local parent advisory committee, said there will likely be mixed
      reaction from the community.

      "Some of the parents will be up in arms," Senior said.  "This could really hurt the [DARE]
      program."

      Senior's son recently went through the school-based drug awareness program.

      "The information had quite an impact him," Senior said, adding that he is sure his child,
      who enters high school next year, will understand the implications of the constable's death.
***
CN BC: Column: Another Dies As A Foolish Policy Endures

      URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n031/a05.html
      Newshawk: Herb
      Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jan 2001
      Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
      Copyright: The Vancouver Sun 2001
      Contact: sunletters@pacpress.southam.ca
      Address: 200 Granville Street, Ste.#1, Vancouver BC V6C 3N3
      Fax: (604) 605-2323
      Website: http://www.vancouversun.com/
      Author: Paul Willcocks, Vancouver Sun

      ANOTHER DIES AS A FOOLISH POLICY ENDURES

      VICTORIA - The most bizarre thing about the overdose death of an RCMP drug expert is
      our shock.

      In the courts they call it wilful blindness, and it's no defence.  There's no other way to
      explain our willingness to see drug users as some other species of tragic, wasted figures on
      downtown sidewalks.

      Constable Barry Schneider had a wife and two young children.  He was a 23-year RCMP
      veteran who worked on drug abuse prevention from the Courtenay detachment.  No one
      can explain how he ended up dead of a heroin overdose.

      As if it's easy to explain how more than 3,000 other people in B.C.  died of drug-induced
      causes since 1994, when then chief coroner Vince Cain reviewed the heroin problem.  He
      recommended more treatment facilities; more detox centres and sustained help for
      recovering addicts.  Most fundamentally, he recommended treating addiction as a health
      issue, not a criminal one, including a recommendation that we prescribe heroin to people
      who can't quit.  The report was largely ignored, although needle exchanges received more
      money.

      Dr.  John Millar, then B.C.'s chief medical officer, completed another report on injection
      drug use in B.C.  in 1998.  "Heroin in itself is not particularly devastating," he found.  What
      does more harm is the struggle to get enough money to buy it, the varying purity and
      dangerous additives and the sharing of needles, which has lead to an HIV and hepatitis
      epidemic.

      Dr.  Millar called for a provincial substance abuse commission to replace the fractured
      efforts spread across several ministries, an immediate 50-per-cent increase in detox spaces
      and free methadone.  And he too proposed a test of providing legal heroin for those who
      qualify.  A similar experiment had already been conducted with Switzerland's 1,100
      addicts.  During the test, there was a massive reduction in criminal activity and an increase
      in employment -- and not one overdose death.  More than 80 people even quit drugs while
      using free legal heroin.

      Those recommendations were also basically ignored.  The provincial government has made
      a late and very small effort at expanding detox facilities, but they remain hopelessly
      inadequate.

      Drug-induced deaths -- overdoses, suicides and other causes -- killed 385 people in B.C.  in
      1999, more than motor vehicle accidents.  Yet the government is making a major push to
      reduce road deaths and a half-hearted stab at reducing drug deaths.

      Of course the blame doesn't just belong to government.  The number of deaths is not far off
      the toll from breast cancer or prostate cancer, but you don't see fund-raising runs or
      awareness campaigns about overdoses.

      The real problem is that we don't care about these people.  We dismiss them as losers,
      crazies, weak.  So politicians -- of all parties -- don't have to pay much attention.  The
      government can under-fund treatment services and methadone programs, so hopelessly long
      waiting lists deter most people from getting help.

      And it's safe for them to treat the drug problem as a neighbourhood nuisance, rather than as
      a deadly tragedy.

      It's a stupid response.  Our approach keeps a huge criminal industry alive, leaves addicts to
      steal or sell their bodies for drugs, denies them the help they need and perpetuates an
      approach that has seen HIV infections infect 25 per cent of intravenous drug users and Hep
      C 90 per cent.

      We chose to spend on hospitals for the dying and police, not help.  ( The Millar report
      found extending methadone therapy to 1,500 more addicts, with counselling, would cost $6
      million a year.  It would save $36 million in health care, policing and prison costs.  ) And it
      has not worked.

      It's also morally reprehensible.  These aren't shadows on a downtown street.  They were
      our fathers and daughters, our friends and neighbours, 15,000 people in B.C.  who are at
      risk.  Not only do we fail to help them, the way we deal with the problem helps condemn
      them to death.

      Constable Schneider's nine-year-old daughter found her dad lying on the kitchen floor last
      November, and ran for help.  She's already had to deal with his death, back when everyone
      thought he'd had a heart attack.  Now she has to figure out what it means that he
      overdosed.

      What it means is that he died tragically, victim of perhaps one bad decision on one bad day.
      He's not a different man, or a different father, because of the way he died.

      He's another among the thousands who have already died and thousands who will to die
      until we begin treating drug use as a serious health issue, not a criminal one.  Until we begin
      to care.

***
      Pubdate: Fri, 05 Jan 2001
      Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
 

      DRUG-AWARENESS OFFICER WROTE WITH PASSION ABOUT THE EVILS OF
      ADDICTION

      Constable Barry Schneider spoke and wrote about the perils of drug addiction and its effect
      on individuals and communities.

      He wrote the following letter to the Comox Valley Record last Oct.  27:

      "I was very disappointed in the tone of your editorial which leaves the impression that the
      so-called 'War on Drugs' also involves Canada.  This is simply not true.  Canada has never
      declared a war on drugs.

      "In fact, Canada supports a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary approach as it is firmly
      believed that there is no single solution to this serious and complex problem.  The RCMP
      not only supports this point of view but has never believed that enforcement is the only
      solution to reducing the negative impacts drugs have on our communities.

      "It is clear however that the reduction in drug supply plays a significant roll [sic] in creating
      an atmosphere where education and the reduction in demand for drugs can occur and
      treatment can be most effective.

      "Clearly, the Canadian approach of prevention, education, enforcement, treatment and
      counselling are the most likely to achieve long-term success for drug-related issues.

      "I think that most members of the community will believe you are also misguided in your
      assertion that drug use is a victimless crime and what an adult person does with his or her
      own body in their home is no one else's business.  This notwithstanding, research supports
      the facts that if adults use drugs in the home, there is a substantial increased usage level by
      their children.

      "Drugs are dangerous and threaten the health, safety and well-being of not only the user but
      also that of all citizens.  If users don't work they become a financial burden on their family
      and/or society and many become involved in criminal activity.  If they do work we pay in
      lost productivity, increased absenteeism, increased medical and health insurance costs and
      increased accidents, both on and off the job.

      "If a drug intoxicated driver kills or injures someone, is that 'victimless'? When drug abusers
      are abusive, violent or neglectful of their families, is that 'victimless'?

      "We must strike a balance between personal liberties and individual responsibility.
      Proponents lose sight of the moral implications of legalization.  With lower prices and
      greater availability, drug use will increase, especially among the most vulnerable youth,
      working poor and chronically unemployed.

      "With use comes addiction.  Addicts are enslaved to the drug itself and are often constrained
      from holding meaningful employment, having stable, productive relationships or exercising
      many of their own rights.

      "Crime, violence and drug use go hand in hand.  The fact is that legalization would not
      change the chemical make-up of drugs nor the impact they have on behaviour."
 

***
CN BC: 2 Letters to the Editor

   Pubdate: Tue, 09 Jan 2001
    Source: Province, The (CN BC)

Letter 1:
      'HEY, HE WAS A GOOD COP'

      'Remember him for how he lived, not how he died'

      I am really upset over the lack of compassion the news media has shown towards the family
      of RCMP Const.  Barry Schneider, who died just over a month ago.

      These people are still mourning the loss of their son, husband, father and friend.

      Does it really matter how this man died?

      Did he not dedicate his life to teaching children and youth about the effects of drug and
      alcohol abuse?

      Although he died of a drug overdose, he was still a great man and teacher.

      RCMP officers are only human, and can make mistakes and use bad judgment at times --
      like the rest of us.

      I found it in poor taste that the media had a feeding frenzy with this story, and I hope
      children can have the same respect for the D.A.R.E.  program now as they did when this
      cop was alive.

      To his family, I wish them all the best.

      And to Barry, thanks for the great work you have done in teaching our children.

      Toni and Mario Graillon,

      Powell River
 

      Letter 2: Barry Schneider spent his professional career working very hard to make a difference in
      society.

      Don't let his good work be overshadowed by the fact that he was human and fell victim to a
      disease that knows no boundaries.

      What no one will ever know is how helpless and hopeless he must have felt knowing he was
      going down while not being able to ask for help because of his position.

      Barry's death is a profound lesson about the lure of drugs.

      Parents can use this as an example to show their children that even though he spent his life
      trying to get drugs off the streets and later worked to teach children about the evils of drugs,
      it wasn't enough to protect him from them.

      For others in a similar position as Barry, the lesson is that no one is bulletproof when it
      comes to this disease and that you can't deal with it on your own.

      I thank his family for the hard work he put into trying to make the world a better place.
      And although his death was tragic, I can use it as an example when I tell my grandchildren
      and others about how powerful this disease is.

      We don't have to use his name, just the example that someone who was so against drugs
      ended up dying from them.

      What an anti-drug message.

      Thank you for the message, and may you rest in peace Barry.

      B.  Joneson, Vancouver

******
CN BC: LTE: Policeman's Death Saddens Us All
 

      Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jan 2001
      Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
 

      POLICEMAN'S DEATH SADDENS US ALL

      The circumstances surrounding Constable Barry Schneider's death have affected many of
      us in various ways ( Veteran drug-enforcement officer dies of heroin, cocaine overdose,
      Jan.  5 ).

      I knew Barry and worked with him for several years.  The past 36 hours have been
      extremely emotional for me.

      On Dec.  6, I attended the memorial service for Barry in Comox.  The cause of death was
      initially reported as a heart attack brought on by a blood clot.

      The memorial was an RCMP and community outpouring of remembrance attended by 700
      or 800 people.  Barry was instrumental in instituting the DARE program on drug
      awareness.  He was fondly eulogized by members of community organizations and
      aboriginal leaders who thanked him for saving young people in their communities.  Many
      public awareness programs used across Canada were drafted by Barry.

      I have known Barry and his family since I was 12.  He and I started our RCMP careers in
      Burnaby.  We then worked together in the heroin unit of the RCMP drug section in
      Vancouver.  Barry moved on to other detachments and finally to the Courtenay RCMP
      drug section before taking over the DARE program for the RCMP Island District.

      Barry was an outgoing character with a great sense of humour.  I always knew him to be a
      dedicated member of the Force and a good, decent family man.

      If you have not seen the news in the last 36 hours, we have received the autopsy and
      toxicology reports which have been exhaustively reviewed so there is no mistake.  The
      cause of Barry's death was the result of a lethal heroin overdose.

      Words cannot describe the despair and bewilderment many of us are feeling.  I have had
      many a tearful moment.

      The RCMP, on learning of the results, immediately contacted the press to show there was
      no holding back of this information.  The possibility of foul play ( murder ) is virtually ruled
      out, leaving only two options: Barry committed suicide using a drug exhibit or Barry was a
      "user" and accidentally overdosed.

      I am very saddened and discouraged with this outcome.  My love and respect for Barry as a
      person is not diminished, because I know of the good work his program was doing.  I feel
      pretty hopeless in my efforts on the war against drugs as it is apparent that it knows no
      bounds as to the people it can victimize.

      A person with whom I have developed an unusual friendship has called several times to
      console me.  As a one-time major cocaine importer and trafficker who I personally put in
      jail, he gave me an insight into a world most of us hopefully will never know.  He told me
      he has seen many good decent people fall prey to cocaine and heroin.  He told me he has
      seen people die right in front of him from overdoses and he just walked away so as not to
      be interrogated by police.

      I thank God for this friend and his continued efforts to forge a new life.  I ask that we all
      pray for Barry and his family ( his wife, two daughters, his sister, his brother and his mother
      ).  I ask that we pray for the RCMP officers, particularly those in drug enforcement, who
      knew Barry.  This is a sad and demoralizing time for us.

      I ask that we pray for the press to report the facts, but stay away from sensationalization
      and personal attacks and judgment, and that they be sympathetic to the family, friends and
      officers who have to deal with the emotions of this event.  I also ask that we pray for the
      young people who would look at the work that Barry has done with jaded cynical eyes and
      pray that they see this as another lesson that drugs are permeating every level of society and
      bring down even the well intentioned.

      Cpl.  Gordon Mooney

      RCMP Greater Vancouver Drug Section
 




Belgium Legalises Personal Pot Use
 

      Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jan 2001
      Source: Guardian, The (UK)

      Website: http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/guardian/
      Forum: http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/BBS/News/0,2161,Latest|Topics|3,00.html
      Author: Andrew Osborn, in Brussels

      BELGIUM LEGALISES PERSONAL POT USE

      Governments in Europe are about to come under renewed pressure to decriminalise
      cannabis after Belgium's decision to legalise the personal use of le hasch for anyone over
      the age of 18.

      Under radical plans approved by the cabinet on Friday, it will soon be legal to grow, import
      and consume potentially unlimited amounts of pot for personal use in Belgium.

      "Any possession of cannabis for personal consumption will no longer provoke a reaction
      from the justice system unless its use is considered to be problematic or creates a social
      nuisance," the health minister, Magda Aelvoet, said.

      However, it will still be against the law to deal in or supply cannabis, or to produce the drug
      in industrial quantities for sale.  Nor will Belgium replicate the Netherlands' fabled network
      of coffee shops selling cannabis cigarettes over the counter.  Hard drugs will continue to be
      outlawed.

      Italy, Spain and Portugal are reported to be considering similar moves for cannabis and
      Belgium's decision to relax its laws will make the British government, which has repeatedly
      refused to consider decriminalisation, look increasingly isolated.

      It has been legal since 1976 to buy and use cannabis in any one of the Netherlands' 1,500
      coffee shops.  Within a few months, Belgium will become the second country in the EU to
      follow suit when it amends its own drugs laws, which date back to 1921.

      In Britain, the government has stated that it will reject calls to decriminalise cannabis despite
      a report from the Police Foundation recommending more relaxed penalties for its use and
      medical evidence that the drug eases chronic pain.

      Controversially, the Belgian government has said it will not define what constitutes a
      reasonable amount of pot, leaving it up to the country's judiciary to set the of legal
      precedent.

***
Belgian Lawmakers Can Now Smoke Pot In Their Offices
 

      Pubdate: Tue, 23 Jan 2001
      Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
 

      BELGIAN LAWMAKERS CAN NOW SMOKE POT IN THEIR OFFICES

      Cannabis Use Is Legal, But Trafficking Is Not

      BRUSSELS -- Tourists will be able to smoke spliffs while sitting in cafes in Brussels'
      Grande Place and European Parliament members will be able to puff marijuana in their
      offices after the Belgian government agreed to decriminalize cannabis.

      Vincent van Quickenborne, 27, a Belgian MP, is already promising to celebrate the
      directive, which will take effect this spring, by inhaling cannabis in parliament.

      The move makes Belgium the second European country after the Netherlands effectively
      to decriminalize cannabis, and is bound to encourage campaigners in other countries to relax
      their rules.

      A Belgian government statement said: ``The limited consumption of alcohol, tobacco and
      cannabis is more and more socially accepted.

      ``There is no objective reason why cannabis should be treated differently from alcohol and
      tobacco.

      ``A society without drugs is an illusion.''

      The directive, accepted by Guy Verhofstadt, Belgium's prime minister, and his cabinet,
      says cannabis use will be tolerated among those 18 or older unless it leads to ``problematic''
      consumption; creates a social nuisance; or poses risks to others by, for example,
      encouraging children to use the drug or driving while under its effects.

      Health Minister Magda Aelvoet said: ``All possession for personal use won't elicit a reaction
      from the judicial system.  There'll be no charges.''

      The authorities will continue to prosecute cannabis dealers, but not the growing of cannabis
      plants for personal use.

      Hard drugs will remain strictly illegal.

      Belgians flock across the border to buy and smoke cannabis in Holland's legalized ``coffee
      shops.''

      ``We have to take account of reality,'' said Alain Gerlache, the prime minister's spokesman.

      He did not believe drug users from other countries would rush across to Belgium.

      ``If large groups of drug hooligans come to Belgium to enjoy a freedom they would not
      have in Britain, this could be considered a problematic use,'' he said.

      Officials acknowledged that permitting the use of cannabis, but not its sale, could fuel the
      black market.  The judiciary will decide what quantities individuals should reasonably be
      allowed to possess for personal consumption, or what constitutes ``problematic'' use.

      The Belgian decision to permit cannabis use is part of a comprehensive new drug strategy
      that includes measures to discourage and prevent drug use, improve treatment and
      rehabilitation services, and crack down on dealers.

      The Netherlands decriminalized soft drugs in 1976 and, under Dutch law, the country's
      1,500 ``coffee shops'' can sell customers up to five grams of cannabis as long as no public
      nuisance is created.

      The Belgian directive will not permit coffee shops, nor will it technically legalize cannabis
      possession.  What it will do is formalize the existing situation.  One prosecutor told the
      Belgian newspaper La Libre that he had long ceased pursuing simple possession cases
      because of a lack of resources.

***
Netherlands: Europe Slowly Loses Fear Of Soft Drugs
 

      Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jan 2001
      Source: De Volkskrant
      Author: Annieke Kranenberg
      Contact: redactie@volkskrant.nl
      Address: Postbus 1002 1000 BA A'dam
      Fax: 020-5626289
      Website: http://www.volkskrant.nl
      Copyright: de Volkskrant
      Note: Translation by newshawk

      EUROPE SLOWLY LOSES FEAR OF SOFT DRUGS

      AMSTERDAM- The Dutch model of 'soft' drugs has advanced into French-speaking
      territory.  The controversial policy of tolerance is no longer reserved to the Netherlands;
      now Belgium no longer penalizes smoking a joint.  Nevertheless the Belgians are not
      expected to receive much criticism; more and more European cities have an informal policy
      of tolerance.  The department of justice and the police would rather catch a crack dealer
      than a hash smoker.

      The Netherlands no longer stand alone; this sends an important signal to other European
      countries, Mr.  R.  Kerssemakers of the Amsterdam-based Jellinek clinic thinks.  The
      countries that already follow the trend of decriminalisation - such as Germany, Denmark,
      England and Spain - might not fear putting this into law as well.  Studies show that there is
      no direct relation between problematic use and national drug policy - whether the policy is
      liberal or repressive.

      According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction ( EMCDDA )
      in Lisbon one in five Europeans ( 45 million persons ) have tried cannabis at least once.
      Around 15 million Europeans have 'experimented' with cannabis in 1999.  The United
      Kingdom is the front runner with 10 percent of adults.  Spain follows with 7 percent;
      Denmark is at the lower end with 3 percent.  All other member states have a score of
      maximally 5 percent.  According to EMCDDA most use is temporary in nature.

      However, a harmonious European soft-drugs policy will not arrive soon.  France,
      Luxemburg and Greece for instance do not discriminate between hard and soft drugs.
      There is also a difference in penalties.

      Dutch policy of tolerance catches on abroad

      Possession of small amounts for personal use is an offense in Germany, but it doesn't lead
      to prosecution if there is no harm to others.  In Italy, the first time, the owner of a bag of
      marijuana will be warned.  If caught again, his passport may be taken.

      When the European Union will be expanded, the contrast between countries that denounce
      the tolerant policy and those that ( quietly ) favor it will only intensify, researcher D.  Korf
      of the University of Amsterdam predicts.  According to the criminologist, basically there wil
      be countries that want to slowly legalise softdrugs and others that adhere to the repressive
      Swedish model.

      Sweden is of the opinion that cannabis use can result in psychological and physical
      dependence and that it functions as a 'gateway' to hard drugs.  In firm governmental
      campaigns the Swedes are warned that smoking a joint can lead to depression and suicide.

      Young offenders are not often put behind bars, but are sent off to the forests for a year.  'A
      great camp ground, but under extreme state control'.

      The Netherlands will keep its pioneering position in the coming years since it is the only
      country to have coffee shops - the Belgians do not want any 'tea rooms' yet.  There are
      several countries with 'intermediate' forms, says criminologist Korf.  Denmark has a
      liberated area in Copenhagen since the nineteen seventies, where hash and marijuana are
      sold.

      Like in Spain, in certain member states of Germany, drugs are sold under the counter in
      bars for the young.  Even Paris, that fiercely criticised the Dutch policy of tolerance a few
      years ago, has a more lenient drug policy.  France too, now has methadone programmes for
      heroin addicts.

      A gap still exists, however, between the country-side and the big cities in Europe, says
      Korf.  'The same is seen in the Netherlands.  We tend to forget that four in five towns have
      no coffee shops'.


   Supreme Court of Canada to hear challenge
to marijuana laws

WebPosted Fri Mar 16 07:27:07 2001
 Written by CBC News Online staff

  OTTAWA - A British Columbia marijuana advocate says he's euphoric that the Supreme
Court of Canada agreed Thursday to hear his claims that smoking pot is harmless.

  David Malmo-Levigne of Vancouver and two other men have been granted leave to
challenge the constitutionality of Canada's laws prohibiting marijuana use.

  "It will definitely scope out reasonable regulations on how it's grown, and how it should be
distributed," said Malmo-Levigne. "That's what we want."

  The appeal covers Malmo-Levigne's conviction and those Chris Clay of London, Ont., and
Randy Caine of Langley, B.C.

  The judge at Clay's original Ontario Superior Court trial, Justice John McCart, said he was
convinced that smoking marijuana doesn't cause serious harm. But he said it was up to
Parliament to decide on the legality of the drug, and ruled the charges didn't infringe on
Clay's rights.

  Malmo-Levigne hopes to appear before the Supreme Court by the end of the year and says
the basis of his argument will be that marijuana is safe to smoke if it's done properly.

  The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the marijuana possession convictions against
Malmo-Levine and Caine last June by a 2-1 decision.

  The dissenting judge wrote the harm caused by marijuana use must be significant for
Parliament to intervene using the criminal justice system.

  Malmo-Levine says he'll argue that if smokers are in a good mood, smoke organic pot and
don't overdo it, then using marijuana is absolutely harmless.

  And he says he thinks he'll get the five votes on the supreme court that he needs.

  Written by CBC News Online staff
 

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Updated: 24 Jul 2001 | Accessed: 49717 times