Liberals' Bill To Decrim Marijuana Was Bad Policy

Liberals' Bill To Decrim Marijuana Was Bad Policy
Posted by CN Staff on May 15, 2004 at 21:26:49 PT
By Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen 
Source: Ottawa Citizen 
Barring unforeseen plot twists, a federal election will soon be called and a bill decriminalizing marijuana will go up in flames. As a supporter of marijuana reform, I say, goodbye and good riddance. Decriminalization was not only bad public policy, the bill's production and presentation were deceptive, even fraudulent -- as demonstrated by documents obtained under the Access to Information Act. From the beginning, Martin Cauchon, the justice minister who promoted decriminalization, promised an open discussion, a theme repeated by the throne speech of Sept. 30, 2002, which said the government would "act on the results of parliamentary consultations with Canadians on options for change in our drug laws, including the possibility of the decriminalization of marijuana possession."
These "consultations" were special committees established by both the Senate and the House of Commons to examine marijuana and other drugs. The first of the committees to report was the Senate's. For two years, senators had worked diligently, commissioning 23 reports on scientific and academic research, holding 50 days of public hearings, and meeting with more than 100 witnesses from around the world. The final report, all 650 pages of it, deployed extensive evidence and careful analysis to argue that marijuana possession, production and distribution should be legalized and strictly regulated. The Commons committee was much less rigorous. Its two reports, released in November and December, 2002, ignored the toughest questions and produced scant evidence. Its recommendations stuck to conventional wisdom, which by that time was for decriminalization of possession in small amounts. One small wrinkle was a call to further decriminalize the cultivation of a very modest amount of marijuana for personal use. After receiving the Commons report, the government announced it would only decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana -- meaning violators would not face criminal charges but would instead be hit with substantial fines. Nothing on the supply side would change except maximum sentences for growing marijuana would be raised, a change that eight decades of experience and stacks of research showed would have no effect on the trade or organized crime. Decriminalization did, however, raise the possibility of what criminologists call "net-widening" -- when punishments are reduced, but not eliminated, lesser offenders who would have got only warnings from the police are no longer let off. In effect, lighter punishment causes more enforcement, which is precisely what happened in South Australia when marijuana was decriminalized in 1987. Of course, it is the government's right to look at the pros and cons of the various models and make the wrong call. But what is not legitimate is for a government to make an important policy decision without any consideration of alternatives, particularly those arising from parliamentary consultations. It appears, however, that this is precisely what the government did. In January 2003, under the Access to Information Act, I requested the Department of Justice provide copies of all policy documents relating to marijuana reform from January 2002 forward. Thirteen months later, I received a large stack of documents that's most notable for the near-total absence of any consideration of either committee's report. The sole discussion of the Commons committee's idea of decriminalizing cultivation for personal use, for example, is a single sheet with a glib list of pros and cons. But even that looks like careful analysis next to the treatment of the Senate report, which only appears in talking points that advise the speaker to say such things as: "The Senate report will be a very helpful contribution to the development of Canada's drug strategy." There is no discussion of the report's ideas. No examination of its voluminous evidence. No weighing of the pros and cons of its many recommendations. Nothing. The government wasn't under any legal obligation to respond to the report, a department spokeswoman told me. "Legalization was not an option. Our international obligations do not permit us to legalize. The minister was very clear that decriminalization was what he wanted to do, not legalization." But the Senate report addressed that issue, and if the government had wanted a serious policy discussion, it would have examined what the report said about it and fleshed out the issue before coming to a conclusion. It did nothing of the kind. Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin, the chair of the committee, was shocked to hear the report was ignored. Mr. Nolin said he personally gave Mr. Cauchon a full briefing. "He told me he was to ask his department to review the report and give him an analysis." The government's disingenuousness wasn't limited to the process that produced the bill. It also misled Canadians about the basic character of the scheme. Polls show a clear majority of Canadians favour either decriminalization or legalization, and they do so because they want less punishment or none at all. They want liberal reform, in other words. And that's certainly how the government pitched decriminalization, primarily by talking up the unfairness of giving young people criminal records. The media bit hard: Canada was praised as a hip young thing in The New Yorker and pictured on the cover of The Economist as a moose in sunglasses. But behind closed doors, the justice department described decriminalization very differently. In a draft cabinet submission labelled "secret," Australian experience with decriminalization is cited as evidence that decriminalization in Canada "will likely increase enforcement" -- a conclusion listed under the heading "Advantages." This moose wears sunglasses and carries a nightstick. If this is the government's idea of liberal reform, I'm happy to see it go up in flames. The status quo might be absurd, unjust and a waste of money, but at least it's honest. Complete Title: A Welcome Flame Out: The Liberals' Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana Was Bad Policy and Deserves To Die On The Order Paper.Note: Dan Gardner is a Citizen senior writer. Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)Author: Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen Published: Saturday, May 15, 2004 Copyright: 2004 The Ottawa CitizenContact: letters thecitizen.canwest.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Prepared To Allow Marijuana Bill To Die on Grow-Ops: Don't You Believe It Report on Cannabis: Get Whole Story Marijuana, Senate Committee Says 
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Comment #6 posted by lombar on May 16, 2004 at 12:31:47 PT
Keep repeating, people are bound to believe...
"Our international obligations do not permit us to legalize. The minister was very clear that decriminalization was what he wanted to do, not legalization."The usual crock!This point was mentioned in the Senates report:Chapter 19
The International Legal EnvironmentThis chapter could begin and end with the same words: The international drug control conventions are, with respect to cannabis at least, an utterly irrational restraint that has nothing to do with scientific or public health considerations.Very useful restraint, to be sure, if one favours prohibition, for when the advocates of such policy run out of scientific and public health arguments, THEY CAN SIMPLY FALL BACK ON the conventions that Canada has signed. More than signed, in fact: owing to the efforts of certain men, police officers and federal public servants, Canada was a leading proponent of those conventions.Prohibs did not read past the word 'legalization'...Further along:There are three factors that provide states, including Canada, with some leeway. The first is the fact that the conventions recognize the primacy of national legal systems. Indeed, the international drug agreements have no direct application in national law. To make them enforceable within its territory, the state must enact a law; in Canada, that law is the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Specifically, the conventions variously state that the proposed penalties are to be imposed “subject to [the Parties’] constitutional provisions” or “having due regard to their constitutional, legal and administrative systems.” In Canada, the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the interpretations given to them by the Supreme Court are the framework for interpreting the international conventions on drugs.CONCLUSIONS As we have seen in Chapters 5, 6 and 7, cannabis is widely used in every part of the world, does not have the harmful effects ascribed to it, and poses little risk to public health. Consequently, it in no way deserves to be included in the convention schedules that list what are supposed to be the most dangerous drugs. Cannabis even has therapeutic uses recognized by Canadian courts. For the above reasons, we recommend that Canada notify the international community of its intent to seek the declassification of cannabis as part of a public health approach that would include stringent monitoring and evaluation. 
Conclusions of Chapter 19 
	Ř      The series of international agreements concluded since 1912 have failed to achieve their ostensible aim of reducing the supply of drugs.Ř      The international conventions constitute a two-tier system that regulates the synthetic substances produced by the North and prohibits the organic substances produced by the South, while ignoring the real danger which those substances represent to public health.Ř      When cannabis was included in the international conventions in 1925, there was no knowledge of its effects.Ř      The international classifications of drugs are arbitrary and do not reflect the level of danger those substances represent to health or to society.Ř      Canada should inform the international community of the conclusions of our report and officially request the declassification of cannabis and its derivatives.If the 'treaties' prevent Canada from legalizing cannabis then the treaties must be re-evaluated. (tossed out!)
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Comment #5 posted by WolfgangWylde on May 16, 2004 at 09:46:27 PT
The Swiss...
...have already addressed the treaty issue, and found that they could legalize if they wanted. Toss in the fact that Bush has shown a complete disregard for international treaties in general (the ABM treaty comes to mind), and the stage is set for countries to do whatever the hell they want with cannabis legalization.
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Comment #4 posted by TroutMask on May 16, 2004 at 08:28:34 PT
International conventions
prohibit legalization in member countries except in some circumstances.
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Comment #3 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on May 16, 2004 at 07:59:08 PT
I didn't know Bush was president of Canada
"Our international obligations do not permit us to legalize."Canada is no longer a sovereign nation?
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Comment #2 posted by WolfgangWylde on May 16, 2004 at 07:49:51 PT
...Marijuana Prohbition will not fall until the Canucks get permission from their Masters to the South.
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Comment #1 posted by Virgil on May 16, 2004 at 06:01:14 PT
It is all disingenuos.
The issue has been studied to death and the path is clear. There is only one Logical Conclusion and that is Free Cannabis For Everyone. Disingenuousness is the key word to the prohibitionist position. They have their wrong position and defend it with absurdities and lies, all the while being aware of what needs to be done. This is the most important of statements by Dan Gardner. It says the issue has been beat to death with study and what is needed is to hit the nail on the head and kill CP. It does not evoke a debate on medical cannabis as all cannabis use should have legal status with the age limit being a point of contention. Sixteen seems fine under the law because a minor still is going to have to pass the parent test.Disingenuousness is the most important word in understanding the prohibitionist position. Now the prohibitionists fight a War on Drugs without giving us a definition and claim cannabis is not medicine without giving us a definition. So in understanding the position of the prohibitionists we should know the definition of their main charactaristic. To say that the prohibitionist position is disingenuous means they are full of shit.This article was a hammer that hit the nail on the head. It also illustrates that Kerry is full of shit when he calls for more study on MMJ. Miracleplant should be legal anyway and clinical cannabis should be allowed from Jamaica and GW with free trade to bring us the lowest prices.In review, this is excellent work by Dan Gardner, the prohibitionists are full of shit and that includes John Shithead Kerry.
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