Justice Hunter Favours Legalization of Marijuana

  Justice Hunter Favours Legalization of Marijuana

Posted by CN Staff on February 16, 2004 at 12:48:11 PT
By Bill Hunt  
Source: Intelligencer 

Justice Stephen Hunter, who presides over criminal court in Belleville, supports legislation reintroduced in the House of Commons last week that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. But Hunter thinks the government should take it a step further and legalize the drug. Hunter was asked his opinion on the Liberal government’s legislation introduced Thursday that would decriminalize possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana.
Under the bill, people found in possession of 15 grams or less would face a fine rather than a potential jail term and criminal record. “Decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana will certainly be a step in the right direction,” said the Ontario Court of Justice magistrate, but added it would be more appropriate to legalize it. “Frankly the more appropriate method would be legalize it and sell it like alcohol, regulate it like alcohol, tax it like a luxury tax item and take it out of the hands of people who make a profit from criminal activity,” said Hunter. He believes the acceptance level among the public is there for adult use of the drug if it was regulated and taxed like alcohol. “I think decriminalization is an inadequate compromise, if you will, because what it does is, it gives all the wrong messages. If you decriminalize it, who’s going to supply the product?” Keeping it illegal forces people who use it to associate with criminals, he said. Hunter doesn’t believe decriminalization or legalization would increase use of the drug. Studies show approximately 30 per cent of the population have used marijuana, he said. Furthermore, he believes it is “entirely improper” to give people criminal records for possession of small amounts of marijuana when alcohol is legal, noting a criminal record can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to cross international borders, to find employment or get an education. Although police don’t generally target people for simple possession any more, society still spends hundreds of millions of dollars in judicial costs tracking down and punishing people who grow and sell it, and that money could be saved if it were legalized, said Hunter. If farmers were allowed to grow it, the government would not only generate “an incredible amount of tax money, but you’d also save a heck of lot in terms of police and judicial resource costing.” “I don’t want to encourage anybody to use marijuana. Certainly that’s not my goal. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to use or misuse alcohol. If they want to use it, fine. It’s an intoxicant. If you’re old enough to make those decisions and use it responsibly, whether it’s Aspirin or alcohol. I think it’s awfully hypocritical of someone like me who drinks Scotch ... to then turn around and say to somebody, ‘You can’t have a joint.’” Part of the reason for not legalizing it has to do with political pressure from the U.S., he said. “We don’t want to alienate our neighbours to the south too much. I suppose the political realities are what you have to deal with. As a judge, as long as it’s the law, I’ll uphold it. But if you’re asking me, is that a good law, well I suppose it’s a step in the right direction.” Another problem is that purchasing marijuana is included under the definition of trafficking, so although possessing it won’t be illegal, there will still be no legal way to attain it, said Hunter. “I think what it does do, is it creates an environment where people who are making money from a criminal enterprise certainly are not discouraged by that. And that’s an issue that would go if you legalized it. If you legalized it and grew it and sold it as a product like alcohol, and regulated it and controlled it as much as you can, kept it out of schools, kept it out of people’s hands who are under 19 — as much as one can — then you would probably be better off in the long run.” Hunter doesn’t argue that marijuana is a harmless drug, and acknowledges many people feel it shouldn’t be decriminalized, but said we have to look at whether society is being consistent or hypocritical by having alcohol legal. Society needs to consider whether there are “better ways to deal with the issue, by controlling and regulating and recognizing that a substantial part of the population, who are not criminals by nature, are using it. I’m sure there are doctors and lawyers and newspaper reporters and judges out there who have consumed marijuana. And some of them aren’t bad people,” said Hunter. “The bottom line is, the intoxicant of choice for some people is not alcohol.” The other factor to consider is that alcohol makes some people violent. While Hunter doesn’t use marijuana, he is aware it makes some people lethargic and withdrawn, and has negative effects, as does any drug. “There are a lot of negatives for any drug or intoxicant. People can get addicted to Aspirin for heavens sake. People can get addicted to all kinds of things, and people can abuse almost any drug, including coffee, that you’ve got out there. But the bottom line is, in my view, what I see in court, it’s not nearly as bad a drug as alcohol. Not in terms of the amount of crime you see connected to it, not in terms of the issue of impaired driving deaths that are caused. None of that, to me, in my experience as a judge sitting in court, none of that is attributable to marijuana the way it is to alcohol. That is not an argument in itself for making marijuana legal. My debate issue for legalization of marijuana is simply the fact that you take it out of the hands of the people who profit from criminality and put it into a regulatory scheme where you’re recovering tax on a huge underground economy. That’s one person’s opinion. I’m not entitled to any more validity than anybody else out there.” Source: Intelligencer, The (CN ON)Author: Bill Hunt Published: Monday, February 16, 2004 Copyright: 2004 Osprey Media Group Inc.Contact: newsroom intelligencer.caWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Bill Targets Trafficking Not Possession Reintroduces Pot Possession Bill Marijuana Bill Could Pass 

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Comment #12 posted by FoM on February 18, 2004 at 12:45:05 PT

Related Article from The Intelligencer
Consider Legalizing Marijuana?Editorial: Wednesday, February 18, 2004 Editorial - “The bottom line is, in my view, what I see in court, (marijuana) is not nearly as bad a drug as alcohol. Not in terms of the amount of crime you see connected to it, not in terms of the issue of impaired driving deaths that are caused.” — Justice Stephen HunterTalking about marijuana That a local judge would argue not only for the decriminalization of marijuana, but also for its legalization, may seem shocking to some. If you are among the shocked, perhaps you should seriously consider Hunter’s arguments in favour of legalization. His points are many, they are valid, and they are worth throwing old prejudices out the window for the short time it will take to read and ponder them. Argument #1: Decriminalizing possession of marijuana, without decriminalizing the sale of marijuana, forces people who are not criminals to associate with criminals who sell the drug. Argument #2: Society spends hundreds of millions of dollars in judicial costs tracking down and punishing people who grow and sell marijuana. If marijuana were legalized, that money would be saved. Argument #3: If marijuana production and distribution is taken out of the hands of the people who profit from criminality and put it into a regulatory scheme, society could recover taxes on a huge underground economy. Argument #4: Farmers, were they allowed to grow marijuana, would generate tax dollars and be provided an alternate crop. Argument #5: The public acceptance level is there for adult use of the drug — providing it is regulated and taxed like alcohol. Argument #6: It’s simply hypocritical of society to say alcohol is an acceptable drug, and that marijuana is not. In his experience, as a judge (who presides over the domestic violence court, among others), Hunter has seen that alcohol makes some people violent, while marijuana tends to make people lethargic. Though Hunter points out his views are just one person’s, and that he is “not entitled to any more validity than anybody else out there,” we will put his modesty aside for him. Hunter’s views are valid. He sees the harm alcohol causes, and he sees the money wasted by society in its fight against marijuana. The time to publicly debate the merits and pitfalls of legalization is upon us. Consider Hunter’s arguments before choosing which side you support. 
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Comment #11 posted by Virgil on February 17, 2004 at 21:58:55 PT

DEA wants to reclassification pain drug 
From aims to cut pain drug's useBY MARC KAUFMANWashington Post ServiceWASHINGTON - The Drug Enforcement Administration is working to make one of the most widely prescribed medications more difficult for patients to obtain as part of its stepped-up offensive against the diversion and abuse of prescription painkillers.Top DEA officials confirm that the agency is eager to change the official listing of the narcotic hydrocodone -- which was prescribed more than 100 million times last year -- to the highly restricted Schedule II category of the Controlled Substances Act. A painkiller and cough suppressant sold as Lortab, Vicodin and 200 generic brands, hydrocodone combined with other medications has long been available under the less stringent rules of Schedule III.The DEA effort is part of a broad campaign to address the problem of prescription drug abuse. The initiative has repeatedly pitted the agency against doctors, pharmacists and pain sufferers, and it is doing so again with the hydrocodone proposal. 

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Comment #10 posted by U2Desire on February 17, 2004 at 21:36:56 PT:

legal drugs
My boss is the executer of a will for one of his close friends who took his life a week ago saturday. Anyways, a guy from the insurance company came buy the workplace to drop off some papers and the conversion got on to drugs and hospitalization from various side effects of legal drugs. The stat. he gave was 1 in 20 people are hospitalized because of side effects of LEGAL drugs. How many people have been hospitalized for pot with a legitamate pot related side effect? 
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Comment #9 posted by mayan on February 17, 2004 at 03:17:37 PT

Justice Hunter...
He could spark a trend. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see more and more judges begin to speak out like he has! What a sensible man. It seems as though he is one Justice who is actually concerned about Justice.Some unrelated nuggets...Peru trial links CIA to drug terrorists: ON RUSH: increase in children hurt by prescription drugs: way out is the way in...Panel on 9/11 has new fight - Bush, Cheney resist interview by the entire Kean commission: up to a Whitewash of the White House: says Bush won't need to talk under oath: with 911: JFK, Operation Northwoods, Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City: Truth NYC:
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Comment #8 posted by breeze on February 17, 2004 at 01:25:08 PT

Daddy's new world order
Justice and Peace.
While there is no justice, mankind will find no peace. Its painfully that simple. We live in a society ruled by paranoia and fear, where people are easily offended and easily offensive. We live in a nation that is governed by greed and stupidity. We live in a country where each individual is a suspect, and free speech is slowly becoming a liability and a probable cause for investigation. We live in land that is but a ghost of freedom, a time where children could be taught and directed by their parents instead of an overpaid government coucil. We have lost the most basic of liberties willingly, by not rejecting policies that the most hideous of acts that have ever been done in the name of good intent. A well known verse,tried and true- "Good intentions pave the road to hell."We have only our neighbor to blame for their ignorance, or do we, because we have failed to tell those who do not know better?We have become this thing that does not know the meaning of the word boycott, we purchase the most expensive toys, the most expensive clothes, the biggest and latest vehicles to prove our status quo.We trample over the homeless as we rush to our purchasing spree from the nearest Sprawl mart. We ignore what must be done in place of convinience, since it so difficult to help those in need. We share only with those we know, because who can we trust? You fear writing that letter to your congress "person" because you have to sign your name, and give your address before they will even acknowledge it- damn good reasons not to write it at all. If you write a letter to the local newspaper about anything in the least controversial, you open yourself up to a pandora's box of trouble that might as well be concluded to be self destructive. If you go to that march protesting actions made by big companies, by the leaders of your state,nation,community- you subject yourself to fines, jail,or teargas/beatings by armed guards there to maintain a "peacful" gathering.Meanwhile, since no one really seems interested in making this nation an even better place to live, those in power choose to discuss what is obscene on television- while ignoring the obvious truth that violence is entertainment. Look at the majority of shows on television- most have violent content including, but not limited to murder, rape, gangs, shootings, stabbings, organized crime. And I haven't begun to write about popular "sports", while our nations leaders choose to talk about a boob exposed during the most watched sports event of the year. They don't get it, people watch the superbowl for the advertisements- because they need something to laugh at, not for the violent champions who win the game, but rather to confirm the best that they made at work, and even sometimes- just because there is a house party in the neighborhood.Congress couldn't care less about obscenity, if they did, they would end their laws of locking people away for cannabis simply because it is a law. If I had a desire to go out and beat up an anonomous stranger, I would be fined approximatly $50, If I was caught with a marijuana cigarette in my posession, I would AT LEAST be fined $500 and possibly serve time. On the other hand, I might be sued in civil court by the beaten victim, but as long as I don't kill that person, my fine is basically all I have to worry about as far as LAW is concerned.Is this not obscene? Is this not disgusting? Does this not repulse you? Are you offended yet? If so, where are our leaders when it concerns this matter? Don't look too hard, their busy making laws that go against every grain of every constitutional right we have. As long as I don't harm another person, I should be free to do what I want in my own home. But laws are in place to "protect" me from this, and soon- even if I have permission slips to voice my opinion/views in public - such as this web site, it will be illegal- because I may offend someone that views the world differently. You don't even have the right to do what you want with your own body without having a corporation or government trying to invade your privacy, how much further are we away from having thought police as well? 
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on February 16, 2004 at 21:24:04 PT

Is this the article you are looking for?
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Comment #6 posted by ekim on February 16, 2004 at 20:51:11 PT

the phone is ringing will we pick it up
Hey FoM can you look up Kalamazoo Gazette today Feb 16 front page has long story{Crime-fighting database raises privacy concerns} on Matrix short for Multistate Antiterrorism Information Exchange--is a group of States that pool records --Connecticut-Florida-Pennsylvania-Ohio-New York-Michigan.with 12 mill of Feds money. the system combines state drivers license digital image, social security number, signature,and medical or disability information. - with 20 billion pieces of publicy available data. The data base known as Factual Analysis Criminal Threat Solution(FACTS)is a powerful law enforcement tool."This looks at everyone as a potential suspect." said Lee Stein-legal counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. a CA based consumer privacy organization. "We are moving away from investigating people based on what they've done to collecting as much information as possible on everyone just in case they're involved in something. Its like saying that instead of a presumption of innocence, we have a presumption of guilt." but States have pulled out like California- Utah-Georgia-Privacy rights proponents say a private company should not be that close to so much sensitive information."Once people realize what it can do, it offends them." Michael Trinh spokesman for Electronic Privacy Information Center Washington based privacy group.see for Law Enforcement against Prohibition and find date and place to hear speakers debate this issue. Maybe Leap will be invited to speak on the issue of Regulation in Canada.
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Comment #5 posted by OverwhelmSam on February 16, 2004 at 16:36:42 PT:

An Honorable Man
The climate of intimidation and fear mongering in our judicial system prevents US Judges from going public with their opinions. It's not until the conservative right in our Congress get voted out of office that we will begin to see changes.
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Comment #4 posted by JustGetnBy on February 16, 2004 at 14:40:08 PT

Common Sense

  This Judge is using good common sense, un-influenced by political affiliations, or fear of reprisal. He is either a man at a point in his career that he can afford to say what he thinks is true, or he is a martyr in-training.  Either way, kudo's to you sir.
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Comment #3 posted by Marc Paquette on February 16, 2004 at 14:26:59 PT:

Judges are not fools!
Hi my Friends;He's not the only judge that has spoken out in favor about marijuana in Canada. Justice Phillips and Rogin at the Superior Court of Ontario in Windsor had similar thoughts and sayings. I just hope that Justice Hunter doesn't have any reprisals to have spoken out. I bet that alot of US judges has similar thoughts but if they would speak out about it, alot would probably be sanctioned or lose their job.Peace,Marc
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Comment #2 posted by E_Johnson on February 16, 2004 at 13:18:35 PT

Finally someone capable of basic moral reasoning
At last!
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Comment #1 posted by BigDawg on February 16, 2004 at 13:03:26 PT

"I think it’s awfully hypocritical of someone like me who drinks Scotch ... to then turn around and say to somebody, ‘You can’t have a joint.’” I wish the US had more REAL judges....
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