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Support grows for legalizing marijuana:
5 years ago, one-third of Canadians favoured
making drug legal; today about half do

Bob Harvey
The Ottawa Citizen
May 22, 2001

Almost half of Canadians believe marijuana should be legal, a new national survey finds.

The survey conducted by University of Lethbridge sociologist Reg Bibby shows a shift in
public opinion in the past five years, with 47 per cent of Canadians now favouring the drug's
legalization.

About 30 per cent of Canadians favoured legalization between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s.
The survey results follow closely on other indications that Canada may be ready to copy the
Netherlands and become the second country in the world to legalize the use of the drug.

Last week, the House of Commons created a committee to examine the use of non-medical
drugs, and members of all five parties, including Justice Minister Anne McLellan, said they
see it as a chance to debate the use of marijuana.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal also argued in a recent editorial that the negative
effects of marijuana are minimal and use of the drug should be decriminalized.

"A growing number of Canadians of all ages simply do not see marijuana in negative terms,
viewing it probably as less harmful than cigarettes and definitely less harmful than alcohol,"
Mr. Bibby said.

He has been monitoring social trends in Canada since 1975 and said that today just 34 per
cent of Canadians think drugs represent a "very serious problem."

His two latest surveys were completed late last year, and the results are considered accurate
within three percentage points 19 times out of 20.

"These findings point to a country that is almost evenly divided. The lines are being drawn
for a hotly contested debate," said Mr. Bibby.

He said 50 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 19 favour the legalization of marijuana, and 37
per cent of teens use marijuana, twice the level reported by teens in the early 1980s and '90s.

In the 1970s, 40 per cent of baby boomers supported the legalization of marijuana use.

Support for legalization of marijuana is highest in British Columbia (56 per cent), among
supporters of the Bloc Quebecois (64 per cent) and New Democrats (61 per cent), university
graduates (56 per cent), and 18- to 34-year-olds (58 per cent).

The party platforms of both the Bloc and the NDP support legalization. Among Liberal and
Alliance party supporters, about five in 10 support legalization, but only three in 10
Conservative party supporters back legalization.

Opposition to marijuana use is greater among people actively involved in religious groups,
particularly among conservative Protestants -- only 28 per cent support legalization.

But Mr. Bibby said even here there has been a dramatic change. In 1975, 15 per cent of those
who attended worship services weekly approved legalization; last year, 44 per cent of those
attending weekly approved legalization, with the greatest support coming from mainline
Protestants and Roman Catholics outside of Quebec.
 

Return to Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy home page


Minister 'quite open' to marijuana debate

Toronto Globe and Mail
Mark MacKinnon
Saturday, May 19, 2001

 OTTAWA -- Justice Minister Anne McLellan said yesterday she is "quite open" to a debate
on whether marijuana should be legalized, or at least decriminalized, in Canada.

 Speaking one day after MPs in her own party and others said they wanted to begin such a
discussion, Ms. McLellan said it is "absolutely" time for Ottawa to consider whether some
illegal "soft" drugs should continue to be banned.

 Her comments pushed the government closer than it has ever been to loosening the rules
around possessing and using marijuana.

 On Thursday, the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to create a committee to
examine the issue of non-medical drugs in Canada. Members of all five parties said they see
the committee as a chance to raise the marijuana issue.

 The decision moved the debate into the spotlight yesterday; both the chairman of the
Canadian Alliance's antidrug caucus and advocates of legalizing marijuana promoted the
idea.

 "I think both my colleagues, the minister of health and I look forward to this discussion and
what the committee hears from Canadians and any recommendations they may make," Ms.
McLellan said in a brief interview. "We are quite open to that."

 She noted that the Senate, led by Conservative Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, has been
examining the issue for some time, and said she had "encouraged" him in his work. However,
Ms. McLellan also said it's clear Canadians are divided on the idea of becoming the second
Western country after the Netherlands to decriminalize marijuana.

 "I think it's something we need to talk to Canadians about because I think they're deeply
conflicted."

 Farah Mohamed, the minister's spokeswoman, said later the government feels it should take
its time on this issue. The social implications need to be studied before any decision is made,
she said.

 "The issue of decriminalizing marijuana is a very complex one . . . even within the police
there isn't clear agreement on this."

 She said the government has no plans to change the law before hearing from the committee,
which will have 18 months to examine the issue after it is constituted.

 Yesterday, a multiparty consensus that the issue can no longer be avoided seemed to be
developing.

 Canadian Alliance caucus chairman Randy White, normally a staunch antidrug crusader, said
even his party is willing to look at legalization or decriminalization.

 "There are lots of people across this country who want to talk about it, and I'm certainly open
to listening," he said.

 Mr. White, however, said starting a marijuana debate was not his intention when he
introduced the motion calling for the creation of the special committee on drugs. He said he
hopes the bulk of the committee's time will be spent examining ways to cut into the criminal
drug trade, in which marijuana plays a large role. "There are over a thousand people a year
dying in Canada from drug-related [causes]," he said. "That should be the committee's focus."

 Marijuana advocates were already claiming victory yesterday. "The House committee is very
encouraging," Marc Emery, president of the British Columbia's Marijuana Party, said. "The
only reason we ran [in this week's B.C. election] was to get people to take notice of the
issue."

 Two years ago, Health Canada legalized the use and possession of marijuana for medicinal
purposes after a court found the drug useful in easing the pain of terminally ill patients.
 

Return to Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy home page


 Clark supports decriminalizing marijuana

By ALLISON DUNFIELD
Globe and Mail Update
May 23, 2001

 As he has done several times during his political career, Tory Leader Joe Clark called
Tuesday for the decriminalization of marijuana.

 "I believe the least controversial approach is decriminalization because it's unjust to see
someone, because of one decision one night in their youth, carry the stigma — to be barred
from studying medicine, law, architecture or other fields where a criminal record could
present an obstacle," Mr. Clark said while on a visit to Quebec.

 "I'm making a distinction between legalization and decriminalization. What interests me is
decriminalization."

 Advocates of medical marijuana, well aware of Mr. Clark's past statements on
decriminalization, were surprised and encouraged by his remarks. It's not the first time in the
veteran politician's career that he took that argument.

 In 1979, Mr. Clark, who was the Conservative Opposition Leader at the time, wrote a
strongly-worded letter to an Alberta man committing the party to an election campaign that
would include decriminalizing marijuana.

 "Once we have dealt with economic and institutional changes, we intend to act on
decriminalization in the first term of office of a new Government," he wrote. "Any moves
toward establishing a government system of distribution would have to be studied carefully in
advance...We believe that government sales should be among the options examined."

 Last week, a unanimous motion was passed by all parties in the House of Commons to strike
a committee to study the issue of non-medicinal drugs in Canada.

 Increasingly, high profile politicians are voicing their support for decriminalization of
marijuana. Last week, federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan said she was "quite open" to a
debate on the issue. Health Minister Allan Rock has also said he supports medicinal use and
Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day has admitted he smoked pot in his youth.

 And last week, an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal advocated the
decriminalization of marijuana possession for personal use.

 "My opinion is not necessarily shared by all the members of my party, but it's the sort of
approach we will favour before the committee," Mr. Clark said.

 Marijuana advocates were surprised and mostly positive about Mr. Clark's support for
decriminalization.

 Dana Larsen, editor of Cannabis Culture magazine and Deputy Leader of the B.C. Marijuana
Party, said "I'm glad to hear him say this. I do think the Tories believe [cannabis] should be
decriminalized."

 "Anything they do not to put people in jail is a step in the right direction."

 The party, running in its first election, got 3.2 per cent of the vote in last week's B.C.
election, but Mr. Larsen said the support points to increasing effort by political parties to put
decriminalization on their agendas.

 Mr. Larsen said politicians are forced to play catch-up, as court decisions and compassion
clubs show that public support is increasing.

 He said Ottawa has studied the issue and now it's time to act. Although he doesn't think
marijuana will be decriminalized without "a great deal of effort," he said that it's accepted
that "medicinal marijuana" can aid those in chronic pain.

 Philip McMillan, the facilities director for the Nelson Cannabis Compassion Club in British
Columbia, said marijuana is becoming acceptable by all classes of people, pointing to the
discussions in right-wing parties.

 A poll released Tuesday reported that Canadians are now evenly split on legalizing the drug,
compared with 26-per-cent support 1975.

 The United States, meanwhile, is coming down hard on illegal drugs. Last Tuesday, the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled that pot pharmacies are no longer allowed to legally grow and distribute
medicinal marijuana.

 But other countries are taking the opposite approach. In January, the Belgian government
agreed to decriminalize the use of marijuana, following a similar decision in the Netherlands.

 Philippe Lucas, director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, has heard enough
talk. "I think it's good that this discussion and debate is to go on, but we've been here before,"
he said. "It's now time for action."

************
Police urge major rethink on heroin
Users would take drug in 'shooting galleries' to reduce need to steal

Martin Bright, home affairs Editor
Sunday December 9, 2001
The Observer

Britain's top police officers have called for the mass prescription of heroin to addicts on the NHS in a move that will be seen as the decriminalisation of the drug.

The officers believe this radical approach will break the link between addicts and property crime, and allow the police to concentrate on combating major drugs dealers and organised criminals.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which represents chief constables in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will announce its revolutionary shift in policy in January. Under the proposals, addicts will no longer be treated as criminals if they agree to register and inject prescribed heroin in strictly controlled 'shooting galleries' under medical supervision.

The scheme, which has been approved by the Acpo president Sir David Phillips, would operate at specialist units in police stations, GPs' surgeries and hospitals to allay fears that the officially prescribed heroin would seep on to the black market.

The move will be seen by opponents as an admission that the 'war on drugs' has been lost; senior police officers now recognise that the prohibition of heroin has failed as a strategy.

Their proposals will not need a change in the law, but senior officers recognise that they will entail a relaxation of the police attitude towards possession of class A drugs, which now carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Sources close to Phillips said: 'We need to make our position clear, and move towards the managed stabilisation of addicts. This is common sense to most people: the alternatives, such as prison, are no longer realistic.'

One problem already identified by experts is the massive increase in the supply of prescription heroin needed for the scheme. Legal supplies in Britain are now processed by one factory in Liverpool from a single source of poppies in Tasmania.

There would also have to be a significant increase in the number of doctors licensed to prescribe and inject the drug. There are now only around 100 of them.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, advocated increasing this total in a submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee last month.

He is, however, unwilling to extend his plans to reform the law on cannabis to other drugs, and many doctors are unwilling to help patients take addictive drugs.

Acpo will propose a national trial early next year, believing a piecemeal approach would lead to clinics being swamped with addicts, and provoke local hostility.

It is estimated that around a third of people arrested by the police are dependent on one or more illegal drugs, and that as much as 70 per cent of property crime is committed to fund addiction.

The number of heroin addicts in Britain is now estimated to be 50,000, com pared with fewer than 2,000 in 1970 when the drug was available on prescription to registered addicts. A serious heroin user needs £100 a day to fund a habit.

The new Acpo stance has developed from controversial research published two years ago by Cleveland police in north-east England, which concluded: 'If there is indeed a "war on drugs" it is not being won; drugs are demonstrably cheaper and more readily available than ever.'

Dr John Guy, a GP who runs a practice in Middlesbrough dedicated to drug users, said he wholeheartedly welcomed the proposals. 'A more sensible approach would benefit everyone: the user's health improves, their lifestyle stabilises and crime drops for the rest of society.'

Others urged caution. Dame Ruth Runciman, whose Police Foundation report recommended decriminalising cannabis, said: 'It is not enough just to prescribe heroin. Any new scheme needs to take into account homelessness, lack of skills and social deprivation.'

Acpo's Phillips risked further controversy by saying the justice system in England and Wales was stuck in the Agatha Christie era. 'We are losing the war against organised crime. The courts are designed to deal with Miss Marple cases, not the kind of criminality we are currently facing.'

A Home Office spokesman said there were no plans to reclassify heroin.

*******
      Pubdate: Sat, 08 Dec 2001
      Source: Observer, The (UK)
      Copyright: 2001 The Observer
      Contact: letters@observer.co.uk
      Website: http://www.observer.co.uk/
      Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/315
      Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization)

      THE POLICE AND HARD DRUGS: THE CLEVELAND REPORT

      The Association of Chief Police Officers will announce next month a new position on hard
      drugs, advocating the legalisation of heroin.  This shift of policy builds on controversial
      research published two years ago by Cleveland police in the north east of England which was
      used by Chief Constable Barry Shaw, who remains in charge of the force, to propose a new
      approach to the "war on drugs".  While the proposals were not adopted by Cleveland at that
      time, they are now set to become the focus of a national debate in the wake of the rapid
      liberalisation of the debate on policing drugs.

      What The Cleveland Report Says

      These are extracts from the Cleveland report.  The full report is available from the
      pro-reform pressure group Transform and can be read here.

      Availability

      Recreational drugs have been used by humans across the world for thousands of years.
      Current UK policy ( proscription ) dates from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and is clearly
      based upon American experience.  The UK government is also signatory to international
      treaties rendering the drugs trade illegal worldwide.

      No Logic

      "It can be argued that there is no logic to the current pattern of illegality.  Some drugs (
      alcohol, nicotine ) are freely available despite very clear evidence of their harmful effects.
      Others such as cannabis are proscribed with their possession being subject to severe penalties,
      despite the fact that they are perceived by many medical scientists to be less harmful than
      alcohol.  The illogicality of this approach ( which seems to be based upon no more than
      historical accident ) leads many young people in particular to level charges of hypocrisy at
      `the establishment'.  This is a very difficult argument to counter".

      The Failure Of Prohibition

      "There is overwhelming evidence to show that the prohibition based policy in place in this
      country since 1971 has not been effective in controlling the availability or use of proscribed
      drugs.  If there is indeed a `war of drugs' it is not being won; drugs are demonstrably cheaper
      and more readily available than ever before.  It seems that the laws of supply and demand are
      operating in a textbook fashion ...

      Members may wish to ask themselves whether we have learned the lessons from alcohol
      prohibition in the United States in the 1920's, from Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign in
      India in the 1940's and from the Poll Tax here in the UK in the 1980's.  If a sufficiently large
      ( and apparently growing ) part of the population chooses to ignore the law for whatever
      reason, then that law becomes unenforceable.  A modern western democracy, based on
      policing by consent and the rule of law may find itself powerless to prevent illegal activity - in
      this case the importation and use of controlled drugs."

      Drugs And Crime

      The report considers the links between drugs and crime, arguing that "as a result of this
      illegality their market price is very high indeed, as the suppliers carry significant risks".

      Organised Crime

      The report quotes government assessments that the illegal drugs trade is worth UKP 400
      billion - 8% of all international trade - and is as big as the global trade in oil and gas.  "The
      profits to be made are truly enormous - the pharmaceutical price of heroin is less than UKP 1
      per gram, but the street price in the UK is about 80 times higher.  At these sort of profit
      margins it is well worth while buying a gun to protect your investment - and a third of all
      firearms incidents committed in Cleveland in 1998 are demonstrably drug related.  Organised
      crime gangs are every bit as difficult to stamp out as are terrorists, once they have taken root,
      and provided the market continues to exist.  The best example of this is the mafia in the USA
      whose development was given an enormous boost by alcohol prohibition."

      Commission Of Crime

      "Many prohibited drugs are very strongly addictive, as well as expensive.  A serious heroin
      user needs to find say UKP 50 per day to fund their habit, in cash.  This sort of money is
      difficult to obtain by legitimate means, so they have to turn to crime.  Nationally about 30%
      of persons arrested by the police are dependant upon one or more illegal drug, and about 32%
      of the proceeds of crime seem to be geared to the purchase of heroin, cocaine or crack.  ....
      The main crimes committed are shoplifting ( by far the greatest ), selling drugs and burglary.
      One research project has shown that 1,000 addicts committed 70,000 criminal acts during a
      90-day period prior to their intake for treatment.  It is clear that the very high cost of drugs is
      caused by their illegality, and that these high costs are causing large amounts of acquisitive
      crime.  Is this acceptable?"

      Criminalisation

      "Most drug users seem not to commit significant amounts of crime - their only offence is to
      choose to use a drug which is technically illegal.  The best example of this is cannabis ( the
      UK has the highest rate of cannabis use in Europe, higher even than in the Netherlands which
      has a tolerance policy ).  The illogical pattern of proscription causes people who abuse alcohol
      or nicotine to be treated purely as victims, whereas those who abuse cannabis become
      criminals.  If caught they face a criminal record and social exclusion.

      Alternatives

      "There is only one serious alternative to the proscription policy - the legalisation and
      regulation of some or all drugs.  Any debate about such an approach must raise and then deal
      with fundamental questions about the societal effects.  What would be the health and social
      impact? Would the use of drugs increase or decline? What would be the impact on crime?
      The potential consequences are very significant indeed - are they to be countenanced?"

      The report argues that "since legalisation and regulation for the currently proscribed drugs has
      never been tried properly anywhere in the world there is little hard evidence available",
      although lessons can be learnt from the regulation of legal drugs like nicotine and alcohol, and
      from liberalistation

      "Some European cities ( notably Geneva and London ) have experimented with radical
      solutions by issuing heroin under prescription.  A number of studies have now demonstrated
      crime reductions as a result ( in some cases startling ones ).  Heroin users previously caught
      up in a cycle of drugs and crime started to lead reasonably stable lives, some holding down
      jobs and a `normal' family life.  These experiments ( whose results have not always been
      clear cut ) have not been continued largely because they were to the detriment of maintained
      methadone programmes which are the currently `approved' method of reducing addiction.

      There is also contrary evidence.  Defacto legalisation is in place in parts of South America
      where the drugs trade is out of any control.  The effects are quite frightening.  However this
      is without any effective regulation, and without the health improvement and harm reduction
      programmes which seem to have been so successful in the UK ( even in the limited fashion
      seen to date ).

      Conclusions

      A number of tentative conclusions can be drawn from the available evidence:

      Attempts to restrict availability of illegal drugs have failed so far, everywhere

      There is little or no evidence that they can ever work within acceptable means in a
      democratic society

      Demand for drugs seems still to be growing, locally and nationally.  The market seems to be
      some way from saturation

      There is little evidence that conventional conviction and punishment has any effect on
      offending levels

      There is, however, growing evidence that treatment and rehabilitation programmes can have a
      significant impact on drug misuse and offending

      There is some evidence that social attitudes can be changed over time, by design.  The best
      example available to date is drink-driving, but success has taken a generation to achieve

      If prohibition does not work, then either the consequences of this have to be accepted, or an
      alternative approach must be found

      The most obvious alternative approach is the legalisation and subsequent regulation of some
      or all drugs

      There are really serious social implications to such an approach which have never been
      thought through in a comprehensive manner, anywhere.



'Fink fund' probe kills 115 drug cases:  RCMP investigates alleged corruption of city police force

                   Shannon Kari

                   National Post
 

                   Monday, May 13, 2002

                   The federal Justice Department is continuing to stay drug prosecutions without explanation
                   as a 10-month-old RCMP-led probe into allegations of corruption in the Toronto police force
                   appears to be widening its investigation.

                   Charges have been withdrawn or put on hold in as many as 150 drug
                   cases in Toronto since the fall of 1999 because of the corruption
                   allegations.

                   The Toronto police force and a number of former drug squad officers are
                   also facing at least six civil suits seeking a total of more than $17-million in
                   damages. The allegations, which have not been proven in court, include
                   harassment, kidnapping and theft.

                   Nearly 18 months after a number of criminal lawyers said their clients had
                   money and jewelry stolen during police raids, eight former Central Field
                   Command drug squad officers were arrested in November, 2000. They
                   were accused of stealing small amounts of money from the "fink fund"
                   used to pay drug informants.

                   The Ontario Attorney-General's office stayed those charges in February
                   because proceeding to trial "may compromise an ongoing investigation."
                   The eight officers remain on restricted duty outside the drug squad, a
                   Toronto police spokeswoman confirmed.

                   The federal Justice Department, which is responsible for all drug
                   prosecutions, confirmed last August that charges had been stayed in at
                   least 115 cases. A stay allows the Crown to resume its prosecution within
                   one year, but in many cases that period has expired.

                   Many of the cases stayed originally are believed to have involved
                   investigations by a drug squad unit led by Staff Sgt. John Schertzer, one of
                   the officers charged in the fink fund scandal.

                   But court records indicate many of the most recent prosecutions to be
                   stayed involved officers from a different unit within the drug squad.

                   Since July, 2001, more than 20 Internal Affairs detectives, led by RCMP
                   Chief Superintendent John Neily, have been investigating the corruption
                   allegations at the request of Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino.

                   Neily has not commented publicly about the probe and the Justice
                   Department has repeatedly declined to explain why any of the drug
                   charges have been stayed.

                   "There really isn't any further information that we can put forward at this
                   time," said James Leising, the head of criminal prosecutions in the Toronto
                   office of the Justice Department.

                   A lawyer for a suspected drug trafficker is asking the Justice Department,
                   the Ontario Attorney-General and Toronto police to end the secrecy in a
                   court case scheduled to begin on May 21.

                   Documents filed by lawyer Edward Sapiano in Ontario Superior Court
                   accuse the disbanded Central Field Command squad of falling "within the
                   [legal] meaning of a criminal organization."

                   Sapiano's client, Roman Paryniuk, charged in connection with the seizures
                   of nearly $160-million of hashish, marijuana and ecstacy, is asking for
                   disclosure about any internal investigation into 23 Toronto police officers.

                   Paryniuk claims police stole money during the March, 1999, seizure of at
                   least $664,000 from his bank safety deposit box. The court documents
                   point to at least two other drug cases involving the same team of officers
                   where charges have been stayed and police searched a safety deposit
                   box.

                   In these two cases, court transcripts indicated the officers refused to allow
                   bank employees to be present when searching the boxes or make an
                   itemized list of what was seized. The bank employees were told it was to
                   protect the "privacy" of the accused, or that there might be a "noxious
                   substance" inside.

                   The disclosure request is necessary to establish that the officers stole
                   Paryniuk's money, argued Sapiano in a written submission filed with the
                   court.

                   "This theft is simply one more step in a long-standing pattern of
                   coordinated conduct," Sapiano said, "for the purpose of stealing currency,
                   jewelry, narcotics and other valuables from alleged drug dealers and
                   innocent people."



  Global National Television News, 6:30 pm EDT, Monday, May 13, 2002

(You may be able to view the news report at:  http://mirror.canada.com/toronto/globaltv/info/video/130502gn_topstory.ram)

Canadian marijuana reform concerns U.S.

Kevin Newman (Global TV anchor): Who would have thought you'd live long enough to see this. Hearings by Canadian parliamentarians into legalizing marijuana. And even more amazing is whose running the hearings.

 Senators, whose average age has tended to those 55 plus. But today in Regina they kicked off a series of meetings aimed at looking at whether it's time to take smoking pot off the list of crimes in Canada. And framing these discussions is a little-noticed report they've just issued reaching some startling conclusions.

 The Senate committee concludes there is no convincing evidence that smoking pot leads to using harder drugs.

 It says marijuana use does not induce users to commit other crimes, or engage in risky activity such as driving quickly.

 The Senate also found that one in every three Canadian kids age 15 and 16 has smoked at least once in the past month, and that one and a half million Canadians have a criminal record because of what the Senate calls simple possession.

 Ground-breaking stuff. But this report, and Canada’s willingness to allow people to use marijuana for medical purposes, also seems to have raised the ire of the U.S. in a significant way. We’ve learned tonight that its drug czar is pressuring Canadian authorities not to loosen Canadian law and he's carrying a very big stick -- threatening trade sanctions if we don't do what he wants. Global National's Carl Hanlon has the exclusive details.

 Hanlon: On the street its called B.C. bud and American demand for it is reaching new highs.  Sources close to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency say it will soon issue a report claiming there are 15 to 20,000 marijuana growing operations in British Columbia alone and 95 per cent of the output is headed south.

 "A dramatic increase in the gross quantity of marijuana of high potency coming across the border," says Colonel Robert Maginnis, a U.S. government adviser on drug policy. He says the Bush administration is alarmed by a recent Senate study that says Canada’s marijuana laws are ineffective. [Note from Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy:  Robert Maginnis works for the Family Research Council, a private body, and sits on a US government drug advisory board (hence, his description as a government adviser).  He does not appear to work for the drug czar's office.  He should therefore not be considered as an official US government spokesperson (the story does not claim that he does work for the drug czar, but some readers may get that mistaken impression.).]

 Hanlon: The U.S. fears the next step could be looser regulations leading to more drugs crossing the border and its ready to play hardball with trade to make sure that doesn't happen.

 "To antagonize government leaders and grass roots leaders because you insist on having a radical drug policy that we will not ignore in the long term, then its going to have adverse consequences and I hope we would be able to rectify it before it comes to blows," explains Maginnis.

Hanlon:  The U.S. is closely watching the Canadian marijuana debate and is working behind the scenes to influence the outcome. Next month the president's chief of drug policy attend a drug conference in Quebec and he'll make sure his counterparts understand the U.S. opposes liberalization.

 As for the Canadian government, Solicitor General Lawrence Macaulay did not respond when asked if Canada is being pressured by U.S.

 The organization for the reform of marijuana laws says the Americans have a habit of throwing their weight around to influence other country's drug laws.

Allen St. Pierre (Reform of Marijuana Laws): Those countries often then bend and defer to the United States will on this and, unfortunately, abandon not only their own pragmatism and common sense, but to some degree their own sovereignty.

Hanlon: Ottawa has confirmed that the US Drug Enforcement Agency [Administration] turned down a request to provide high quality seeds for the [Canadian] government's medical marijuana program. Then [Canadian federal] Health Minister Allan Rock was forced to rely on seeds confiscated by [Canadian] police, leading to an inferior crop and delay in providing pot to Canadians.

In Washington, this is Global's Carl Hanlon.

Newman: Ottawa was pushing ahead with plans to provide government grown medical marijuana people with serious illness, but those efforts appear to have stalled.

 But the American angst over medical marijuana use may be a little premature.

 As of Friday [May 10, 2002] fewer than 255 Canadians have received licenses to smoke,

 And of those 164 can smoke their own because enough government grown isn't available yet.
 




Friday, September 13, 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A7
Website: http://www.globeandmail.ca/
Contact: letters@globeandmail.ca

Canada's pot policy under fire from U.S.

By GRAEME SMITH

DETROIT -- Canada's marijuana policy is flawed by a lack of information and
outright lies, according to the highest-ranking drug official in the United
States.

John Walters, director of U.S. national drug-control policy, sharply
criticized Ottawa yesterday for allowing ill people to smoke pot and for
considering relaxed antimarijuana laws.

Mr. Walters said at a Detroit news conference that Canada has done
insufficient research, so it cannot justify liberalizing its cannabis
policy.

"I asked the ministers in Canada when I was there: What do you estimate to
be the level of use in Canada, and what are the trends? What do you estimate
to be the level of dependency and the need for treatment and the trends?

"The answer is that they don't know. They don't have surveys. They do not
have the data," Mr. Walters said.

"In our view of working policy, you don't make a major step that involves
these kinds of dangers without first telling the people what the danger is,
what the trends are and what the problems are."

Mr. Walters suggested that policymakers in Canada are naive to be persuaded
of marijuana's medical benefits.

"The claim that medical marijuana is an efficacious medicine is a lie.

"It is used by people who want to legalize marijuana, cynically."

He acknowledged that the United States is considering tighter border
security -- recently strengthened to handle terrorist threats -- if Canada
relaxes its antimarijuana laws.

"What happens in Canada as a sovereign nation -- as long as it stays in
Canada -- is Canada's business," Mr. Walters said.

"The problem today is that Canadian production of high-potency marijuana in
British Columbia is a major source of marijuana [in the United States] . . .
and it's spreading. Just like cocaine, shipped up from Mexico."

Mr. Walters repeatedly said that the U.S. prohibition on marijuana is based
on scientific evidence, and he attacked studies that suggest cannabis can
relieve symptoms of some illnesses.

He emphasized that U.S. scientists have done more research into the effects
of the drug than have their colleagues in Canada.

"We have the most powerful, successful and sophisticated medical
institutions in the history of humankind."

The news conference was Mr. Walters's only public appearance as he meets
with law-enforcement officials, government leaders and drug-prevention and
treatment advocates from both sides of the border.

(see also the May 13, 2002 Global Television news story about alleged threats to Canada by US)


No laws ban possession of marijuana, court rules
Landmark Ontario decision goes beyond the decriminalization proposed by Ottawa


By COLIN FREEZE AND KIM LUNMAN
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Saturday, May 17, 2003 - Page A9

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TORONTO and OTTAWA -- Canada has no laws prohibiting marijuana possession, an Ontario Superior Court judge said yesterday in a ruling that will be binding on judges in the province and may soon be picked up across the country.

"For today, and for the Victoria Day weekend, it's a very pleasant state of affairs for recreational pot smokers," said criminal lawyer Paul Burstein, who helped argue the case successfully.

It was the second time that a Windsor teenager who was caught smoking pot while playing hooky in a park has been found not to have broken any law because, the courts ruled, there are effectively no longer any marijuana laws to break.

Mr. Justice Steven Rogin upheld yesterday a lower-court decision, based on complex arguments, that has already had far-reaching influence.

The new ruling means that proposed federal legislation to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana would actually "recriminalize" it, defence lawyers said yesterday.

While the new law would impose fines for pot possession, yesterday's ruling effectively eliminated any sanctions for simple pot possession in Ontario, they said.

The decision "has effectively erased the criminal prohibition on marijuana possession from the law books in Ontario," said Brian McAllister, the lawyer for the accused teenager.

Courts in Nova Scotia and PEI have already put prosecutions on hold pending yesterday's ruling, he said, and lawyers in other provinces were similarly watching for this decision.

The initial ruling in favour of the Windsor teenager, identified only as J. P., had a significant spillover effect and the higher-court decision is expected to be even more influential.

The federal Department of Justice, which appealed the initial ruling, is planning another appeal.

The government still plans to introduce its marijuana-decriminalization legislation later this month.

Most Canadians are behind the idea, according to an Ipsos-Reid poll released yesterday.

It found that 55 per cent of Canadians did not believe smoking marijuana should be a criminal offence, while 42 per cent thought it should be.

More telling, 63 per cent of respondents supported Ottawa's plans to issue tickets and fines similar to traffic violations to those caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana, the poll found.

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has said he is seeking the changes so that people who are caught with small amounts will not clog up the court system, potentially receiving criminal records.

For the moment, however, marijuana possession remains the most frequently laid drug charge in Canada even though courts are becoming increasingly resistant to hearing those cases.

Jim Leising of the federal Justice Department said in an interview that he was "disappointed" by yesterday's decision and will push to have the case heard quickly in the Ontario Court of Appeal.

"We are are still of the opinion that the law against marijuana is valid," he said.

Mr. Leising said prosecutions will continue, although some may be put on hold.

But defence lawyers involved in J.P.'s case said Ontarians facing possession charges should fight Crown prosecutors' attempts to delay their cases until the law is clarified.

Ontarians who are charged with marijuana possession after yesterday's ruling could consider suing police for wrongful arrest, they said.

"Anybody who's got a charge before the court should definitely take advantage of this," Mr. Burstein said.

Multiple court battles to strike down the marijuana laws are taking place, he said, leaving Ottawa besieged from many directions.

"The courts keep firing big shots into the sides of the government's ship," Mr. Burstein said.

"They're sinking lower and lower. They are bailing it out with a cup."

The Ipsos-Reid poll -- of 1001 people, conducted between May 13 and May 15 -- found people still have some reservations about decriminalization.

The poll results are considered to reflect accurately the feelings of the entire country to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Return to Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy home page

Updated: 17 May 2003 | Accessed: 65194 times